UB Insider #5: MaritzCX CEO Carine Clark on Why Company Culture Matters
About this episode:
When building a company, many executives tend to overlook company culture, says Carine Clark, CEO of MaritzCX. But paying attention to how the workplace makes employees feel, and how employees work together, can bring big benefits to the company, she told Utah Business‘ Lisa Christensen at last week’s Utah Economic Summit. You can subscribe to UB Insider and download this episode on iTunes and Stitcher.
Lisa Christensen: Hello and welcome to UB insider, sponsored by 30 Women to Watch, Utah Business’ annual awards program honoring the who’s who among female leaders in the Beehive State, this year on May 11th. I’m Lisa Christensen, online editor at Utah Business magazine. I’m speaking today with Carine Clark, CEO of MartizCX. How are you today?
Carine Clark: I’m terrific.
Lisa Christensen: So today at the Economic Summit you gave a presentation about company culture and how vital that is to promote a good culture. Why is that so important for companies to consider?
Carine Clark: Well I have a passion for what we’re doing, what we’re building and culture sits right at the center of that. And I think not enough people pay attention to if their culture is helping them drive their business. Because at the end of the day, happier employees equal happier customers.
Happier employees, an employee set that can thrive and grow will be one that’s loyal and stay with you. You’re making huge investments in this asset. You’re paying their salary. You’re giving them healthcare. You’re hopefully giving them really nice benefits. Why wouldn’t you pay attention to how the culture develops? And I think too many companies just let things happen. They don’t pull out any weeds. They don’t really decide where the boundaries should be, they just kind of end up having it. But I think people can do, people are part of it. And if you have an opinion about what you like and what your company’s going to be about, then that’s what you should build.
Lisa Christensen: You’ve spoken before about having a good work-life balance, especially for parents. How does encouraging that kind of a balance play into the culture that you’ve tried to build?
Carine Clark: Well, a lot of people ask me about work-life balance. Because as a busy executive of a fast growing company, you have to really be thoughtful about where you spend your time. Because you have things that are urgent, and you have things that are important. And so do your employees. What we’re building is technology, but we’re also building people. And these people have families and dreams and have things that they want to be and things that they want to do. So if they can be happy at work and see their contribution and get recognition and thrive then that helps them in their personal lives.
We do a lot of events where we invite the families, they’re always welcome into our shops. I love having the kids come in and say hi to me and shake my hand and talk to them about how awesome their mom is or how awesome their dad is. And those employees are pretty dedicated to what we call our tribe. And I do care about them. I care about when they have illness in their family and when they have personal crises because we all have those. Imagine working in a company where the whole fabric could lift you when you needed to be lifted, and you could lift people when they needed to be lifted. What a wonderful place to work. That’s the way it should be.
Lisa Christensen: At MartizCX you have overseen dozens of acquisitions. How do you address and adapt to the culture that that influx of people and processes brings?
Carine Clark: Well every time you add another chapter to your book, it changes the story a bit. And every time you bring in new employees, whether its an acquisition or not, there are things that will help add to what you’re trying to build and things that will take away from it. When you’re pretty prescriptive about what is a good culture and what you’re going to keep out of your culture, then it’s easy to find those things. But change is hard for people. I think whenever there’s a change, you leave a part of yourself behind. I think that’s what people struggle with. I’m always surprised though when people are like, I hate change! I think to myself, did you always want to be an infant? I mean, it’s like, you have to change. And so the only thing that doesn’t change is that there’s change. And as an organization you have an opinion about what you like and what you don’t like. And that will change as well as your company changes and as your company grows and ages. It’s exciting I think.
Lisa Christensen: What do you do to address company culture at the individual employee level?
Carine Clark: Well today when I made my presentation I showed a bandana that every employee has that is very specific about things that are important to our company: about smile more, be happy, lift others, be a person of integrity. We try to think of the tribe as this group that is a collection of individuals, but we also care about individual progress, individual performance. We pay for performance by the individual. We are always talking about the team but paying attention to the components of the team. Because that’s what the whole company is, it’s a collection of really bright, capable, wonderful people that will help carry the brand and the promise to the market and to our customers.
Lisa Christensen: Obviously some employees aren’t going to fit into that culture or develop in the same way that the company is developing. So how do you address that without hurting morale or the culture that you’ve been building.
Carine Clark: Well we try to be very open about the diversity that we like in our company. One of the slides that I showed was a picture of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Those characters are all very different, but yet they have a lot of fun together. There a lot of fun stories that you can weave from that. We want to have diversity. We want to have opinions. We want to have different types of folks. It doesn’t mean we want everyone to be the same. But we also want to be a place where people feel safe.
Let’s say we hire someone…let me give you an example. We moved into a new facility and suddenly things started missing in the organization, like headphones, expensive tech that was sitting in people’s offices. We never lock the doors ever. No one has ever stolen anything. So it was curious for us and concerning because did we hire someone who is a kleptomaniac? What happened? What changed? And so we, everyone jumped on it and what we found out is that actually the cleaning crew, there was an individual on the cleaning crew. So one young person on the cleaning crew who had made bad choices, how that had affected the tribe. We were able to identify that person and, of course, they lost their job. So I went back to the cleaning crew and said I would like to meet with that person. It was a young girl. Because it was a shame that she feels she needs to do that. And maybe this tribe, who was victimized could actually turn this around and help this girl make different choices. But I think when you bring someone into the organization, not that she’s in our organization, but those types of things can happen. Not stealing, but other things that might not feel comfortable. And the tribe usually circles around to figure out what are we going to do?
Lisa Christensen: So when you are bringing someone new into the organization, what kinds of things do you look for to help make sure that they’re a good fit and will be an asset to the tribe?
Carine Clark: So I have really loved people that are self-healing that are self-aware, who are teachable, who can catch a brick if you give them feedback, and they’re not defensive, they want to learn, they want to develop, they also are brave enough to say what they think and own their own opinion. People who are, I think of them as, I call them firewalkers. I got that from Liz Wiseman’s Rookie Smarts book. They’re able to move very quickly from problem to problem to problem and get to a safe spot. They don’t have to solve everything, but they don’t get overwhelmed easily, they’re able to keep moving and stay directionally correct. I love people that are positive. We always joke in our family that people are attracted to cheerful people, so be cheerful. The Eeryores of the world, there’s not a lot of room for them in my space because they’re not really helping me get things done.
Lisa Christensen: How important is it for those new employees to have mentors within the company?
Carine Clark: I think it’s very important, especially when you have a pretty tight knit tribe, because it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong. So I tell my guys, look, it sucks to be the new guy. Because not only do you not know where the bathroom is and where all the snacks are and where to get your pencils and all that stuff, but this group has been together for a while and they have their own rhythm. And when you’re the new guy it’s easy to be isolated. And so we really make sure that we have a number of people assigned to a new hire and that they’re always invited to lunch and that they have a job at the release parties and we just kind of draft and graft them in. Because it doesn’t do any good to go to all this effort to hire a really talented, bright, capable person and then not have them feel welcome or feel like an outsider.
On my team I have 11 or 12 executives and they’ve all been handpicked for their job. And most of them have either been with me for a while, at least a couple years, and I hired a new CFO and I was worried about him feeling like an outsider because he was from the East Coast, he lived in Park City, so there were some things that were different, and he was perfect for what we wanted. So the team just rallied around him, started teasing him, pulling pranks on him so that he felt like he finally arrived. But he came to me a month later and said this is the most fun that I’ve had, and this is the best team I’ve ever worked with. So it wasn’t a compliment to me, it was really a compliment to the team being really open and embracing somebody who would be easy to be isolated.
Lisa Christensen: Millennials are the up-and-coming generation and, of course, every employer has their own opinions about the talents and the drawbacks of millennials. What do you see as those talents or drawbacks that millennials bring to the table?
Carine Clark: Well I love millennials. I’m always surprised how many people have negative feelings about millennials. They are smart. They are aggressive. They are not afraid. They are untethered, which I think makes people a little nervous. When they come into our organization they don’t need a title, they don’t need an office, they don’t need a lot. They don’t need a computer. They bring their own equipment. They are not super loyal. And I think that’s why most executives are like, I don’t want to hire these guys. The reality of it is, your business will be better because they will give you a perspective and be able to do things that other people might not be comfortable doing. They usually stay about three years. And so if you know that you can kind of work around that. They are wonderful if you pair them with a veteran because then you can run a three legged race very quickly because the millennial is a learning organism and will take feedback from the veteran. Some of the veterans, you’ve got to find the right veteran though. Because a lot of veterans think these millennials are stupid. And they’re not. They’re just not aware. And, you can give them direct feedback and they respond pretty well. So I’m a big fan of the millennials. I hire a lot of them. I embrace them. I’m not surprised when they’re not self-aware and either say or do something that doesn’t makes sense to me. But I just come right back at them and they bounce right back.
Lisa Christensen: When someone does leave the organization, what value does the exit interview bring for company culture moving forward?
Carine Clark: It’s always good to be self-aware yourself, true, right? And to have your team, it’s easy to get your blinders on in any organization. So when you have an employee at the exit interview to give you feedback, maybe they finally feel safe. Which would be a shame. You’d want them to be very transparent and very direct before they leave. But a lot of them don’t feel safe, so they’ll give you feedback. I would take all of the feedback, see what makes sense to you. See what doesn’t make sense. There’s probably truth in there, there’s also probably a bunch of junk in there. So I wouldn’t say oh, now we’ve got to pivot on all of this. But see if you can find other patterns. Because you might find something that needs to be tended to that you haven’t done yet that you’re ready to take care of.
Some people leave because they’re unhappy. But those folks, some of them are never happy. So I wish them well, and I’m glad I don’t have to babysit them anymore. But, find somebody to come in and take their place that can lift higher and carry a lot more weight.
Lisa Christensen: Is there anything else that companies should think about when considering company culture?
Carine Clark: I think the best advice I ever got was to pay attention to what you loved in your career and also what you hated in your career. And then become a force for building things that you love. And then look to other folks that had different experiences and see what they loved. And why not, when we spend so much time at work, why not create an environment that it’s wonderful to be there? And when you go to bed on Sunday night you’re like I’m so looking forward to work tomorrow! Because it’s going to be great. Instead of so many people who dread that Monday morning. I love my weekends, but I do love my time I spend with my company and with my team because they lift me, they teach me, and as executives, as managers, and as people who have teams, or even individuals, be the change that you’d like to see because as our work and our environment gets better, we have young people that are coming up through the ranks. We need them to be part of that. We need to build better companies.
Lisa Christensen: Alright, well thanks so much Carine for taking a minute to visit with us today, we really appreciate it.
Carine Clark: Thank you Lisa, it was my pleasure.
Lisa Christensen: Thanks to Pat Parkinson for production help with additional assistance from Adva Biton. Tell us what you thought of today’s episode at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. UB Insider is a product of Utah Business magazine, and you can now download episodes on iTunes and Stitcher. Thanks for listening and have a great day.