The Entrepreneurial Balancing Act

By Jeff Solomon, senior vice president of Leads360.

I think having the right people is the difference between running a good company and a great one; more importantly, having the right culture is the key to keeping the right people.

A few years ago I visited a partner who had these wonderful Starbucks machines that ground, brewed and poured fresh coffee on the fly. I noticed how much the staff loved them, and I knew we had to have one. After finding a distributor of these machines, I was told the fancy machines could only be leased to companies with 50+ people.

At the time, we only had 18 people. I was sure it would make a huge impact on our company culture, so I insisted they lease us one. A year later we’re nearly 40 strong, and every time I hear the squawk of the grinder, I smile.

This story is indicative of how I approach company culture in my business. For me, it’s all about creating an environment that isn’t like work at all. People spend so much time here that I want them to enjoy it. For example, our office has a full gourmet kitchen and we frequently have meals prepared for lunch and dinner. We also have poker nights on Wednesdays and a potluck one Friday out of the month.

But I don’t let culture become a diversion. It’s easy to lose focus on our duties when we’re busy dealing cards or baking lasagna. I’ve been able to maintain a balance of fun and hard work by giving my people the freedom to enjoy what they do. Since starting my company three years ago, we’ve only had one person leave us. Keeping the same people is really important, because time builds trust. That goes for our employees and our clients. If we’re constantly swapping out employees, we lose that trust and have to start over.

As we grow, it has become harder to balance our roots with our desire to become bigger. We have to. We aren’t willing to sacrifice the things that got us here for the things we want to do. But we also realize that with growth comes a need for process and accountability, which often stifles culture.

Recently, we had harassment training, and initially everyone felt like things were going to be drastically different. If we couldn’t rag on someone for going to see “Bridget Jones’s Diary” with his girlfriend, what would we do? We evolved. And we’re okay with it. We continue to find creative ways to meet the demands of a growing business and still maintain the playful atmosphere we’ve all come to love.

Company culture isn’t just about cool coffee machines. It’s a mutual understanding that we’ve got something special that can’t be taken away. It’s a trust that everyone is part of a family, and together we make a difference for both our clients and ourselves. No matter how hectic things get, I remember it’s not the company that makes the people, it’s the people that make the company.

Jeff’s company, Leads360, provides on-demand lead management software and consulting services to mortgage, debt, insurance, education and other B2C industries. Leads360’s signature LeadManager application helps companies manage their sales process and pipeline to maximize efficiency, performance and return on marketing.

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