Preserving culture

When George Grubb and Gary Schwebach founded marketing research firm G & S Research in 1997, it was easy for them to create a good working environment. Their handful of employees could fit around one table, and decisions were a group effort.

However, for the past two consecutive years, the company has increased its employee base by 30 percent, and Grubb, principal, didn’t want G & S to lose its friendly feel.

“To the extent that we maintain a great working environment will ultimately dictate where this company goes,” says Grubb.

If employee turnover is any indication of a good working environment, Grubb and Schwebach have succeeded. Of the 47 employees hired by G & S since its inception, 41 are still with the company today.

Smart Business spoke with Grubb about what he looks for in an employee and how he creates a good culture.

What do you look for in an employee?
A lot of what we look for is off-resume. I’ve seen a lot of good resumes come through here, and by the time they are done interviewing, it’s just not a good fit. It doesn’t mean they’re not a fit somewhere else; they’re just not a fit here.

Most of the people that we talk to have experience. It’s important to find out where they think they are particularly strong, what they really like to do. Enunciate those things to us, and then let’s see if that’s a fit for our business, because if it is a fit, then more than likely we’re not going to have to manage those people very hard. The learning curve won’t be as challenging.

The other thing is their approach to their colleagues and clients. Are they prone to say ‘I’m a little bit light, I’m going to look over the cube wall and see if there is anything I can do to help the person next to me?’ Or am I the type of person that likes to do what I have to do, and if I’m done early, then I’m going to leave?

Those people that look beyond their own individual job are the people who are going to be successful here.

How do you incorporate new employees into your corporate culture?
In the interview process with people that we feel are strong candidates, we don’t want to hold much back. It’s very important for candidates who are really thinking about making a career change to fully understand what they are getting into.

If we are doing the hiring right, if you sign on the bottom line with G & S Research, I hope your days of sharpening up your resume are over. But to do that, you have to make sure there is full disclosure.

They want to understand the foundation on which the company is built, rather than just saying, ‘If you want to know what the mission statement is, here it is in the binder.’ We try to spend time so that they understand the history and how we’ve grown and … why we continue to grow and expand.

One of the areas that we’ve worked on as we’ve been growing is a much firmer career path. We can lay it out on a piece of paper, and people know how the organization is structured and they understand where they fit in. They also can understand, assuming they are doing a good job, where they can go and what the opportunities look like.

How do you create a good work environment?
It’s an ongoing task. The very first G & S employees, that was a different environment. We’re different now. I see a lot more meetings. I see HR and more structure and I’m not fearful of that.

The essence of the G & S culture though, that I don’t want to change. That’s the openness, the honesty, the fact that you can enjoy your work, you can have fun with your co-workers. There is nothing wrong with having a goal of people actually enjoying where they work and not wanting to leave and wanting to refer other people.

We have a group called the WOW! Team, and they essentially own our internal brand identity. Wowing is important not only externally with our clients but … that group is also in charge of making sure that they take ownership of things that keep morale high and keep people enjoying things at work.

There are a lot of things that they do to make sure that there is still a little bit of spontaneity around here, that we are stilling putting an accent on activities after work or on the weekend. I can truly say I like to hang out socially with my co-workers.

But you have to work at that. That’s really the challenge that we’ve had here as we’ve grown. Can we maintain that spontaneity? Can we maintain that togetherness? I think that we can. It just comes down to the extent that we put in importance on that. HOW TO REACH: G & S Research, (317) 252-4500 or