Happy people

One of the most important
positions at The Beryl Cos.
is the “queen of fun and laughter,” but that wasn’t something CEO Paul Spiegelman
anticipated when he and his
brothers founded the company
more than 20 years ago.

“At some point along the
road, we realized that the kind
of environment that we created for our people made a huge
difference in terms of the productivity and success of the
business,” he says.

The culture he has created
has garnered the $30 million
company — which provides
outsourced telephone and
Web-based communications
— recognition as one of the
best places to work last year
by the Society for Human
Resource Management.

Smart Business spoke with
Spiegelman about how to create
a strong culture to make your
company a top place to work.

Q. How do you create a
strong culture?

It starts at the top. You have to
have leadership that believes in
improving or changing their culture. It’s not like you can just
create a great culture overnight.

It takes years to do, but if you
don’t have a management team
that believes there’s a connection between a positive culture
and business success, it’s going
to be difficult to get there.

My suggestion for other leaders, whether you’re the leader of
a company or a department
within a company, is to start
small and make sure you have
the basics in place. Things like
salaries, benefits and 401(k) —
those are the basics of employment. If you don’t have that, and
you say, ‘Let’s go out and have
some fun events,’ it can look to
be disingenuous.

The other is, don’t push down
the culture. Create the culture
from within. Get people involved
in creating the ideas and programs. We have a committee.
They meet every month. Their
job is to not only plan events, but
they deal with on-boarding issues
and orientation, and they’re the
ear to the company morale.

They alert us in senior management as to what people are
thinking or feeling so we can
react to that. You want the
ideas to come from within
and not from you.

Empower other people
to own it. They know that
it starts with me, and I
need to set a good example, but peer recognition
is very powerful. Our
recognition program is
called PRIDE, which is
Peers Recognizing
Individual Deeds of
Excellence. While they
would certainly like to get
a note from me, we concentrate on people recognizing each other for a
job well done, so that’s
where the ownership
comes from.

Q. How do you keep
the culture intact as the
company grows?

Naturally, as a company
grows, you build more structure
and process. We tell them that
while anything can change in
the company — our products,
our customer base, how we do
business — one thing that won’t
is our culture and the core values that we live by.

Having a set of core values
that become institutionalized
is one way to make sure that
the culture remains intact. It’s
very easy that something that’s
taken years to build up could
be gone overnight if, based on
an event or some situation,
people feel like, ‘Wow, this just
isn’t the place it used to be.’
Once you commit to a culture
like this, you have to keep it
going, and that’s where you get
loyalty from your people
because they know you’re
being genuine about it.