Ten Years. Ten Insights. And Still Learning.

Ten Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years as CEO in a Culture-Centric Business Model

In early 2011 I had a revelation. I had an enormous decision to make in my life. Would I continue in my family business, doing something I enjoyed, but in a company I wasn’t enthralled with? Would I leave the family business altogether? Or would I take on the company and transform it from the inside out?

I am happy, grateful, and THRILLED every day that I chose the latter. And on March 1, 2011, the idea of a companywide All Hands Meeting was born.

As our 31st All Hands Meeting approaches, ten years later, I find myself looking back at the last decade. And I couldn’t be more proud of the last 10 years since our “culture restart.”

When I made that choice, I knew I would need to seek out guidance. Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, was instrumental in the process. His wisdom, guidance, and open heart helped me see what I was unable to see. Whether he knew it or not, he became a culture mentor to me, a friend, and someone I could rely on to speak truth even when the truth looks ugly.

Tony has since passed on, but I hope to continue to share the message about what building and fostering a great company culture means and how leading with culture first will change the game and set you apart from everyone else in your industry.

So today, I want to share my top ten insights into what it means and what it takes to put culture first within your organization.

I want to share with you the ten overarching elements of what we’ve done as a team, as a company, to make Roma one of the greatest places to work; a culture filled with remarkable people doing remarkable things for remarkable partners.

Ten things I’ve learned and been intentional with are as follows, in no particular order:

      1. Over Communicate

And do so with clarity. Roma’s Core Value #9 is “Deliver Transparent, Open, Honest Communication” and we live that every day. The important thing is, you must always, ALWAYS be clear on your message and deliver it with truth and sincerity. Muddled, vague instructions get muddled, vague results. The opposite is true when you are clear and sincere!

     2. Show Not Tell

Talk is cheap! Illustrate through action. The old adage that actions speak louder than words is truer in your role as a leader than perhaps anywhere else in life. That’s why we hold All Hands Meetings. We SHOW our gratitude. We SHOW our intentions. We SHOW our successes.

     3. Get Off the Fence

Take a position. Pick a chair. Set the tone. Determine a clear course of action and stick to it. For us it was, and remains, “Culture First.” We don’t waver on that point. We don’t put culture first some days and not others. We don’t wait to see which way the wind is blowing before declaring our position and our direction. That is who we are and who we’re proud to be!

      4. Hire and Fire Based on Your Core Values

Never veer from your core truths, especially when making personnel decisions. Hire for culture. Fire for culture… Yes, you read that right. Your people ultimately become your culture.

     5. Polarize as Much as Possible

You cannot please everyone!  When you try to, you fail to make anyone happy! Take a position, define a set of values, be intentional with your culture, and watch the polarization occur.  It’s often said, your vibe attracts your tribe!

     6. Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation and                  Gratitude

As human beings, we’re often focused on a goal and when we hit it, we move on to the next one, rarely stopping to offer gratitude for the people and things that got us there. We’ve engrained gratitude and appreciation at Roma in a number of touchpoints. We’ve created a culture that celebrates wins, celebrates who we are, and always expresses gratitude for what we have and how we got here.  What you appreciate, appreciates.

     7. Be a Great Talent Scout

You should always be looking to attract and develop talent. Become obsessed with the talent on your team, with an eye on acquisition as you grow and need new talents and skills that aren’t already present on your team.  Who your surround yourself with ultimately defines who you are!  You need a team of awesome people to make a dream become a reality.

     8.  Ensure the mission is super clear

As a leader, you must clearly be articulate the mission and company vision. And be sure your team knows it. Ensure your mission and company vision become engrained in the vernacular and actions of your team.  Your team and partners alike need to always know what winning looks like!

     9. Deliver WOW Through Service

Be obsessed with your company experience, both internal and external. In today’s oversaturated world, company experience has never been more crucial. The only thing your business has, at the end of the day, is how you make people feel both inside and outside the company. And the only way to deliver an exceptional customer experience is to deliver an exceptional internal experience to your team first. Happy people deliver remarkable customer experiences!

     10. Your Physical Environment Helps Set the Tone

I’ve always believed that if you grow up in the jungle you learn to swing from trees; if you grow up by ocean you learn to swim. If you want a culture of dynamic experiences and team culture, you can’t silo people. You need to make room for serendipitous experiences and collisions of greatness!  Set the climate and environment for collaboration and teamwork.

     Bonus #11 Naysayers Are a Part of Success

They’re significant… That’s correct, they’re significant. Their choice to be naysayers comes from their own inner weakness and fear. Feel sorry for them and move on! The more naysayers you have, the more you’re polarizing, the more you’re polarizing, the more your winning!

As you build your company higher and take strong direction, the number of naysayers will grow.

Congratulations! That means you’re on the right track.

Lastly, here’s my bonus:

Do it with passion!  

You gotta love what you do and do what you love… you have to be super passionate about what you decide to do because at some point it’s going to get really hard.  When it does, rational people will tend to give up and that’s normal. You’ve got to be so in love with it and having fun with what you do so that when the going gets tough you’re able to hang on and persevere.

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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