December 19, 2016 Whitecap

Business is a Team Sport

As I looked out during our holiday celebration at the team we’ve assembled here at Whitecap, one thing came abundantly clear: We couldn’t do what we do without the people in that room – our staff and their families or friends.

I’m not bragging (well, maybe a little) but we have a team of talented, loyal and totally dedicated individuals here who work exceptionally well together.

This has been another excellent year for Whitecap.  We’ve done a lot of new and exciting projects for clients, have seen our business continue to grow, and have delivered some very interesting and innovative solutions to our clients’ challenging business problems.

I’m proud of our company: Proud of our people and proud of what we accomplish together.

There have been a lot of articles written about the importance of corporate culture and how to build an effective team but I don’t want my blog to feel like just another team building piece.

Instead, I wanted to share my very personal thoughts about what it takes to build and keep a team … and to be completely honest, it’s something I continually evaluate and re-evaluate.


It Starts at the Top

A company should reflect the values of its leadership.  What this means to me is a fundamental recognition that we are all just people and we’re one in the same.  No one individual is better or more important than another because we all have a role to play in the makeup of our team.  One thing we all have in common is our drive to do meaningful rewarding work; work that is interesting; work that challenges us at times and helps us to grow as individuals and as a team.  Ultimately, I think we all love what we do, and we do it do to support our families and be happy in life.

Once we recognize our fundamental value, we need to create an environment conducive to supporting this value system.  Mixed messages impact morale and can be confusing to a team dynamic.  Consistency from the top down is the key.  And, it is extremely important that you lead by example!  That’s why I personally clean the coffee machine in our office at the end of each and every day.


Fundamental Environmental Factors

While a lot of companies talk about creating workspaces that promote collaboration or efficiency and one that can help retain staff, there are some equally fundamental environmental factors that could be even more important to your staff.

Work Culture Team Chart

  • Interesting work: If the work is interesting, challenging and a source for personal growth, you have an excellent foundation for attracting and retaining the best people.  Luckily for us, building custom software across multiple industries and addressing a range of business issues, is always very interesting.
  • Location: If you move your offices across the city, you will make it harder for their daily commute.  While it might be tempting to relocate for a range of business reasons, you should consider very carefully the impact that move will have on your staff’s daily commute.  By moving too far from where you are already established, you run the risk of losing key people.
  • Flexibility: For us, it’s not about punching a clock, but in our business, having staff together in the office every day is far more conducive to the team dynamic that is a huge part of who we are. But that doesn’t mean we’re chained to our desks from 9 to 5.  We recognize that everyone has important family matters and activities that sometimes happen during the work day. Providing flexible work hours and schedules removes a lot of the outside pressure from our people and we know this simple benefit goes a long way with our staff.
  • Celebrate: People want to be part of a winning team and want to be recognized for their contribution (both financially and with acclamation).  At Whitecap, we celebrate and have fun several different ways. Each year a portion of Whitecap’s profits are divided up and distributed to each and every person in the company.  It’s not a part of their remuneration; it’s a thank you for contributing to our success.  We also pay ad hoc bonuses to everyone in the company whenever we’re on a roll, which could be as often as one or two times a year.  And, we take time to have fun and celebrate together, like going out for a companywide celebration lunch to “let our hair down”, shares stories and have a few laughs.  It shouldn’t be all business all the time.
  • Communication: In good times and in bad, our company hosts companywide staff meetings a few times a year where we share financial performance, new strategies and initiatives, what everyone is working on and new projects coming down the pipe.  I truly believe that people appreciate being kept in the loop.

Departure Warnings

I was talking with a colleague a few weeks ago, about staff turnover and how it impacts me personally when someone decides to leave Whitecap.  I told her that I spend time going over and over the events that led up to the departure to figure out if there was something I could have changed or something I needed to do to keep that person.  The truth of the matter is sometimes people need to move on, but I think it’s important for leaders to analyze each employee experience and learn from successes, as well as the places where perhaps we could have done better.


Giving Back

It’s not just during the holidays that our thoughts head towards those less fortunate, albeit that’s when we tend to reflect on the needs of our community the most.  A good leader knows that life can change on a dime and good fortune should never be taken for granted.  A good company knows that it’s important to give something back, to set an example for those around us and challenge other companies to do the same in the interest of making our community (and even our world) a better place.  Good companies have an opportunity to really make a difference.

I’ve learned this philosophy of giving back is important to the people in my company. People want to feel proud of their company and part of that is seeing the value placed on community support or charity.

Corporate culture can make a company great, or conversely sink it. I truly believe it’s the people that make a company great (and maybe I am bragging a little) but that’s certainly true of the team here at Whitecap.

As the year starts to come to a close, I want to wish everyone at Whitecap, our clients, family, friends, and all of you, a healthy and happy holiday season and the very best for 2017.  See you in the new year!