• Andy Goram

Why Values Are Important

What is it that makes some businesses perform better than others? What makes some companies more attractive to candidates than others? What makes some businesses hold on to more of their talent than others? Well, there could be many different factors in any given company, of course, but one, that I'd wager, is seen in all of those consistently top-performing businesses is having a set of guiding core values that are alive and working in the organisation, every day.


There's too much evidence today to suggest otherwise, yet we still see plenty of examples of a tick-box exercise that has been applied to having these things. Google the phrase "most popular company values" and you'll find lists of the most commonly used words organisations use to describe their culture. How often have you seen or heard words like "integrity", "innovative" or "customer-focused" used in such context? Plenty, I bet. The thing is, you could stick any old logo on top of many of those words. Where's the authenticity? Where's the distinction?


The thing is, it's not really about the words, it's about the consistent actions. Don't get me wrong. Words play a part, but if you want your company values to mean something and more importantly do something tangible for your business, they need to live and breathe and add value to everyone inside your company. That's what many people struggle to do.


In episode 52 of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, I talk to CEO and Co-founder of Spinutech, Marc Reifenrath, who's secret to taking the business from a college start-up to one of the premier, full-service digital marketing agencies in the U.S., is having company values that are truly lived and at the core of the business' behaviour. In this episode, I ask him where they came from and how he's managed to successfully bring them to life, sustainably and go on to lubricate the success his company and the employees within it now have.


Below is a full transcript of that conversation, but you can also listen to it here.


Company Values That Live
Marc Reifenrath (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss the importance and benefits of having company values that live

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.


This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.


So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.


00:01:11 Andy Goram

OK. If I had a pound for every time someone said to me,

Andy, I get what you're saying about the importance of company values and choosing the right words and then showing them to be important through actions. But how do you really go about making them live and breathe in a business?”

I can't tell you; I reckon I would be a lot better off.


But you know what? It is a good question, and I think it's the right question. And for me it shows that there's a purpose behind wanting to have them in the first place. And for me, that's a great starting point. I am still frustrated and saddened to hear that there are still businesses out there today, ticking the box of having values which they never get further than being gloriously announced at a conference, or making it onto some glossy poster or employee handbook. There's no value in having values that don't work for your people and your business. I've said that many times on this podcast. Genuinely, you heard it from me, you're better off without them if you're not going to do anything with them.

I feel so passionately about this, and especially as we face into a post-pandemic workplace that is shifting and moving all the time, I thought, I wanted to bring someone else on the show who has successfully breathed life into their company values and which now form a core part of how that business functions. So they could share their story with you instead of me whittling on all the time and give you the benefit of their experiences in making that happen and the benefits of doing all of that.

And I found someone who’s going to do that for us today. I am joined by Mark Reifenrath. He's the CEO and Co-founder of Spinutech, a full-service digital marketing agency with over 150 team members right across the US. And in that capacity, he understands first-hand how critical a company's culture is to achieving and maintaining success. He's grown the business from a college start-up to one of the premier full-service digital marketing agencies in the whole of the US.

And what's his secret ingredient? It's company values that are truly lived, including a commitment to get better every day, and I, for one, am looking forward to hearing how Marc’s done that and what he's learned along the way.


Welcome to the show, Marc.

00:03:22 Marc Reifenrath

Thank you so much. I'm really excited to be here and thanks for that great intro.

00:03:26 Andy Goram

Alright, listen mate, it's a great story, I think, and I can't wait to dig into it. I mean, this stuff for me, is so important. I mean even only the other day I was with another group who were talking about their company values with so much disdain, you know? They could just about recall them, they had nothing good to say about them, because they couldn't see them alive. They just weren't there; and you're going to tell us a story of something very different, I think today, and importantly help us understand how you've got to that point.


Before we get to that, Marc, why don't you just do a bit of a better job than me on an intro. Tell us a bit more about you, about Spinutech and what's really taking your focus today?


00:04:10 Marc Reifenrath

Yeah. So, I think an important piece of the story is, I started when I was in college with a couple of friends, really. And the reason that's important, is because we weren't influenced by corporate America or as we like to say, The Man. So, we didn't have some of the rules or the boundaries or the societal expectations of things like maybe a lot of entrepreneurs do when they start a business. And we were also just young enough, dumb enough to kind of be fearless with a lot of this stuff.

So, you know, today, I mean starting like that versus today is very different, obviously. You know, I think you evolve as a leader the way that you view all these things with culture and core values over the course of 22 years, over the course of going from three of you to, I think we're at 171 today, or something like that. So, one, the company goes through growth stages, but you as a leader, you have to adapt and change constantly. I ask myself that question every day, you know, what do I need to change about how I'm approaching the day and what I'm doing in blah blah blah?

So today, yeah, I've got a big focus on our culture and our core values. I Invest in that heavily. I defend it. I have to be the number one defender of it. I try to encourage others to become defenders of it as quickly as possible. And I have to have a perfect record on our core values, you know, I can't mess up on those. We're all human. We're gonna have... but I really gotta live those is that better than anybody else.

And I focus on just making sure that the vision of our company is headed in the right direction and support the sales and marketing team, support client work, you know, you still do a little bit of everything. But I would say for me it's been a fun ride, going through the evolutions of my role, and kind of reinventing myself a couple times throughout that as well. It's just super fun.

00:05:54 Andy Goram

So true. That's exactly what you do, isn't it? You really do have to sort of like reinvent yourself. And I love hearing you already talk about the fact that you're the kind of the chief cheerleader, right, for these values. Because if you don't show they’re important, no-one's going to pay any attention to them. But we are human. And I think when you get to a place in an organisation where perhaps you do slip, it's cool for people, and they feel safe enough, to sort of say, not as a rebuke, but as a kind of reminder to sort of say,

Really? Have things changed?” and it's like, “Hey, no. Put me back on the tracks. I've had a bad day. Let's move on with that.”

OK, well, look, can we maybe start at the beginning, right? Let's go back and as someone who's now got an active set of values in the business, driving the business, lighting the fire underneath it, really, were they something that was always there in their current form from day one? Was it a notion that you had? Had things kind of changed along the way? Tell us that sort of bit of the journey first.

00:06:59 Marc Reifenrath

So, when we started, no mission, no business plan. I mean we were really...


00:07:05 Andy Goram

I don't think you're alone there, my friend.


00:07:06 Marc Reifenrath

Right, which I always joke, business plans are really made for bankers so that they can give you money and kind of start to pin you down.

Core values, culture, we didn't really even talk about that until 2008ish, probably. But this happened three months ago, probably.


00:07:19 Andy Goram

OK.


00:07:23 Marc Reifenrath

I do these quarterly Meetups with Marc. I try to touch base with the whole team and we have several meetings. And our first team member is still with us. Four team members are still with us and this came up and there was a pretty long debate about how great they were and how lived they were, and it was a really positive conversation. I was kind of sitting back and enjoying it. But Eric speaks up and says,

Here's the thing about our core values. They may have changed in the wording over the years, but they've only gotten louder.”

Meaning they've always been there, whether they were written or unspoken. There was this tone. There was this vibe, as that's what they were. And to him, they've just gotten louder and stronger.

And I thought that was a really great compliment, too. Even though we didn't have them clearly identified for many years, they were there. It was this unspoken thing. And so, what I would have loved to have said we did that on day one and we nailed it, but you know, there's probably been three or four evolutions of the wording.

We went through a merger in January of 21 and so we kind of took both companies and reassessed them, and it really boiled down to four that are really who we are today. And I think that that's great. And you know, I think people maybe get overly focused on the exact wording. I mean it just has to be you. It has to be authentic, and it isn't a marketing piece. It's not just on the wall. It's not just on your website. It's really got to be the essence of how you attack the day. And I think when you as a leader understand that it, it changes things.

And we've gotten to the point where I even say, listen

Here's the simple rules of how we use our core values, hire, fire, lead, manage, solve problems using our core values.”

So, you think of the evolution of... the beginning we made have needed to do that unspokenly. But today it's like somebody new comes in, that's the framework you give them to, just work their day. So, you've got a client with a teammate. Well, OK, what's that's the problem? So which core value’s misaligned? Throw it on the table. A client got a little wonky? Well, let's think about what core value maybe they're misaligned with. Now you can identify and boil it down quicker. And now you start to do... here's a great saying that I love, “Attacking the problem and not the person.”


00:09:42 Andy Goram

100%. To me that's kind of music to my ears. And what I really like in that is, well, God, there's a whole bunch of stuff I really like in that, but I think that the first part, right, about these things intrinsically being there, that you then kind of bring to the surface more, or you make more overt. I mean, there are cleverer people than me that have done work on values, but I really like Patrick Lencioni's kind of work on values. And if we were to think about his four definitions, or four types, right, of values; the core ones. The ones that are deep. The kind of ones that you're talking about here that have just been there. These are the ones that kinda eek out because they're the most important. They're almost the unconscious ones that that you behave by, right?

There's those aspirational ones. And I think this is sometimes where companies fall over, because they start talking about, “These are our values!” And they don't express the fact that actually, “We don't maybe have this yet. But if we want to succeed, if we want to hit where we're going on the journey, we need to kind of develop this kind of stuff.” Then there’s the other side of the stuff, these permission-to-play ones, which I think are what drive me bananas the most. Because these are the ones that people roll out like... It's kind of like a magic 8 ball. “Which value should I have? Oh, I'm going to have integrity.” Brilliant, right? That just gets you to the table, right? It's a play. That doesn't do anything really for your business. If you're having to say to people, “We won't cheat and lie. Work with us.” I think you got a problem.

00:11:13 Marc Reifenrath

Right.


00:11:14 Andy Goram

And then I think it's interesting with the accidental ones. The things that kind of stumble out of there that just happen. And when you think about the values you've now landed on, right, the ones that are loud, what sort of mix have they come from? Were they all core? Has there been aspirations that are now core? How's it kind of worked?


00:11:34 Marc Reifenrath

I think they're all who we are. I think it's just... and that's a direct reflection of myself and my partners, really. And I'll just rattle them off real quick.

00:11:41 Andy Goram

Sure. Yeah, great.


00:11:41 Marc Reifenrath

So, we get better every day, we do the right thing, we over me, and we own it. And so there's themes in all of those. And the get better everyday mentality is we're going to be lifelong learners. We're going to push ourselves to get better. We're going to push the team that we're on to get better, which is going to make our clients better and the business better. So it's a very simple philosophy of just attacking every day. A growth mindset, not a fixed mindset.

Do the right thing. That's the integrity one. But we take it and say,

Listen. We do the right thing even when it's the hard thing. Even when nobody is looking.”

It's just that and we talk all about transparency with our clients. So (with) digital marketing, there's a lot of data. There's a lot of ways to fudge numbers and make it look good even when it's bad, and vice versa. So if we're failing, we want to let our clients know right away. So that's doing the right thing. So that’s the lived version of that.


We over me. That's a, you know, a team player. You come to work to be part of something bigger than yourself. And and it's, uh, not trying to climb the corporate ladder. It's not letting your ego get in the way. We say team player or team member instead of employee. Team members come to be greater by part of something greater than themselves. Employees come to check boxes and check clocks.

And then, we own it, means we own our victories, we own our failures. We own our work, we own a 40-hour workweek. We own our desks. We're not micro-managers.


So there's the simple statements, but then there's all the things that go with them. And I do think 4 is a great number. You can have more if you want to, but for us, this is just what truly embodies it. And then what I would say is, maybe going deeper on this, you know, for you, is how do you live those?

00:13:21 Andy Goram

Yeah.


00:13:22 Marc Reifenrath

Well, it's the essence of how we attack the day. I said that earlier, but in our shout out channel on Slack, it's not just, “Andy did great with this client, blah blah, blah.” It's, “Andy displayed we over me when he did that with the client,” or with this internal team and they'll list out one or multiple core values in that. And that's all that feed is filled with. There's probably a couple sitting on there that I haven't seen today yet. So that's exciting. That's like, that's how you live your core values. It's just one part of it. So not only are they attacking the problems with the clients and their day and their teams with it, but then it's, we're recognising it, to encourage it and reinforce why we live that way.


00:14:06 Andy Goram

Look, I couldn't agree more with it. With all that stuff. And I'd be interested at some point in today, to try to get under the skin of how you've got to that point, right? How you've got to the point where naturally, or maybe not, we'll find out, guys are using the values in that way and heralding them and connecting them to actual activity. To actual actions and recognising that stuff. Because that's a panacea for a lot of people, right? That's where really people want to go.


I guess before we get into some of those “making it live”, the inspiration to make them louder, was it just a natural occurrence. So like Eric said, they just became louder, they became more important to us? Or was there at some point a concerted effort to say, “Hey, these things are happening in the business. We need to have a concerted kind of double down on these things and make them really important.” How did that work?


00:15:03 Marc Reifenrath

So, this goes back to growth stages for me. When I was working with everybody on the team every day, meeting, talking to them multiple times a day, that works well when there's 20 people, 40 people, 50 people. And you have those regular casual collisions with them. 170ish people, across 5 offices and we have 50+ truly remote people across the country, and we're really in a full hybrid, pretty much basically remote at this point, you don't do that. You don't see... I can't talk to everybody every week. And I don't. And so, they don't see them lived out. They don't know... like another thing that we promote is, you know, let's have fun while we work. There's no work hard, play hard. It's all balled into one. We can work hard while having fun. I model that. But if they don't see that, they don't know that. And so the drive to make them louder, and it's part of how we hire, fire, lead, manage, solve problems, and all that fun stuff, is because of our size. And so, as a leader, when you hit a certain size too, you have to say things multiple times. 7 times. 7 different ways, or 100 different ways so that people hear it, understand it. And so, that was the impetus for being louder with them.

But I would say it has forced us to get more formalised with them. And also maybe realise the benefits of being louder about it. And that Slack channel is lighting up all day with that, and that in annual reviews it's getting used, and the 360 reviews it's getting mentioned. In every interaction it's in the back of the thinking. And so the unintended consequences of being louder with it have been really great.

And so I would just tell my younger self, my smaller company self, you should have been doing that even when you were smaller, because it probably would have reinforced it even stronger and potentially driven some tighter bonds and better actions.


00:16:56 Andy Goram

I think that's it. I mean that is a great statement to make on its own. And it's something I say to people all the time on this on this topic, which, you know, I can't help, it's a favourite topic of mine, is

You're never too small for this stuff”, right?

And I think this is the thing is that people (say) “Look. Well, we’re only a small business. There’s only a few of us, a handful of us, we know we just do what we do.” Yeah, but the sooner you hardwire that stuff, you know, you're ready then for those stages of growth. Because like you said, “When you're growing, things can get wobbly.” You need some kind of structure, some anchor points to hold you back.

You know how many start-ups have kind of got to where they've got to, past funding round because of the innate core values and passion of a business, that as soon as they start to scale, dissipates when you start bringing other people who don't have the same connection to it? You know, and if those things were in place right at the start, how much better, how much easier and how different could it have been, right? I think that's what... that's really what you're saying.

00:17:53 Marc Reifenrath

What's the framework you've built that allows for healthier growth, more stability in that growth? Because a lot of businesses, they'll have spurts and then they tumble right back down to where they were.

00:18:03 Andy Goram

True.


00:18:04 Marc Reifenrath

Learned it, then they kind of regroup, develop a new plan, then grow again. Maybe have a little fall, not as far. So, it's a framework that can really help for growth and stability in that growth.

00:18:16 Andy Goram

Yeah. I have an annoying saying that I use about bringing this stuff to life. I talk about taking values from the mural to the mindset, right? And so, you can see values everywhere, on receptions, on the wall. You know Enron even had them etched into rock. I seem to remember that that went well!


You know, there are lots of displays of these things, but I think the real difference is what we're talking about, is when those values are part of the way you think, right, and drive some actions. And so, can you think of anything specific, like go back to when you started to make these things louder, was there anything specific, or the first task that you did to get them off the page, off the poster, off the design pad, and actually into psyche? Can you remember what some of those first things that you did?


00:19:13 Marc Reifenrath

Not necessarily like the first time. But I can tell you when we did... when we went through the mergers. So, you're bringing two cultures together. Two teams that are pretty tight knit. And you know, there's a... there's always going to be a little bit of, I don't know if I'd say contention, but like defensive thinking of our way’s the best and you know.


00:19:31 Andy Goram

Naturally, yeah.


00:19:32 Marc Reifenrath

So we had... we’re an eos traction company, if that means anything to you, or your audience, but we had this kick-off meeting once we’d kind of established all this and you know I read off those core values to the whole team, company-wide meeting, and then we... they're reiterated, especially having those early days of that. But for any new team member, I do a cultural and core values overview that starts that. So it's, you know, that company-wide meeting was kind of that kick-off and then it really started to work into the Slack channel and it just started to trickle and permeate into everything. And it's not going to happen overnight. It's got to be proven, it's got to be lived and reinforced.

And I would say from a leadership perspective we have to illustrate our decision making, our actions are in line with those. Back to that, I have to bat, you know, near-perfect record with those. And if you miss, you gotta own it. I've also given the team permission to call me out.


00:20:29 Andy Goram

Yeah, great.

00:20:31 Marc Reifenrath

It's literally a spoken thing I've said. I’ve said,

Hey, you have permission to give me feedback, hold me accountable, push me.”

I want to and that's part of, you know, the core values too, in that there's accountability in all those. So I think it's really... you have to live it, especially your leadership team. They've got, they've got it illustrated on a daily basis.

00:20:51 Andy Goram

I think any little cracks, values are like water, right? If there's cracks in anything, they'll seep through and they will escape. And you will have lost them. And I think that, even in my trigger word “integrity” behind them, I think is really, really, really important.

I'm interested to understand, have there been specific kind of gestures, activities, times when you have really felt like the penny’s dropped in people? Or where, on the other side of it, perhaps it's missed the mark, perhaps it hasn't quite gone as you would have hoped or expected, and what was the result of some of that stuff?

00:21:30 Marc Reifenrath

I mean, if I think there's been a breach of one of our core values, wherever it might be, I don't get worked up too easily. But I do get pretty passionate about those situations. And just saying “Gang, we have to defend that.” Like, so you have a team member that is just very clearly misaligned and there's no path to resolution. I don't like to have to cut people loose, but it's a favour for both parties, and so...

00:21:59 Andy Goram

It's a brave thing to do, Marc. It's a brave thing to do, right?


00:22:01 Marc Reifenrath

But that's the... how do you tell the team that you've got their back? Because the team members know that. They're going to recognise that, know that, yeah, that that person, they're definitely, they're a cancer, whatever they want to call it, they're, they're misaligned, and they feel that. The best thing you can do, as a leader, is cut that out immediately and you will gain more respect from the team.

I would also say we've done that with clients.

00:22:27 Andy Goram

OK, now that's interesting.

00:22:29 Marc Reifenrath

So, you want to gain some credit with your team, some street cred? Do that. And we don't take this lightly, but there's been a couple of situations where we have had to fire a client. And I think it was last year, newish team member, and there’d been some issues with this client that we were aware of, but kind of as a final straw, and she reached out to me after this call and just said, “Hey Marc. Here's what just happened.” She kind of explained it. I said “OK, it's very clear to me, we need to let this client go. We’ve got to fire him.” And she was like, almost like, “Oh well, you know...” thinking like it was somehow her fault. I was like, “That is not your fault.”

And so, I emailed that CEO and said, “Hey, we need to connect. Just a heads up, we're going to talk about transitioning this account away from Spinutech. We'll support you, but I'll talk to you live, you know, give me a call.”

00:23:19 Marc Reifenrath

And of course, when you want to break up with somebody, they want to stay with you even more. And “Oh! We didn't really mean that we, you know...” But they had just crossed some lines, the way that they treated the team in a very disrespectful manner, very against multiple core values. And you don't... so you got it, you know, is it dollars that you're going to defend, or are you going to defend your core value in your culture?

00:23:40 Andy Goram

Listen, I actually think it's really easy to say, “Oh, I'm going to defend my culture”, right? “I'm going to defend my people.” And I reckon if I had 99 guests out of 100, they would say that, right?

00:23:50 Marc Reifenrath

Right.


00:23:51 Andy Goram

What actually happens though, I think it's going to be a whole different story. Uhm, you know, I know the Jack Welch thing is kind of, you know, it's moved on since the problems, but I go back to some of the stuff that came out of that work and what he did and Blanchard talked about, that simple two by two of high performing versus high cultural performance, right. And I think the bravest businesses out there are the guys who look at the guys who hit the numbers, who are the top performers, but are arses when it comes to culture. Because they are poison.

00:24:31 Marc Reifenrath

Right.


00:24:32 Andy Goram

They are poison and cutting...


00:24:33 Marc Reifenrath

Yeah, higher turnover.

00:24:34 Andy Goram

Cutting those guys out, that's a brave call. We can all get rid of rubbish performers, right? Who are not culturally astute. That's easy. But making a call to say on an employee basis, somebody who really gets the numbers and has won awards and all this malarkey over the years, and say “No! No, no, no, no. This is not good.” I think that's another great way actually, to win the hearts and minds of people and to really show that this stuff is important, right?

00:25:04 Marc Reifenrath

100%. And I would argue, this was $20,000+ a month in fees. So, it's not a small client.

00:25:10 Andy Goram

Well, yeah.

00:25:14 Marc Reifenrath

But the argument, I would say, is we gained loyalty from our team, knowing that we've got their backs. And I guarantee you too, you go to your team and say, “Hey gang. Alright. We've got to replace this revenue.” Are they going to figure it out? They're going to work hard to figure it out. Are they in complete control of figuring that out? Probably not, but they're going to do everything in their power to help that and they're going to work harder on great clients, knowing that we're aligned and go there.

So fortunately, this is only happened a handful of times over the course of of time, but we can't pause in those moments. If that's what it is, that's what you gotta do.


00:25:50 Andy Goram

Can I ask you a question, Marc? Because I would like to think that there was a positive Halo effect in client world about that action, right? In my heart of hearts, I would like to think that other clients get to hear,

Well, these guys kind of got rid of some idiots, right. That's the kind of guys I'd like to work with. That’s a company who has some kind of moral integrity, in here.”

00:26:17 Marc Reifenrath

100%.

00:26:18 Andy Goram

And have you seen that? Has that happened, has some of that stuff?


00:26:20 Marc Reifenrath

I think so. I mean, we're not afraid to say those things. I mean in an RFP situation, or in a pitch, we're not afraid to say, “Listen, we understand this is an RFP, but just like we have to be aligned with our core values and our culture, otherwise it isn't going to work” and that kind of makes a potential client maybe step back and go, “Whoa!” And then you might tell a story of like, “We've actually fired clients that, you know, have treated us poorly.” Like we're not a vendor. We are a partner. And everybody says that, but we'll illustrate how we're a partner and why we've had clients for 20 years, 15 years, 10, I mean.... we kind of tend to hoard clients, and in our space that's really rare.

00:27:02 Andy Goram

Oh, tell me about it.

00:27:02 Marc Reifenrath

It's really rare. It's two to five years of the typical life, you know, and agency turnover of clients is typically 20 to 30%. That's also high. Ours has traditionally been way below that, like 5%.


00:27:15 Andy Goram

So as an ex. marketer, as an ex. Marketing Director, CMO, whatever you want to call me. I've been guilty of going through the “Well, we gotta repitch. We gotta kind of like reassess.” Where in my heart I'm screaming, “No, no! This is a really good relationship. I want to cultivate this because they get me, I get them. We're kind of growing.” But there's still this kind of whole thing of, “Well, come on. We gotta screw them down to the floor. We gotta kind of like keep things going. We gotta give them... don't make them feel comfy.” And you know it's not until you come out of that stuff that you go, “Do you know that's really kind of misplaced,” And that's why I think the word “partner”, 'cause “partner” is a two-way thing. It has to be, you know?

That's... now I'm triggered from my marketing days...


00:28:00 Marc Reifenrath

Well, let me give you a good story here. One of our larger clients, the CMO wasn't on a call for this particular meeting, but somebody on their team, the client side, got a little wonky with our team. And guess what I don't have regular like scheduled contact with this individual. They reached out to me and like, “Hey Marc, I don't know if you heard. There was this call. Don't worry. Like first of all that was unacceptable by both of our standards. And I know that that’s against your core values and I've talked to them. I've talked to their leader. This won't happen again. If that individual’s on a call, we will be with them.” And I just, I didn't say anything. And then at the end I just said, “Well, hey, first of all, thank you. And I can't tell you how awesome and proud and whatever feelings I'm feeling right now that I have about how you are defending our culture and the way that, you know, we work and yours.” I just said,

This is like at the deepest levels of partnership.”

00:28:59 Andy Goram

That's a great fit, isn't it? When that stuff’s going on, you know you're in a good place, right?

00:29:03 Marc Reifenrath

He didn’t want them to screw up the thing we had going, you know. And so, I shared that with the team and just said, “Hey, just so you know, client let us know”, and they're like, “We already knew that. They already let us know too, but that's great that they wanted to share that with you as well.”

00:29:17 Andy Goram

That’s brilliant. I want to talk about momentum if I can? Because I think it's a really important, underplayed piece when you're trying to get this stuff going, especially when you've got a scaling business, right? Because you've got all sorts of things going on. What lessons have you learned about momentum with bringing this stuff to life, Marc? Is there anything that kind of stands out in that area?

00:29:42 Marc Reifenrath

I think there first of all there's, it's good to recognise there's positive momentum and there's negative momentum.

00:29:46 Andy Goram

Ok.


00:29:47 Marc Reifenrath

One’s slowing one down as quickly as possible, and then in the opposite sense, not letting the other one get out of control.


00:29:56 Andy Goram

Sure.


00:29:57 Marc Reifenrath

If it goes too fast, back to those rattle points. There’s shaking like. And so even if it's a good thing, you can't have too much of a good thing. You got to throttle that. So, it's trying to be strategic and just really are you looking at all your monitors and sensors and your gut feel, and making sure that it's... everything pacing it the right way. And that, you know, with culture and core values you don't want to cross that line up and become cultish, right? So that's a momentum thing that could swing it like,

This just feels like people are a little crazy about this

you know, versus like, “No, we're proud of it. And this is the way that we attack our day” and that's kind of where it ends, and it doesn't cross that line of being a little crazy. That's the bad momentum that could get there.

But the positive momentum is you have that, and you start to win, and then you win again. And that contagious feeling is very addictive, and I would say we're experiencing some of that, where that wasn't the norm, or we were in rooms we didn't deserve to be in. We were winning clients we didn't deserve to be winning. But when you do that a bunch, it becomes an expectation. We're probably now starting to like, “OK. Let's not fail to recognise the small and big wins, no matter what.”

We can't be... so Alabama (U.S. College Amercian Football Team) and Nick Saban (Head Coach), you know, he's won multiple national championships, and I've been talking about this a lot lately. He's getting interviewed right after winning a national championship. “Hey Coach Saban! You know, great team, great effort. That team we played was really great. Great season”, you know? And they're like, “How awesome! How long are you gonna enjoy this?”

Well, probably the rest of tonight and then tomorrow morning, we'll start working on next year.

Holy cow! Like he's given themselves less than 24 hours to soak in another national championship. So, I think we've got to always remember to recognise and celebrate the small wins and the big wins, not just the big ones. But it's a weird thing to get stuck in that cycle. It's good that your standards have risen, but you have to make sure that everybody is feeling,

Wow, that was a great win. We just won another championship. Alright, let's celebrate it. Let's regear. Let's retool. Let's take time off if we need to and then go attack the next one.”

00:32:07 Andy Goram

It's so easy for us to just gloss over the good stuff, or even the strengths that we have and forget about them because, well, they’re done. That's done. We gotta focus on the weak stuff, right? We gotta build muscle here. We gotta train hard here. And I think sometimes that's the same in momentum. Because if I'm trying to do this stuff with businesses for clients, often when we're talking about bringing this stuff to life, the concentration internally will be, “See, we've got this cohort over here. They're going to be really hard and really tough. We need to really concentrate on getting the message into them.”

And I kind of come from it from the other perspective of, “Nah! We'll leave those guys. I want you to hunt where all the sunshine and energy is, because I want us to build some momentum”, you know? The Mexican wave, if you like, that we need, has to start with some guys who want to stand up and wave. And at the end when we’ve built the momentum, the guys at the bottom, who are going to cause a problem, they’re either gonna get caught up in the wave and start waving, or they're going to drown, and we will get rid of them.


00:33:11 Marc Reifenrath

Yeah. Exactly.

00:33:12 Andy Goram

And is that the same sort of approach that you would take?

00:33:16 Marc Reifenrath

Yeah, I think that with different growth stages, there's different people that are equipped for those stages. And I think that it's a healthy thing for them to transition. They may have outgrown you; you may have outgrown them. And so that wave of momentum, you know, some people love all stages of that, some don't. And that's OK. But you can't allow underperformance to happen. A top performer will not remain a top performer forever, potentially.


00:33:43 Andy Goram

Yeah.


00:33:44 Marc Reifenrath

And so, recognising that and celebrating that it can be a positive thing.


00:33:49 Andy Goram

You have already referenced a whole bunch benefits that you've kind of seen as a business, and certainly some of the guys in in the business are recognising. If you were to think about the kind of overarching benefits that you see, and perhaps some of the under-the-cover benefits that you realise, how would you quantify some of those? How would you kind of say that they manifest themselves?


00:34:15 Marc Reifenrath

Well, one for me, like I don't have any, like there's no lies I'm holding. Like I'm very confident in the way that we present ourselves. But I think, you know, our retention rate has been amazing, traditionally speaking. We are a profitable company. We've never had to take a business loan. We didn't get outside funding.

So, I think our retention rates for both our clients and our team, and the fact that we're profitable, those are all simple metrics for success. And we can look at what industry standards are, and we typically outpace all of those, so there's healthiness and there's just a health factor in all that. I think that is... It would be harder, I would think, to grow. If we didn't have all this in place, we’d have been harder to grow in a healthy fashion.

00:35:00 Andy Goram

I think that's the piece, isn't it? Because legitimately I can't sit here and go,

Look at all your fantastic growth and plaudits and testimonials and all that kind of stuff, because you've got values. Yay!”

Because there's a whole lot of work, right? There's work that goes in, there's technology, there's innovation, there's effort. Blood, sweat, tears. All that kind of stuff. But I think that last thing you said is that values have kind of acted as a sort of multiplier. Or sort of lubricant to quicker success, right? Or more sustainable success.

00:35:35 Marc Reifenrath

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think... I've said this, I don't know how we would have grown at the pace we did, if we didn't have those things in place. It would have maybe allowed somebody to get into the organisation that didn't align and become a cancer and a disruptor, and stall that out or... You know, companies can grow. I mean, I think too often we celebrate revenue growth, but why just grow revenue if it's not profitable? You've got to maintain your profitability, otherwise, why are you doing it? At the same time, if your culture starts to get off balance, you might need to hit pause, get that reset, because don't just get addicted to the dollar. I think that... I don't lead with thinking about the money. If we’ve got the right team, the best team, they're happy, they're super-talented, the rest of it's going to figure itself out.


00:36:22 Andy Goram

I was going to say that's the outcome, right? That's the outcome of all those things that you're doing is like we make will be profitable and things will be good, and we can reinvest, and we can look after people, and we can do some great stuff. We can do great things for clients, you know? We can really kind of like, motor on that sort of stuff. But, you know, it's an outcome at the end of the day. But and yet, still around many boardrooms, it's the number one focus, right? Give me the topline numbers, give me the top line numbers, and the rest is forgotten.

I'm so enjoying this conversation, and then I just glanced at my timer and where heck's that time gone?


00:36:57 Marc Reifenrath

Right.

00:36:59 Andy Goram

I’ve got this thing in the show I call Sticky Notes, Marc.


00:37:02 Marc Reifenrath

Yeah.


00:37:03 Andy Goram

So, it's where I try and see if I can have my guest summarize their biggest pearls of wisdom here, right?


So, I ask my guests to leave behind three little sticky notes, right, and we're thinking about here on the lessons you've learned of really making values live in your business. Knowing what you've done, looking at the journey you've gone on and the benefits you're seeing, what are your three Sticky Notes that you'd leave behind today, Marc?


00:37:31 Marc Reifenrath

So, I think, that you you've hit on it, that “Lived core values, not aspirational core values.” That would definitely be one.


I really love the “Hire, fire, lead, manage and solve problems using your core values.”


And then the third one. I would say, you know, “As a leader, you have to be all in. Bat that near perfect record on your core values and culture.”

00:37:59 Andy Goram

Brilliant. Love that. Marc, I kind of knew this was going to be a fun conversation. It's a topic I really love. It's just brilliant to hear guys who are making a real go of these things and really seeing them work for them. It's stories I love to hear. It's stories I love to then go on and tell other people. So, I'm really grateful for you coming today. I wish you nothing but success and hey, I'd love to keep in touch and hear all about these things that are going on, and the next great things that you achieve.

Thanks so much for today.


00:38:30 Marc Reifenrath

Well, thank you. I enjoyed it as well and I think we could have kept talking for another couple of hours if we wanted to.

00:38:36 Andy Goram

No question! Absolutely no question. But well, you take care, my friend and thanks ever so much.

00:38:41 Marc Reifenrath

Oh, thank you so much. It was as an honour.


00:38:44 Andy Goram

Brilliant! Well, that was Marc Reifenrath, and if you'd like to find out a bit more about him and any of the things that we've talked about today, please check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.


If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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