The 15 Best Company Cultures in America Share Their Secrets

BEGIN SLIDESHOW

We got all sorts of tidbits from business leaders who make culture a number-one priority

Hughes Marino
NEXT

Value everyone

1 / 15
N2 Publishing
NEXT

Speak freely and openly

2 / 15
Fusion Medical Staffing
NEXT

Make work meaningful

3 / 15
Belay
NEXT

Bring everyone in

4 / 15
KnowBe4
NEXT

Hire thoughtfully

5 / 15
Vanderbloem Search Group
NEXT

Articulate your mission

6 / 15
Procore
NEXT

Know who you are

7 / 15
Tuft and Needle
NEXT

Make the culture you are excited about

8 / 15
TSheets
NEXT

Lead by example

9 / 15
Skuid
NEXT

Put your people first

10 / 15
Hughes Marino
NEXT

Empower everyone to reach their potential

11 / 15
Alligatortek
NEXT

Remember that you are not perfect

12 / 15
Lessonly
NEXT

Practice what you preach

13 / 15
The Penny Hoarder
NEXT

Be clear and purposeful

14 / 15
Simplus

Hire for both skill and cultural fit

15 / 15
Uproar PR
  • ---Shares
Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

For the second year, Entrepreneur partnered with CultureIQ to find the best office cultures in America. For more companies, tips and profiles, check out the rest of 2017's Top Company Cultures package.

If you ask the most successful founders about how to create an environment that inspires and supports employees, they will tell you that office perks like kegs and Ping Pong tables simply won’t cut it.

Instead, a strong culture comes from empowering employees by focusing on a set of values embraced by the entire company.

For our Top Company Cultures list, a ranking highlighting the best cultures in the U.S., we talked with entrepreneurs from all over the country in industries as varied as real estate and web design.

Related: Why Office Perks Are Traps, Not Benefits

Despite their different backgrounds and customer needs, the central tenets of the strong company culture were constant -- focusing on 10 pillars, including communication, support and collaboration. Drawing on these values, these companies were not only able to retain talent and increase productivity but also attract new hires to bring the company to new heights.

For those entrepreneurs looking to improve their culture, read on for some hard-won advice from the businesses featured on our Top Company Cultures list of 2017.

The answers were edited for brevity and clarity.

Name: Duane Hixon
Company: Co-founder and CEO of N2 Publishing
Company size: Large-sized company (more than 100)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: Remember that people have value. Everything boils down to that. They have value and need to be treated as such. Even if their viewpoints are different than yours, if you value and care about that person, they can buy into what you are building and you can build a relationship. If people think you are only pursuing your goals, then you can't build a culture that means anything. We have all kinds of backgrounds here, but we all appreciate and believe in each other and we’re all excited about the mission of the company.

 

Name: Sam Wageman
Company: President of Fusion Medical Staffing
Company size: Medium-sized company (50-99)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: The most important thing for Scott Wehner, and I was figuring out how to build our team. Anytime that I have looked at anything I’ve done in life, I think about what the best team was and why that was the case. Having trust, open conflict and positive intent are all key. You’re in it together.

It is making sure you can tell someone to kick it into gear and they won’t take offense -- they’ll know that it is meant positively.

Open conflict is the ability to tell people what is on your mind and reasoning behind it. You don’t want assumptions to be made that aren't true. Be able to actively talk about it, and share your disagreements and opinions. It’s free flowing open dialogue.

Name: Bryan Miles
Company: Co-CEO and co-founder of Belay (formerly eaHelp)
Company size: Small-sized company (under 50)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: People want to work in a place where there is meaning. Leaders need to assume trust and give it them and connect the work to a meaningful why.

 

Name: Stu Sjouwerman
Company: Founder and CEO of KnowBe4
Company size: Large-sized company (more than 100)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture:My main successful action has been to be inclusive and don't treat your employees like mushrooms.

 

Name: William Vanderbloeman
Company: CEO and Founder of Vanderbloeman Search Group
Company size: Small-sized company (under 50)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: Company culture starts with the people that you hire and how you hire them. We use our culture as a lens to decide who would join the company.

Some of the mistakes we made were when we hired people who had a great track record but didn’t do things the way we do. For me, culture trumps competency every single time.

I would rather have one person who needs to learn a skillset but matches culture than two who have the skills but don’t line up with the culture. Also, bonuses are tied to the culture. If you don’t match the culture, you’re not getting a bonus

 

Name: Tooey Courtemanche
Company: CEO of Procore
Company size: Large-sized company (more than 100)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: Culture is a reflection of the people who work at the company. As you start growing, you need to codify what your company has become as a culture. You come up with mission, vision and values.

If you aren’t hiring based on the values, you're going to get a hodgepodge of input to the culture, and it's going to degrade.

Over time, you get a virtuous circle. You hire people who value what you value and share your vision, and as you scale and your brand becomes nationally recognized, you're able to attract people you would have never thought possible. But if you don’t put the framework in early enough you will muddy up who you are as a company.

Name: Evan Maridou
Company: Chief People Officer at Tuft and Needle
Company size: Large-sized company (more than 100)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: The mantra that we operate by is: you are your values and you are your people.

A lot of times companies will say they want to stand for their core values, but you need to be careful about what you aspire to, compared to what you are. When you are aspirational, you end up with issues of hypocrisy.

If you look at case studies like Enron, their values were transparency and honesty and that didn’t help them because the people they hired held different values.

What are the values that everyone collectively shares? As you add new members to the team do their values align with them? Be true to who you actually are.

Name: Matt Rissell
Company: CEO of TSheets
Company size: Large-sized company (more than 100)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: Culture has to come from whoever is leading the company. If there was a different CEO there would be different element of our culture. Most people make the mistake of creating the culture they think employees want to be a part of of. The problem with that is that you can’t make decisions consistent with that mantra.

The way that I built TSheets, I looked at it and thought, “Would I want to be a part of this atmosphere?” I can make decisions according to that mantra. That’s how we built it, from that concept. Do not replicate somebody else’s because the inauthenticity will eventually come through.

 

Name: Scott Cotter
Company: Chief Marketing Officer of Skuid
Company size: Medium-sized company (50-99)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: It starts at the top. Not something that HR can own, it’s not in a binder -- from leadership on down we have to live it. We want to demonstrate successful behavior to the entire  company.

 

Name: Shay Hughes
Company: COO and founder of Hughes Marino
Company size: Medium-sized company (50-99)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture:  Culture is everything at our company. It’s been the foundation for every decision we make and every person that we hire.

We were fortunate to start with a small group that had incredibly chemistry and since then we have attracted people who are likeminded. It gets better with each new person, because they bring their strengths with them.

Name: Sid Bala
Company: President of Alligatortek
Company size: Medium-sized company (50-99)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: Having an attitude of servitude toward the people on our team. It is not a matter of if team members will leave but when. We want to put our employees in a better position when they leave us than when they started.

Name: Max Yoder
Company: CEO and co-founder of Lessonly
Company size: Small-sized company (under 50)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: You have to lead with vulnerability and need to have people who are able to speak up if something isn’t going in the right direction. If you set a tone that you are fallible and make mistakes people will follow your lead and speak up, whether they are right or wrong. If people only speak up when they are sure, you’ll never get anywhere. Vulnerability and appreciation build a culture of candor. We can’t have constructive conversations if we haven’t established a mutual respect for each other.

 

Name: Kyle Taylor
Company: Founder of The Penny Hoarder
Company size: Small-sized company (under 50)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: I think it’s all about over communication. One mistake I’ve made is thinking that culture can be created by outlining it in a handbook. The only way it becomes your culture is constantly over communicating what you want to be and showcasing it in everything you do. Practicing what you preach is a big component of implementing your culture.

 

Name: Ryan Westwood
Company: Founder and CEO of Simplus
Company size: Medium-sized company (50-99)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: You have to be transparent. We open the executive meeting to the company every week so our employees are never wondering what’s happening.

You have to have total clarity. As a new employee, it doesn't feel good not to know where the company is going. If you can’t achieve something together, it’s not inspirational as an employee. Everyone knows what our goal is.

You have to collaborate. I write a playbook for every quarter. I give it to the company and every employee writes their own goals that cascade down from mine. We’re all in unison working on the same big, hairy, audacious goal.

Those three things make an exciting environment. When you’re transparent, your employees trust you and they give you a different level of commitment.”

Name: Mike Harris
Company: President and COO at Uproar PR
Company size: Small-sized company (under 50)
Our No. 1 tip for building a strong culture: Hire well. It takes your whole team to build a great culture, but only one or two people to destroy it.

When we hire, we look at culture fit before everything else, including experience. Even if you hire the most experienced, highly-skilled team member, if they’re a culture killer, they’ll be far more detrimental to your organization than they are helpful.

 

Previous Slide

Start Slideshow

Next Slide