This month's issue: Creating a positive company culture.  
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Simple. Powerful. Elegant.

A Newsletter from Creative Ventures

Issue #124

Big News

One of the great things about Creative Ventures is that we are able to put all of our projects through a simple three-part filter:
  • Is it interesting?  Does the project make us sit up in our chairs and actually tilt our heads in interest?
  • Is it challenging?  Can we see the project stretching us?  Will we be able to use our unique knowledge and skill sets to help a client reach their goals?
  • Will it be fun?  Fun is a big deal and really important when you have to dig deep to get something done. 
Simple. Is it interesting, does it challenge us, and is it fun?  Looking at our projects from last month and the challenge of the next three months, I’m glad we have a way to judge if all the plane rides are worth it.
Story projects are dominating our project lists.  Slowly but surely people are discovering that story is a real strategy. We welcomed three new clients into the Creative Ventures family and have already signed to work with them in 2017.
Colin continues to dazzle clients with his project leadership, design work, and strong analytics around projects.
I have finished Chapter 16 of the book and it’s off to the editor!
We’re looking forward to the crazy schedule of July!

Here is the latest OVER COFFEE VIDEO on how to communicate with your clients through the stories you tell.


The Idea


"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." 

- Theodore Roosevelt

100,000 hours.  That’s a sizeable chunk of time, about 11 ½ years.  In a recent study at the London Metropolitan University, they figured out that’s about the average amount of time you spend at work during your life.  Now, that figure is clearly low, since they used the ancient idea of a 40-hour work week.  The Gallup Groups’ recent study showed the average is closer to 48 hours a week.  So with that huge chunk of your life at work, how important is your workplace?  According to work at Harvard, it’s VERY important.
Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones spent three years in the arena of organizational culture looking at great workplaces.  They made a couple of very interesting discoveries:
  • Great workplaces figure out how to engage their employees.  I mean ENGAGE.  They get them involved and leverage their talents.
  • The places where people actually like to go to work, share.  They share credit, information, sales leads, and ideas. 
  • Everyone knows the rules…and the rules make sense.
  • People know why they are working.  They get the big picture.
Sounds kind of soft and nebulous doesn’t it?  Well, the outcome of a great workplace is impressive.  For a subjective kind of list, the results should make you take notice:
  • When people are engaged at what they do, they are 50% more likely to exceed their production goals.
  • When people like where they work, they are 54% more likely to stay.
  • When people like where they work, they bring talent with them, and in a world where human capital is the measuring stick, that’s a big deal.
  • Guess what?  It impacts not only  the people at work, but companies that are rated high in work culture show customer satisfaction ratings that dwarf the other non-culture-driven companies by 89% higher client ratings.
This year Fortune Magazine published its 16th annual list of the best places to work.  The usual suspects were in the top 10.  Companies like Google (now Alphabet), SAS, Edward Jones, and one of my favorites, the grocery store chain Wegmans Food Markets.  The list is filled with all the cool stuff that some of these companies have: free employee cafeterias, child care, health clubs, social gatherings, even weekly massages.  All of these are great, but they’re not necessary to a great workplace culture.

Creative Ventures does lots of work on culture development, culture changes, and cultural adaptation.  We have seen great efforts and missed attempts at creating and adjusting culture to make it a workplace centerpiece.  Each company is genuine and authentic in its efforts.  Each company allocates resources and time to the process.  Each one is as different as a fingerprint.  In order to be impactful you need to understand what is--and just as importantly--what isn’t important.  Build your culture, your workplace around your fingerprint.  When you veer away from the idea of the specificity of culture, you’re in trouble.
Despite all of the many aspects and characteristics of a great workplace, let me apply the POWER OF 3 and give you three cornerstones.  Use these and your culture will be on a solid foundation.



Do This!


We have discovered that the bedrock of a great culture and therefore a great workplace is all-around communication.  Let people know what’s going on.  Involve them in the news of the company.  Look for feedback, in fact, CREATE feedback.  People want not only to be a part of something, they want to be heard.  It’s not just a one-way communication road; instead, great workplace cultures look for ways to get input from their employees, and they then look for areas to apply the input to.  It’s not unusual in great companies that if you have a good idea and it’s applied, you get a piece of the impact.  Set up town meetings.  Oh, and bring pizza.  Create ways for employees to make suggestions, then listen and apply them.  Connect your feedback loops so that people feel involved.  Eliminate the N.E.T.M.A. (Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything!)

YOU ARE OF VALUE: This is a big piece of the culture work we do.  People leave companies for two reasons.  Reason #1 is that they don’t feel of value.  How does this happen?  How could someone not know what they do is of value?  During the journey of Apollo 11 to the moon, President John Kennedy was visiting NASA and saw a man cleaning one of the many break rooms.  The President asked him what his job was, and the man replied, “It’s to put a man on the moon.”  No question as to his sense of value.  No matter what you do, you should know where it fits, and you should know that it’s important.  Leaders create value by telling and showing people they are OF VALUE.  Make it a priority.  Look for opportunities to give immediate rewards.  We have designed what we call RIGHT NOW programs where managers are empowered to reward anyone they see doing a great job.  The reward might be a Starbucks card or movie tickets.  The reward doesn’t matter:  it’s the recognition.  It’s the idea that “I matter and someone knows it.”  It’s that “I am of value.”

GROWTH: Remember when I said there are two reasons that people leave the companies they are with and one was not feeling of value?  Well here is #2:  no avenue for growth.  The opportunity to get better, to improve your skills, to learn new aspects of the business is a major player in both great workplaces and top employee retention.  The idea of growth is all about investing in the future of your people.  Do you have defined career paths?  Are they articulated so employees know “If I do this, I will have the opportunity to do that”?  People get excited about challenges, and when they see them connected to a prospect for improving their livelihood, they become engaged.  You may have restrictions like no money for training, or you’re stuck in wage and hiring freezes.  Growth doesn’t have to be a big budget commitment.  We have helped companies do simple things like building a business book library, setting up mentoring programs, or providing potential lateral movement within the company when people become stagnant.  Growth is about the commitment to your people and their tomorrows.


Both my sons have cut the cord from their cable providers and are relying on the vast ocean of internet content providers to fill in their entertainment gaps. In fact, 1.1 million people cut their cable services in 2015 and the number is growing.   One of the leaders in the field of content is Hulu and they are about to get even better.  A new feature will allow their nine million-plus subscribers to stream live broadcasts next year with likely partnerships with Disney and Fox.  This opens the door to the one big gap currently left in most cable cutters’ entertainment choices, sporting events!

In recent years the fast casual dining experience has been the big winner in the “Let’s go out for a bite to eat” game.  But lately, this side of the food and beverage industry has hit a popularity speed bump.  In May fast casual dining saw store visits drop 4%, one of the largest drops in a stalled market.  Heavyweights like Panera, Shake Shack, and industry darling Chipotle have been impacted by this downward trend.  It has caused a typical restaurant response, deep discounting, in an effort to get diners back in the door.  Many of their customers are simply cooking at home, as the entire industry is hurting.  I hate this news, as these types of eateries are big on my choice list when it comes to grabbing a bite.

I am always studying the art of story.  One of my favorite sources for this path of learning is the web-based series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, hosted by comedic icon Jerry Seinfeld.  For eight seasons Jerry has picked up famous comedians in an ever-changing array of way-cool cars to take them out for coffee and to talk about comedy.  A new episode posts every Thursday.  I am fascinated by the stories they tell about their perspectives on what is and what isn’t off limits in comedy (most feel nothing is off limits).  Jerry is a great host and edits each episode to about 20 minutes.  Comedy is incredibly difficult and has been around since about 450 BCE.  Think about it, that’s a lot of laughs, and continuing to be original is one of the greatest challenges in all the arts.  Check it out here, but be prepared to watch about a dozen episodes in a row!


Here's what our clients have to say...

"It is impossible to describe how much I learned in such a small amount of time. I was not only energized, but ready to apply his ideas."

-1st Clearing

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