Results Based, Employee Centered: Wayne Sleight shares the unique company culture of 97th Floor – Successful Nonprofits

Results Based, Employee Centered: Wayne Sleight shares the unique company culture of 97th Floor

Results Based, Employee Centered: Wayne Sleight shares the unique company culture of 97th Floor

by goldenburggroup

This is the episode that took 5 months of planning and scheduling, but our guest Wayne Sleight was worth the wait. Wayne is the Chief Operating Officer of 97th Floor, which is a for-profit marketing firm, but he also implements a nationally recognized company culture that we can all learn from!

“What would it take for you to love working here?”

That’s the question that helped build one of the best small businesses to work for. From the company’s decision to never track vacation time to Wayne’s philosophical vendetta against ping-pong tables in the office, there is plenty to learn and love in this week’s episode of the Successful Nonprofit’s Podcast.

Listen in to Episode 140 Below!

Referenced Resources

97th Floor’s Website

Link Ricardo Semler’s TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/ricardo_semler_how_to_run_a_company_with_almost_no_rules?language=en

The Seven Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler: https://amzn.to/2OghQxN

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor: https://amzn.to/2CJUmfc

Drive by Dan Pink: https://amzn.to/2OdXFR2

Onsen Towels: https://onsentowel.com/

Please send all New Years Resolution submissions to our Special Projects Coordinator, Isaac Pritt: isaac@succesfulnonprofits.com

* Transparency Moment: Amazon will pay a small referral fee if you buy a product via one of these links.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases

Timestamped Highlights

(2:20) Wayne explains his and 97th floors journey to the company culture that they have today.

(7:42) Wayne speaks on how his company benefits from being a  R.O.W.E. (Results Only Work Environment).

(9:15) Why 97th floor has no vacation policy and allows for their team to have complete autonomy.

(13:50) Talking about the difference between rules and culture.

(17:05) Wayne goes into why 97th Floor creates “guideposts” in addition to vision/mission statements and values.

(21:35) Why it is important to discipline-based off of your company’s values.

(24:05) A few ways that 97th Floor lives and promotes their company culture.

(29:01) Wayne explains why 97th Floor will never have a ping-pong table.

Episode 140 Transcript

Dolph Goldenburg: (00:00)
Welcome to the successful nonprofits podcast. I’m your host, DOLLF Goldenberg. Some people are worth the weight and we have been working to get today’s guest on the podcast for months and from everything I’ve seen from every indicator he is worth the weight. Wayne sleight and I started exploring this conversation and recording it about five or six months ago. We really wanted to record a conversation about building a strong organizational culture, but you know we both seem to have incredibly hectic schedules that just did not line up for actually recording the episode so I am so thrilled that we actually our schedules aligned and we’re going to be able to do it today. Wayne knows a ton about building a strong organizational culture. He is the chief operating officer of the digital marketing agency, 97th floor, which is just outside of Salt Lake City and his efforts at building culture, building a corporate culture have received broad recognition.

Dolph Goldenburg: (01:05)
His company has made lists like fortune 500 sorry, Fortune’s 50 best small workplaces, entrepreneur magazines, list of top company cultures, and also the marketing agency of the year award. Now, I know that often has, when we talk with for-profit companies that may not feel like they speak as much to the nonprofit sector. But I would encourage listeners has, as Wayne and I talk about things that his company does to build a strong company culture, to think really about how this might apply to them. 97th floor doesn’t have hundreds or thousands of team members, like most medium-size and smaller nonprofits. It’s not actually that large of an organization, but they’ve built an amazing corporate culture. And of course, we also may end up chatting just a little bit about digital marketing and how your nonprofit can market itself better. I’d be shocked if that did not come up at some point in our conversation. So let’s welcome Wayne slight to the podcast. Hey Wayne, welcome.

Wayne Sleight: (02:10)
Hey, nice to be here. Thanks so much. Awesome.

Dolph Goldenburg: (02:12)
So you clearly think a lot about organizational culture, but what sparked your passion for it?

Wayne Sleight: (02:18)                                                                                                        It’s hard to even classify it as a passion, um, but I absolutely do. Um, enjoy thinking a lot about it. Um, what sparked it was past experiences of working at different companies. Um, some things I liked and a lot of things I didn’t like. Um, when I joined 97th floor, uh, Chris Bennett is, is, uh, my partner, he’s the CEO. When I joined it was just him. So it was just the two of us. So it wasn’t a company, it was us working. We don’t have an office. It was working from our home. Um, and there, there were no rules. We, we’ve known each other most of our lives. We’re very, very close. Um, and it was all about the work. That’s all that matters. Um, nothing else. And as we, um, it was in 2012 we got our first office. Um, we had just hired a few other team members and we moved in.

Wayne Sleight: (03:15)
All of a sudden we started, um, putting in rules and there was no thought to it other than, well, those last three jobs that you had, what were the rules? What were the policies? And we’ve marked those down and write them all out. And that was it. Um, but then I didn’t ever want to do like hold myself to a different standard than our other team members. So if they had to follow these policies and these rules and basically this culture I had to as well. So I started following that to myself and I’m like, man, this kinda sucks. Like work is starting to, to suck. Um, cause it wasn’t about the work. It was a, it started becoming, um, different things like that. Um, so me and Chris started having conversations and he would tell me, I, you know, everything worked before with me and you like, why can’t you just go back to it?

Wayne Sleight: (04:06)
Like, well, if, if that way of doing work, um, for me is, makes me happier and allows me to do better, uh, work. Why, why isn’t that for the rest of the team members? So we started asking the question why, which is something I think everyone should do in all aspects of their lives. Um, but we started doing it in, in, in relation to this conversation with, with work. And we just start asking, why do we care that people are here at eight o’clock in the morning exactly at eight o’clock. Why do we care that they have to, uh, you know, taking X amount of days for, uh, sick X amount of days for, um, [inaudible] and we couldn’t find any good answers other than that’s well what other companies did in the past, um, that we worked for. So we started writing our own rules of what we wanted and essentially it was, the rules were what would make Wayne and Chris what would make Chris love working, um, at a company at this company.

Wayne Sleight: (05:08)
And those were our rules. And that was, uh, kind of the hypothesis. We’re just like, well, let’s build a company culture that we like. And it might not be for everyone, but it will be for people that are similar to us in terms of what they value. And we, to this day, we still say 97th floor is not a company for every single person that worked for, I think a lot of people. But some people it doesn’t work. And we try to be very upfront and honest about that and just our overall marketing like on our website. Um, but also like in interviews, um, we tell them exactly how it is and we don’t want someone coming in and, um, being, uh, you know, disappointed at an example of that is some people and totally fine, they kind of want stuff handed on a silver platter to them, X, Y, Z.

Wayne Sleight: (05:58)
You come in and you do X, Y, Z and then you’re done and you go home. We don’t really operate that way, which I can see that as being a con in many cases. Sometimes people would feel like they don’t have as much guidance as they want. Um, and we think we do provide guidance, but a lot of it is they have to kind of ask the question first. We more set kind of the overall goal and let them kind of, uh, you know, find the answer or solve the problem, uh, by themselves. Anyway, that’s kinda back to the question. That’s kind of where it started was just the early days of us forming 97th floor. The actual company, like the, our first office coworkers and stuff and realizing the traditional way of doing it wasn’t for us. So we’ve, we figured, well it’s probably not for other people too. And so far it’s 2018, seven years since we moved in that first office. Uh, the people that have come through the door is 99.9% have asked. We loved it. People have moved on to other companies or we still stay in contact with. Another part of our culture is we have uh, an alumni network. We do alumni events and stuff and uh, you know, everyone seems to have really liked the culture that we have and it’s made a positive impact in their careers.

Dolph Goldenburg: (07:12)
So that’s really super cool. Wayne and I love the fact that you are completely upfront and honest. You put it on your website, you talk to candidates and you’re like, we’re not a good fit for everybody. What are some of, what are some of those rules for Chris? That means Chris is going to have a job that doesn’t suck and our rules across the board.

Wayne Sleight: (07:30)
Um, yeah, I mean one is that we’re a results-only work environment. [inaudible] I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that. It’s not something that we coined. It’s a, uh, started by two women at best buy a long time ago and they have their own consultant, um, agency that helped us be certified. But essentially what it means is every team member, every employee is, has a 100% autonomy and in turn they give the company 100% accountability. So essentially, uh, you’re free to do whatever you want whenever you want to and wherever you want it as long as the work gets done. Um, so there’s no, it takes out all of the subjectivity between, you know, a manager and an employee. There is no longer a, yeah, just keep it simple, no subjectivity. It’s all about, it’s, you know, objective, uh, discussions that are going on at that point. Um, so that’s one that, you know, that applies to Chris, the CEO, myself and every other employee.

Dolph Goldenburg: (08:32)
Well, let me jump in. When you say a hundred percent autonomy, does that mean as much vacation time, as much sick leave and you can come in when you want to and leave when you want, you just have to hit your objectives?

Wayne Sleight: (08:41)
Correct. Yeah, and it’s different. A lot of people when we talk about this, whether they’re new or just new team members are just, you know, out in the community they can get similar to flex time or unwell or, um, unlimited, uh, vacation. And it’s not the difference. It’s there’s no vacation policy. Meaning when you have an unlimited vacation, you still have to, uh, request it, get it approved. People know where this is. There’s, there’s no policy at all. We don’t, we don’t talk about vacation. I mean, outside of, you know, we’re friends with the people we work with. There’s stuff like that there. There’s no scheduling of, of anything. Um, and yeah, we, we’d have no way to track how many a days people took off. It’s all about setting, um, you know, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly goals and allowing people to achieve that. And we kind of get out of the way after that.

Dolph Goldenburg: (09:36)
And so obviously these are really quantifiable and easily measurable goals.

Wayne Sleight: (09:41)
Yeah, I mean there, there becomes some gray area sometimes where there’s, it’s, uh, a little bit, uh, I guess for example, we have a small marketing department at 97th floor for our own brand and a ma, most of their goals are very, uh, metric based, but there’s some that are a little bit more of like branding. And I get, there’s some, you know, metrics that you can put on those. But we, we don’t really, um, do that with our overall branding. So it’s more of just like a feel of what we want that department achieving. Um, and that’s a little bit more difficult. But I think that those are just conversations that you can have like in one-on-ones and kind of get a sense. And at those times though, you can also look at productivity too of, okay, well we don’t have a specific metric to judge you on.

Wayne Sleight: (10:31)
So whether you’re out all month or whatever on vacation and you aren’t getting your work done, we can still look at, um, like productivity, um, beans. So whether that you wrote this many articles or, or whatever the case may be. Yeah. We just don’t want to get involved in people’s lives. Um, we don’t, I think traditionally companies, and I get, if you look in like the history of work, I guess, um, it’s all about the employer controlling the life of the employee. And we don’t want that. Um, my, my, my father passed away when I was a teenager and one of the things that he told me, not like before he passed away, but like, you know, uh, one of the only like life advice I received from him, cause I was young when he passed away with be your own boss. And growing up I always thought that meant, Oh, you gotta be the, uh, you know, the boss that makes the a lot of money or whatever the case may be, you know, from TV shows or whatever the case may be.

Wayne Sleight: (11:30)
But as I started maturing, cause he didn’t have a lot of money, I started realizing it wasn’t about the money, it was about the control. Um, not ha, you know, being able to go to your son’s basketball game whenever you want. Give me the like in control of your life and not being held at the mercy of your employer. So that’s kind of the, what we’ve adopted at 97 floors. We want to get out the controlling of our employee, our team member’s lives. We want to just say it’s more, it’s a little bit more of a, um, freelance economy, even though they’re not freelancers, they’re employees and they get, you know, the benefits that come with being employee, uh, you know, guaranteed salary and benefits and protections and all that kind of stuff. Um, they do have the freelancer side of, in terms of like kind of being their, their own Boston in the sense of controlling their own life.

Wayne Sleight: (12:21)
Whether that’s time, whether that’s, um, you know, you can tie it back to money in the sense if someone doesn’t want to work as many hours, um, maybe work wants to work 30 hours a week and they can get the job done. W one wheel tracks, we don’t know, but we’d be totally fine with that. But Hey, if they want to make more money, they could. And they’re only extending 30 hours and they want to spend 40 50 hours a week. Like that’s in their control. They can ask for more responsibilities, which would obviously come with, with higher pay. So that’s kind of the, in a nutshell, one of the approaches that we try to take is get out of people’s lives, almost treat them as a freelancer, but with the benefits of them employed, let them control their lives.

Dolph Goldenburg: (13:02)
Very cool. So do you have any other rules besides just the major objective rule

Wayne Sleight: (13:11)
in terms of the work or like at the office?

Dolph Goldenburg: (13:17)
Well, you know, so you say you’ve got, you’ve got these, these folks who, you know, kind of are like contract workers, but they are employees, you know, as their w two employees. Do you, do you have any other rules for your employees other than just meet your objectives?

Wayne Sleight: (13:32)
Yeah, I mean there’s rules in terms of, you know, around the office, you know, like don’t leave your smelly, you know, egg salad in the refrigerator for a week. You know, there’s certain things like that. Um, communication is a big one. I, I again, I hate the word rules. It’s more kind of, it’s more of a culture that we’re, we’re doing, right. So like if you’re taking time, everyone’s expected to respond to everyone within 24 business hours if not sooner. You know, most of the time, most people are, we still have quite a bit of people in the office. Um, but we just look at the office is more of a tool that they can go used, not as much as a mandatory thing. Um, but we have Slack, we have zoom, we have a lot of technology that allows people to meet face to face anytime I’ve seen rooms, all that kind of stuff.

Wayne Sleight: (14:23)
Um, so they’re, they’re expected to respond at least within 24 hours to clients, to coworkers, whatever the case may be. If not, they’re, supposed to use automatic responders, which is essentially just like an email vacation responder or in Slack, a status notification explaining, you know, uh, I will not be responding to you or responding until, you know, Thursday out to over, you know, 30th or whatever the case may be. Um, so people know when to, uh, um, expect a response. But yeah, there’s, I wouldn’t say so much rules, more guidelines of just how we operate. Um, and I think people come in and, uh, like new employees and you, you kind of just pick that culture out. I mean, that’s kind of what culture is, right? Like you don’t have to necessarily be told, you just witnessed that and you experience it and, you know, hopefully adopt that culture. Um,

Dolph Goldenburg: (15:25)
so I think that’s an excellent point that you know, it’s really about culture and not about rules. So what are some of the other ways that your organization’s culture are distinct from that of a more traditional employer?

Wayne Sleight: (15:38)
Yeah, I think, um, that that focus on results and nothing else is probably the biggest one. People talk about. Um, the other one is just our, our mission as a company I think is different than a lot of companies are. There’s several out there that are very similar to us. Um, or at least in their own way. We don’t have, uh, aspirations to go public or sell for $100 million or grow at a crazy pace or whatever the case may be. Like, we’re all about doing work we love, which is marketing network, marketing geek. Um, so it’s all about like, at our company meetings, we, we, we do talk about numbers, like we show numbers just cause, you know, interesting. But we don’t have goals for numbers in terms of revenue or anything like that. Like money numbers. We have goals for, you know, retention rates or, uh, client health in terms of meeting the metrics, uh, for, for our clients, that kind of stuff.

Wayne Sleight: (16:42)
Um, but we don’t have a big focus on money. Not that it doesn’t matter. It absolutely matters, but it’s a, it’s a byproduct of what we actually care about. But it also is a means to an end of what we care about. So we have some, most companies have a, a mission statement or vision or whatever, and then they have values. We have both of those. Um, but we also have another thing that I’ve, I haven’t heard of any other company having of, I’m sure there are in different ways we have guideposts and heat guideposts where there’s five of ’em. It’s the five guideposts that we have every business decision be filtered through. So think of your company values, um, that you have, whatever it is you typically use your company values to determine who you’re going to hire, who you’re gonna promote, and who you’re going to fire to, right?

Wayne Sleight: (17:33)
So honesty is one of your company’s values. You look for that when you’re interviewing an employee, you look for it in terms of who you’re giving praise to or, or promoting. And if someone’s honesty, you terminate them, you let them go based on, so how you filter personnel decisions through your values. We use these guideposts to filter business decisions and money or revenue is not one of those for us. It’s um, clients, which means, you know, doing great work for the companies that hire us, but also the individual point of contact that we have. We want, want to help them get raises or promotions, make them look like, you know, the stars that they are, um, uh, careers, which is our internal career from CEO to intern, making sure that whether it’s at 97th floor, that they’re retiring here or they’re going to start their own other company or go work in house at some brand, whatever the case may be, that 97th floor is doing everything it can to make their career, whatever their objective is, help them achieve it.

Wayne Sleight: (18:36)
A charity has one which will play right into this, uh, podcast. Obviously. Uh, we, we care deeply about that. So we’re, uh, members of the pledge 1%, which you’re probably familiar with. Um, uh, so we donate 1% of our gross revenue, um, to charities each year as well as doing volunteer work too, um, you know, so that’s one. And then leadership, um, in, in the business community and specifically in our marketing industry. And then legacy, legacy, and meaning we want 97th floor to be around. We always say where our grandkids can, uh, you know, apply to get a job at many top floor just cause that matters to us that we think it’s cool to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Cause you can see in all five of those, not one of those it’s revenue-based or anything like that. So any business decision that comes through, um, that we’re trying to make a decision on obviously at least has to help one of those pains, but it cannot negatively impact any of those.

Wayne Sleight: (19:36)
So I guess an example would be if, well if we took some of that money that we have a budget out for charity and we gave it to our marketing department, we’d be able to grow or whatever. We wouldn’t do that because yes, that would help us with careers. People, we might be able to hire more, we get more clients and we can help them out, but we won’t do that cause that hurts our charity. And that’s one of the reasons why we wake up in the morning is a charity. Um, so yeah, I think, I think those guideposts, it is something that we really like and we find, uh, is, is a little unique and different. But again, it’s not for everyone. I think some people they want to be part of those, you know, rocket ship companies that you know, are hell-bent on growing as fast or making as much money as possible. And again, we’re not opposed to that, but it’s not, uh, it’s not a focus of ours. Those five guideposts are.

Dolph Goldenburg: (20:25)
And at what point in the recruitment process or onboarding process are you talking to your employees about those five guideposts?

Wayne Sleight: (20:36)
I’m not too involved anymore. Um, on like the early conversations, I would hope, uh, fairly early, but I mean, we have it our walls and stuff, so hopefully, um, even though I kind of make fun of that usually of having values on your wallets, we, uh, this year, yeah, beginning of this year we finally got ’em on our walls just for everything. I, I’m not a fan of it, just like most people just because it’s like, Oh, I just thought it up there and then you don’t, you’re done. You know, you check the box and you’re done living those values or whatever the case may be. We do have a month on the wall. Um, yeah. I, I’d expect that people that are doing, um, uh, our, our hiring, our initial interview stuff, they’re doing that very early on.

Dolph Goldenburg: (21:18)
Now. Have you had the rare occasion when you’ve got a team member that’s not living those guideposts or, you know, maybe being counterproductive in terms of amount of time they’re taking off or something like that?

Wayne Sleight: (21:32)
Yeah, so again, those guideposts are for business’s decisions, but then we have our seven core values that, uh, that we have. And, yeah, absolutely. Um, we’ve, we’ve had people, it’s not very common at all. Um, but yeah, I mean it’s, what’s the point of putting values on the wall or even defining those if you’re not actually living by those. And that’s the hardest one in terms of hiring and promoting or giving praise based on those values. That’s kind of the easy thing. And I think most companies get, um, get it right. The hard part is disciplining people based off of those boundaries very hard. And, um, not to be a hypocrite because we struggle. I personally struggle at that. Um, but I guess the first, uh, step to recovery is, Hey, acknowledging that you’re not good at it and I acknowledge it and I’m trying to get better and I’ve made steps.

Wayne Sleight: (22:28)
But yeah, when someone’s getting, doing good work in whatever role they’re there, they have, but, um, they’re not with the, one of ours is selflessness, right? So helping other people, whatever good work you’re doing, sharing it with other people at the organization. You know, if someone’s just, you know, does great work for 97th floor, but just keeps it all to themselves, it’s never helping out. Or if someone’s asking for help, it’s never voluntary. And to kind of go help that person out, it’s kinda hard to, you know, discipline them. Um, and we’re not, you know, a crazy, uh, you know, brutal company where it’s like, you know, someone doesn’t help someone out one time and then they’re fired. But it’s having that conversation with them. It’s still uncomfortable to do, but we’re trying to get better on that. And that’s one of our goals in terms of actually living, actually doing what we said.

Dolph Goldenburg: (23:25)
Yeah. And who typically has those conversations? I mean, to people’s peers, take them aside and say, Hey, you know, we have this, this value of selflessness and we need you to do this. Is it their supervisor? Is it kind of, you know, various people depending on the situation, who initiates them?

Wayne Sleight: (23:41)
Yeah. The best case, and this does happen, is when each employee, each team member is policing themselves, right? That does happen and it’s great. And we want to keep going towards that cause that’s the, that’s the best culture. That’s where we want our culture to go. But it’s difficult. So when that doesn’t happen yet, it’s whatever manager we have there. So we haven’t, again, that’s like our weak area. In terms of the praise, one thing that we do at magazine floor sounds super silly. I get it. It’s gonna sound fluffy, but it does matter. Is every Monday we have a thing called Monday chairs. So just on Slack to people, um, the person that received, uh, chairs the previous week if to do it this week. So if I received it last week on Monday in Slack to the whole company, I say, Hey, I want to recognize Joe.

Wayne Sleight: (24:29)
Um, I’m giving him a Monday Cheers and it’s based on one of the company values. So you say, Hey, Joe represents the company values selflessness. Amazing. This is what he did last week for me. I blend, he explain it right. Um, and then they get a free lunch, a gift card to like a local restaurant, whatever in the next stage is passed on. Super simple. And get fluffy, but peer to peer recognition is still good. It feels really good. Um, it’s instead of always just like, Oh my manager gives me praise, but someone in sells gives me a praise I didn’t even know, like they’re not even on my team. Like that feels really, really good. But the cool thing about it is new employees or existing employees, but specifically new employees, they can come in and just every Monday they see two messages of people getting shout out and they understand why.

Wayne Sleight: (25:18)
So they can start understanding what it takes to be successful at this company. Oh, this person got a shout out for volunteering and helping the sales team on a project, even though they’re on client fulfillment or whatever. Like okay, I need to start looking for opportunities to help other teams. And then I’ll get shout outs and I’ll get a free lunch or a raise or promotion, you know, whatever the case may be. So I think it’s a, it’s a simple theme, but over time it builds up and I think people are able to understand, you know, what it takes to be successful. If that’s what they want to be

Dolph Goldenburg: (25:52)
That’s very cool. Now, how did that get started? Like, did you all see the idea somewhere else? Did the team internally have this idea who came up with the Monday cheer idea?

Wayne Sleight: (26:02)
Yeah. Um, so it started, we used to use a service called tiny pulse. The thing on familiar grid. We don’t use it anymore. It’s a great server. Everything. We’ll have to check it out. Um, no, not affiliated at all. Um, it’s basically just an employee survey. Um, and, and uh, one of the aspects of at the time was you could do chairs, you could shout people out. Um, and people really liked it. The reason we stopped doing it, not to go off on a tangent is it seemed like, uh, at least how we are using it, I think was a little bit wrong where it was asking every single week like, what’s wrong here? What’s wrong here? And it felt like after a while it’s like, well, nothing’s wrong here, but I keep getting asked it. So let me think. And it was like you’re trying to search for some negativity.

Wayne Sleight: (26:46)
Um, so we took that out. Um, and we still do, employees have risen in other ways, but, um, one of the things, when we took away as people started missing, was those, those chairs that, um, I think they call them a chair. It’s actually the name. Uh, that’s how we adopted the name. Um, anyway, so after a few months, yeah. Uh, I can’t remember who or how many employees, key members, um, asked to, uh, but they missed it and I can’t remember exactly how the, uh, Monday and two started, but it was a few team members just Greenup saying they missed it, that peered peer recognition. So we brought it back in our own way.

Dolph Goldenburg: (27:25)
You mentioned that you’re still doing surveys. Are you using culture amp or something like that or are you just doing using a Google form or how are you doing your surveys?

Wayne Sleight: (27:34)
Yeah, Google form, which I guess isn’t, maybe isn’t some people like frowned upon that, but I’m personally not a huge fan of surveys in general. I like more just one during one-on-one discussions. Um, but some people are not leadership disagree with me, which is totally fine. And yes, we, we kinda I guess do a mixture of that, uh, every once in a while, like a very formal survey. But even all those surveys are followed up with one-on-ones where they are able to um, have discussions. So th one of the benefits of doing the survey, which I agree with is we’re able to aggregate, you know, a lot of, instead of just having one on one conversations and then at the end of the meeting with every person in the company, uh, kinda going off of just feelings of what’s going on, we can aggregate the data. So that’s why we do

Dolph Goldenburg: (28:25)
well, I see a lot of what I love is, you know, you suggested a lot of things that either don’t cost money or don’t cost a lot of money. So doing check-ins, whether you’re doing those one on one or whether you’re doing surveys or you know, your Monday cheer. I mean, maybe there’s a gift card involved. Maybe there’s not, but your Monday cheer does not really cause that much. Even if even if a lunch gift card is involved or having those guiding principles or those values. And, and I love that cause I think a lot of nonprofits often think, well, we’d like, we’d like a stronger organizational culture, but we’re just so limited on dollars. You know, we can’t afford fancy things like culture amp, sand, you know, expensive staff retreats. And you know, you’ve, you’ve really, you’ve not said anything that’s terribly expensive.

Wayne Sleight: (29:08)
We are very much, I guess not necessarily against being spending money. I think, uh, that’s just kinda who we are. Just cause we’ve started, you know, with, no, we’re bootstrapped company, right? Like, um, that’s kind of in our DNA of being cheap. I mean, Chris both grew up fairly, uh, on a very, very low end of middle class. Um, so I mean, that’s just kind of our DNA. So we don’t spend a ton of money on that kind of stuff. But we do, uh, spend a little bit, but one of the themes of culture that we’ve been passionate about for a long time, and there’s kind of a joke at our company and anyone that knows me externally is that I hate ping pong and I’ll explain why. I actually love ping pong. Not that I played a lot, but I do love ping pong.

Wayne Sleight: (29:53)
But the last company I worked at before 97th floor, they had King pong table. And this was when like culture started becoming fairly popular in kind business community, like focusing on it, um, you know, 2009 time, um, that area. Um, they had a ping pong table, right? And everyone loved it and it seemed like, I think two times a day each team got to go play for like 10 or 15 minutes or whatever. And it seemed like that was what people were waking up to do. Like just go have fun. And that was the culture. And I think a lot of companies less so today, but for a while there seemed like all companies thought culture was all about the free snacks and the, you know, yoga or whatever the case may have a ping pong tables. Um, so why I always sat at 97th floor, we’ll never have a ping pong table is just because of what that represents.

Wayne Sleight: (30:42)
Not that I have anything against, we have silly, fun things, but that’s not the focus. We don’t want people at 97th floor because of those fun things. So I think, uh, uh, a nonprofit that maybe doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on, you know, the office or culture, that’s totally fine. You don’t need that. And I think if anything that kind of, that kind of stuff can bring in the attract the long people that are there for the wrong reasons. Um, and I think a lot of companies got into doing that because the work that they were doing, it was, it wasn’t fulfilling to the employees. So I think there was kind of like this hole in each employee’s heart that wasn’t being filled because they weren’t doing satisfying, fulfilling work. They weren’t progressing, they weren’t being challenged in their work. So the company felt, well, how do we fill that hole in our employees heart, the ping pong, we have free snacks or you know, whatever the fun stuff is.

Wayne Sleight: (31:36)
Um, and that’s the stuff that costs money typically. So yeah, we, we take the approach, um, you know, if we’re going to do fun stuff, it’s more of kind of just like a byproduct. We had a good month or whatever, we’ll go to a Utah Jazz game as a company in Sweden, you know, like something like that. But it’s not something in our employee ads or job ads or whatever. Like, Hey, come work at us and we get to go to jazz games or anything like that. It’s come work with us and do meaningful work, growing your career, be challenged. Like it’s that kind of, that kind of stuff. Um, so yeah, in terms of building culture, I would recommend staying away from that stuff, especially early on. And if you do it kind of be hush hush about it and explain like this is not to make you stay here longer or attract new employees.

Wayne Sleight: (32:26)
This is just for us to kind of, you know, have a little bit of fun separate from like the core business. I recommend just focusing on what people really care about and I think that most care about it that I’ve wrote written a few things and spoken at a few conferences on in terms of millennials versus you know, uh, uh, gen X and whatnot. And really if you look at like studies and data, there is very little differences there. There’s some differences in terms of the generations outside of work, but in terms of when it relates to work, the themes that they care about is, is the exact same for the most part as gen Xers. And I think a lot of companies thought like millennials for some reason just wanted a bunch of fun. And that’s how it became a trend to just outspend.

Wayne Sleight: (33:14)
You know, you heard Google doing some cool stuff and okay well now we need to do that kind of stuff in it. It went out the window. So yeah, I think we have great benefits that matters, that not fun stuff, good 401k or good health insurance. But then we have other perks definitely. And those some cost money but we tried to take the approach that a perk is supposed to support the company values or else don’t do that perk. So an example of one of our perks and anything floor small is a, it’s called the 97th-floor library, which is any employee in any team member can request any book that they want and the company will buy it, no questions asked. They take it home, Rita and when they’re done they just go put it on a bookshelf in our break rooms that we have built up a collection and then other people can just there no checkout process, anything like that.

Wayne Sleight: (34:08)
You just go grab a book whenever you want it and retrain it when, when you can’t. Simple thing. But when you hear of a new book, you know, $20 or whatever, like it’s coming out of your own pocket, you might think like, Oh, maybe I’ll buy, let me, let me think for a day or two. Right. And then you never get around to it, whereas it’s not young money and it’s nice on floor’s money either I’ll buy the book and then boom, two days later, I mean Amazon, it, it’s on their nightstand on now you’re probably gonna grab, grab it. And the reason what that is benefiting as one of our values is high Zen, which is the Japanese word for continuous improvement and also yourself. Um, so we want to encourage that and you know, reading books is one of those approaches of continued education continued improving, um, on yourself and whether it’s marketing, business, self-help, or just, just your mind in general. Um, so that’s one of our perks that is not, it’s actually not that expensive, but we all know how many books we buy. We buy several books, a few books every single month, you know, a hundred bucks or something like that. Um, but I think it sends that message of, Hey, we value Kaizen. We value you not coming. You know, you graduate, you have your job now and you’re done learning like men enough. We want you to constantly improving yourself.

Dolph Goldenburg: (35:25)
That’s awesome. I just about to ask you off the map question, but before I do, I have to ask you if you, now that I know you’ve got this library, um, is there a book by Semler in the 97th-floor library?

Wayne Sleight:                                                                                                                    Not that I know of.

Dolph Goldenburg: (35:38)
I just had to ask, are you familiar with the work of Ricardo Semler Oh my God, I’m going to send you this book. Um, yeah, so, so he’s a, he’s a bill. He’s a Brazilian billionaire. Um, he started a company and that’s not true. He inherited a company that was worth about 25 or 30 million. He built into $1 billion company where there are, there is no vacation time policy.

Wayne Sleight: (36:06)
I watched his Ted Talk.

Dolph Goldenburg: (36:07)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s how I was first introduced to him. I saw his Ted talk and I’m like, I gotta read this guy’s book. And so I went online and bought his book, but I’m going to have to send the book to you because it’s a phenomenally good book and it’s a lot of the same types of things that you frankly you kind of describe where, you know, he’s like, I don’t care when you work, where you work, as long as the work gets done, I’m, you know, I, I don’t, you know, so, you know, so he’s like, he’s like, if the most important place for you to be on Wednesday is at the beach with your child, then that’s the most important place for you to be.

Wayne Sleight: (36:34)
Yes. I, yeah, I didn’t know he had a book. I’m definitely gonna read, I promise. Um, yeah, I, I loved his Ted talk. It’s definitely influenced us. Um, a lot. A couple of other books that were core to influence the 97th floor was Dan Pink’s drive. Um, he also has a Ted talk, um, X about what motivates people and then Sean acres, happiness advantage. He also has a Ted talk as well. Everyone has a Ted talk. Um, you know, those two books drive camping again, happen to the happiness advantage by Shawn Achor. Like two books that greatly influenced.

Dolph Goldenburg: (37:05)
So that’s awesome. I will make sure I check out both of those and we will link all three books and all three Ted talks in the show notes so that people can, you know, if they don’t want to read but they want to watch an 18 minute Ted talk, they can do that instead. Get the highlights. You know what I love about Ted talks is it’s kinda like, um, it’s kinda like seeing the preview of a movie. You know, you get, you get the entire emotional roller coaster of the movie in 90 seconds. Ted talks are kind of that way but in 18 minutes.

Wayne Sleight: (37:32)
New employees, we have them watch the Ted talks and like they’re their first week, but then we say, Hey, we have the book in the 97th Floor library, we’re not going to force you to read it, but we strongly encourage it, but at least they got the 18-minute talk.

Dolph Goldenburg: (37:43)
That’s awesome. I love it. So I’ve got an off the map question for you and it’s not the one that I thought I was gonna ask you, which you know, won’t be for a first talk. And it’s like sometimes the muse tells me to ask something else and the muse is telling me that I should ask you, um, if you have a really good story about Japan.

Wayne Sleight: (38:01)
Do I have a good story about Japan? Oh man. It’s one of the two places that are like the, that I mostly want to go do. I had a sister in law, uh, from Osaka, Japan. So my, I’ve known her my whole life, my oldest brother. Um, so I’ve just been fascinated by the Japanese culture just because of her, you know, cooking meals and stuff from when I was a young age. Um, but I’ve never unfortunately been there. Um, my niece and nephew go, go back quite a vegan. I need to go there. So yeah. How many stories there? I have a friend, he actually, his company worked from Madison floor, his office. Um, we have a few extra seats and they’re a startup. And so we try to help start-up out by giving them free office space every once in a while. And, uh, it’s called onsen cow.

Wayne Sleight: (38:50)
Um, and they, it’s the best pal you’ve ever had in your life. I don’t have any ownership and own sending or anything like that, so I’m not being biased here, but that’s all we use at 19th floor. But, um, uh, yeah, it comes, it’s a, it’s a, uh, towel from Japan that they use over there. It’s very humid in Japan is what I’ve been told by him, Shane. And, uh, it, it’s a waffle type of a weave. So it, it actually drives you as opposed to our American towels that are very fluffy and kind of just don’t absorb as much, but they’re very soft and like, you know, comfortable in that sense, but they don’t actually do what the Cal’s supposed to do. But then how thin it is, it drives really, really fast. So in humid, uh, places in Utah, well it’s not so humid it’s pretty dry actually, but in Humid places, Florida or whatever, Atlanta, Atlanta, really human. Um, if a great place it tries so you don’t get the bacteria or the, you know, crunchy smell as, as quickly. So, um, anyway, and there’s a Japanese, uh, flag on each tower because it’s inspired by the Japanese. But yeah, it’s doing good. You raised $1 million in his kickstart, uh, uh, campaign and like two or three weeks or whatever.

Dolph Goldenburg: (40:06)
Wow. That did that. That’s really impressive. So first of all, I love that you, you, I, I genuinely appreciate your sense of ethics where you talk about something and then you’ll say, well I don’t get anything out of it. And I genuinely appreciate that cause you know, we live in a world where we’re never really sure. So thank you. Um, we will, we will also, by the way, link to that towel in the show notes cause I’m going to have to, and I’m really picky about towels. I’m gonna have to go get one and we’re going to link to the towel in the show notes. If it’s already available. Um, but the reason I asked you that question was you mentioned Kaizen and then, um, I was not certain, but I thought the artwork to your back. Right. Uh, cause you know, we’re seeing each other on video. I thought the artwork to your back right. It might be Japanese or Asian, but apparently not.

Wayne Sleight: (40:51)
Those are actually um, uh, the, the night sky. So it’s for my wedding and my first two care. Um, what the sky looked like, the position and number stars. Um, I can’t remember the company name. I think tie or something. Again, not affiliated with them, but it was a present to my wife a birthday or two ago, whatever the date was. You choose whatever date it is and it shows you how the sky looked during that night.

Dolph Goldenburg: (41:22)
So I have to say, I probably have asked the best off the map question ever. Cause that’s beautiful. So you have the night sky from your wedding and from child’s birth. Wow.

Wayne Sleight: (41:34)
Yeah. We just had one, our third kid six weeks ago. I need an order another one.

Dolph Goldenburg: (41:41)
Well at six weeks they’re not feeling left out yet. You know, at six years they’re going to feel left out. How come my night’s guys not up there daddy. That’s awesome. Wow. Well Wayne, thank you so much. I am just super glad that you came on the podcast today. Um, I’ve learned a lot. I know our listeners have learned a lot as well. I want to make sure that our wisdom, our Westerners or our listeners, either way, I want to make sure that our listeners know how to get ahold of you. Your URL is 97th floor.com and dear listeners, when you go there, be sure to check out their blog and check out one specific post and that post is culture shock, how company culture is the primary force in determining brand strength. Hey Wayne, thank you again. I’m super grateful.

Wayne Sleight: (42:28)
Thank you. It was great to be here and we do volunteer work and stuff, if anyone has any questions about marketing or whatever, we won’t tell you, but we’ll try to help you out where we can’t so anyone can reach out to me or just make up for in general and we’ll volunteer our time a little bit to try to help answer any questions.

Dolph Goldenburg: (42:46)
That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Don’t forget that we’ll have the URL for 97th floor on the show notes. That’s successful. nonprofits.com now it is hard to believe that we will start a new year and a new decade. Let me just say that again. A new year-end, a new decade in less than a month. Of course, the new year also means it’s time for our annual new year’s episode and this year we want to include you in that episode. We have traditionally asked prior guests from the year to share their new year’s resolutions on that episode and we’re going to do that again this year, but we are supersizing it because we are also going to be including the resolutions of listeners like you. So knowing that nonprofit professionals and board members are rarely idle and always seeking improvement. I am sure that you are thinking of some goals and resolutions for your new year. If that sounds like you, I would love to hear those resolutions.

Dolph Goldenburg: (43:44)
So here’s what I’m going to ask that you do. Grab your phone and start recording. I do, however, we have a few guidelines. The first is please save your file has a WAV or MP three. It’s super easy to do whether you’re using a droid or an iPhone, it’s super easy to do. The second is please make sure that your resolutions are personal, so that might be about your work life. It might be your board involvement or it might be completely personal, like I want to get more sleep, but we are asking that folks kind of be light on self-promotion and heavy on an actual new year’s resolution. They’re really making. So let me also say that every year we get a couple of recordings from executive directors or who are consultants who will say something like, mine is for my organization to change people’s lives next year. And while that might be the resolution for their organization, it’s probably not their own personal resolution. So the last thing that I’m going to ask is please send those to our special projects coordinator Isaac and that’s Isaac. It’s successful nonprofits.com and you guessed it. We will include Isaac’s email address in the show notes now. That’s our show for this week. Listeners, I hope you’ve gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

Disclaimer: (45:04)
I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor the gold route group provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Cause material has been provided for informational purposes only, is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.

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