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Creating the Perfect Company Culture
Most people’s excitement comes at 5 p.m. when they can finally clock out of work and head home. Not here at Red Nova Labs.
A mantra spoken by many here is, “I wake up excited to come to work!” That might sound surprising when you learn that our focus is self storage, an industry that may seem far from glamorous.
On any night of the week, you can find RNL employees working long hours on our own volition because we sincerely care about the industry, our products and our clients. What makes our company special? We work in a culture of enthusiasm, trust and transparency.
Setting the Culture
Although our fridges are always stocked with beverages, our cabinets are filled with snacks and you can find people playing ping pong anytime during the day, these perks are only part of our culture. Don’t get us wrong; it’s a fun workplace. But we realize it’s just that—a workplace.
RNL President Bob Zhou says that starts with transparency, which was easier when we were a small startup. Now that we’ve grown into a 40-person company, Bob says there’s not enough time in the day for him to train every new employee individually so he hires managers that he can trust to train new hires and get the message across.
“If we’re going to spend a big chunk of our lives working here, we need to be doing something meaningful. Something we care about,” Bob explains. “The only way you can make people care about something is transparency”
Mistakes and Happiness
CEO Dan Miller says he strives to create a culture where we can make mistakes and everyone is happy in their position.
We even keep a ‘wall of shame’ of our past business failures in the basement to remind us that if we aren’t making mistakes, we aren’t moving forward.
Speaking of moving forward, that’s exactly what employees at RNL can do. Our executives do everything they can to make sure we stay happy, even if that means doing a different job than we were hired for.
“Some people were hired on as one thing but they’re doing something totally different now because that’s what they wanted to do. We give them that path to advance where they want to advance and work on things they find interesting,” explains Dan.
Public Relations Specialist Katelyn Wyss worked at RNL for more than a year and a half before she left to work for a large marketing firm, but she returned to us in November yearning for the supportive culture she left behind.
“I left here thinking I’d go to a huge marketing agency, work with clients from many different markets, get to travel and it’d be awesome. Turns out, it wasn’t the change I was looking for. I missed all my coworkers who were always willing to lend a hand,” explains Katelyn.
When she started at RNL, we were still an incubator of teams trying to spit out the next great idea. Since then, we’ve not only found our niche in self storage, but we’ve become leaders in the industry. The culture has drastically evolved in that time, but one thing has stayed the same: How far we go to support each other.
Katelyn says, “A common phrase you’ll hear between coworkers is, ‘What can I do to help?’”
Keeping Everyone Motivated
At any company, keeping employees motivated is a challenge. Luckily, we have an atmosphere that’s conducive to extracurricular activities. We all enjoy each other’s company, so we naturally want to hang out outside of work. Employees plan happy hours, kickball teams, canned food drives and much more. Dan also says it’s important for management to plan events for employees.
“I think it’s important to get out of here once a quarter, whether it’s the Christmas party, a Royals game or a Boulevard Brewery tour. It’s just easy to get locked up in here and lose sight of what is real,” he says.
Bob says that the best way to motivate RNL employees is to pack on the responsibility. He knows people have career goals, and at most jobs, they have to climb the corporate ladder for more responsibility – but not here. “At RNL, if someone does a good job and you can tell they really care, we’ll give them more responsibility,” Bob says. “If they handle that well, we’ll give them even more. We’ve found that it’s a good motivator because they really own a project.”
Another way to motivate RNL employees? Play to our competitive side, even if the goals seem crazy. Especially if the prize is free food.
Now we get a free meal, either chef-prepared or catered, once a week. More importantly, it forced us to reevaluate how we sold and launched WebReady sites. If we kept doing what we were doing, we would never launch as many sites as we do now and we’d still be stuck in our old ways. Change is good and commonplace here.
“People say we’re changing things up all the time and it’s hard for me to explain why. Why would you keep going with your current method? You already know what you’re going to get out of it. Maybe it will improve over time, but it’s faster to go try something else and see if it gives you improvement. You have to be pretty nimble when you work here,” explains Bob.
Storms hit us. It’s a part of any business. Maybe it’s our passion or our competitive sides coming out, but when we’re hit with an obstacle, we all band together to fight it instead of getting down.
“It’s a lot like the How I Met Your Mother mantra: Challenge accepted,” Katelyn says. “People step up and do anything to help whether it be manually entering data or just bringing in cookies. Everyone seeks out opportunities to contribute.”
Dan will say, “We may call on you.” Everyone gets behind the cause. We’ll stay late, work weekends and do anything we can to get past whatever obstacle comes our way. Difficulties are a part of business so we don’t see any point in getting downtrodden about them, and this attitude is often what drives us to achieve astounding success.
Every company begins as a start up with few employees, little resources and a desire to break into a market that has large companies to compete with. That’s what we did.
Bob explains, “Think about how many resources those companies have. You have to be really naive to think you can beat them somehow. It’s so easy for me to come up with 1,000 reasons why we’d fail compared to them. They have all these people working on a project and we only have one. I might as well just not even try. You have to be naive and repeat, ‘We can do it’ to yourself.”
That’s the environment in which we work. We dream big and work hard to make those goals a reality. We never know exactly how we’re going to get there, but we know we can. If we focused on the reasons we couldn’t succeed, we never would.
That’s exactly the kind of people we have here. Everyone is extremely dedicated to our goals because we’re so passionate about the self storage industry, creating a great experience for our customers and putting out the best products in the market. That’s what has led us to our booming success. We’ve doubled our employees in the last year, tripled production of our websites and are looking to launch a new product in the upcoming months. None of that would be possible without a culture that was conducive to our success.