Great Work Culture – Board & Vellum

Firm Culture, News

Five Ways You Can Create Great Work Culture

By Jeff Pelletier
July 2, 2018

Easily, my favorite part of working with the people at Board & Vellum is getting the chance to recognize the awesome people we work with. I sometimes can’t believe I get to work with such amazingly talented and genuine people. Frankly, we all love this place, and we cheered loudly when we heard that we were recognized, for the third year in a row, as one of the top ten small businesses to work for in the state of Washington by Seattle Business Magazine.

This blows our minds.

We get to go mingle in a crowded room filled with some of the best firms in the state and take a moment away from the office to take in what we’ve accomplished. Every year, I couldn’t be more proud of how we continually move the needle on what it means to work in a design firm. It is inspiring to be in a room of other companies trying to move the needle, too, and it is a reminder of what an innovative and awesome state Washington is.

While Board & Vellum is an amazing place to work, the reality is that we are brutally critical of our progress. We beat ourselves up over the fact that we aren’t doing more. For all of the incredible progress we make on our goals every year (and really, it is rather absurd how much we track metrics and keep the progress going), it often takes events like this for us to stop, breathe, and realize, “Hey, we actually aren’t doing half bad at all!” It is a reminder that not only are we actually meeting our goals of moving the needle for us, but we are also helping demonstrate a different way forward for other design firms. It can be done.

Of course, this isn’t easy to do. We constantly push ourselves and our goals – it's a continuous job to improve upon and cultivate what we have going on. Being recognized for an award that isn’t a pay-to-play kind of award is a validation of what we are trying to do. We work for it every single day. It's not just that we hire cool, talented people and give them good benefits, but it's that we offer autonomy, ownership, and a career path forward for everyone here.

After discussing the award list at the event and hearing some of the tips from other teams, here are five takeaways to help you create a great work culture.

  • Empower everyone to do the best they possibly can. Everyone can do something extraordinarily well. Find out what that is, and build your services and culture around that.
  • Laugh and create a culture where humor is appreciated. Laughing can cut the tension and make you realize that this isn’t life or death stuff and it should be fun.
  • Recognize achievement constantly. We don’t just recognize our team at big events like this event, but each Monday morning, we do a call out for whoever did something awesome last week. Validation is important, especially when the work is so hard.
  • Communicate openly. One hallmark of firms that are successful is a sense that the management is clearly and openly communicating decisions with the company. It is what we do here, and it helps everyone be at the same level.
  • Be nimble. We’ve found that with shifting personal interests and discovery of strengths, it can mean that established standard procedures can often be improved upon when we’re open to throwing them away. Be nimble and flexible, and realize that the thrill of change can often be a comfortable constant.

Most importantly, bonus takeaway: Hire the best people you can. This place wouldn’t be what it is without the rock stars who work here. Thank you to our amazing team, and all of the awesome clients, vendors, and consultants that we get to work with!

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