I spent a few years early in my career working for a large privately-held home builder. At the time we had offices in over twenty major cities, a headcount over 2,000, and ten-figure annual revenues. It was a behemoth. An executive coach I knew who was friends with the owner suggested I pursue employment with this company because of the strong culture and reputation it had for being a great place to work. At a minimum, he suggested, I would get an inside look into one of the healthier corporate cultures in the market. He was right.
We were building homes in one of the hottest developments in the country, Stapleton in NE Denver. The competition for talent was ferocious as we were selling and building homes down the street from our competitors, mostly large publicly held companies. During the first year, I was in project management, spending most of my time in the field. I watched superintendents from rival companies come and go, taking sign-on bonuses or promises of lucrative profit sharing and seemingly jumping ship every 6-9 months. No kidding. At our company, it didn’t take long to realize why we did not have the same churn rate.
Within two weeks of getting hired, every new employee would make the trek down to company headquarters in Texas for a 3-day “on-boarding” retreat. We stayed at a nice hotel, meals were taken care of, and were fantastic (Tex-Mex!). Each day a driver would pick us up at the hotel and take us to HQ where we gathered in a world-class training room. I assumed we would spend half our time talking through benefits packages and getting exposed to internal systems and processes. I could not have been more wrong. It was a three-day deep dive into the vision, mission, and core values of the company. The owner, the CEO, and others all made appearances. No talk of strategy, policies, procedures, etc. Total focus on who we are and why do we do what we do. It was a crash course on the behaviors and beliefs that made up the company and for this twenty-something at the time it was incredible. Thus began my obsession with organizational culture.
A few years later when I jumped back into entrepreneurship and started building a recruiting firm one of the first tools I set out to develop was a culture assessment. A thirty-day process designed to assess and identify key culture markers in an organization. The intent behind the tool was to inform our recruiting practices on each new account so that we could actually find a culture match. I fundamentally believed then, and still believe today, that culture fit is the most important metric in the recruiting process. Once we completed the assessment process we would put together a report summarizing our findings. At the bottom of the report, we include “Opportunities for Improvement” or something to that effect. We were less than a year in when one of our clients having recently received the final report called me, obviously frustrated. He was grateful for the candid feedback and knew we had what we needed to go find him the right people, but he was at a loss in what to do about some of the issues the process had surfaced. He asked if we would help and without thinking, I said yes.
Fast forward four years and our recruiting business had become a hybrid between a staffing agency and a consulting firm. We built more consulting tools to service the needs of our clients and extended our reach independent of the recruiting space. We built a small team to service the projects and tinkered with a framework for organizational health along the way. In 2020 we made the decision to separate the recruiting firm and the consulting work into two separate entities. It was important to us that our work in the recruiting space remained focused on best practices for talent acquisition without any competing interests. More importantly, we wanted a place to house the consulting tools we had built over the years, a dedicated ecosystem to continue iterating on our model for organizational health, and a platform to support and service the needs of our small business clients. A new partner group was formed and a brand with a hat tip to our roots in the construction space. Now, here in 2021, we launch Workbench. A consulting shop for small businesses.
No bull sh*t business consulting. In the foxhole, with you.