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Culture as a Success and Performance Driver with Serena Shoup

Published by Summit Marketing Team on Aug 19, 2022 6:00:00 AM

The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 71


In today's episode, Jamie Nau, our host and Director of Accounting, sits down with Jody Grunden, Partner at Anders CPAs + Advisors, and Serena Shoup, Founder of Ambitious Bookkeeper, to talk about a topic many people find interesting - organizational culture. But before they dive deeper, Serena talks about how she started, her vision, and her experience as an owner, and tying that to how culture has played an essential role in driving her company's success.



Jamie Nau: Hello, everybody. Welcome to today's podcast. Very excited about our guest today, Serena Shoup is here from Shoup CPA.

We are gonna talk about everybody's favorite subject, which is culture, but before we kind of go down that path, Serena, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your firm and some of your background? 

Serena Shoup: Sure. So thank you so much for having me. This is exciting as a listener of the podcast. So, I am Serena Shoup. I am a CPA, the only 

Jody Grunden: You’re the only listener of the podcast? 

Jamie Nau: You're the one; we found her! 

Jody Grunden: Finally! 

Serena Shoup: I'm a CPA. I actually came up in corporate; not a big four background, but more in industry. I've worked in manufacturing and in biotech.

When I left my corporate career, I was a controller at a biotech company in San Diego and left to have more kids and knew that I was probably never gonna go back to corporate. 

And so it was my opportunity to make my dream of becoming an entrepreneur happen. And even though I have an accounting degree and all that kind of stuff, I've always wanted to start a business, but it didn't really ever dawn on me that I should just do accounting because that's my background.

But here we are. That's what I ended up doing. It was kind of on accident, even though I knew I wasn't gonna go back. I knew I wanted to start a business. I kept thinking maybe I'll start a coffee shop or some other random thing. But what ended up happening is, after I had my second daughter, I started tinkering around on Upwork and seeing bookkeeping jobs.

And I was like, well, I worked really hard to get my CPA license so maybe I should keep that fresh. I'll just help some small businesses. I worked at a really small tax firm toward the beginning of my career. So I had experience working with small mom-and-pop shops, like little restaurants and auto repair shops and things like that.

And so it wasn't foreign to me to be able to talk to small business owners, and, also, my dad's an entrepreneur, so it's kind of in my blood. I was like, well, this seems super easy. So let's just do this for a while, stay fresh. And I can't just be chill about stuff and thought, let's make this into a business instead of freelancing.

So that's how it started. Although I will say, even though I went full force and started building a business, I still was very intentional about keeping it part-time, which is, I guess, counterintuitive for some people. But for me, it was like, if I'm gonna do this thing on my own, I want it to be on my terms.

I went against the general advice out there of, ‘wait until you have like a hundred K in revenue or a certain number of clients to start hiring.’ 

No, I hired a helper, someone to do part-time bookkeeping, when I had five clients because I had to hire a babysitter for more hours and put more time into my business to support these clients. Or I could just find a bookkeeper and employ somebody else, help them also help me, and not spend as much time in the business. 

So that's what I did. From pretty much from the beginning, I have had a team. 

Jamie Nau: Wow. Awesome. So, you said you had a team from the beginning. Just so we understand the background here, how large is your team now and what are those roles that you have employed?

Serena Shoup: I still have my original part-time bookkeeper, and I also have a part-time staff accountant, who I am training and getting to the point where he can be more of that controller level. And I have an integrator who is like my operations person; she helps with both businesses.

I run a mentoring business and the bookkeeping stuff. So she supports me in all of it. She's full time. And then, we have a part-time assistant that helps wherever she's needed as well. And she's an accounting student, so she helps on both sides as well. 

Jamie Nau: Great. So, I forgot to mention early on that Jody is here as well for our listeners. So, Jody, I know you've talked a couple times already, but for those hearing the other voice, that is Jody is as always.

Jody Grunden: Thanks, Jamie. 

Jamie Nau: Let's start going down the road of culture. In the pre-conversation, you were talking a little bit about how important it is and how the work is of creating a “different culture”.

Can you talk about that? Because the word “different” can mean a lot of different things. So let's talk about what “different culture” means for you. 

Serena Shoup: For me, it was like creating that culture that everyone dreams of and really wants to have in corporate. Some say that they have it in their companies, but when it comes down to it, it doesn't really exist for a lot of companies.

And it's funny because on our team call today, we meet as a team every week on zoom and then of course we're hanging out in slack together too because we're all virtual, we always go around and share wins and share our own win. And then we give a win to someone else on a team.

Basically, if someone else is embodying our core values, then we kind of shout them out. Or, if it's just like, they've gone above and beyond to help another team member, we like to showcase that. 

Everyone is always like, ‘we love working here; we love the culture that you've created.’ 

And I'm like, ‘it's also because of you guys. But, please, as we grow, I wanna make sure that this culture remains.’ 

Because I've been in startup environments where it feels like we have that tight-knit culture. And then, we start growing too fast. And then, we start hiring people that don't really embody the culture just because we need bodies in the seats.

I don't ever want to get to that point. So I was like, ‘I'm gonna count on you guys to hold me accountable.’ 

But, for me, that culture is really truly recognizing that everyone is human and not to expect people to leave the rest of their lives at the door when they come to work; we can continue to support each other, even when stuff is kind of awry in our personal lives.

We can count on each other to lean on each other. If something is crazy in our personal lives, like we can all cover for you, as a team, when it comes to work, so that is one less thing that will stress you out. 

And so, you can really tend to what's going on in your personal life, because we've all had those moments where it's like, ‘I'm kind of just like losing it over here in my personal life, and I could just use a little extra support at work so that I can take care of whatever's happening at home.’ 

And so that's the main thing, truly offering that to people and offering different ways of being flexible, besides the typical benefits, like insurance and things like that.

Jody Grunden: Do you find that people, because you have that, do you find that people actually work more hours than what you're hoping? Because maybe they'll take time off during the day to run the kids to basketball practice, or whatever. And then, you'll catch them late at night at home, trying to catch up on what they missed during the day, and, in the process, ending up working more hours. If that doesn't happen, then how do you prevent that? 

Serena Shoup: For the most part, my whole team is part-time, except my one full-time employee. They balance things pretty well. They still end up working about the same amount of hours, and they're able to work when it works best for them. I think the output is much greater than if it was more structured, if that makes sense. 

And that might not necessarily work for every personality type. I've certainly had team members in the past that needed more structure than that. So, it's not a “one size fits all.” It takes a certain personality to be able to thrive in that kind of environment.

Jamie Nau: Back to that point, when you hire, are you looking for that personality? Or are you hiring, looking for something else and then you're gonna work other people's personality into your culture? 

Serena Shoup: For our hiring, there's a skills component, but most of the hiring process is centered around core values and that whole like personality. We kind of take people through the ringer to join the team. 

Initially, my integrator, once we receive an application that followed all the instructions because there's that filtering process because attention to detail is very important so once they pass that whole process, she'll text them or email.  

It’s typically a text though. Like, ‘Hey, we just got your application. I'd love to hop on a call.’ 

It’s a very short call just to make sure we have all the details right. Just to kind of see how hungry they are for the job. That'll say a lot about a person. Then, she'll just kind of get a feel for them, intuition wise, like how they respond on the phone calls and stuff like that in that first little meeting. And, if they pass that test, then they get an interview set up with me.

They also get a skills assessment, so in between the interview with me and her, they get an email from me that says, ‘great, you're moving on to the next phase.’

And that is answering or doing this assessment that we have depending on the position. But for the most part, we're always gonna be hiring for accounting work.

So whether that's a staff accountant, a bookkeeper, that kind of thing, we test their actual knowledge. We send them some kind of funky financial statements with some mistakes and have them point out the mistakes. 

And I give them the number of mistakes that are definitely in here. You may find more, but this is like the minimum that you need to find. 

And then I also give them a test on a client scenario; this is the scenario: we've missed a deadline for sales tax on X, Y, Z client. Or, rather, you've missed the deadline. And this is the second time this has happened. So, the client is frustrated. How are you gonna handle it? 

We ask them to draft an email to kind of get a feel for their communication style and how much ownership they take over mistakes. So 

Jamie Nau: If Jody was applying for that, you know exactly what he would say; he'd say, ‘I don't make mistakes.’ You must have the wrong person is what he would say in the email. 

Jody Grunden: No, I've never made one yet. I don't think.

Serena Shoup: It's really just to see how they would respond and mainly take ownership for things. There's some people that would literally respond as like ‘oh, I'm so sorry this happened. I'll make sure that it doesn't happen again.’ And then there's some people that are very blamey and they wouldn't take responsibility in that draft email.

So, immediately, they're out of the running because it's a team effort. Even if you're technically not the one that made the mistake, if you're the person overseeing it, we want to make sure that you would still take ownership and make sure, this is how we would handle it going forward and whatnot.

Jody Grunden: That's very interesting. On the competency test, how does that work? Is it adding and subtracting? Because that's all accountants do anyways. right? 

Serena Shoup: That is all we do, definitely. Since our goal is to get people that will advance and grow with a company; we don't just perform bookkeeping services. We give a lot of advice and things around our clients and how they can run their businesses and interpreting their numbers for them. 

I give them a set of financial statements that have some mistakes, like retain earnings doesn't tie out, and things like that–negative inventory, glaring mistakes–but also. I give them a set of financial statements that is based on a real client that we have. I have changed the names and things so that they can see the trends of what happens in our client's businesses. 

And, it's an opportunity for them to also ask me questions about the business in the interview. So I always open that up to them: ‘Did you have any questions about this business or things that you saw that looked irregular?’

Because the industry that we work with a lot of is course creators. So there's a lot of fluctuation and revenue and different things with launches and whatnot. It's also an opportunity for me to see what kind of questions they have and how much they really paid attention to what they were looking at, instead of just trying to find mistakes. Because we want people that are analytical as well. 

Jamie Nau: Do you keep track of how many people get to that step and just drop and say, ‘I'm not taking this step.’

Because, to your point earlier about testing their commitment, we've thought about implementing a test. It's something that I'm working with some people on right now. I think the more and more you add into your interview process, the more it shows you’re really looking for serious candidates only here. 

So how many people do you think, or do you know how many people get that test and say, ‘Nope. I was just looking for an easy job. This is not what I'm looking for.’ 

Serena Shoup: I'm trying to think back to the last person we hired. We probably got hundreds of applicants that didn't even follow the first instruction, which was a subject line of the email. 

And so immediately, those went in the trash; we didn't even open them if it was just doing the automatic application on indeed or whatever. You actually have to go to our website, read the job description, find the secret subject line and email a certain person at our firm with your resume. 

So that filtered out a lot of people. We had hundreds of those, and I think I only ended up interviewing five people. That's how much it weeds people out. There were a couple of people that did the assessment and based on the results, I ended up not interviewing just because for this one particular position we were looking for, I really did want someone that could grow into being a controller fairly quickly. 

So if I was interviewing for a part-time beginner bookkeeping position, I wouldn't have been such a jerk about that. But I was looking for someone specific. 

Serena Shoup: I remember when I interviewed as a staff accountant at the small CPA firm, I got a test of financial statements and I had to do it in person. This was not emailed to me, and I got to do it on my own time like these people get.

I went in for the interview and was completely surprised that I was gonna be looking at a set of financial statements with just a few years of experience under my belt. So I was like, if I could do that, I can make other people do this too. 

Jody Grunden: I love that. Jamie, you put that in your next interviewing slide.

Jamie Nau: To your point, that's one of the things we're working on; we do a lot more on the consulting side of things. And, especially at the senior accountant level, what we're looking for is at that point, we hope they can do a bank rec and some of these standard things, but really what we're looking for is, if I were to show three months of financial statements, and, let's just say, the one expense had $5,000 in it month one, $5,000 in it month two, and then month three had zero. And then, we show the forecast is $5,000. Are they gonna catch something like that?

And that's the thing we're looking for; are they able to look at different sets of numbers, figure out trends, and really come up with questions? And then, not only to say, obviously they're missing an expense for this month, but what could have happened? You know, is it in a different account? Is it on the balance sheet? 

Really take it to that next level, so that's the test we're working on creating, given those types of things. Really the number one expectation of our senior accounts is, can you review a financial statement and bring them to the CFO with very few errors or explanations of what happened? And so that's kind of the thing we're working on right now.

Serena Shoup: Exactly. That's exactly what I was looking for.

Jody Grunden: Now that you've interviewed the candidate and you say, ‘Hey, this is the person on our team. We love her.’ You bring her in; how do you do your onboarding?

You're completely remote, very similar to us. So how do you do onboarding because, again, a lot of the people out there are wondering that exact same thing. You've never met the person in person. You've never shaken their hand. So how do you know this person? How can you then bring that culture right into the onboarding process?

Serena Shoup: This last position that we hired for, we revamped our whole entire process because I want to build a certain culture. I want to make sure that everyone is on board with our values from the very beginning. 

So even in the interview process, we talk about our values and make sure the questions we're asking will enable people to answer based on their values. And then, how they interact with us throughout the interview process can say a lot, too. So we actually ended up hiring a guy for this last round that immediately, when he found the job posting on LinkedIn, we had a mutual connection, and

before he even applied, he messaged me and was like, ‘I'm gonna apply for this position. I just wanted to let you know to expect my application.’ 

I was like, that's pretty awesome. And through the whole process, he was communicating about everything and I was like, that is what I need.

I need to know where things stand without having to ask. So, I knew pretty much as soon as I had my first interaction with him that he was probably the right one for the job and it got better throughout the process. But the onboarding I gave it some time, so I knew I wanted to have someone onboarded or starting to onboard at the end of January.

And we actually started recruiting in November. Because I was also like, it's a crazy job market out there; in order to find the right candidate, we needed to be very prepared. So I was like, even though I'm not ready to start paying someone yet, I'm gonna start recruiting.

And I'm so glad I did. He started in January, toward the end of January. I gave him the offer at the beginning of January. And so, I had time to create an onboarding course. 

So I'm a course creator. I've taken a lot of courses–a lot of good ones, a lot of bad ones. And I feel like this is probably the best way to communicate how things are gonna work in our company. And then, in the future, we can just reuse this. The only thing I have to rerecord is the welcome module where I talk about what our goals are for this year.

So every year I'll just have to update that first lesson of ‘this is what our goals are; I'm very transparent with my team. These are our financial goals. These are the goals for growing the team. These are the types of clients we like. So that everyone is always on the same page. There’s really no reason to not share that information. I created a course to onboarding. 

Jody Grunden: We did the same thing.

Jamie Nau: Yep. We did the same thing. 

Serena Shoup: There's a lesson on our core values and a lesson on who our ideal clients are. And then, there's lessons on how we use each of our tools in our business. So like how we specifically use Asana, how we specifically use Slack, all the things that will make them successful in their job.

I have the clarity of it not working out with an employee. And so I was like, how can we do this differently so that, from the very beginning, everyone understands what the expectations are on how we use these tools?

 So, that's what I did. That's how we onboarded. And then we do a weekly one on one for the first three months. He just hit his three month milestone, and so he just got a raise and everything is great. 

Jody Grunden: Wait, a raise? What are you talking about? A raise? 

Serena Shoup: Yeah, it was a small one after the three month probation period. We don't have health insurance benefits yet, we're still pretty small, and I haven't implemented that as of yet.

He had a salary range in mind. And I was like, let's talk about that after you hit your three months; I'm gonna start you here. And if everything is going swimmingly throughout the three months, then you will be at what you wanted at that point.’

So it was just a couple dollars an hour. I'm happy to accommodate that because he's a good addition to the team.

Jody Grunden: So with your different modules, how many modules did you have in your training for your onboard?

Serena Shoup: There’s three modules, but for each one, there were probably three or four lessons in each module of like 15 minutes. Basically, I covered each tool that we used. So then, then you 

Jody Grunden: Did you have them watch a module and from there did you talk about it? How did that work? Or, did you just assume that they understood it?

Serena Shoup: At the end of each module, there's an assessment. I'm extreme, you guys! There's an assessment at the end of each module to make sure they understand a few things that I think are important. And then, we were also meeting weekly, so he had an opportunity to bring questions.

So three modules, so one module a week. Week one was really just going through the first module and then week two, since he's part time, he's not spending 40 hours a week with me, I needed to kind of space it out. So, then week two, I started getting him involved in some client work in addition to going through the second module. 

We were checking in every week to see where he was having roadblocks. And, we would do some client-related training, like hands on where I would work through it, and then let him drive and work through it and whatnot. I'm very pleased with how this onboarding has turned out. So, it'll definitely continue for future hires. 

Jody Grunden: Sounds like it; sounds like you did a great job.

Jamie Nau: I think what we've found is, to your point, that the modules and the courses are great, but you need to supplement it. So we try to basically use a lot of different ways to teach people because everybody's a little different. 

Some people can sit there and watch a video and walk away from the video and be like, ‘Got it. I'm ready to go. Gimme a client.’ 

Some people watch the video and they're just very analytical and don't get how this connects to this. And they have a thousand questions. 

And then some people can't even pay attention to the video, but once you start talking to them, they start asking you a ton of questions and they work together. 

The module is the first step, but then, they have time to meet with me and ask questions. We also get them working behind the scenes on the client.

The more ways we can teach people, we've had better success because it's really not one size fits all. That's where people start to fail. 

Serena Shoup: Yeah, absolutely. 

Jamie Nau: You mentioned the benefits; you said you aren't really offering health benefits yet, which makes sense for a company or size. But, earlier you mentioned being creative with benefits outside of that.

So, talk about some of the benefits that your employees might see working for you that really help create that culture. 

Serena Shoup: Right now, pretty much everyone is part-time and so work flexibility is important. We don't have a set schedule for anyone. It's like, just get the work done, and I'm assuming you're probably gonna work 15 to 20 hours a week. 

And we just stay in super duper communication when we check in. How is your workload, are you feeling stressed out? Do we need to bring on more help? 

 Right now with my most recent hire who is part-time, we've been in discussions of making him full-time because we have plans to continue to grow, and he wants to grow into that controller position.

We’re planning that and co-creating that together and toggling things as we can. flexibility with time is probably the biggest one. I also encourage continuing education, so that's also a job requirement. Even if they don't have their CPA license yet, every week at least listen to some sort of relevant podcast, read a book, take a course. 

I'm happy to pay for certain courses, send you to a conference that you feel you really wanna go to, let's make it happen once a year. I think that that goes a long way, too, because it shows like I'm investing in your career.

Even if you don't stay with me, you're gonna learn all this stuff and get to take it with you. Not like white knuckling that and trying to trap people, but letting them know, you may move on one day, but you get to take all this education with you. 

Jody Grunden: Right, right.

Jamie Nau: Do you track that thing? You talked about like the podcast a week or a book; do you kind of track what people are working on or what they're listening to? So that way you can have conversations with them.

Serena Shoup: We have a channel in Slack. It's like a team building channel. Occasionally, I'll pop in there and be like, ‘let me know what you guys have learned this week.’

It's pretty casual right now. I'm sure as we grow, I may wanna implement something more. I don't know more tracky, but, also, we have a picture of trust as well. And it's like, one of our core values is growth, personally and professionally. So, as long as you're continuing to embody that, we just talk a lot on our one-on-ones like sharing personal wins or professional wins.

So those kinds of things come up. People will be like, ‘oh, I listened to this really cool podcast and I learned this thing, so I wanted to share it.’ Or ‘I learned this in the course that I'm taking. I think it would really benefit our clients.’ Stuff like that. 

Jamie Nau: Great. Awesome. Waiting for Jody to ask the question here. You look like you’re thinking. I didn't wanna cut him off again. 

Jody Grunden: I was thinking about that exact same thing. We do something very similar with our core values, and we’ve had book clubs and a bunch of different things.

Obviously, we provide education stipends so that they can do their CPE and hang out with each other when they want to. So we've done a lot of cool stuff like that. 

Never really thought about, to Jamie's point, do you actually put a number on it? Do you actually track it? Do you actually do that? Everybody's a grownup, right? 

They should be able to do that themselves. When you bring somebody on, like you're saying, and you say ‘this is a core value and that's something we kind of expect you to do.’

I would be super disappointed to find out six months down the road that no one's doing it, or one or one or two people are doing it. I think the fact that you're chiming in with what you've learned this week, I think that helps and motivates people. 

Hey, if Serena's doing it, I probably should keep up on it as well. Even if my schedule's busy this week or busier this week than normal. I think you're leading by example in that regard, and, by doing that, I'm not sure you really need to track it. You know? I don't know. Jamie, what's your thought on that?

Jamie Nau: I'd say from the point of the question, from my standpoint, was a little less about big brother tracking. It was more about learning. You can learn through other people, right? 

So, if three people are all reading the same book then, me as a leader, I should probably be reading that book, too.

And then asking questions to them, and being like, ‘Hey, you're reading this book; what did you get out of it? And then really leaning on them a little bit, so I can understand what they're learning and how they're learning it. And I think that’s just to help expand the company's growth because if three people read it and those two people learn all these things, it'd be a great recommendation for other people.

Or if there's one podcast that everybody's listening to and then maybe, this is a good podcast for when people come in and be like, ‘Hey, definitely recommend listening to this podcast.’ 

So it's more of understanding what's out there and what's going on, as opposed to like, ‘okay, I need to make sure that Serena's getting her one podcast in this week because if she's not, she’s not doing her job.’

That type of thing, so that's how I was thinking about it. 

Serena Shoup: Yeah. That's pretty much how we handle it. 

Jamie Nau: Do you have a lot of good conversations about that then? Since growth is one of your core values, do you feel that by having a lot of strong concepts and conversations every week, you’re a better firm because you’re having these conversations?

Serena Shoup: I've never really stopped to consider it. It's so built in that we're constantly sharing little snippets on our team calls or in our one-on-ones. I have a really good pulse with everyone since our team is so small. I know that as we grow, that's gonna be more of a challenge.

It's my job to, like you said, lead by example and make sure that the next leadership team is able to kind of have that same pulse. So, that'll probably be my next challenge. I'm pretty maxed out on direct reports at this point. Any more people we hire, they will have to report to the next layer. 

Jamie Nau: So, where do you see yourself going then? Right now, the size you're at and the number of people you're at, if we're having the same podcast recording five years from now, what is this podcast gonna sound like? And what is your business gonna sound like?

Serena Shoup: That's exciting to think about. I would say five years from now, the goal is to definitely triple the team. Maybe merge with another firm with similar values. We're zero focused. We only work in in zero, so I could see potentially, in five years, merging with like a twin firm that only does QuickBooks online or something and just maximizing that.

Jamie Nau: The thing with the growth as you expand, the interesting learning points for you will be keeping that culture as you grow. Because I'm sure Jody can tell you, there are certain thresholds, there are certain people parts, where it was really easy to keep this culture when we were under 10, but now we've just run from 10 to 20. How do I keep this culture? 

And then you go from 20 to 40; at different points you hit it, it'll be interesting to see. Everything you said, I'm like, ‘oh, maybe I should go work for Serena.’

But I don't think Jody would like that. 

Jody Grunden: Hey, hey hey … no, no, no. 

Jamie Nau: It sounds like a really awesome culture that you're building there. But, I think that the key is keeping that as you grow. 

Jody Grunden: I think the key is really keeping it intentional–being super intentional with it. Having meetings set aside every week to do your team meetings, I think that's important. Never missing one is super important.

The team knows, this is a kind of an expectation and then having something fun with the meetings. We have our team meeting once a week. It's typically a joke of the day, followed by fun facts, followed by a topic. Can you imagine having 60, 70 people in a zoom meeting and we're talking nothing about business? 

Maybe a few important topics and things that might be coming down, like updates to software, at the very beginning, but that's maybe five or 10 minutes tops. And then, the rest of it's just simply hanging out and really developing that culture.

I think that's super important, more so than what we think. And when we bring new people in, they don't really get it; it's kind of weird. They don't know what to expect, and they come into the meeting, and they're pretty much like, ‘huh, this is kind of different.’ 

But I think that embodies our culture. It sounds like you do a very similar thing. 

Serena Shoup: Our meetings are probably more focused on the work at this point because we're small, but that was gonna be my question to you; do you ever have new employees or even existing employees that get to where they're like this meeting is pointless; we don't accomplish anything on it?

Jody Grunden: Jamie, what do you think? 

Jamie Nau: Well, I think with the meetings we have where we are trying to get something done, it is really important to make sure you are following a structure.

 That's why we've definitely tinkered with the structure of our meetings to make sure that things are being done. We do a rating at the end where people get to go through and say, okay, how did this meeting go? Did it meet your expectations? 

And so, we make sure that we talk about that every week. So, I think for those meetings, that is the point.

But to Jody's point, our all-team meeting, the point of that meeting is just to relax, have fun, and get to know people. Honestly, some people will probably pop into that meeting like ‘oh right here we go again. I gotta hear Jody tell from the joke book or I get, have Jamie ask a silly question.’ 

But, ultimately, we make sure that people know that's the purpose of that meeting. We are a work-from-home environment. We need to be intentional about getting to know each other because if we don’t, then it won't happen. And so I think people understand that. 

Serena Shoup: That makes sense. 

Jody Grunden: We go from that meeting to our team retreat, in which we have the team all get together, and just hang out for three or four days with a very set agenda.

And, it's one of those things that, again, the purpose isn't really to necessarily learn, although that’s something that you want to involve in some way, but it's just more to get to know each other on a personal level, and build those relationships while you're there and bring them back to the remote environment.

Because, again, when you're working with only one or two people, that’s how big your company is. But when you bring into the retreat, you gotta meet everybody. Then you start asking questions from everyone else more than your regular day to day work. And it just makes that experience even better and bigger because, again, people stay at work because they meet friends.

They make friends at work, and that's where the friendship starts. It's great to have a remote friendship like this, but it's super cool when you get to hang out and get to know you even better on a personal level. And that's what the team retreat does.

So it goes from the intentional focus in the meetings to even more intentional, to spending some time together at a retreat or some sort of event where you can hang out with each other and get to know each other on a personal level.

Serena Shoup: That’s on my list for this year, getting the whole team together. I still have to figure out where. 

Jamie Nau: That's gonna be fun. You're gonna love it; it's a great experience. The first time, I remember Jody and I, the first time we met, we were speaking at a conference together. I was looking for him in the airport, and I worked with him for three or four months.

It's like, you already know each other because of the culture we created. So it'll be fun once you have that first onsite retreat together. So well, with that said, we are actually right about time here. So I'm gonna give both of you a final thought on what people should be thinking about after listening to this podcast.

We'll start with you, Serena

Serena Shoup: I would say it feels lucive if you haven't really done the work, but really trying to figure out what you want your company core values to be. And I think the easiest way for me to do that was to really reflect on what my core values are as a person and what kind of culture I wanted to create.

It took me a couple years to really fine tune it and, and they may change, too. But once I nailed that down, I was really able to attract the right people.

Jody Grunden: Once you've attracted those people, the point is to maintain that culture, maintain those core values throughout your entire stay with those folks. You know, they could be there for a year. They could be there for two years. They could be there for 10, 15 years, who knows how long they're gonna be, but you want them to be the ambassadors of those core values, right?

So they're taking on your core values that you created and then becoming the ambassador and really kind of bringing those core values to life. And it's kind of cool going from where you're at, to where we're at right now, and people have brought up to, ‘Hey, you guys really truly follow your core values, which is really cool.’

And it sounds like your team definitely believes in the exact same thing. I think that's really important because core values aren't just there to put on the wall and have this decoration on your website to make it look cool, but it's something you really need to live in and really embrace.

I think it sounds like that's what you've done with your team and definitely kudos for that. 

Serena Shoup: That was the biggest game changer, for sure. 

Jamie Nau: Yeah. I definitely agree with everything Jody said there. And you as well, Serena, I enjoyed talking to you and hearing more about your company. I’m excited to see you grow because you've started at the right place.

You've started with understanding who you are and who you want to be, and that makes it so much easier to hire. It makes it so much easier to grow. It makes it so much easier to find clients. If you understand that first, where a lot of companies, I think kind of get backed into it; it's like ‘oh, I have 27 clients, and I'm doing all these things. Now. It's time to figure out who I am and then it's almost too late.’

Not too late because you can always make adjustments, but it's a lot of work at that point. I love what you're doing and excited to hear how it keeps going. Thank you and thanks for joining the show. 

Serena Shoup: Thank you; talk to you soon. 


Culture as a Success and Performance Driver with Serena Shoup


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