Guest Column | September 23, 2021

How A Company Culture Focused On Positivity Paid Off

By Roger Barnette, MessageGears

Company Culture

MessageGears was just named the #1 best place to work in Atlanta. Our company culture is our superpower, but it didn’t get that way by accident. So, how did we accomplish this as an underfunded tech startup in a crowded and competitive environment?

I joined MessageGears as CEO in late 2016. The business was small (10 employees, to be precise) but had really interesting technology and massive potential. I decided very early on that we would build a culture-driven organization.

In the beginning, there were lots of things to tackle: product/market fit, pricing, positioning, hiring, fund-raising, etc. All of that is critically important, but to me, everything starts and ends with culture. So our first exec offsite focused solely on our company values.

Every company has a culture. You can either create the culture you want or let the culture create itself. We chose to create an environment that would attract and retain the best talent and be a place where employees would be challenged and enjoy spending their time.

We created our core values in early 2017. There are nine of them. We live by them, hire by them, and fire by them. We discuss them during interviews. We go through them with new hires while onboarding. We remind ourselves of them when things get busy. Here are some of my favorites:

Core Values #2 and #3: “We are biased toward action” and “We are goal-oriented and results-driven.”

This means that we leave meetings with clear next steps and owners for deliverable items. We work hard to always understand goals and how to measure success.

Core Value #4: “We make our clients successful.”

We always remind ourselves that we wouldn’t exist without our customers. We make them rock stars. It’s fun solving problems for them.

The results? 115% Net Revenue Retention, and we haven’t lost a customer in over two years.

Core Value #6: “We assume goodwill but are intolerant of corrosive behavior.”

This one is important. When much of our communication is over email and Slack, nuances of intent are often lost. We assume goodwill regarding the intent of colleagues in each interaction. BUT…

We are absolutely intolerant of any and all corrosive behavior. We fire people for being unpleasant to work with. Negativity spreads quickly. Plus, life is just too short to work with assholes.

Core Value #9: “We operate with positive energy and take pride in our work.”

This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When new employees know they’re expected to operate with positive energy, they join a collaborative environment and it’s easy to be positive and good-natured.

We go through our values every week during our weekly company meeting. Sometimes I read them, but usually, we have employees read them one by one and say what each value means to them. It is my favorite part of the workweek.

The results speak for themselves. We have great employee retention, our Glassdoor rating is 4.9/5.0, and our employees just rated us as the best midsize company to work for in Atlanta. But here is the most amazing thing…

Creating a great culture is great for business. We passed the $10M ARR threshold early this year and have an annual growth rate of over 60%. We’ve grown to over 65 employees and have 20 open positions. (Come work with us!)

Our culture is our business superpower – helping us to create ground-breaking technology and win world-class customers like The Home Depot, Expedia, OpenTable, Rakuten, Best Buy, and T-Mobile.

I am so proud of our team. You can be too with the right set of values.

About The Author

Roger Barnette is the CEO of MessageGears.