In the Trenches: Building a Corporate Culture over Email

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on July 6, 2011
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It’s hard enough to build a strong, positive culture in any company, but it gets really hard when everyone works remotely. And at a company where there isn’t even a home office, like mine, that makes culture a very slippery thing.

In the past, I’ve contracted with concierges in Atlanta, Florida, and even Alaska. The time zone spread is important for our business, and at some point, we’ll start looking internationally as well. But this is a small business, and it’s hard to justify flying someone in to Southern California for an interview for what ultimately is an independent contractor role with wildly varying hours. I’ve had concierges work with us for over a year without ever meeting them. Most of our interaction is email-based, so we rarely even have that phone conversation to be able to connect. It has made building a culture a difficult thing.

The natural solution is, of course, to hire locally. I do have one local concierge on the roster, and that makes things easier. For example, we’re meeting up with an airline-loving client this week at the In-N-Out Burger at LAX to meet, spot airplanes, and relax while the client is on his layover. That kind of interaction is excellent, but even that is an infrequent event. Without an office to come to every day, there just simply won’t be the same kind of interaction. And there’s no way I would only look for local concierges anyway. It just doesn’t make sense for the business.

I try to set a good tone up front with the training process, and that’s important. But what how do I keep that up over time? Regular interaction, even if remote, and inclusion in our successes along with the minutiae of daily operations is important, but I don’t feel like that’s enough. There has to be more that I can do, but when I’m the hub of the culture and I find myself too busy even to sleep, it ends up putting things like culture-building on the back burner. That’s something that concerns me.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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