One of my favorite success stories when it comes to smaller companies is WP Engine and its remarkable, reach-everyone CEO Heather Brunner.
You may not have heard of WP Engine, a 450-person Austin, Texas company that helps customers build and run websites on the WordPress platform. But you may have visited a site powered by WP Engine – or may do so in the near future.
In four years, WP Engine grew tenfold. Now, 5 percent of web users visit a WP Engine site every day, and the company is closing in on 100,000 customers in 140 countries around the globe.
What’s the secret to the growth? It has everything to do with how Brunner and her team have built a Great Place to Work For All.
My organization, Great Place to Work, named WP Engine as a Best Workplace for Millennials earlier this year in one of the rankings we publish with our partner FORTUNE magazine. And it’s not surprising that WP Engine’s employees rate them so highly on our Trust Index survey when you hear about how Brunner leads the company.
For example, she rejected the rhetoric that tech firms can’t find enough good talent—and she did so by throwing the door open wider. When Brunner joined WP Engine in 2013 and the company was taking off, she ended the practice of requiring job applicants to have a four-year college degree. It was a risky decision, since 69 percent of U.S. employers make college degrees mandatory for entry-level jobs. But that criterion presents a major barrier to entry for underprivileged, and often minority, swaths of the population.
Now, one-third of WP Engine employees don’t have a college degree. New hires have come, in part, from coding academies and non-degree training programs.
“We can let a lot more people come to the table and basically change the trajectory of their careers,” Brunner said at our annual conference earlier this year. “If you have the work ethic, if you match our culture, if you want to be a servant leader in terms of your style of how you work, and you’re willing to come in and work hard and do the training that you need . . . we’re willing to invest in you and bring people in. This has been game-changing for us.”
She and her team have changed the game on company financials as well. WP Engine trains all employees to be financially literate and uses open-book management. This starts in the new-hire orientation, where CFO April Downing teaches all new employees how to read the company’s financials, what the key performance indicators are, and more. From then on, all employees receive monthly financial updates and have a clear understanding of how their efforts directly impact key metrics such as growth and customer retention.
Brunner gets how important a great, For All culture is to small businesses and their growth.
What about you? You may be a small business leader who thinks it is inherently good to create a great workplace for all your people, and to have those good vibes ripple out to make for a better society. Super. For All clearly is for you.
Maybe you are more hard-nosed about your business. If so, you still ought to build a For All culture. Because these cultures are better for business. They are what’s needed in the emerging digital, decentralized economy, where the winning companies maximize every ounce of human potential. WP Engine’s story is backed by research we’ve done showing that the small and medium companies with the most trust in their cultures—the ones that make our Best Small and Medium Workplace lists—have three times the revenue growth of contending firms.