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Company culture is not just something that is talked about. It is what drives the employees of the company. It is the way they feel about the company, the way they feel about their job, and what they feel is important in their job. Good company culture is one that leads to the success of the company. It leads to happy employees; it leads to high morale. Company culture is what you make it. Company culture is like a nice little secret sauce that can help grow and scale your business.
This blog is an excerpt from the recent event, ‘Mastering the Event Business’ where Kelly Vaught, Principal, and CMO of BeCore, shares his personal story of his career in the event industry with the host, Dylan Shinholser. The session provides advice for anyone seeking to scale their business in the event industry. You will learn the details of Kelly’s story and how he got to where he is today.
Dylan thanks Kelly for taking time out of his busy schedule to join him. Without hesitation, Dylan begins by asking Kelly to introduce himself to the audience. He also seeks the answer to what his day-to-day tasks look like at BeCore.
Starting off on a humorous note, Kelly introduces himself with the basics. “I’m a libra. I like long walks on the beach,” he continues with a more serious direction. “I started with my partner Mark, uh, almost 20 years ago…Just two of us and his brother, Mitchell, in a garage in Hollywood,” Kelly continues to paint the picture of his early years at BeCore, “So, we wore every hat and did everything…Fast forward 20 years, my current function is…kind of the shepherd of our brand…and developing business, leveraging my relationships…writing and mentoring. I do a lot of speaking for students and so forth just as my way to sort of give back to the industry that has given so much to me.”
Surprisingly, Kelly was not in the event industry before BeCore. “Well, Mark [The Founder of Becore] had the vision…My situation was, I had my own business for myself…Selling and designing and installing electric signs all across the nation. I would hire local contractors and do stuff for Pizza Hut and BlockBuster Video.”
Kelly felt he needed to make a change so he took a leap of faith. “I told my wife, I’m not feeling satisfied and rewarded. I’ve never really chased money. I’ve always felt that I just put my head down, do what needs to be done, money kind of followed…So, ya know, I kind of put up a generic sales marketing resume on craigslist, of all places. Got a call from this guy. I quickly pull up his horrible website…Mark needed some part-time help. I was in a financial position to be able to sort of start over and reinvent myself somewhat….Less than 18 months later, he made me a partner, ya know, here we are.”
Dylan asks the question: How important was company culture when BeCore just began?
“To me, it’s always been…woven in the fabric of my identity….I was a homeless youth. I didn’t graduate, I didn’t go to college and finish high school. I had kind of a rough upbringing,” Kelly continues to dive deeper into his personal life. “I kind of developed my own sense of what was important in life in order to navigate life. I didn’t have a three or five year plan. I was like, where am I going to eat next? Where am I going to sleep? I couldn’t find love. It was sort of innate in me…when I had that first shot at an opportunity to get out of those circumstances, it really had a profound impact on me that made me want to always give back to others and help…We were all helped by someone.”
The earliest stages of culture begin with a sense of belief and value. “You have to care… When you care, you bring your best self to the table. It’s infectious. People recognize authenticity that’s genuine and that, uh, informs everything…I tell young people all the time that whatever business principles or tactics…I share, it’s transferable. It’s all about relationships in life. So, whatever I say in business, also could equally apply to relationships in your home, your friends, spouse, or anything.”
Every business goes through a cycle of employees. At one time there might be a lot of employees. At another time, there may be fewer employees. Then, the number of employees rises again. That leads Dylan to ask: How has that cycle affected the company culture at BeCore?
“From a practical standpoint, when there’s only two of you doing everything or three of you verses, ya know, 40 of you…That presents its own challenges and needs. You need a certain amount of structure…Defining roles and responsibilities becomes critical for efficiency. In fact, one of the things I’ve learned as we’ve grown to eight figures in revenue, is like, I’ve always prided ourselves on not having office politics and getting bogged down with meetings and hierarchies and all those things. And yet, at the same time, I understand that, in order to manage a large group, you have to have certain, um, elements in place.”
Diversity in thought within a company proves to be valuable. “I think what we try to do is…We walk this delicate line of looking for like minded individuals who share your values but at the same time, leaving space for, uh, opposing ideas or challenging ideas. You know the old expression, a blade is sharpened by friction. That is not necessarily bad if it’s coming from a good place and we share the same value for the goals we are trying to achieve.”
Career development helps grow company culture. “I want the employees to feel accountable and own it so that they can celebrate their successes…It’s either going to be a blessing or going to be a lesson and I think that the combination of shared values, ownership and appreciation is sort of the basis of our culture that gets manifested sometimes in group dynamics or activities.”
The definition of company culture is ingrained in Dylan’s mind: It is the metaphorical ecosystem of shared belief. Forcing mandatory fun onto employees is not company culture. Dylan is curious to know how BeCore found people with the same beliefs and values during their hiring process.
“During the interview process, [I] try to mine out…the person’s values and interests and goals. So, that I get to know the holistic person first and foremost…I just want to know what you lead with. Do you lead with your heart? What is it? Where are you going? What do you want to do? What matters to you? What are your values?…How does that fit into what we do?” he explains further from his personal experience. “CV’s and resumes, ya know, they serve a small service to me. I’ve always been an 80% attitude and 20% aptitude kind of guy. I can teach you to do the thing but I can’t teach you to have a good attitude.”
Nurturing company culture will vary from company to company. “I think it is imperative to let people bring them true selves to the table. So, I’m a big big believer in diversity and inclusion…We give our employees the opportunity to join voluntarily…We do meditation on Monday…We have programs that help you reflect on your path, set commitments and goals and track it.”
Deciding whether to invest time, energy and money into training employees can be a challenging decision for employers. There is the chance that employees will leave the company or become a future competitor. So, is it worth training them? With this thought in mind, Dylan eagerly awaits to hear Kelly’s logistical reasonings on this dilemma.
There was no hesitation for Kelly to open up about his thoughts on the matter. “Who wants to be in the same place their whole life? Nobody really, for varying degrees. I try to embrace that…A. I care…B. At least in the short term, it’s going to benefit me. C. In our case at BeCore…We ask our employees, ‘What can we do? What will help you? How are you feeling?’…Since Mark and I are both kind of self taught…We bring in the professionals…to help them accomplish that.”
Training employees has short-term and long-term benefits. “At least while they’re here, I’m feeling good that they’re getting something that they need. It’s going to serve me, certainly, in the short term. It’s going to serve them in the long term and not to sound like an idealist that I am…Ya know, I want to contribute to my community, the greater community. It goes beyond just my family or my company,” Kelly says. “It’s kind of a certain solace and pride even at times. We’re hopefully doing the right thing…I find fulfillment in service of others.”
Training employees can mean more money. “Your customers are critical lifeblood to your revenue but your employees are critical to satisfying the customers. So, it’s imperative to invest in your people because those are the ones representing you for those customers who are the lifeblood of your revenue stream.”
Dylan is confident that everyone understands why a business should have a company culture. But he wants to take it a step further and ask: How can an internal culture make more money for a company?
“If I am the audience or the customer, I typically buy from someone…I believe they can deliver the goods…The combination of convenience and price. But it’s also trust.”
“I feel like I really need to trust this person, that they really care about my problems. That they’re going to be truthful and honest…There’s some integrity there. All of that comes from your core values…You won’t have to pretend that when you are with clients…That’s hopefully going to engage their trust. Which creates an emotional bond. Which is the key to all of our decisions.”
We hope you enjoyed our blog post with the transcript of the interview between Dylan Shinholser and Kelly Vaught. It can be difficult to get people to buy into company culture, as it takes time and commitment, but it’s so important to focus on developing a company culture.
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