Ryonet Blog

Building Your Culture

A Company is a Tribe

Below is an excerpt from my book, “Made to Make It: A Guide To Screen Printing Success.”  Learn helpful tips and tricks on how to run a screen printing business.

Earlier, I mentioned Tony Hsieh and Zappos. I first learned about Hsieh’s book, “Delivering Happiness,” in my pursuit of Ryonet’s “Be the Best at Getting Better” value. I had picked up a 40+ DVD educational series/curriculum from Tony Robbins and Chet Holms that gave my Controller (Andrew, now our CFO) heartburn. At about $5K, he was adamant that I had better get some value out of it. Unfortunately, not truly understanding myself at the time and not getting the buy-in from my team to do it with me, I opened up one of the DVDs, watched the first half hour and placed it back in the box along with the rest of the curriculum. I put it up on a shelf in my garage, where it still sits today. Fortunately, that’s not how the story ended. Before I put the box away, I did grab a small clip-on MP3 player that was preloaded with the golden nuggets of the course’s content. To be honest with you, that course is not how I learn best, but listening to audiobooks in my “me time” (time vwhich I am doing brainless activities like mowing the lawn or driving, and which I use to put new ideas in my head) IS the way I learn. Listening to that MP3 player, I heard Robbins talk about a company in Las Vegas called Zappos, their CEO Tony Hsieh, and all the cool stuff they were doing.

Months later, I was on that plane to Zappos in Vegas, where (also in the pursuit of being “The Best at Getting Better”) I learned about Dave Logan’s “ Tribal Leadership ” from Hsieh, who talks about the work in his own book. It was about my third time reading “Delivering Happiness” that the concept of doing what other successful people and companies do hit me in the face. If Tony Hsieh and Zappos liked “Tribal Leadership” so much that they would talk about in their book, give us free copies when we visited them in Vegas, and even offer a free download of the audio book on their site, it might be worth checking out. 29 I immediately liked the tone of Dave Logan’s (the author) voice—he seemed very logical and down to earth, was easy to listen to and was entertaining. He reminded me of Jim Collins with a more commercial-friendly twist. Like Jim Collins, Dave Logan uses a lot of easy to understand/real world examples to prove their research studies. In Tribal Leadership, Dave interviews the creator of Dilbert, Gary Cole (who played Bill Lumbergh in Office Space), Mike Eruzione who was captain of the 1980 US Hockey Team (commonly known as “The Miracle on Ice”), as well as several high-profile CEOs, state and city leaders as examples of the different stages of society and “tribes”. The premise is that every company is a tribe or, if it’s large enough, a network of tribes in which everyone knows everyone else. The strength of these 20-150 member tribes is dependent on the effectiveness of the leaders. Contingent on the leaders, tribes tend to operate in one of five cultural stages.

Much like the bell curve of performance appraisals—the bulk of tribes are stuck square in the middle in a weird state of stasis, where each contributor is driven out of self-preservation and motivation. What distinguishes top-performing tribes? The ability of each member to look beyond themselves, focusing on a larger vision for the company that can only be achieved by working with one’s tribe. When teams operate at the highest stage amazing things can happen (i.e. “ The Miracle on Ice ”). Dave Logan, and co-authors John King and Halee Fischer-Wright studied over 24,000 people across more than two dozen organizations over ten years to come to this conclusion: the success of a company depends on its tribes, the strength of its tribes is determined by the tribal culture, and a thriving corporate culture can be established by an effective tribal leader—capable of moving the tribe from one stage to the next.

How You Build Your Tribe

So, how do you build your tribe? Let’s start with the word “tribe.” It’s important that you think of the people you bring with you as your tribe, not as your minions. The word tribe implies a group of people—linked by a common culture and language, typically having a leader who is also a member. These are your people. Your team. Approach them as such and your tribe will only get stronger. Treat them as expendable employees and your tribe will weaken, never progressing up the bell curve to reach “Life’s great” or even “We’re great” status. Reading this book, I learned a lot about myself and the people I work with; as well as my friends and family.

Sections of this book brought out a lot of emotions in me. The authors did an amazing job of showing the reader how to be better and help those around them do the same. Reading this book makes you want to build those Stage Four and Five teams. I’ve always been motivated by being part of a team—whether it was my high school athletic team, the punk band I was in for five years, or my little startup that could go from good to great. Think about it, would you rather be someone’s employee, or would you rather be on someone’s team? Ask yourself a few times and think back on your work experience. I know it’s just a word or a title, but for me, I never wanted to be someone’s employee. I’ve decided that at Ryonet, I don’t want to hire employees. I want to bring team members into our tribe. I believe that distinction is why Ryonet attracts so many top performers that have the spirit of entrepreneurship in them and the drive to build new things.

So, let’s talk about how to apply this “Tribal Leadership” idea. Earlier, I mentioned Tony Robbins, another one of my favorite authors. Tony Robbins has developed some interesting content on finding the right life partner, which I think is also applicable to finding the right team members for your tribe. His suggestion is that, to find the right mate in life, you should ask yourself what you want in that person; what you don’t want; and what you need to be and do to attract and keep that person.

How We Identified Our Tribe

Here is how we approached identifying the people that should be part of our Ryonet tribe, using that basic format. A Ryonet team member is our greatest asset, with unlimited possibility. At Ryonet, we understand that it takes great employees to make a great company. Our “bus” has plenty of room on it and we welcome you aboard. Your trip with Ryonet can take you as far as you want as long as we’re traveling in the same direction. If you are going a different direction, you’ll need to find a different “bus”. We’ve outlined the following to help us attract and retain the type of employees we want traveling on and driving this “bus.” We will keep this in mind as we grow in business, deal with customers, hire new employees, part ways with old employees, and continue to create a great company with great employees.

  1. WHAT DO YOU WANT IN A TEAM MEMBER? An ideal Ryonet team member maintains a positive attitude toward work and life. They understand that success is achieved collectively. They demonstrate accountability with co-workers and customers. They are eager to learn, solutions-oriented, and proactive in nature. They go the extra mile and take pride in their work and results. They take care of themselves, so that they can better take care of others.
  2. WHAT DO YOU NOT WANT IN A TEAM MEMBER? A Ryonet team member should never exhibit a negative attitude towards their team, or customers. They should understand that disparaging language or unhealthy behavior damages morale and undermines productivity. They need to know that those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. They should also believe that change is inevitable but growth is purposeful.
  3. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE IN ORDER TO ATTRACT AND KEEP THE TYPE OF TEAM YOU WANT? At Ryonet, we understand it takes a great team to build a great company. In order to attract and retain the right team, we must: PAY a competitive wage and reward hard work with advancement opportunities GIVE them the educational and professional resources they need to grow ENCOURAGE them to take risks, fail fast, and get continuously better ENDOW them with trust and accountability to imbue a sense of ownership KEEP them (and their families) happy and healthy with competitive benefits ENCOURAGE a positive work/life balance with a good dose of paid time off HELP them build a better future for their families, their tribe, and their company

Like what you read? Get more great business tips on running a screen printing business from my book, “Made to Make It: A Guide To Screen Printing Success.”

Blog Written by Ryan Moor 

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