How Sketch & Etch systemizes incredible company culture 

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American ethnobotanist, mystic and philosopher Terence McKenna was known to have said, “Even if I am alone with one other person, culture is the third guest at the table.” One of the things that this means to us is that culture is pervasive. We cannot escape it. But – if you work for Ash Bent‘s companySketch & Etch, there is absolutely no reason to want to escape it. The urge surely in this case is to bask in it.

At the end of day three of Growmotely’s inaugural Align Summit – which took place early last week over the course of three days – our Founder and CEO Sarah Hawley had the privilege of announcing the winner of our first ‘Conscious Culture Award’. This is an award given out to the company on our platform that is doing an exceptional job of building and nurturing great internal culture.

This year’s winner was the neon lights and signage company Sketch & Etch – a hybrid company that has 13 remote professionals (of 57 team members total) hired through Growmotely’s platform. Sketch & Etch’s company culture scores consistently come out on top (10 out of 10), and we’re keen to share with you some of the secrets in their (delicious culture) sauce.

Ash Bent – Founder and CEO of the aforementioned Sketch & Etch – came to be curious about company culture initially when he was working in a team for a consumer technology products company in Australia many years ago. He had an incredibly positive experience with this company and in his team, up until a different franchise came in and bought out the company. Despite the fact that most employees were retained, over time, there was a massive drop in performance under the new management. And Ash noticed that things in people’s personal lives, interestingly, started declining as well. This experience had a significant impact on him, and it was what opened his eyes to the importance of company culture. He decided then that when he was in the position to have his own team one day, he was going to prioritize the cultivation of fantastic company culture.

And prioritize did he ever. Here are some of Ash’s top tips and nuggets of wisdom when it comes to how he is creating a thriving culture in his growing business, which has gone from 15 to 57 people over the last 12 months, and which has recently set up shop in the US – in addition to the presence they have already in Australia and the UK.

For starters, Ash recommends getting really clear about what your values are as a company; once defined, there is then the potential to leverage these values so that they impact every nook and cranny in your business’ ecosystem. The key is to systemize these values – and therefore systemize the culture. 

Here are Sketch & Etch’s vibrant values:

  1. Wolfpack (The power of the Wolf comes from the power of the Pack. We have got each other’s back above all else and are here for one another.)
  2. Get Sh*t Done (Yep, we hustle. Sometimes that means we work really, really hard. But we acknowledge that and celebrate what we achieved for the day. We don’t make excuses, we just do. We love smashing our targets!)
  3. Be a Wizard (Think outside the box! Would someone tell Gandalf how to beat the Balrog? Or get Harry Potter to read a 7-step guide on how to defeat Voldemort? No! They just figure it out through trial and error. We are all Wizards. We figure it out!)
  4. Enjoy the Adventure (I can’t tell you where Sketch & Etch will be in 5 years’ time…and that’s why working at Sketch & Etch is awesome! It’s ever-evolving, changing and growing. Come along for the ride!)

Here are three ways that Sketch & Etch systemizes their awesome culture:

They bring their values to life consistently via their weekly Wednesday meeting.

Every Wednesday at 11:15am, Sketch & Etch has their Wolfpack meeting. The floor is opened up for people to choose someone from the team who lived and breathed one of the company’s values over the last seven days. This simple-to-implement practice has had – and continues to have – a massive impact, as it brings the company’s values to life, and also ‘shouts out’ to the team members who are doing so. There is a world of difference between a list of company values printed out on a sheet of paper and tacked up on some bulletin board, and the everyday living and breathing of those values. 

They methodically prioritize CULTURE when it comes to bringing people on and letting people go.

At Sketch & Etch, the first interview is methodically a CULTURE-ONLY interview. Ash says, “We can train people up where we need to.” It’s the culture-fit that is the trickier nut to crack, and one surefire way to leverage – and systemize – that fact is to hone in on the cultural fit in the first interview you conduct with a potential hire. At your core – what do you stand for? And what don’t you stand for? The answers to these questions can be used to gauge alignment. 

And on the flip side of the coin, Ash recommends paying attention to and taking action as soon as you notice that you have brought in the wrong people. Lean into the instinct when you can tell that something is off and listen to it. If the culture fit doesn’t work, it most likely won’t ever work. Rip off the Band-aid as soon as you can. This is a win-win, as you will set the person in question free to find a company that is a better ‘culture fit’ – and you can keep your company’s energy aligned.

They create space systematically for people to share aspects of their personal life at work. 

Tony Robbins has asserted that the secret to happiness is progress, and Sketch & Etch leverage this by conducting monthly one-on-one meetings with team members where each person shares a goal that he or she is working on and then checks back in on this goal every month. It can be related to work or it can be a goal related to the person’s personal life. Building momentum in any realm of someone’s life is going to create a positive ripple effect across all aspects of their life, and so by opening up the ‘goal landscape’ to personal goals, truly everyone in that person’s orbit benefits: colleagues, family members, friends, etc. 

There also is a question in the weekly Wednesday meeting that tips its hat to team members’ personal lives. Everyone goes through these three things each week: (1) a one-word opener, (2) one awesome thing that happened in the person’s personal life and (3) one awesome thing that the person has achieved at work. Again, systematically opening up that space for team members to bring a more complete version of themselves to the table communicates ‘we care’ and creates positive momentum across the board.

Creating incredible culture at our companies is – like anything – something that we need to be intentional about; it’s something that we can’t sit back on our laurels and forget about cultivating. As Ash – and Sketch & Etch – show us, however, there are simple things we can do that consistently make a huge impact on our team members’ lives and on our company’s vitality and health, so let’s create systems that allow us to do those things with ease. As a result, everyone in our ecosystems will reap the benefits.

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