Eight years ago, when the owner of Environmental Works Inc. was killed in a plane crash, her company lost a trusted leader, and the culture at the company would never be the same.
The tragedy eventually led to clarity at the consulting and industrial services company Robin Melton founded in 1992, but not before her 2012 death left “a real gaping hole in the business,” says CEO Jamie Sivils. “Robin was the sole owner, president—she was everything.” With 60 employees and $10 million in revenue, the company had been “small enough that she could run everything. Every decision went through her.”
By 2013, revenues fell to $7 million, and the need to empower employees to make their own decisions had Sivils and the new president, Jason Smith, taking a hard look at company culture. After a year spent getting employee feedback, the standards they defined reflected practices that already mattered to employees: responsibility, informality, candor, transparency and meritocracy. “Announcing the culture didn’t make a change; it just kind of described the culture we were living,” Sivils says.
To reinforce the new culture, though, the company did more than put up posters: Now, weekly division meetings begin with a “culture moment.”