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How to Build a Thriving Company Culture with Marc Reifenrath (Ep. #62)

The BetterManager Team
Building Better Managers Podcast Episode 62 - Marc Reifenrath

Building Better Managers Podcast Episode #62: How to Build a Thriving Company Culture with Marc Reifenrath

We’ve all heard the expression “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But what does a strong organizational culture actually look like? It’s about a lot more than just occasional happy hours, pool tables, or free snacks.

When your culture comes from living your core values, it will be the guiding star for your actions and how you attack each day with your team.

Marc Reifenrath is the co-founder and CEO of Spinutech, a company that began as a dorm room start-up and is now an award-winning multinational digital agency. Marc takes culture seriously and attributes much of his company’s success to it.

Marc believes that you manage, lead, hire, fire, and solve problems using your core values. When a problem pops up, you evaluate it through this lens: which core value is misaligned here? This extremely quick and effective tactic often gets right to the root cause of the problem – and solutions suggest themselves almost automatically.

In this episode:

Meet Marc Reifenrath

  • Marc Reifenrath is the co-founder and CEO of Spinutech. Spinutech has grown from a University Dorm start-up over 20 years ago to a multinational digital agency with 150+ team members across the U.S. In that capacity, he understands firsthand how critical a company’s culture is to achieving and maintaining success.
  • What’s the secret ingredient to Spinutech’s growth? Company values that are truly lived, including a commitment to “Get Better Every Day.” The company would not be what it is today without a team of people who are as invested in each other’s growth and success as they are in delivering the best for their clients.

Business Culture Isn't Taught in School

  • They don't teach culture in college - they talk about ethics and strategy and ideas, but not anything about corporate culture.
  • Spinutech always had strong core values that influenced their culture, and it had gotten louder with time. Even though it wasn't written on the wall, or on their website, they were living it, it just hadn't been formalized until 2008.
  • It came down to asking why they were doing certain things. Why do we make ourselves wear business casual to the office? Why do we do this? Why do we do that?
  • If they didn't have good answers for it, they simply said, "Well, then let's not require it anymore." And so it was just some simple approaches, rooted in common sense. It's a simple approach that Marc believes is lost in corporate America very quickly.
  • He believes that the founders at Spinutech hadn't worked for corporate America, so they weren't influenced by those belief systems. They wanted it to be a great place for them to work at - if they weren't enjoying their own workplace, why do it?

How the Right Culture Gets Results

  • If you surround yourself with like-minded people, you're gonna get more of the same.
  • Here's their simple rule for leadership meetings, he tries to speak last. If he's speaking and sharing his opinion first, it's going to influence everyone else's answers. Give them space to share their great ideas, because a lot of times their ideas are gonna be very, very good because they are coming from different perspectives and you have to take advantage of that!
  • Marc does a weekly video every Friday about what he's concerned and excited about. In a recent one, he shared that they all have to give each other permission to provide feedback to each other. As a leader, it's very effective to show your vulnerability.
  • This commitment to getting better - one of their core values is to get 1% better every day - means owning up to and improving your weaknesses, polishing those rough edges, and can be hard as a leader because not to take offense to certain things. You'll slip up every once in a while, but you've got to be real with your team.
  • This is a good place to apply the Rule of 5 Whys. Asking "why" five times to get to the root cause. Why do you think that? Why do you feel that way? And just really digging into that can help a lot of things, including confronting insecurities that can be triggered by feedback.
  • When there's a problem or a challenge, attack the problem, not the person! It's such a simple filter. When you are debating something, make it real, make it physical, and throw it on the table in front of you. Now you're both staring at that as opposed to attacking each other.
  • If you live your core values, you hire fire, manage, lead, and solve problems using your core values. So anytime there's a problem, you just throw it on the table and say, "Which core value is misaligned here?" And now you start to solve it from that perspective. And that's often going to help you really get to the root cause.

Spinutech's Core Values

  • The first one has been kind of our mantra for a long time: We get better every day. And that's just this idea that you show up and you make yourself better, you make the team around you better, and you make your clients better.
  • The second one is: We do the right thing. Do the right thing even when nobody's looking, even when it's the hard thing to do.
  • The third one is: We over me. That's just all about being a team player. Marc uses team member, not employee, because words matter. And this way over me being part of a team part of something bigger than yourself, that's a really big one.
  • Their final one is: We own it. It means they own their wins, they own their losses, they own their work, and they even own a 40 hour work week, which means they're protecting and defending their work/life balance.

Downloads & Resources

Follow Marc on LinkedIn., Twitter and at Spinutech.com.

Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

Marc Reifenrath

Marc Reifenrath is the co-founder and CEO of Spinutech. Spinutech has grown from a University Dorm start-up over 20 years ago to a multinational digital agency with 150+ team members across the U.S. In that capacity, he understands firsthand how critical a company’s culture is to achieving and maintaining success.

What’s the secret ingredient to Spinutech’s growth? Company values that are truly lived, including a commitment to “Get Better Every Day.” The company would not be what it is today without a team of people who are as invested in each other’s growth and success as they are in delivering the best for their clients.

Episode Transcript
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