Emily Thompson 0:01
Welcome to Being Boss, a podcast for creatives, business owners and entrepreneurs who want to take control of their work and live life on their own terms. I'm your host Emily Thompson. And in this episode, I'm joined by book PR pro and boss friend, Dana Kay to talk about building and maintaining company culture so that you, your employees and your customers are always taken care of. You can find all the tools, books and links we reference on the show notes at www.beingboss.club. And if you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe to the show and share us with a friend Dana Kaye is a lifelong entrepreneur who believes in the power of storytelling and authentic personal branding. In 2009. She founded Kaye Publicity Inc, a boutique PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment. Known for her innovative ideas and knowledge of current trends. She coaches her clients on how to identify and establish their unique personal brands. In 2016, Dana launched Midwest Mystery Conference, a one day conference dedicated to crime fiction with mystery author Lorie Rider-Day. She is also the author of two books, Your Book Your Brand, The Step-by-step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales, and The Personal Brand Workbook. She also serves on the advisory board of Propel PR. Dana can previously be found on the following episodes of Being Boss, episode number 250, 260, 232, and 333. All right, Dana, welcome back to the conversation we've been trying to have this whole time.
Dana Kaye 1:40
We got here, a few episodes, but we got here.
Emily Thompson 1:45
We did get here. I asked Dana, months ago, to come have a conversation with me about company culture, and the line of questioning or it's the lines of questioning that you can hear in episodes 323 and then 333. And now we're back in 250. What is this two or wherever this ends up landing. And like this was where we were going, it just took us all of those to get here.
Dana Kaye 2:15
It's because hiring and culture and all of these things. It's it's a bigger thing, right? It's and not all of us are very holistic in the way we practice. So I'm not going to just give here my 10 steps to great company culture. Right it we need to first talk about the hiring process. And then we have to talk about the onboarding and the training and all of those things. So yes, it does take a little bit of time before you can even get to the company culture discussion.
Emily Thompson 2:44
Yeah, and neither of those conversations are short and quick either, right? There's a lot of things that go into hiring, like finding the right person and making sure they're the right person, and then onboarding them onto the company. Like, I'm glad this took us three episodes to do it. Because I feel like we did these three topics, or we did the previous two, we're about to do the third one justice. Because it is such a it's such a big part. It's such a big process. Yes. But it's also such a big part of doing business. I think you and I are both in a place in our respective companies, where a large part of our time is spent finding the right employees, hiring the right employees, onboarding, and the onboarding process really is at least truly a sixish, sixish month process. It's kind of our job.
Dana Kaye 3:42
And also leading and coaching and mentoring. So even when, you're laughing, because you know, it's the work is never done. I think that once they're onboarded, then it's like even steeping them deeper into their company culture, making sure that their instincts are right. And as they get different challenges, or different things are presented to them that they know how we as a company would handle it, versus just them and their instincts.
Emily Thompson 4:16
Yeah, for sure. So we're gonna be talking about all of those things today, plus some talking about company culture. If you haven't listened those previous two episodes, I highly recommend you go check those out first. They really are the context that leads us to this conversation here. And now so that was episode 222, excuse me, 323 and then 333. And now we're here to talk about sort of this last piece so you have people in, you have people doing their job, but I love what you just said about around this idea of helping people make make decisions based on how the company would make decisions. I feel like that's a really great sort of point to this company culture. But to kick us off. How do you define company culture and why do you think it's important?
Dana Kaye 5:01
I think the definition that I go to and I think this one is helpful, because there might be people listening who are still solopreneurs or maybe always want to be solopreneurs. But even if you're a solopreneur, you still have a company culture. And the your services and your offerings. That's what you do. The company culture lies and how you do it. This is how you're showing up to do the work, how you're showing up for your clients, how you're showing up in your retail store, how you're showing up on social media, it's the it's the how there's lots of crystal shop owners, there's lots of publicists. But the difference between Almanac and the others or Kaye Publicity and the others is that our culture is different. Our culture is what makes us unique. When you walk into your store, it feels different than some of the other crystal stores. When people walk into our virtual, you know, our virtual services, when they have their first onboarding call, when they get our proposals, when they talk to our team members. It's a different experience than speaking to other publicists. And so the culture piece is baked in. But in the context of employees, it's making sure that they understand that culture and understand the how we do it. So that they can continue to kind of reinforce this with whoever they come in contact with. So Emily, you're not at the shop every day. I'm not talking to our clients, I don't talk to that many of our clients anymore, which is an interesting, interesting shift. But I'm really confident that whoever walks into your store and whatever team member the client talks to, or the media professional talks to, we're all going to give them the same, Tara McMullen calls it the special sauce, the how we do it, they're going to all give them the same treatment, regardless of who's working the front, or regardless of who answers the phone.
Emily Thompson 7:01
Hmm, beautiful. I love that that's a really great sort of summation of what I think is, it's not a definition that's really easy to pin down. Like, I don't think anyone can ever be like, company culture is here are eight words that define the thing, right, there's lots of pieces is sort of lives and breathes and moves and all of these things. And it really encompasses so much of what you do. And you mentioned the like, how it is that you do things. But I think that comes from a why it is that you do things which we talked about in the last episode, last part of this, where we talked about values, right, the values are the why that's how you like get down into like, if you value, you know, at Almanac, we value collaboration. So are that's one of our company values. So that really plays into the how we do a lot of things. So I think as values, I think it's very much so goals, it's an understanding of the goals, depending on where you're working towards will sort of dictate how it is that you move toward that thing as well. And then also, the attitudes that you have, as you're doing things. You're right, I think, I hope and I know, in a lot of ways that whenever someone walks into the store, the experience they're getting from one employee is going to be the exact or is very similar attitude, as they're gonna get from, you know, whether it's me or one of my employees, whether it's a keyholder, or a sales associate, or just the person working in the stockroom in the downstairs who's upstairs for a second also greeting someone who comes in, there's these pieces of the company culture that are defined, and I think the values and goals help define them that really inform the how the practices and processes that help you share that company culture within the company, so to each other within the team, but also outside of the company with your customers and clients.
Dana Kaye 8:58
Yeah, and I was gonna say like the values conversation really is the heart of all of this right? Your values, which if you don't know them yet, beingboss.club/values, I think there is there. But I think that getting really clear, and these aren't your personal values, although you're if you're the business owner, your personal values often get infused into the company ones. However, the company values that's a lens where we're all operating from. So I might have we have people on our team who are more creative minds, we have people on our team who are more detail oriented analytical thinkers. But we're all looking through the lens of we have three C's community, creativity and consistency. And I think the consistency piece is really important for again, company culture. How you do one thing is how you do everything. And so I think that this translates from the values that we use to serve our clients as well as using our values to how we support each other how we interact with each other as team members, how we function as an organization. And we all we look through those through the lens of those three values. So I think that it's really helpful. The reason that that creates the culture is that we are all gathering around a similar cause. So it's like the why, like, why we're doing this, as well as we all are buying into these three values. And so we are all speaking the same language, we're all understanding how we operate. And when there are tensions between employees, between me and my team members, between employees and clients, we can keep coming back to that, where if something gets tense, I mean, I have a big team now. And I know Emily, you do too. So like, there's personalities, right? Like we all have different, different quirks and different things. But when things get tense, the way it, tension is, okay, I think it brings about better ideas. But I think that the way it goes, it prevents the tension from becoming toxic, is that we know we're all coming from this shared, the shared ideals, the shared values and the share why. And that's what the, that's why company culture is so, so important. It's going to keep employees there longer, it's going to act as a filter for, you know, employees that are good fit or not, because people come to us, and they're like very, I mean I work in publishing. So if you're money driven, and you made a big mistake, like going into this industry. So I think that, you know, it attracts people who care about the arts, who care about storytelling, fully remote, so it attracts people who are independent contributors and can manage their time. And if you don't value community, like you're going to kind of self self opt out. That's not the you know, self-select. Yeah, there you go. And so I think that if you infuse this, this idea of culture into everything, there's these tangential things that happen that just make your work easier.
Emily Thompson 12:10
Yeah, yes, I agree with all of that. And I have a couple of things to sort of come off of that, you mentioned that one of your values is consistency. And it's actually something that I thought of before you brought that up. Because even though it's one of your values, I think for any company, company culture brings consistency to what it is that you're doing. And one of the old Emilyisms is that consistency breeds legitimacy. It literally allows or it builds trust between you and your employees and or you and your customers. And so by having everyone operating under, you know, this lens of the company values, whenever a client talks to you versus talking to your project manager or your assistant or your account rep or whatever, or whether they're visiting you now, or next month or a year from now, that consistency in how it is that you are presenting yourself. And I mean, you as a business in whatever capacity that looks like, is what will keep them coming back as well. What will help you with your word of mouth marketing and all of those things, you simply by showing up the same every single time no matter what that what that entails builds trust, because consistency is what lends to that. So I want to say that. And then I also want to talk about this through the lens of the values. I can't remember if I said this in the last episode, and I say this sometimes in calls and like all the things, who knows, so apologies if I'm repeating myself. But one of the things that I tell my team, and I think we're gonna get into this a little more in a minute, is as I'm onboarding people on like their first day of work, we're going through the employee handbooks together, we're doing, you know, talking about all of these things, and I always stop and hit on values in particular, because that really is the lens through which everything should and could be done. And I always tell them, when it comes to decision making, if I can ever see that you made a decision through the lens of your values, I don't care or through the lens of our values. Let me, let me go back and edit that one of if I can see that you thought about what our values are, and you made that decision based on the values if it's something that didn't previously have processes in place, whatever it may be, then I know that you made that as a company and not just you with whatever interests you have in mind. And that's really powerful. I think to give your employees that sort of context through which they can build some autonomy into the job that they do and how you've given them the lens through which they are then you know, empowered to make whatever decisions they make can and will have to make?
Dana Kaye 15:01
Well, it goes back to your business changes, right? Like no day in a retail store is exactly the same. For us, every client is a little different. And if your team members are constantly asking you questions like, What should I do about this, what should I do, like that's not an efficient way, you need to create some, some systematic decision makings for them. And you can't predict anything, you can't make a decision tree for every single scenario. And so when it comes down to it, like looking at our why, looking at the values and putting it through that lens, because it's interesting, you talked about consistency, and like clients coming back, because we actually just had a call with a client that we haven't worked with in five years. And she asked, like, she asked, like, what are you doing differently? Like, what would the campaign look like? It's been a minute. And when I look at her campaign, I'm like, the modalities are different, like, not many blogs now, lots more TikTok now, like those, but the premise is all the same. Where are your readers? Like, it's all about reaching readers and connecting with readers. And so if you're, if you have, if you're able to like distill what you do into something very simple and put that to your team members, then they can make better decisions. So when a team, when a client is asking about should I do this ad campaign? Should I pay to play with this? Should I do this event? They can say, okay, is this going to reach the target audience? Is this going to reach readers and make a judgment call? And maybe they'll still present it to me, but I'll ask them. Okay, well, what do you think? And hopefully, they get to the right decision. Because again, it's, I think we talked about this, gosh, it must have been a few years ago now. Can you teach creative? Like, can you teach creativity? And can you outsource your brain? Basically, like, can you teach someone to think like you, I don't want people thinking exactly like me, because I don't need a clone, I need, but I need again, the someone who is going to make decisions in this and evaluate things in the way I would. And I think this is the key to it, right? Like if you want people to make these high level decisions, because at the time, I was thinking, I could ever outsource fielding the new clients. Like I can't outsource that like, and then I realized, like, oh, wait, I definitely can. I have a method to how I evaluate if they're a good fit? Making checklists? Like having people on calls and me telling them, okay, here's what they said, and here's what I heard. And then them doing the calls. And then them telling me, this is what they said, and this is what I heard. And so you can train people to do business in the way that you do. And if you have if you're very clear on your values, and very clear on your why that's going to make it all the more all the more easier.
Dana Kaye 15:01
Yeah, not to mention good processes.
Dana Kaye 15:15
Good processes, you know, we love those.
Dana Kaye 15:32
Emily Thompson 15:56
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Emily Thompson 19:18
Okay, perfect then let's dive into this a little more. I feel like we just gave it like a really good 30,000 foot view. Like here's kind of what it is, here's why it matters. Here's how it helps. But what does it actually look like to build a company culture because I think this is like a make it or break it. Like you're either doing it or you were very much so not doing it. And it's very obvious, I think for anyone within the organization and oftentimes even outside of an organization, whether or not you're doing it like it's if it's toxic, everybody knows. If it's not working, everybody knows and no one feels good about it. But when it is it can really be a magical thing that makes some great things happen. So when it comes to company culture, how do you nurture it in your team? What does it look like? Sort of what does it entail? And how are you infusing it maybe from even like the very beginning, maybe even like at the hiring phase, all the way through to just any old Tuesday?
Dana Kaye 20:16
Well, definitely at the hiring phase, I try to get a sense if they are community minded. If they're consistent, like, you know, when you interview people, it's a performance. And some people are good performers. And you try to ask questions that get to the root of some of the things and get them to show their true colors. So if what I'm hearing in an interview does not align with what I saw in the cover letter with what I saw on a resume, with some of the answers that they got those sorts of things so I can see consistency, I can look at their I'll ask them questions about things that they, or how are they active in their community, and just get a sense of their community mindedness. And then I always ask questions that try to get a hint of their creativity. Like, do you have any passions outside of work? Do you, tell me about something you did, created, that you were really proud of those sorts of things just to get a sense of they are creative thinkers. And so the hiring process is definitely the first one.
Emily Thompson 21:12
I also I have a note here that I want to add, one of the things that I also find whenever you go along this line of values oriented questioning and the hiring process, is that those who resonate with it are more likely to excitedly follow up
Dana Kaye 21:29
Emily Thompson 21:29
Right, and not just like a general like, oh, you know, it was nice meeting you last week how to go. But like someone who's going to reply back and be like, that was the best interview I've ever had. Right? I would love to know if I can work with you or not whatever it may be that it it does have some filtering on its own just by asking those kinds of questions.
Dana Kaye 21:47
Yeah. And you sell the candidate in many ways, right? Like, you're, I think we talked about this in context of brand, but you want to be a magnet, you want to attract the right people and repel the wrong people. And so I think that asking these types of interview questions that they're not expecting that dive a little deeper, which is also again, part of our culture, like I hate small talk. That's my personal, personal thing, I hate small talk. Let's go deep right away. And so if you if that turns you off, if you want to talk about weather and nonsense, I'm like, I don't think you're going to like our check in, we have a weekly we have two weekly team meetings, but the kickoff one on Monday, we always have a check in question. And these aren't like, occasionally we'll get a favorite TV show or something like that. But usually, it's like, what's sparking your creativity? What if you were on a desert island and could only read one genre? What would it be? And like, it causes people to think very differently. And I think, again, that's it's infused, it's infused in our culture. And if you're thrown off by these non are these a typical questions, then yeah, not the right fit. It's in our handbook. It's our onboarding process. So our onboarding process. Again, consistency, like we have a very buttoned up onboarding process, we have a handbook. I'm saying this from this position. But I, there's no shame because I did not have this all in place three years ago. But we hired a lot of people.
Dana Kaye 23:11
And so I had to get, get that in place real quick. And so even that piece of infusing some of the culture in the way I word, my handbook, so you might do a template from I don't know, Google or whatever about like an employee handbook, but you need to put your stuff in it like it needs to be in your voice, your company's voice. What you include in the handbook has a lot to do with what you reflect is important. So even things like a part of our culture is a lot about self reliance and autonomy. And so in the employee, we'd have non prescribed vacation days. And in the handbook, we say, we assume that you are going to take vacation, it is healthy for you to take time away from work, here is the process for notifying when you're going to be out of the office. So even that framing, of like we expect this to happen, we appreciate work life balance. And this is how you do it. So that that's infused in the handbook. And it's also when I try to make when I think about making decisions. So like right now, one of the decisions I'm having to make is how to handle some of the health insurance stuff. We have employee on Medicare, I have to do her things differently than health insurance. Some people are on their husbands or wives or parents health insurance, so I'm not paying for it. Does that matter? So I'm constantly looking through this lens of what does what are the benefits we offer? What are the structures you have in place and what does that say about our company culture? Because part of it is like equity, not equality, honestly. And so if giving everyone $500 dollars for their health insurance isn't, it's equal, that's not equitable, because if the 64 year old needs more than the 25 year old, it doesn't matter. So it's even just infusing in how you're like your policies, your procedures, your benefits. Again, putting it through the lens of like your value is putting through the lens of like, what are you conveying by doing it this way?
Dana Kaye 25:24
And I think that the fact, it drives my accountant crazy sometimes, because he's like, just give everyone a flat, like, what are you doing, but I'm like, but that's not what we do. Like we're tailored, we're not cookie cutter, like our clients don't have cookie cutter campaigns, they're all tailored, are we again, this, this idea of equity versus equality is really important to me. And so we need to infuse that into everything. And what happens is, people see that oh, and the other thing with our handbook that I was very conscious about is about, we don't have maternity leave, we have caregiver leave. So whatever care, if you're leaving to take care of a sick parent, a sick, an injured spouse, a child, if you really want to make an argument for your dog, I can maybe get on board with that. But like the but this idea to have like, you know, we're not a one size fits all, like it's not, I'm not going to penalize people who don't have kids. And I'm not going to, and I want to make sure that if people I mean, we're reaching this age, right, like aging parents is the thing. And if they need that time to there's no difference to me from caring for a newborn and caring for an elderly parent, for a time, so even just, I really look at like the benefits packages, the structure, I think all of that is infused into the company culture. And with that too this idea of community. So when people go on vacation, or when people have to take a leave, we all know that we need to step up. And therefore the person who's taking vacation is very mindful that when they leave, other people are stepping up, and that they would do it for vice versa, the roles would be reversed at some point. So I think that also creates a sense of that like that also bakes in this idea of community. So like when you leave, you're leaning on someone to cover your stuff, so that when someone else leaves, you don't feel resentful, you actually feel grateful that you can return the favor.
Emily Thompson 27:33
Yeah, this is the thing that I want to highlight here is that all of this, most of what you just mentioned, is the employee handbook, which is the thing that they are being like that is the document that they read their first moments on payroll, right? Like this is how you start the conversation, it's having all of these things in one place. And I will say I've been very open about this too. I also did not have one of these until it was time for me to really grow the team. And I did. And similarly, when it comes to those values, this is something that I say whenever I'm onboarding people, but it is something that has to be infused throughout. It's all based on these values. And if you cannot draw that line of consistency through what it is that you say and what it is that you do, then you have an opportunity to more holistically approach your company culture in a way that it is fully aligned with your why and how being your values. And it really does start in this case with the first thing they do when they show up to work for you.
Dana Kaye 28:48
And I would encourage even those of you who have not hired people yet, or have just hired contractors or VAs, to still have an employee handbook, it might not be as detailed it might feel a little silly. But as entrepreneurs, we are awful bosses to ourselves, right? Like, if if you get paid if an employee would get paid bi weekly, then you sure as hell better be paying yourself bi weekly. Right? Like if you expect people to take vacation then use yourself should be taking vacation. If you expect your employees to show up on time and to deliver stuff on time. You better do the same. And I think that it's like I said it seems silly but like we're not good employees to ourselves. Like yeah, we tend to overwork or under work sometimes right like if we're feeling overwhelmed, we might hide or ghost or you know what we've, me and you have, not us Emily, but we've seen this happen.
Emily Thompson 29:50
Dana Kaye 29:50
And you know, we also will like forego vacations or like Oh, cash is tight this month. I'm not going to pay myself and like those are all horrible habits. So even making an employee handbook for yourself so that you can be a better employee for your own company. And same thing like looking at through the lens of your values looking at through the lens of the culture. And the bonus is that when you do hire an employee, you'll have it ready.
Emily Thompson 30:17
Yeah, and a couple. All of that is very true. I also think by you, being your best employee, in all of those ways, you especially once you start hiring folks, it becomes more and more important for you to follow your own rules.
Dana Kaye 30:37
Because you're like, it doesn't do any good if we have unprescribed vacation time. If I never take a vacation.
Emily Thompson 30:45
Dana Kaye 30:46
Right, then they're gonna be like, Oh, well, Dana, never. She works all the time and never takes vacation and doesn't have any boundaries. So how am I supposed to do that? You kind of set the stage for the rest of this.
Emily Thompson 30:58
For sure. And I even think, you know, the very smallest part of this is our dress code at the shop. Because I have a bunch of college kids working, I put a dress code in place, it has since been loosened, because I they didn't all dress like nine year olds. Which I was afraid, you just go into it not knowing what to expect. But I dressed like my expectation of a nine year old or whatever, until we decided to loosen it up. And one day David was leaving for work in something inappropriate, obviously not like on a grand scale inappropriate by any means. But like his shirt was the wrong color. And I was like, um, but sir. And he's like, I'm the boss. I'm like, exactly, which is exactly why you should be following the instructions to the tee. You are the you are the mold for the consistency. Right? And all the ways whether you like it or not, this is like this is what being a leader is whether you like it or not.
Dana Kaye 31:57
You're the model, right? Like it's not. I feel like there was a lot of this might have been like in the early like late 90s, early 2000s, where it was like, yeah, the boss did whatever they want, and everyone else just had to fall in line. Like that's not the case anymore. Like we are all leaders are leaders and also employees. I also love that David's, it was just wearing the wrong color because we use it inappropriate. I'm like, was he wearing a crop top booty shorts? Or what? What was he going on?
Emily Thompson 32:22
I will say, I actually put some of the dress code things in place, because he had this really awful habit of wearing this one pair of jeans that totally had a hole in the butt like his, his like pocket had like, you know, come apart. And so like, I was like, Okay, I'm gonna have to put literally no holes above your knees for David so that you will stop thinking that those jeans are appropriate.
Dana Kaye 32:46
Well, and that brings up a good point that you might not understand what you need to infuse into your company culture. Until it's, you're faced with it.
Emily Thompson 32:55
Dana Kaye 32:56
Right? So like, as you're hiring people, they might. I always laugh. It's like when you when we were baby proofing the house for the kiddo. And like he showed us where to baby proof. Right? Like whatever he got into, that's what we needed to baby proof. And it's the same with employees, not that they're babies. But like that, you they they will you'll start to see things and you'll say like, Oh, we don't have a procedure in place for giving pure, like how do we give peer feedback? Or how do we who reports to who or who gives feedback to whom and when, and you start to see those things happen. And they're like, Okay, now we need to have a system in place. Now we need to have a process in place. And you as the boss, need to, like model all of that, right? So like if your policy our policy is, is that if you need feedback, or have questions on something, you first go, you first try to find it yourself. That's the first. And then second is you go to the person who assigned you that task. So if I get a, so the same goes for me, right? Like so if I get assigned a task that I don't understand. My first instinct is just Gchat the person and I'm like, oh, no, no, I need to do some research. I need to see if I miss something. And so I have to follow my own rules and go and like and then when I do go to the person say I looked here in here and I can't find it. Can you tell me where it is or if it's missing or etc. So I think there's a little bit of you'll set it up. But it's an ongoing process. And it's an ongoing, it's an ongoing process. And there's a lot of evolution. So when new team members come, when offerings change, when the industry changes, you might be faced with different things. I don't think culture changes that much. But at the same time we saw a big upheaval in how we work. Right? Like we saw a huge amount of change in our perception around work. I think you and me Emily have always been doing business. I think the quotes is on our own terms, live life on your own terms. We've always been doing that. But that's but when we're hiring people who haven't always been doing that, we have to kind of retrain and reframe. And so your your company culture will evolve as industry standards change as kind of our society adapts and grows. And so I'd love to say that like, we haven't changed much, but I think we always we do make tweaks and crank different dials and elaborate in certain places.
Emily Thompson 35:29
Yeah, I think there's a core that stays the same, but this other part of it does have to be malleable based on when and where we are. Okay, what is this company culture piece look like on an ongoing basis?
Dana Kaye 35:44
On an ongoing basis. So I think that establishing from the, just from any part of it, or a part of you, as a boss, okay. So I think that we are always faced, there's seldom a week in our company where it's just like, head down doing work, right, there's always something that comes up whether it's a new business opportunity, or a new partnership, or an crisis or issue. And so the ongoing piece is speaking with the team and speaking with clients in the language that enforces this culture. So when people, so for example, we just had one of our team members just got back from a conference. And I asked her in the meeting to share the, how the conference went. And when she shared that, she was able to, like, support our current clients, introduce them to people, meet new ones. And when she talked about how she spent her time at the conference, that in and of itself, reinforced this idea of community like this is how we, as a team members show up at a conference, like you're not hanging at the hotel bar, you're not, you know, just going to the parties, like you're there to support our authors, she was speaking there, she worked one of our clients who was there and to her talk, like all of those things. So again, I think modeling and bringing people up who highlight our culture piece. So if someone is going to a conference and how, how she can reinforce community. If I share I had a difficult conversation with a client, here's how I handled it. Or we were or the marketing person had a call with a new media platform or new social media platform, which they feel it's like they're popping up all the time. Like, so when she presents it, she presents it in a way and through the lens of like our values through the lens of how we do business, all of those things. So it's modeling from a boss standpoints modeling the language, and then it's highlighting when other people modeled language. So I will highlight, I really enjoyed this creative solution to this problem. I really like how this sense of community was with you throughout the conference, and just pinpointing how this reinforces.
Dana Kaye 38:10
I also think that some conversations are meant to be held in public and some are meant to be out in private, but whenever you as a business owner can address something on the company stage, I guess would be the thing, that will also help reinforce so an example for us was HarperCollins Publishers went on strike. We have a lot of HarperCollins authors and HarperCollins themselves as the client and a lot of the team members were had their opinions about what we should do but they really look to me to make a decision and I said that we are not we don't cross virtual pick, we don't cross picket lines virtual or otherwise. So we will not, we're going to fulfill our contract we have just like one month left on the contract. We're gonna fulfill our contract with HarperCollins but we're not taking on new contracts and we're gonna keep working with our authors and not leave them in the lurch because that's about the author and so even just like during these moments these make or break moments and you got to put your, they to have them see me put my money where my mouth is because we got lots lots of inbound from Harper during that time right like they need they have all their employees on strike they need help.
Dana Kaye 39:25
If they ever needed PR.
Dana Kaye 39:31
I'm like we'll do PR for the for the Union. But I think that that's that's really too like it's not just in the everyday it's also I think it when it really sticks is in the in these tough in the tough times. So like when we had to fire a, we've had to fire maybe one or two clients over the years. And when and being the one who says like Nope, this is now this is no longer our ideal client, this is no longer a good working relationship, I don't think they value us, therefore we're going to say no, and make them whole. And I think just being the model for how to handle those difficult things will not only reinforce your values, reinforce your company culture, but it also gives employees a sense that they're being taken care of. I think that's what's also really important, right? Because I mean, I've never had a real job. So it's hard for me to say, but I, based on my employees, they all have workplace trauma of their bosses, throwing them under the bus or making really egregious demands and just not having their back. And so I think that that, also when you as a leader can make these tough decisions in the best interest of your team members, that reinforces the company culture, that you're a team. Right? They're not there to support you, and to do your bidding. Like you are an actual team.
Emily Thompson 41:01
Yeah, oh, yes to all of those things. I want to bring up this, like consistency builds legitimacy, slash builds trust that is internal as well, which is what you're talking about. That's not just your customers trusting you. But that's your team trusting you and each other to as you're building this consistency of action and decision making, and all of these things, which is really powerful. And I also love that what you're talking about here, is just follow through.
Dana Kaye 41:30
It's doing what you say.
Emily Thompson 41:32
Dana Kaye 41:33
And like with everything, I think we all so I wish I could cite the study exactly. There was a study talking about the elements of trust, congruent, we all value different elements. There's like five, I think, five elements of trust, all of us value different things. One of the big ones is congruency. Do you say, do you do what you say and say what you do. And that builds up trust. And so if I say how many how many, how many people who worked for shitty companies would hear the line, we're a family. Like, but you're not.
Emily Thompson 42:09
Dana Kaye 42:10
Red flag. Or say like we value our this was a big issue with the Harper Collins Union, we value our diverse employees. But when you're not paying them a living wage, and giving them only like pigeonholing them into certain types of books, because of their diverse backgrounds, like, doesn't feel super good, right? So if I'm telling you, so if I'm telling you, I expect you to take vacation, you have unprescribed vacation, and then anytime you notify me about a vacation, I have a reason that you can't take it, or I kind of looked disappointed, right? Like, that's not congruent, that teaches that, that you lose trust with your team members. So if they then they start to fear, they start to fear, what kind of response are going to get. The same as with feedback. So if they, if you teach them that, when they present a problem to you, you yell at them, you judge them, you get like, angry, you dismiss them, whatever it is, then what's gonna happen is they're gonna start not coming to you with problems, and they're just gonna try to quietly shove it under the rug. And so again, if you're, like I am have opened if your value is communication and openness and collaboration, and then that's a good example, Emily. So like, if you value collaboration, and then every time someone on your team presents an idea, and you're just like, Nope, no, thanks. No, we're not doing that. Next, then they're gonna not believe you anymore. And so I think that you have to the congruency, the piece that builds up that trust, again, with your customers or your clients, but also with your team members. And I think that's why so many bigger companies are having trouble keeping their team members, because there's not a trust with them. They don't trust their team, they don't trust their boss, they don't trust their corporation, and they want to leave. And that's why we get such great employees.
Emily Thompson 44:10
Indeed, we get to heal them in all of their and all of their corporate trauma. No, I agree wholeheartedly with all of these things. I feel like, I feel like you hit all the nuggets all the important nuggets with the giving them the language to use and you using the language by you being the example by which you know, everything is happening as hard as it can be sometimes, and really just continuing with the company culture after onboarding, I think that that really is the thing where I recently did a 30 day review with my newest hire and when I brought her in this was not the first crystal store she had ever worked for. And but immediately was like really impressed with our organization and communication and like you know, I handed her an employee handbook and I handed her a copy of our performance review sort of first day of like, these are the things that you're going to be like that we're going to be discussing. Every like always constantly. This is the language we're going to be using in 30 days in and she was like it really is like this. And I was like, yeah, it's not all smoke and mirrors like this is really how we run the thing. And I think that really, that sort of builds that trust that keeps everyone going. And it also is in place because everyone is practicing these things, right? It's not just me and the person, it's me and every employee.
Emily Thompson 45:33
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Emily Thompson 46:47
Which sort of brings me into maybe our next two questions. One being how, what does one do if there are people within an organization who conflict with company values, ever experienced that one?
Dana Kaye 47:04
Yes. I think that yes, and no, I think that not all of our, the company values aren't necessarily the personal values, right? So everyone's coming in with their own values. And that doesn't mean that that aligns with the company values. However, in the context of work, it should a great example, this is gonna sound shitty, but we're just gonna say it. So like community is not one of my personal values.
Emily Thompson 47:36
Dana Kaye 47:37
So again, I volunteer, I enjoy my friends, all of those things. And I enjoy spending a lot of time by myself. And I find collaboration really, really challenging. And so it's not one of my values. However, as a company, it's important, I want my company to be a good literary citizen, I want our company to be thought of as someone who engages in the community, who is active, who uplifts other authors, not just their clients, who supports bookstores and libraries, and literacy and all those things. So I think that that's from a personal perspective, like that is a push and pull, right? Because there's definitely times where I'm like, I want the company to do this. But community expands beyond. So like, you know, we did for the team, like a virtual holiday party, the entire team wanted the holiday party. And again, I loved it, it was fun, I love everyone on our team. And also, I find those incredibly draining, not to plan, I can plan a good party, but like, you know, dealing with all of that is is a lot for me. And so I think that it just shows our personal values sometimes show up in conflict with the company's values, and then we need to recalibrate. I also think that sometimes people's values, let's say, one person values, freedom, and other person values reliability. And those can sometimes be at odds because one person wants everyone to be working the same hours that they always do when someone else wants to be able to like take a run at midday or go get their nails done in the afternoon or whatever it is. And so I think that, again, going back to the company, you have to kind of recalibrate everyone through the company values.
Dana Kaye 49:32
But if they if their personal values are so at odds with the company values, then they probably aren't a good fit and they probably shouldn't have made it through the several steps like the way you post your job, which we've talked about in the other episodes like the way you posted your job description. The places you posted your job description, the way you do the interview, like they should have all been filtered out. Definitely filtered out at the 30 day review if you've hired them like you should be able to see but throughout our working careers, there's these personal conflicts are going to be at odds. So like one example was, like, during the pandemic, all of our authors events went remote or went virtual. So all of a sudden, in theory, we could attend all of our author's events, not just the ones in our local market. And so a couple of the employees said to me, like, we really need to be going to all these and I said, I'm so sorry, like, I can't even, like I'm, I'm having like anxiety. I'm like homeschooling a child, everyone's in my house, like, I just can't, I haven't left my house, I can't do anything. I can't do it. So then we had this, but she was right through this community lens, we needed to figure out how to support our clients, and the bookstores and whatever. So we had a schedule, where one person from our team went to every event, like there was at least one person being represented, the expectation was you didn't want a week, never more. And that we kind of all agreed on that. So I think there's going to be things that come up where your personal values and the company values do conflict. And there has to be some sort of middle ground or some sort of, like a negotiation that that takes place.
Emily Thompson 51:17
Yeah. I have a couple things I want to share around this. Because, yes, the idea is that people will self select, as you are going through those initial pieces. But I mean, even I've had people who made it through who like once we were in there, and I saw past that, like, the performance and like, oh, some things are a little off here. And maybe not even like terribly off. I, my most recent one was someone that I just kept saying, like she's, she's doing a good job. Right? Not a great job, not the best like, but like barely a good job. And so one of those situations where, where it wasn't a very clear situ, though, I think, to everyone around me, they were like, No, Emily, it's clear. But regardless, I think two things that I want to say, well, actually three things. One, self select goes far beyond those initial stages, the one that I'm talking about self selected still, like there was a point where she realized, nope, I'm done. And I was like, great, I don't gotta do this for you. Perfect. So like self selection is still a thing. But in the event that self selection does not happen. I mean, when hard conversations are a must and absolute must, I recently had to have a conversation with someone at the store who was was acting in a way that was in direct conflict to our values, one of our values is experiencing they, or is is experience, they were making the experience for some of our co workers a little difficult. And so I sat them down for a hard conversation about how their actions are in direct conflict with our company values. And it was a great conversation. Right, a really hard one to sit down to do but ended wonderfully. And their performance is that much better because of it.
Dana Kaye 53:11
And it's not personal.
Emily Thompson 53:12
Dana Kaye 53:13
I think that's what really makes it great, right? It's not my opinion.
Emily Thompson 53:16
Dana Kaye 53:17
It's not like, I don't like this about you. It's that this will like this behavior, right? It's not a subjective thing. It's this behavior does not align with the company values, as per the handbook that you signed.
Emily Thompson 53:31
Dana Kaye 53:31
About the situation not about you or me.
Emily Thompson 53:34
Yes. And that, like we're all practicing, you're just not whatever it may be.
Dana Kaye 53:39
You just need to get a little bit of a refresher a little bit of a tune-up.
Emily Thompson 53:44
Yeah.Yep. And like, and we all talk because everyone trusts me, right? More than anything, because I am here like, doing the thing in the in the the best capacity I can. So there was like a hard conversation. And then finally, this is also where you fire people, if necessary, and if allowable in your state.
Dana Kaye 54:07
Please consult Autumn Witt Boyd.
Emily Thompson 54:11
Indeed, indeed, give it a Google to make sure you can, but I've definitely had I can think I can actually only think of one time in particular, where I needed to let someone go for this sort of company value purpose. Like they were just like a thorn in everyone's side. In just like a light way, that's still enough of a way that people were concerned and it was affecting deliverables. And they were also client facing like all these repercussions, and sitting down and having a serious conversation and really it being like, it's obvious to everyone that you are not happy here. And so let's talk about what this looks like. And again, there's context for a conversation that really leads to the best solution in all cases.
Dana Kaye 54:59
And that toxicity is contagious. Absolutely, it is a virus that will spread through your company. I, and it has in the tricky part about firing. So there is an employee that I took way too long to fire. And the reason is, is like you said she did good work.
Emily Thompson 55:19
Dana Kaye 55:20
The work was good, not exceptional, right. But exceptionality isn't a company value. And so I think that she did good work. But again, her demeanor, the way she showed up for people, those were the kinds of things that like just weren't happening, and ultimately, it was a culture fit. And but it took me a long time to get my head around it because like, again, on paper, it's like, okay, well, she's getting the stuff. She's doing the work, she's showing up on time. But she's, but there was something off, there was something like a little misaligned, right, the car was rattling a little bit on the way to the store. And so it took me longer for that reason to fire her. If she was, you know, not delivering work on time, if she was acting, you know, in a different way, it would have been easy. But this kind of nuanced thing. It's like this feeling of like, something is just not right, like something, the way she's delivered, the way she's talking to clients just doesn't feel exactly right. The way she's showing up at these events doesn't feel exactly right. Even if on paper, the work is fine. So I think that as soon as you know, I mean, obviously have a conversation, document what you need to document be legal, and legit. But for me, Illinois, is an at will state. And I think that I in hindsight would have liked to I think I should have let her go a little bit. Like, you know, at least a few months before I actually did it.
Emily Thompson 56:42
Yeah. Oh, maybe that'll be next one is firing.
Dana Kaye 56:47
I've done that quite a bit. And we'll talk about that.
Emily Thompson 56:51
And everyone always thinks me when I'm done.
Dana Kaye 56:56
I think we have a few people in the C-Suite who can talk about firing. And every time we the thing is is like we care about people. So like we lament over this, we like stress about it, we like practice. And then every time it happens, they're like the employee who we think is going to freak out. All the stuff just says, okay, and leaves every friggin time. They don't want to stay there.
Emily Thompson 57:15
Easy peasy. No, they don't. Okay. One more well, kind of two ish more questions, but one of them is we've both done this. So I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this idea of taking an in person team remote, because I know there are a lot of people who like who have done this, especially over the past couple of years, or maybe even tactics for each. So what makes for great in person, community or culture building and what makes for great remote team culture building.
Dana Kaye 57:46
I'd like to say it's the same. But it just shows up I think in a different a little bit of a different way. So when we weren't, we weren't remote in 2016. And we had at the time, a handful, No, only two employee, two employees in Chicago. And the rest were remote. And going through the lens of community, it didn't feel right, that we were in a conference room and then some people were on a computer, like it felt very disjointed, it felt disconnected. And when we went remote, a lot of it was that we wanted everyone to be on the same playing field, right? Like when we get on a meeting, we're all on the computer. We're all on Zoom. And I think that that, again, going through that lens consistency, we're all showing up in the same place. Community, we're all equal all those things. When we were in the office, you know, it's funny, Emily, I don't think that it's actually that different, but it might show up in different ways just based on the interpersonal aspect, right. So like right now, our culture we have a I know you do too, like how to communicate with your team members for these kinds of things for non urgent project related things. You post it in Asana, for like things that need collaboration, like, Hey, can we talk through a pitch or can we talk through my strategy was quite schedule a call, like get face to face and schedule a call? If it's a quick one line answer type of thing. You can Gchat, like we have like the standard procedures. And that's part of our culture. And part of our culture is respecting other people's time. Honestly, that's really what it comes down to. In the office, we had a really cool loft space, no open concept floor plan. Me and my publicity manager have known each other since college. We were good friends. I hired my very good friend. It worked out she's been with me eight years. But I think there wasn't I think that was also a little tricky. There was no policies in place of like, when she could just swing her desk towards mine and be like Like, Oh, hey, did you see that? Whatever. So I think it's a little in some ways, it's a little bit easier to have those boundaries in a, in a remote setting, and those standard operating procedures in a remote setting. Because I think that some of the interpersonal stuff is a little bit different. But ultimately, the culture of consistency, creative problem solving, being mindful of your employees equity, not equality, all of those things, it translates whether it's in person or, or remote. I'm curious Emily about your experience and their reach because you have a guide to, you know, we have a retail shop and an online business. Have you noticed a difference?
Emily Thompson 1:00:41
For sure? Oh, yes. And yes, and no similar to you like, yes, in a lot of ways, or in some ways, and no, and all the ways that really matter, right, you show up and you do the things in the way you're supposed to do them, you communicate the way you expect everyone to, like you do all the things, no matter whether it's remote, or in person. And I think of Indie, in particular, we were together, there was three or four of us. You know, in the office, we were went remote in 2015. And I remember that shift being difficult for culture, and mostly because we had to figure out the new ways of practicing it, right. Similarly, you couldn't just like turn your chair around and be like, Hey, we close that client, high five, or for us, we always took a shot, which is right, and that was part of the culture. And then actually, we would also always end our work days, or not always. But very often, with a game of darts, we played a lot of darts in the office, it was a ton of fun. And when we went remote, actually, Corey, just the other day was like Yo, I miss darts. And it's been eight years, seven years since that have so like there are parts of the culture that could not translate in quite the same way that we very much so miss. And that transition was really hard. But also easy in that it's just taking, like the communication standards from how we were working in the office to for us, you know, it's slack and zoom, or whatever it may be. So it's just finding the new ways, to the new venues for practicing the company culture, which was difficult, but overall, practicing them is really about the same. And I would argue maybe a little bit easier, remote, because it's easier to have like the standard, you know, operating procedures or whatever. Whereas I see in the store, or when you're beat or when you're in physical space with someone a lot, it's easier to kind of let the communication standard slide, right, or like, I'm just gonna text you that thing. But literally don't ever text me. Right? Like, I hate getting work texts it's my least favorite thing. But it's something that happens a little bit more in the store. Because like, I'm just I just ran downstairs real quick, or like I ran out to lunch. And you know, I'm not going to be checking slack. And you do just need to know a thing or whatever it may be. So I actually find it a little more difficult sometimes to uphold the standards in the in person situations, because it's so easy to like, go in and out of professionalism, in a way whereas if I'm hold coming for a 45 minute zoom, I'm there I'm doing the thing, I'm walking away like you get the most professional version of Emily. But if I've been hanging out with you in a store for nine hours, by the end of it, I'm like, fuck everything. Where's the champagne?
Dana Kaye 1:03:37
But it'salso impromptu. So I think what you're touching on is that in person is impromptu. It's impromptu communication, as opposed to asynchronous communication, which, being remote, it's more asynchronicity. And I think that that lends itself to consider like, so if you tell me something like I don't like I call them surprises. So if you drop a bomb on me, during a meeting, I need time to process. So people know this about me. Or like when I just like go silent. They're like Dana's thinking. And I think that so with impromptu communication, it's tricky because someone does something in the moment and you're like, there's something that fires, you're not really sure why it's firing or what you need to do about it. But because you're in person, like you have to deal with it. Versus if someone posts something in Asana, they're like, Oh, this isn't aligned or run a Zoom meeting. And someone says something that's not really aligned, that you can like pause, think about it, return to that versus sharing the same space after that, meaning, it's harder, it's much harder to process. Absolutely. I also, first of all, your company in person culture sounds like way more fun. The only thing when you said that I thought of is that every Friday at three we would clean the office together. Because we didn't have a cleaning staff. So we like put on some music and like me the intern.
Emily Thompson 1:03:37
Dana Kaye 1:03:57
Like we would all just like clean up the office together.
Emily Thompson 1:05:08
Dana Kaye 1:05:09
Which again, the culture piece is like, we're all doing this together.
Emily Thompson 1:05:11
Dana Kaye 1:05:12
Like we're all this is all together. It's not like I'm gonna watch the intern clean my office.
Emily Thompson 1:05:16
Dana Kaye 1:05:18
But I also think that I think a shot if you're doing shots like I think Marco Polo is ripe for that, like close a deal. Taking a shot.
Dana Kaye 1:05:28
Indeed, indeed, we definitely could have translated that one, we also would do lunch every Friday, or every other Friday is actually the schedule that we were on. And we would do fun things like that that has translated into in person retreats, and any opportunity, we have to sort of work in the same space together, we do like it has translated. But you're also right, like, if I'm in the store, someone asked me a question. They're sitting there looking at my face waiting for an immediate answer. Whereas if it's a Slack, I can pretend like I'm having lunch and just go talk to somebody about that question, or whatever it may be, and then come back all fresh and know exactly what to say. And really have had the time to run it through those values. And think about not just how Emily would answer this question or deal with this problem. But how is the company going to answer this question or deal with this problem? So it is a it is a little bit different? But in a lot of ways, it is the exact same, I find. Um, Okay, last question for you, Dana. If you could give like one tip, for someone who, let's say, actually, any company that exists already has a company culture in place, whether it was intentional or not. Right? So whether you have employees, whether you're working by yourself, whether you did this on purpose, or you're four years into it, you're like, oh, shit, something's happening around me. What do you think is the most impactful thing that you do? And or that you would recommend others do to build and maintain an intentional company culture?
Dana Kaye 1:07:00
I feel like a broken record. But I think it really is getting clear on your values.
Emily Thompson 1:07:05
Dana Kaye 1:07:05
Getting crystal clear on your, your brand prop, like your your brand summary, your values, like who you are, what you do, how you do it, how are you showing up to do the work, get really, really clear on that, and then distill it down for others. So I think the first step is like, getting really clear on like, what you value as a company, and then writing it again, I journal a lot. So I do like some stream of consciousness stuff, I start highlighting things. And then I'll pull out what I highlighted and make it into something presentable. But really, you need to be clear, you need to be really clear before you can start conveying it to others. And so I think that's really the first thing to do. If, if you and I think a lot of us serve this way, right? Like, I, I started PR, book PR specifically, because I just had ideas. I was like, I feel like we could do this differently. I think there's other options, I have some ideas about how we can promote books. I didn't stop to think about like, why do I do this? How am I doing this? How is it unique? Like I didn't really for the first six months, at least stop to think about that. So now that you're in it, whether you're day one of your business or day, you know, 10 years in, if you're not clear on exactly like what you do, why and how the first step is get really crystal clear on that. And then once you're clear on that, writing it down, and conveying it in a way that other people can understand it. Yeah. And then living it every day.
Emily Thompson 1:08:44
Amen. Amen. No, that really is a thing. And I would I would second that for sure. beingboss.club/values is that page where you have all the resources around and I will say my little extra bit on this you mentioned like making it crystal clear or defining and all of those things. I like to think of this on multiple different levels. I like to think of it as what these values mean, for me, whenever I'm making a decision for my company. I like to think of it as what how these values show up when I'm talking to an employee, or I'm talking to a customer, when my employees are talking to each other, when my employees are talking to the customer, right? And then when we're all doing the thing together because I think it's really easy to be like byproducts are here to serve, you know, or to like build community. Right? And then you're just thinking like product to customer, which is cool, but where this really is magical and where this really infuse itself into all parts of your business. As when you think about how you are practicing it, how your employees are going to practice it, how everybody's going to like internally how they're going to be practice with everyone together. Because that is the stuff that once you get that going and infuses itself naturally into everything that comes out of it.
Dana Kaye 1:09:57
Yeah, how you do one thing is how you do everything.
Emily Thompson 1:10:00
Amen. You got amen's out of me, Dana. I don'e even know the last time I did those.
Dana Kaye 1:10:06
Didn't Kathleen comment on your amens? I feel like she commented in one of the episodes about it?
Emily Thompson 1:10:12
Maybe so, who knows? Perfect Dana, tell at Well, first, thank you for this conversation. I'm so glad we finally got to this part of it. This was the nugget I've been trying to dig into this whole time. And then finally, where can folks find more about you and what you do?
Dana Kaye 1:10:34
My company website is kayepublicity.com, kayepublicity.com. And if you're an author looking to learn more about the publishing industry and promoting your book, you can check out your breakoutbook.com
Emily Thompson 1:10:48
Perfect. And then actually, finally, finally, what's making you feel most boss?
Dana Kaye 1:10:54
Thought you're gonna ask that. It has nothing to do with hiring or company culture these days. In the sees through the help of the C suite, I recently launched a weekly or twice monthly newsletter called the book PR report. And what felt really boss was me sitting down for an hour to write this newsletter that people are paying me for, for my with just my expertise and my knowledge of these current trends, and it feels really friggin boss, to have someone say, I will pay you to send me email. And that really fueled my morning writing session today.
Emily Thompson 1:11:38
I think that I could argue that in this day and age of online marketing, that may be the most badass thing ever. Having someone literally paid to send you an email, that's genius.
Dana Kaye 1:11:55
Emily Thompson 1:11:56
Love that for you.
Emily Thompson 1:12:00
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