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February 04, 2013

Our Story, Part 3: Creating Culture

February 04, 2013

Getting healthy

We believe that a healthy culture requires a healthy organization. What's a healthy organization look like? We turn to Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team as an excellent guide: a foundation of trust allows for conflict which creates commitment which requires accountablity which brings results.

Also, a healthy organization is one that puts the purpose of the organization first, not ego or even leadership. Leadership must serve, as with all employees, the organization's purpose. Every opportunity should be tested against that purpose. For us, we call it the North Star.

So what does this have to do with marketing?

Marketing starts with creating believers. And that starts with employees and then customers. If your employees don’t believe in what you are doing, how can you expect your customers to believe it? 

Employees are eager to understand the purpose of their work and most organizations miss a huge opportunity in not providing it.  Purpose creates believers and it turns your employees into an army of brand ambassadors. And you'll need an army to keep up with the competition. Things have changed.

Marketing in the age of Social Media and Google means creating brand ambassadors in your employees who then create brand advocates in your customers. This requires paying much more attention to the 10 people that love your product than the 100 that just bought or made it. These fanatics are the key to your success. They will shout your message from the hilltops.

But at the core, there has to be something to believe in — a compelling purpose that people can rally around. This is why we always start with "why."

So What's Our Culture Like?

We work hard to have an environment of collaboration and trust. We encourage people to pursue their passions and have fun. We believe in our teammates and our clients. We believe in spreading joy and helping out in our community. And yes, sometimes we come up short, sometimes way short, but we keep at it. We know we are never finished, never 100% healthy. 

“Our culture makes us courageous, pushes us to try new things, to add more play to work…we've come to understand our company really is the sum of all of us hurtling as hard as we can toward greatness.”
-Sara McGuyer, Chief Culture Officer 

Here's something we've learned along the way:

When you believe in someone, you create the potential for something great to happen. Likewise, when a client believes in us, it changes us. It motivates us like crazy. Through the years, we’ve recognized the same power in the transactions between employees and coworkers.

Here are two foundational pieces of our company culture:


At SmallBox, we put a premium on freedom: freedom to contribute ideas, freedom to grow ideas into initiatives and institutions, freedom to challenge and engage in healthy conflict. Yes, it’s true — we have unlimited vacation days here. But the freedom we value is paid for by accountability, trust and the pursuit of being exceptional in our work.


Institutions tell the story of SmallBox through our actions. They are attempts to practice what we preach. Each of our institutions helps shape who we are. We encourage any and all to improvise on these ideas, to run with them and make them better.


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