An Interview With John Miles, CEO of Integritive
We occasionally hear of spectacular cases of high-flying companies with bad cultures such as Uber and Amazon, as they make for great headlines. And yet there are many more not as notable companies with even worse cultures. There is also the well-known Gallup study indicating that the majority of U.S. workers are not engaged in their work (51%), and that 17.5% are in fact, “actively disengaged.”
What is not so obvious, are the many cases of companies with self-effacing visionary leaders intent upon building organizations on an ethic of respecting employees and customers alike, and who run into culture hiccups of their own. The reasons for their momentary challenges are as much a testament to the positive effects of having a strong culture, as they are to the need for vigilance throughout the life cycle of a company.
Integritive is a dynamic company offering web design and Internet marketing for small to medium size organizations. It is a dynamic company largely because of its founder John Miles, who began with a clear vision of building a very different kind of company.
John grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, yet the culture of business that he grew up around did not appeal to him, and he initially endeavored not to follow in the footsteps of his parents. While majoring in chemistry John took a summer job as a patient care technician in a hospital to get a sense of the field. It was at this time that he had an epiphany and made the decision to start a business based on a principle of hiring happy people and creating a happy work place.
Prior to starting Integritive, John also studied humanistic psychology in addition to chemistry. He studied happiness and learned that, “You can’t pursue happiness. It’s elusive and can’t be directly pursued, but you can pursue the factors that cultivate happiness.” And so he built Integritive on a strategy of creating a work environment that cultivates happiness.
This worked extremely well for John. In fact it worked so well that his business grew faster than he expected, which wonderfully illustrates the positive effects of a healthy culture. The culture hiccup came in 2012 when Integritive needed to hire additional staff at a rate much faster than they had previously. Instead of carefully getting to know candidates to ensure an alignment of values, client obligations necessitated a more rapid ramp-up of people with specific technical skills.
Some time later John noticed that something was not quite right in the company. Financially they were sound, but he felt strongly that there were things that needed to change. Some of the new people they hired were not fully in alignment with the values of the company, and some of his original team members were struggling with the way the company was changing. So he returned his focus to the culture. He brought in Doug West as COO, who carries a strong sense of culture, and the two of them rebuilt their team on the original vision of happy people and a happy workplace.
They put the breaks on growth so they could hire on values alignment first and technical proficiency second, which often meant that there was more technical training required for new team members to fully ramp up. They maintained a flexible work environment, and created greater efficiencies so that today they are producing more with less people. John and Doug ended up replacing the majority of the team, yet this time the team was more carefully chosen.
John shared, “If we hadn’t made those changes I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation with you.” And he went on to express that they most likely would have slumped back down to their size prior to 2012.
Glenn: How are things today?
“Now everything is beautiful. The business is doing really well with fewer people. We’re more productive now with less people than we had in 2012. From the culture came new products, and an understanding that we have to stay within market target project budgets.”
Glenn: What is the secret to Integritive’s success?
“Going deep into culture is really the secret to business success. Focusing on the way that people interact with each other. I think the bottom line is not the bottom line anymore. A much more powerful indicator of the success of a company is how much happiness it creates for employees, customers, investors, and if it does it will most likely be very successful. Unless you have a fleet of robots, this is an area you have to focus on.”
Closing words of wisdom from John Miles:
“No CEO would ever allow their corporate headquarters to go un-mowed and un-landscaped. But, if you ask any CEO what is the return on investment in landscaping? They can’t answer the question. A lot of CEO’s will let the culture go in exchange for financial parameters. Landscaping and culture are important intangibly.”
Well, there you have it: culture is the important intangible element that is the greatest determinant to success. Thank you John Miles for the work you do.
For more information about integritive, inc. :: http://www.integritive.com