Entering the job force is the precarious, but obviously critical, first step into the real world for most new college graduates. And the process it takes to find that perfect career fit is one of the most stressful times for everyone that has walked down that path. Think about it – you’re stepping out on your own and it’s suddenly imperative that you find a career where you see yourself rising through the ranks for many years to come. All of those thoughts about your future that seemed so distant not long ago are suddenly dropped at your feet as questions which must be answered.

As you start having conversations with potential employers and fielding real job offers, what factors really help you choose the best fit for your future? How will you weigh important factors such as salary, work environment, co-workers and the future potential of the industry you are about to join?

My personal approach was to place a heavy emphasis on something my peers in this endeavor largely ignored or dismissed: corporate culture. This is what ultimately led me to choose a career in professional sales – and it also helped me select the company I chose to sign with.

Professional sales stood out as a career path that had the highest potential to create a rewarding culture in my day-to-day work life. While future earnings potential was (and remains) very important to me, I knew I would also take less money initially in order to learn and grow in a place that is fun and worth being a part of everyday (as opposed to making a little more money at a company where the work environment is poor and largely boring).

The Secret to Surviving Tough Times

According to an article on Foundation Recruitment titled, “Why is company culture so important?”:

If a company values its employees, allowing them to work in an environment that they feel comfortable in, motivated and considered as an individual, it will boost employee morale, which in turn, will increase employee retention as well as increased productivity for the company.

Org Culture
Image credit: Schein, 2010

This is the “Work hard, play hard” mentality functioning to the benefit of both the employer and the employee. It’s also the best way to describe the nature of professional sales. To be sure: there is no sugar-coating the toughness required to make it in a sales job. The majority of sales floors are competitive environments and if you don’t put in 100% everyday, there are plenty of other professionals out there who will outwork you. At times, it feels like there are more downs then ups in sales, and you will face daunting challenges along the path to success. But some of the best sales pros learn early on to feed off a strong office culture and use that atmosphere to catapult them to high achievement. To achieve the right balance between working hard and enjoying well-earned down time, I needed to find a company that would invest in its employees while actively working to create a dynamic, fun work atmosphere.

This piece on RealStreet, which is focused on the four benefits of a well-defined company culture, further explains just why culture matters so much:

Company culture is the fiber that holds your team together. It explains who you are, what you believe in and where your business is headed in the future. This common ground designates everything from your team’s work ethic to the way they treat one another. A clearly defined culture reminds everyone that they belong, are unified and are all working toward the same shared goals.

How will you know?

What are the hallmarks of a firm that places an emphasis on having a strong corporate culture? Here are a few great examples from a piece in Entrepreneur Magazine titled, “10 Examples of Companies with Fantastic Cultures”. Each of these companies does something unique to stimulate their people and positively impact the corporate culture.

For example:

  • Zappos utilizes a unique way to keep people engaged and retained. New employees are offered $2,000 to quit the firm after the first week of training. If they decide the job isn’t for them, they are free to go. Zappos hires heavily according to cultural fit. It has established a company culture and fitting into that culture is the most important thing managers are trained to look for when hiring new employees. Imagine how confident that makes Zappos appear to be (in their culture, in their team, in the offerings) to an outsider job-seeker?
  • Employees of Twitter enjoy free meals, along with yoga classes and unlimited vacations for some. Their folks also assert that a big reason they love being there is how much they love working with other smart people. Employees talk about being part of a company that is doing something that matters in the world.
  • At Squarespace, management intentionally built a very flat organizational structure with positive results. Employees feel their voices can be heard when they aren’t lowered under layers of management. This level of freedom and empowerment creates confident employees and has improved morale.
  • Adobe has created a culture that tries to avoid micromanaging in favor of trusting employees to do their best. They work to give their team members difficult projects, but surround them with all the resources they need to achieve success. Putting trust in employees goes a long way towards cultivating a positive company culture. Trust leads to independent employees, and independent employees will help your company grow.
  • No list like this is complete without mentioning Google – the company that sets the bar when it comes to placing an emphasis on building great culture. From free meals, to employee trips and parties, Google places acute value on giving great minds a workplace that feels special.

Making the Choice Easy

When the time came to pick a place where I could launch my sales career, I looked closely at the culture. When I placed memoryBlue under the microscope, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence which suggested the company cared a great deal about this aspect of the job.

In particular, the firm has some strong commonalities with the companies mentioned above. memoryBlue invests time and money to create a fun work atmosphere for the staff – while also letting employees have a big voice in the shape of that culture. There is a designated, join-at-will team called “The Culture Club” in each office comprised fully of employees. This group is tasked with planning festive work outings and teambuilding events. At these meetings, any employee can come forward with an idea that they want the company to participate in. If the employee gets enough widespread support and the idea fits within the budget, the club executes the idea. This gives employees a voice and active role in directly shaping company culture.

Some of the more popular culture events in recent years include:

  • Company-wide “get-away” day at a Washington Nationals baseball game in DC.
  • A full staff bus trip to Atlantic City, NJ, for time at the beach and in the casinos.
  • Field Day, held each Fall, which includes an array of fun teambuilding activities outside such as potato sack races, badminton, beach volleyball and more.
  • A company evening cruise on the Potomac River treating employees to beautiful views of DC and the surrounding area.
  • Corporate sports teams competing locally in kickball, softball, flag football, and soccer.
  • Annual Holiday events, beer and wine tasting parties, fantasy football leagues, and more.

In addition, the CoFounders at memoryBlue present company performance metrics and goals on a quarterly basis for the entire staff. This type of full disclosure isn’t par for the course with privately held companies. The practice is known as “Open-Book Management” and it places memoryBlue among just 7% of U.S. private companies who provide all employees with regular updates on the company’s quarterly and annual financial performance.

Following these quarterly business reviews, memoryBlue hosts lively happy hours that include both current and former employees (known as alumni) where networking and bonding are commonplace. At these events, alumni frequently take time to share insights and techniques with current sales pros around how to be successful in high-tech sales, along with practical advice on just how the training and skills they learned at memoryBlue positively impact them in their current role.

According to the Subitup article, “10 Types of Workplace Culture: Which is Best for YOUR Business?”:

Workplace culture revolves around leadership – both existing and rising. Mentorship programs, coaching programs, and leadership training are implemented and stressed. Existing leaders put their subordinates in positions to succeed, and the best performing employees are put on the fast track for leadership positions of their own.

This is exactly what memoryBlue strives to do through a vibrant employee mentorship program and heavy emphasis on rapid career development. In fact, memoryBlue has been so innovative when it comes to building a great company culture that it was the lone recipient of the America Association of Inside Sales Professionals’ “Best Corporate Culture” award in 2018. The incentives, perks and rewards for results that the company offers constantly help high-energy sales professionals (like me) stay focused on goal time, not clock time.

No Regrets

In the end, if you’re going to work in professional sales, make sure you take into consideration the office culture when evaluating job offers. The ups and downs of sales requires steady support to maintain peace of mind and stay consistently energized. This career path is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also not for the faint of heart. And while company culture may not always rise to the top of mind during the sales job search process, factoring it in to your final decision will be something you won’t regret.