“In order to continue to attract the very best in terms of aggressive, talented people, we have to be seen as a place that promises not only excellence but also growth.” –Clark Twiddy, CEO, Twiddy & Company
Guest: Clark Twiddy
Company: Twiddy & Company
Headquarters: Outer Banks, North Carolina
Contact: www.twiddy.com @TwiddyOBX
Battling Tribal Movements: When the Number of Employees Grew Past 100, Twiddy & Company Doubled Down on Company Culture
Twiddy: I remember reading somewhere that once you reach 100 employees—today we’re at about 225, and our seasonal number will top 600—the “hundred rule” really applies. What we saw was that at about 100 employees, the company broke down into tribes and we had different departments within the company begin to have their own culture. And the next thing you know, we saw different groups in the company behaving differently, and we saw some turf wars begin. So we had to double down on culture and really work at communicating the story of the company and why we were here and spend more time just communicating across the company the importance of culture. So that was a big limitation. And I think probably the biggest one was not service delivery. We know how to do that. It gets more expensive obviously. But company culture and how we engage with our guests and home owners.
MMTL: How did you correct that situation? Was there a companywide events or get-togethers or different team-building exercises between the properties? How exactly did you address that?
Twiddy: We did it in several ways. Number one, we began to hang our hat on—as a senior management group—the importance of transparent communication and clearly communicating why we’re doing things. We set up a company intranet that is designed just for staff information. At our department head meetings, which is our senior executive function, we take minutes and we post the minutes on the intranet. We hope that people will read what the senior managers are talking about and will say, “Hey, so this is what’s going on around here,” for lack of a better phrase. We have an idea called “A.M.A.,” which we actually borrowed from a company in the Raleigh Triangle area. It means “Ask me anything.” So we’ll do one of our lunches and I’ll go sit in a chair in the room and say, “Guys, ask me anything you want.”
We’ll do breakfast meetings with our new hires. Anyone who’s been here less than 90 days we will take to breakfast at some point as a group and we won’t talk about training or processes. We’ll talk about the history of the company and why we did certain things and what their impressions were. Then, at the same time, we’ll have breakfast or lunch with our senior folks, and the short version of this is that we embarked on a lunch campaign. I think I got that one from Jim Collins. We just doubled down on communicating not to the entire company at once, although we still do that. We have a hard time getting everybody in the same room. But when the company went tribal (and we saw it begin to go tribal), we responded tribally and said we’re going to communicate to these small groups rather than bring everybody back into the same room.
We had the senior managers get into these small groups and tell stories of the culture and how and why we did things and the challenges we faced.