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6 Tips for Building Long-Lasting Culture From Two Fast-Growing Brands

November 3, 2022

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When building a company culture, there are as many options for employers as there are kinds of ice cream. But it’s not as easy as simply choosing your favorite flavor. Because there’s a delicate balance between keeping employees happy and ensuring things get done right.

To understand how companies make this happen, we invited two leaders from (completely different) fast-growing companies to Playbook 2022: Mignon Francois, founder and CEO of The Cupcake Collection, and Natalie Dao, director of people at Liquid Death

Both leaders have built their brands from the bottom up. And in this session, they share how they hired their teams and built long-lasting company culture along the way.

1. Investing in your team is investing in your culture.

For Mignon, her mission is much larger than serving cupcakes. She wants to expand her bakery across the South to provide more people with development opportunities. “We are [teaching entrepreneurship and ownership] where our culture has been historically enslaved,” she explained. And to do that, she focuses a large part of her culture on finding her team members’ purpose. 

“When [anyone on my team] comes aboard, I have them learn the meaning of their name if they don't already know [it],” Mignon told us. “[Because] I believe your purpose is hidden in the meaning.” She also has new employees take personality tests (including the Enneagram) to learn their strengths.

As a result, Mignon says her team members better understand their role in the company as well as each other’s supporting roles. “Knowing each other’s strong suits is a way to celebrate the good or the best of each other,” she explained. But at the same time, it enables her team to see when someone is struggling in their role so that they can speak up and support one another.

“I'm investing in my team, so they know themselves. [Because] the more you know yourself, the more you can authentically show up into a room.” – Mignon Francois, founder and CEO of The Cupcake Collection

2. Define the environment you want to give employees.

Liquid Death is the fastest-growing non-alcoholic brand selling canned spring water in tall boy cans. This allows their customers to go booze-free while holding onto something that feels and looks familiar in a party environment. And since the pandemic, the company has grown from 12 employees (before 2020) to 150 employees. 

Sustaining a company culture in this type of environment isn’t easy. But for Natalie, their focus on hiring rebellious people (who don’t enjoy a corporate setting) has kept their team glued together during fast growth. “We wanted to get rid of the bureaucracy, get rid of the ladder climbing, and make this an open environment that worked best for us,” she explained. 

At the same time, Natalie said they honed in on their other values. Despite being known as a “badass” brand, they realized they were kind people first. “Deep down, we're all super kind people [who want to] help each other out,” she told us. This insight enables the team to prioritize specific values while hiring, which helps manifest a common culture over time.  

“Culture creates itself. It's not something you can write top-down [because] you’ve got to work [on it from the] bottom up.” – Natalie Dao, director of people at Liquid Death.

3. Delegate hiring to someone who can do it better.

When you’re a business leader, you tend to wear many hats. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best candidate to tackle all those responsibilities, and that includes your hiring and retention efforts. “I tend to hire people that are just like me,” Mignon told us. “But that's not the best thing for your brand.”

Mignon knew that her hiring tactics weren’t contributing to her team's creativity. Nor were they ensuring that she covered all her bases skillset-wise. But she also didn’t know how to change her recruiting methods, so she removed her hiring hat and delegated the task instead.

“I sourced [hiring] to someone who could do it better.” – Mignon Francois

As a result, Mignon has been able to step away from hiring. And she now has more time for the areas where she excels. Plus, delegating hiring decisions has been an excellent move for supporting the diversity of her team. This strengthens their company culture, supporting the idea that individual skillsets come together to build something more significant.  

4. Hire for potential (because career paths aren’t straight).

For Natalie, hiring and human resources are where she thrives today. But HR wasn’t always her area of expertise. “I was managing all [of the] operations at the beginning,” she told us. But over time, she (and the founders) saw her strengths in operations and managing people. 

“I was getting along with everybody in our company, from four people to 12 to 30 to 50,” Natalie explained. And eventually, she says, “[the founders asked] why don't you take this [HR] role?” 

Since then, Natalie has grown her skillset and found a new passion in people ops. And she uses this cross-training experience to fuel her current hiring practices. “We never know what we're going to do when we graduate,” she told us. “[We] figure that out as [we] learn new skills.”

That said, Natalie suggests hiring candidates based on the potential you see in them — instead of focusing on experience or what they studied in school.

“Take a chance and hire on potential.” – Natalie Dao

5. Trust when employees step up and give them room to grow.

Mignon also believes in focusing on employees’ potential. She wants her brand to be known as “the place where you become” and move on to bigger things. And to do that, she trusts her employees when they raise their hands and want to try something new.  

“I had a young lady working for me [early on] who said [she could improve our social media],” Mignon told us. In response, she gave the employee access to their social accounts and didn’t micromanage her efforts. “I never questioned it, [or] looked behind her, and [now] she directs our social and marketing.”

When businesses recognize and trust their employees’ talents, they invite more creativity and critical thinking to the table. This enables the best ideas to flourish and creates a culture where employees feel valued and appreciated.

“If you give [employees] ownership of their own time, gifts, and talents, they will bring [what you didn't even know you needed] to the table.” – Mignon Francois

6. Culture is what you do, not what you say.  

At Liquid Death, Natalie says their values are critical to creating a company culture. But they don’t believe in just listing the words on their website or office walls. Instead, they’re all about action and using social media content to portray what the brand stands for online. 

“We just want to create the best content we can [and push boundaries],” Natalie explained. This initiative helps the brand attract like-minded people by piquing their interests. And hopefully, it entices them to apply. “I love to hire people with a natural passion [for what we do].”

Obviously, not every brand has marketing with as much viral potential as Liquid Death. But any business can strengthen its culture by infusing what they believe into what they do. That way, they not only talk the talk but actually walk the walk (and attract great candidates because of it).

“We live out our values on social, in our marketing, and [with our] campaigns to get everybody super stoked about the brand.” – Natalie Dao

Building a winning company culture isn’t an overnight endeavor. It takes deliberate and consistent action, and these everyday decisions create the bigger picture. But if you take these leaders’ advice, you can be intentional and start working toward something greater today.

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6 Tips for Building Long-Lasting Culture From Two Fast-Growing Brands

November 3, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
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You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

When building a company culture, there are as many options for employers as there are kinds of ice cream. But it’s not as easy as simply choosing your favorite flavor. Because there’s a delicate balance between keeping employees happy and ensuring things get done right.

To understand how companies make this happen, we invited two leaders from (completely different) fast-growing companies to Playbook 2022: Mignon Francois, founder and CEO of The Cupcake Collection, and Natalie Dao, director of people at Liquid Death

Both leaders have built their brands from the bottom up. And in this session, they share how they hired their teams and built long-lasting company culture along the way.

1. Investing in your team is investing in your culture.

For Mignon, her mission is much larger than serving cupcakes. She wants to expand her bakery across the South to provide more people with development opportunities. “We are [teaching entrepreneurship and ownership] where our culture has been historically enslaved,” she explained. And to do that, she focuses a large part of her culture on finding her team members’ purpose. 

“When [anyone on my team] comes aboard, I have them learn the meaning of their name if they don't already know [it],” Mignon told us. “[Because] I believe your purpose is hidden in the meaning.” She also has new employees take personality tests (including the Enneagram) to learn their strengths.

As a result, Mignon says her team members better understand their role in the company as well as each other’s supporting roles. “Knowing each other’s strong suits is a way to celebrate the good or the best of each other,” she explained. But at the same time, it enables her team to see when someone is struggling in their role so that they can speak up and support one another.

“I'm investing in my team, so they know themselves. [Because] the more you know yourself, the more you can authentically show up into a room.” – Mignon Francois, founder and CEO of The Cupcake Collection

2. Define the environment you want to give employees.

Liquid Death is the fastest-growing non-alcoholic brand selling canned spring water in tall boy cans. This allows their customers to go booze-free while holding onto something that feels and looks familiar in a party environment. And since the pandemic, the company has grown from 12 employees (before 2020) to 150 employees. 

Sustaining a company culture in this type of environment isn’t easy. But for Natalie, their focus on hiring rebellious people (who don’t enjoy a corporate setting) has kept their team glued together during fast growth. “We wanted to get rid of the bureaucracy, get rid of the ladder climbing, and make this an open environment that worked best for us,” she explained. 

At the same time, Natalie said they honed in on their other values. Despite being known as a “badass” brand, they realized they were kind people first. “Deep down, we're all super kind people [who want to] help each other out,” she told us. This insight enables the team to prioritize specific values while hiring, which helps manifest a common culture over time.  

“Culture creates itself. It's not something you can write top-down [because] you’ve got to work [on it from the] bottom up.” – Natalie Dao, director of people at Liquid Death.

3. Delegate hiring to someone who can do it better.

When you’re a business leader, you tend to wear many hats. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best candidate to tackle all those responsibilities, and that includes your hiring and retention efforts. “I tend to hire people that are just like me,” Mignon told us. “But that's not the best thing for your brand.”

Mignon knew that her hiring tactics weren’t contributing to her team's creativity. Nor were they ensuring that she covered all her bases skillset-wise. But she also didn’t know how to change her recruiting methods, so she removed her hiring hat and delegated the task instead.

“I sourced [hiring] to someone who could do it better.” – Mignon Francois

As a result, Mignon has been able to step away from hiring. And she now has more time for the areas where she excels. Plus, delegating hiring decisions has been an excellent move for supporting the diversity of her team. This strengthens their company culture, supporting the idea that individual skillsets come together to build something more significant.  

4. Hire for potential (because career paths aren’t straight).

For Natalie, hiring and human resources are where she thrives today. But HR wasn’t always her area of expertise. “I was managing all [of the] operations at the beginning,” she told us. But over time, she (and the founders) saw her strengths in operations and managing people. 

“I was getting along with everybody in our company, from four people to 12 to 30 to 50,” Natalie explained. And eventually, she says, “[the founders asked] why don't you take this [HR] role?” 

Since then, Natalie has grown her skillset and found a new passion in people ops. And she uses this cross-training experience to fuel her current hiring practices. “We never know what we're going to do when we graduate,” she told us. “[We] figure that out as [we] learn new skills.”

That said, Natalie suggests hiring candidates based on the potential you see in them — instead of focusing on experience or what they studied in school.

“Take a chance and hire on potential.” – Natalie Dao

5. Trust when employees step up and give them room to grow.

Mignon also believes in focusing on employees’ potential. She wants her brand to be known as “the place where you become” and move on to bigger things. And to do that, she trusts her employees when they raise their hands and want to try something new.  

“I had a young lady working for me [early on] who said [she could improve our social media],” Mignon told us. In response, she gave the employee access to their social accounts and didn’t micromanage her efforts. “I never questioned it, [or] looked behind her, and [now] she directs our social and marketing.”

When businesses recognize and trust their employees’ talents, they invite more creativity and critical thinking to the table. This enables the best ideas to flourish and creates a culture where employees feel valued and appreciated.

“If you give [employees] ownership of their own time, gifts, and talents, they will bring [what you didn't even know you needed] to the table.” – Mignon Francois

6. Culture is what you do, not what you say.  

At Liquid Death, Natalie says their values are critical to creating a company culture. But they don’t believe in just listing the words on their website or office walls. Instead, they’re all about action and using social media content to portray what the brand stands for online. 

“We just want to create the best content we can [and push boundaries],” Natalie explained. This initiative helps the brand attract like-minded people by piquing their interests. And hopefully, it entices them to apply. “I love to hire people with a natural passion [for what we do].”

Obviously, not every brand has marketing with as much viral potential as Liquid Death. But any business can strengthen its culture by infusing what they believe into what they do. That way, they not only talk the talk but actually walk the walk (and attract great candidates because of it).

“We live out our values on social, in our marketing, and [with our] campaigns to get everybody super stoked about the brand.” – Natalie Dao

Building a winning company culture isn’t an overnight endeavor. It takes deliberate and consistent action, and these everyday decisions create the bigger picture. But if you take these leaders’ advice, you can be intentional and start working toward something greater today.

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6 Tips for Building Long-Lasting Culture From Two Fast-Growing Brands

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