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How to Foster a Positive Work Culture

Read Time: 16 minutes

Rick Lambert, B2B sales performance coach and host of the SMARKETING Show, recently spoke to Chelsey Bode, President of Pearson-Kelly Technology. Pearson-Kelly is a full-service business technology provider based out of Joplin and Springfield, MO.  Rick and Chelsea discuss what it takes to create an award-winning culture at work. 

Want to learn more about building an award-winning culture? Check out the entire interview with Chelsea Bode above, or listen to the podcast here.

Challenging Times for Corporate Culture in the Post-COVID Era

In today’s challenging climate, businesses are working to reshape corporate culture as the reality of the hybrid workforce sinks in. The hybrid workforce is multi-generational, adding yet another challenge to creating corporate culture. Chelsey assumed the leadership of Pearson-Kelly from her father and company founder, Mike Bode, a baby boomer that shares his generation’s mantra of “work hard, do the right things, and do right by the client, and the rest will come.”

Chelsea is a millennial and brought her own perspective to the workplace. Millennials are seeking purpose: they don’t care if it’s AP, marketing, or sales, they need to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. They want to work towards a goal, and they want their work to be meaningful. Since Chelsey has been implementing programs and setting goals, vision, and values for Pearson-Kelly the company’s growth has taken off!

Award-Winning Culture Starts with People

For Chelsey, vision is key. Many owners will argue that corporate culture starts with the people you hire. Even if a potential hire had the skills, could do the job, and was personable, they still might not be the right fit. Her vision is clearly working, as Pearson-Kelley was recently voted one of the top five places to work in Missouri.

She developed a set of core values that define a good fit for Pearson-Kelly. They are:

• Someone who is always accountable

• Is a positive influencer

• Has people smarts

• Is not afraid to be transparent

• Stays hungry

According to Chelsey, setting these goals has brought clarity to the process. “Whenever we recruit or evaluate, we go through the exercise of applying our values to back up the choice.” Chelsey went on to turnover 70% of the workforce in 18 months as she worked to bring her vision to life. A major part of P&K’s success has been the ongoing coaching toward their values.


Full Video Transcription:

Rick Lambert (00:17):

Hello. Welcome to season three of the SMARKETING show. We’re going to kick it off with an awesome guest Chelsey Bode. And after the intro, you would expect something pretty good. I would think, you know, I’ve watched Chelsey on LinkedIn for a long time. Think she does an awesome job as the President of Pearson-Kelly, a full-service business technology provider based out of Springfield and Joplin. Chelsey, your company just won one of the best places to work. I think top five. Congratulations on your award. You know, I wanted to ask you in today’s show, so many organizations in today’s hybrid work environment are wrestling with how do I reshape my culture. And I thought you’d be a great person to talk to about that. So thanks so much for joining us today.

Chelsey Bode (00:57):

Hey, thank you.

Rick Lambert (00:59):

So, you know, Chelsey, I think you’re a millennial and your father, Mike, who started the business, he represents the baby boomers, someone of my era, and I think you’ve brought so much energy to the business. Maybe you could talk about what you’re doing as a millennial leader that maybe others could use in their business. Maybe you talked a lot about vision before we spoke today. Maybe you could speak to that.

Chelsey Bode (01:20):

Yeah, you bet. Yeah. Is that it’s been interesting working with my dad with two totally different generations. And as I was sharing, he’s always been under the philosophy of you work really hard, do the right things, do right by the client, be honest, and the rest will come and that does work for a season. But, after that season, we had to get really specific about how to get to that next scalable level. And what we realized was broken was the vision. We didn’t really know, I getting out of bed to work hard, becomes exhausting after, you know, few weeks, few months. There was really no purpose or cause for what we were doing outside of just selling and servicing and, being pretty good at, what we did it at that point. So when we, looked at the vision, we had to see what we wanted to be like, you know, 10 years out and then start being intentional on how to communicate that, to make sure that when people came to work with our team, they knew what they were signing up for.

Chelsey Bode (02:19):

And whenever we were setting goals, we understood too what we were doing as an organization and what we looked like. So with millennials, they want purpose. Because they don’t care if it’s AP, if it’s sales, they want to know why am I doing what I’m doing? And is it meaningful? And is it going toward a goal of any kind? And, it’s, it’s been pretty amazing what we’ve been able to do once we were able to really define what that looks like for Pearson-Kelly

Rick Lambert (02:46):

And, you know, a lot of companies, they’ve got their vision on a plaque on the wall, but it’s obvious you folks live it. Sometimes I wonder candidly, through your social media posts, if you guys even work in there, it seems like you’re having so much fun. It’s almost like you’re having more fun than a fraternity or a sorority when I went to university. So, hey, you know, vision is important. And, clearly you’re connecting with the newer generation that make up a big part of the workforce. A lot of people would argue that culture starts with people you bring into your organization and maybe, you know, you could talk to maybe your hiring and selection process.

Chelsey Bode (03:19):

Yeah. You bet. Yeah, I think you’re right. And I think that for a long time, we knew that we wanted to have good people that had great skills, that were likable and that’s what we wanted to hire, but really after vision became, um, there was a little void if you will, on what good looked like. So just because someone’s nice and has skills and they’re friendly and can do the job didn’t necessarily mean they were the ones cut out to carry out the vision. And so, identifying our five core values really gave us, some good clarity on what we defined as like mind people. And so whenever we recruit, or we look within the walls, when we went through this exercise actually to back up, we turned over 17% of staff over the next 18 months, which was brutal.

Chelsey Bode (04:12):

We have really good retention. And so some of the people that left, it wasn’t necessarily bad breakups, they were able to identify that they weren’t really the right fit. And so moving some of them out the way, it was sad. We’re still friends with a lot of them. They put their stamp on, in our own way, but understanding who the individual that was going to come here and love it and work really hard, but have lots of fun along the way, hold each other accountable basically goes back to those five core values. So all of our management team is constantly out there recruiting, just like, you know, you said that you slung a copier or two back in the day. Did I hear you right?

Chelsey Bode (05:00):

So we give our quotas to our hiring managers too. They need to always be recruiting, planting seeds. You never know when that next position is going to become available or when there’s a trigger event in that person’s career journey that maybe makes sense for us to be having a conversation. So recruiting, being intentional about it, not just when we have a job opening, being slow to hire and quick to separate, if things go off the beaten path. We also do quarterly coaching sessions and we’re aligning those core values, to what we call above the bar/below the bar and bringing that back. So we say, this is how we hire, and then this is also how we’re going to coach to those values to kind of continue to keep everybody focused on what makes it fun to come to work.

Rick Lambert (05:55):

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a business have their employees post on a Sunday night that they can’t wait for Monday. And somehow you figured that one out. But it’s so important to get the right people, you know, we’ve all worked in environments where, you know, we’ve got the wrong couple of people and I just don’t think business or customers today have the time to deal with someone that’s not into it. Now, one of the things I noticed you do is, is you have these sessions and I think you do them on a regular basis where you’ll do some cross departmental kind of exercises to always, you know, identify opportunities and optimize. And I know when I worked, at a tech reseller, you know, there’s always segmentation between and service and admin. What are you doing there to kind of foster the swirl of a, you know, a holistic kind of culture?

Chelsey Bode (06:45):

Sure. Yeah. So when you even think about working with clients, a lot of times when their belief is something different than, maybe how the salesperson believes that they, you know, sold something, a lot of it boils down to expectations, maybe being off and bad communication. And so we felt like we had done a pretty good job of being able to set good expectations or, you know, this is your belief, Mr. Customer, this is our belief, how do we move, you know, to the next step. And taking some of those same conversations and, and bringing those back into a more systematic approach to help cross some of the barriers or break down some of the barriers to your point that a technology group naturally forms because an administrative persona is so different than a sales primadonna persona versus as a, you know, pragmatic thinker in your service persona, and a troubleshooter that, you know, they’re just trained to look for problems.

Chelsey Bode (07:45):

It was like, why can’t we take some of those same skills and develop a way to break those barriers down internally? And so yes, once a month, my commitment of time is two hours a month. And the employee’s commitment of time is two hours a year. And it’s compiled of random, all different tenures, they just cannot be in the same department, that’s the only stipulation and I buy them lunch. I facilitate the meeting. We, try not to include upper management in those meetings. And we go through a really fun, simple exercise to help us identify some things that the group can find in commonalities for what we’re doing really well, that we need to continue doing. And then ultimately, where there are some opportunities that maybe need to flow through the company, and make leadership aware of some things that, that maybe do need to be addressed.

Chelsey Bode (08:37):

And the coolest part is that we’ve had great feedback from those groups on their ability to get and to give feedback. They’re like, they feel like they have a voice. Probably the coolest one I’ve ever been part of is one of the individuals that was in, I won’t mention the department, but he felt that his team was one of the only teams that didn’t have the ability to work remotely during COVID. He was being asked to go in and support clients. Well, I just gave it away. So in the service department, but in that same meeting, we had an installer and he was like, well, I was going in and installing during COVID too. And our inventory coordinator was like, I was in the warehouse the entire time receiving and shipping and probably 80% of the individuals that happened to be in that meeting were all in the same boat. And so just to give an example, it really started to allow some dialogue that I think we lose sight of. And it’s been cool. And really, I thought I didn’t have time for it. And every single month, there’s no way that that’s not probably the two most important hours of my month.

Rick Lambert (09:47):

Well, you know, you mentioned cross departmental. I just think it’s talked about, but seldom not done. I love the way you’re taking a random mix of tenure. I remember I was at a conference one time and a gentleman told this story about a guy that worked at Chrysler, one of the automotive manufacturers, and, and the day the man retired, he turned to his superior and he said, you know, you guys paid me 38 years for what I did with my hands on the line, but not once did you ask me for my ideas. And, you know, as a leader, Chelsey, you are president of your company, even myself, you know I don’t know sometimes if the information I’m getting is filtered or real and the more real we can be. You know, the other thing I think you guys do really well is you guys have the best t-shirts, you know, tech yeah. This other one that says, you know, my boss thinks I’m kind of a big deal. If we can show these t-shirts guys. I think these are awesome. Now, Chelsey, talk a little bit about recognition and what you folks are doing at Pearson-Kelly.

Rick Lambert (10:54):

Sure. We’ve got, we’ve got a lot of competitive, personalities over here in Missouri. So we, yeah, we do like to play that up. The t-shirts have been fun. We use the one, that’s the tech yeah shirt as kind of a bragging right. So, in all of our quarterly meetings to just reinforce those core values that are so important to us, we’ve come up with little examples of, one employee that exemplifies that particular core value and, and why over the past 90 days. And so if they’re called out, or recognized, then they get that shirt. We have a pretty, we call it business casual, smart. So depending on your day and what you have going on, we’re pretty lax on our attire. But any of the Pearson-Kelly swag they get to wear that any day of the week.

Chelsey Bode (11:41):

And so it’s a pretty big deal to get one of those, those t-shirts. We also have a really obnoxious made with like, I don’t know, hopefully wiped hard drives, but, hard drive drum units and things like that. That is, it’s probably about three feet tall. That’s our traveling trophy for MVP for the quarter. And those are all voted on for various reasons. I mean, even something like someone brought, you know, good snacks or something like that for the day. So some funny, dumb reasons but what makes, the day go by and, and in a fun way. And so that people like to get that trophy as well.

Rick Lambert (12:20):

Well, I think again, you know, folks, if you’re not following Chelsey right now on LinkedIn or watching what Pearson-Kelly technology’s doing, I think the, you know, success leaves clues and Chelsey winning that award, top five best places to work for, you know, folks in summary, you know, what I, what I think’s relevant, why I want to have Chelsey on is because, you know, vision, you know, we all have a vision, but is it just a plaque on the wall? Do your people buy in? And we’ve got an actual millennial here that’s talking about vision. Not just someone whose been around a while, hiring getting the right people on the proverbial bus, cross department right, visibility. I think that’s awesome. And lastly, recognition. Folks, I will warn you before you watch the Pearson-Kelly social stream you’re not going to think it’s a business technology place. People are having way too much fun, HLC. Congrats on what you’re doing personally, to be out there on social media, as a business leader, and clearly that your spirit, your enthusiasm, and all the great things you’re doing is trickling down to the culture, your business. So thanks so much for joining me here on episode one of season three. I really appreciate it.

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