Recently I had the opportunity to interview Angela Mader from fitlosophy, inc. for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.
Founded in 2008, fitlosophy® is an innovative brand of products designed to inspire people to live life fit. Over the past ten years, Angela Mader, the company’s founder and chief fitlosopher, has organically grown the business from a single-product idea (fitbook®) to a lifestyle brand with a complete line of fitness and wellness planning products with placement in over 16,000 stores nationwide including major retailers like Target, Walgreens and CVS. In June 2018, fitlosophy was strategically acquired by CSS Industries, Inc. (NYSE: CSS), a publicly traded company, where Mader will serve as Vice President, Fitlosophy Brands, leading the company’s marketing and product development team from their office located in Newport Beach, California.
Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
· Creating products that matter — that positively impact people’s lives to live life fit.
· There are no quick fixes. Success stems from setting goals personally and professionally — and then doing the work every single day to achieve them.
· Say yes — and figure it out later. In a fast-paced consumer-driven world of business, our philosophy is to ask for forgiveness — not permission.
Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
Angela: Like any stereotype, they exist because they are the rule — not the exception. While “millennials” as a group may conjure up thoughts of entitlement, I’ve found hiring millennials to be of benefit to my organization. That said, I typically hire those who were raised in family business and have an entrepreneurial mindset combined with a solid work ethic. They are also extremely valuable technologically given their generation’s early exposure to everything digital — hello, built-in tech support! Millennials are also picking up on global trends faster than anyone and creating their own, so it’s important to keep them excited about the future ahead and let their voices be heard. Regardless of who you’re managing, I believe that people perform best when they have a clear vision of how their role is connected to the greater good of the organization. To empower individuals, millennial or otherwise, giving them a sense of purpose has more motivational power than any other management technique that I’ve found.
Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.
· Hire the right people.
At fitlosophy, we hire people who are first and foremost sold on our mission. If there’s no passion in the work, then there’s no point in the hire.
· Create a goal-oriented culture.
Goal-getting is our forte — it’s what fitlosophy and all our products are about, so, of course, we set goals as an organization. Beyond business goals, every person on our team is held accountable to achieving personal goals as well, which contributes to personal satisfaction and job creativity.
· Practice what you preach.
Lead by example — don’t just command greatness, exemplify it. There’s nothing more uninspiring than to work for or with someone who doesn’t lead with integrity.
· Embrace flexibility with structure.
With a majority of our team working remotely, I’ve found it to drive creativity and create a culture of trust — with the understanding and expectation that things get done. Creating fluid guidelines, such as typical working hours, provides structure without inhibiting productivity.
· Be as generous with words as you are with money.
Positively reinforcing your team can be motivating and go further than a dollar. When you’re a small organization, which we were for the first ten years, I had to keep my workforce motivated when money wasn’t an option. Turns out, appreciation is a currency that goes a long way.
Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
Angela: Many organizations have perfectly-worded mission statements, complete with their vision and values printed on paper or gracing conference room walls — simply for aesthetics. That said, failure to uphold those values in times of success (and crisis) is what sets an organization apart. Oftentimes, I believe the challenge in larger organizations is that by nature of leading the company’s strategy, upper management can become disengaged and not in tune with the employees who actually engage with their customers. This also affects small businesses because as you grow your team, it’s increasingly challenging to keep an engaged culture, while also positioning the company for scale.
Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
Angela: Many people start a business because they want to be an entrepreneur, a leader — a boss. But truth is, there’s no room for ego as a founder — and if you have one, you’ll be humbled quickly. The role of “boss” means you lead your team, serve your customers, and you’re at the mercy of your vendors. It’s the ultimate sacrifice to grow a business — and investing every dollar back into the business, especially in the early days, is crucial. If driving a fancy sportscar trumps funding production, the business will fail fast. I’ve found that those who start a business chasing profit often quit faster than those who are pursing passion. Either way, perseverance is vital to make it as an entrepreneur.
Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Angela: Keep meetings to a minimum. Yes, time as a team is important, but unless there’s a clear purpose and objective, it makes no sense to book meetings just to look busy. If you have a question, pick up the phone. If you need a quick answer, shoot a text. Empower your team to make decisions so they don’t need your “yes” on everything. Cutting down time spent on unnecessary obligatory meetings or communications is vital when you’re pulled in a lot of different directions.
Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?
Angela: Back in 2008, the year I started fitlosophy, I attended an entrepreneurship event where Sara Blakely, the founder and inventor of Spanx, was the keynote speaker. She has been named the youngest self-made female billionaire, and while that’s impressive, it’s her take-the-bull-by-the-horns approach to business that’s resonated with me. She faces challenges with class and grace and works hard to ensure upcoming women entrepreneurs have a shot at success. In addition to her business acumen, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, and above all else — she puts family first, a quality I greatly admire.
Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?
Angela: I’m probably the wrong person to ask! If and when I had a bad boss (and I had a few), I took that as a catalyst to move on to something bigger and better. But again, I’m an entrepreneur so I have little tolerance for staying in a situation that isn’t positive. That attitude has served me well, but that’s certainly not the solution for keeping a job! Telling your boss that he/she is bad won’t make the situation better, so I would advise employees dealing with that situation to always be kind and respectful, while staying focused on the end game until you’re in a position to make a change.
Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?
Angela: Video conferencing! It may seem small, but it has changed our meetings drastically. Rather than having calls, we use WebEx so we can see each other, which really does change the dynamic of a meeting. We also screenshare, which improves productivity because instead of 5 emails back and forth we can just see immediately where we’re at and what needs to be done — then we divide and conquer. This has been vital, especially since we were acquired by CSS Industries. As you can imagine, trying to fold a small business into a large, publicly traded organization can be challenging for personnel. I’ve found that these video calls have been a gamechanger for our team culture. My team may not love that we must be video-ready at a moment’s notice, but it actually has been the source of many meetings starting with laughs, which is good for morale and team dynamics!
A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.
A special thanks to Angela Mader again!
Stay in the loop — Follow me and get updates when I post new leadership articles and interviews — check me out here:
Originally published at medium.com