How to Create a Fantastic Work Environment: “Define a set of values that will be the foundation of the company culture,” With Samu Hällfors of Framery

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Samu Hällfors, who founded Framery at the age of 22. Now the current CEO, Samu has a deep knowledge of Framey’s company culture, product particulars and insight on how and why the company was started. As Framery continues to grow, Samu believes that strengthening the company’s world-class culture […]

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Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Samu Hällfors, who founded Framery at the age of 22. Now the current CEO, Samu has a deep knowledge of Framey’s company culture, product particulars and insight on how and why the company was started. As Framery continues to grow, Samu believes that strengthening the company’s world-class culture and providing individuals with thought leadership will help contribute to the continued growth and success of Framery.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In2010 I was working in an open office with about twenty other employees. My boss consistently took his phone calls in the space and it was almost impossible to concentrate on any of the work that we were doing. Alongside another colleague, we soon came up with a less than polite proposal: that the boss go elsewhere to make his calls. He was quick with a response: “well, buy me a phone booth.” The problem being that there wasn’t one on the market, so the only alternative was to make one.

Knowing very little, it took years of research, development — and truthfully, trial-and-error. The concept seemed simple — four walls and a ceiling, but in reality manufacturing pods is a complex process and we knew that in order to one day be successful, we couldn’t fear failure or mistake. We worked with our clients closely in those first few years to comb out the product’s functions and appearance. Given the success of the open feedback, we continue to engage our clients to this day to make sure we’re fulfilling all of their needs within the ever-evolving workplace.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I was traveling in Barcelona, Spain couple years ago with my wife. My wife had her birthday and we ended up celebrating by having a champagne bottle to share in a completely empty lobby bar, in a really small hotel. It was about 1:00 AM on Tuesday so the whole city was pretty quiet. We were half way through the bottle when an Austrailian couple came in and asked if they could join us. After five minutes we figured out that the woman of that couple was working for one of our first customers in Australia and she was the very first person who ordered our units — she told us she was already a fan of Framery. I was stunned, talk about “what are the odds…”

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Framery has a lot of exciting projects in the works — but unfortunately, I can’t speak about any of them just yet. You’ll just have to stay tuned for the new product launches and company updates to come in 2020!

Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

In my experience with the design industry, I realized offices regularly lack areas for smaller-sized meeting spaces that are comfortable and can be flexible enough to accomodate the work at hand. Our team discovered that different work styles, strategies, tasks, and missions determine the workplace that enables optimal productivity and overall employee happiness. If these needs aren’t being catered to within the workplace, than it’s likely employees will grow unhappy and it has a domino effect on the rest of the office.

Similarly, I believe one of the biggest causes of workplace dissatisfaction is the lack of control individuals have over their own workload. Having a dedicated space, such as an acoustic pod with whiteboards — that directly benefits the organization of teams, as well as the communication of their tasks and timelines — really optimizes the ability for employees to manage and be managed.

Lastly, I believe a major contributor to an unhappy workforce is unfair decision making. These are the decisions that happen somewhere at a managerial level and the employees are forced to adjust. The solution is simple in our eyes: our organization is truly flat — no strong hierarchy, no unnecessary middle management, and no hidden processes.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

According to a study by the American Institute of Stress conducted in 2018, the resulting price of stress in the workplace comes in at about $300 billion dollars for the U.S. industry alone. Accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, insurance costs, and compensation awards contribute to this number.

Employers that are mindful of the price of stress and are proactively seeking solutions to burnout are more likely to have happier employees — those that turn a blind eye to these inevitable workplace factors will experience unwanted, negative impacts on productivity, profitability, and overall wellbeing. We took this idea into our own hands to learn more about decreasing employee stress and unhappiness by teaming up with FirstBeat, a leading provider of physiological analytics for wellbeing. We conducted a study in 2018 that measures stress levels before and after users have experienced one of our pods. The results show us that 41% of office workers had moments of relaxation during the work day after having rested in the pod, and 35% felt more energized after they had conducted work inside a pod.

I’ve learned from both Finnish and international leaders that taking care of your employees is by far the best thing you can do for your business. Across the board, an unhappy workforce results in lower productivity, profits, and wellbeing because employees aren’t as motivated or agile.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture?

  1. The first step to improving any work culture is to care enough to actually do something about it.
  2. Be present and listen to the people that make up your company, and find the commonalities and the controllables that can be improved individually, that together, will generate a happier workplace.
  3. Define a set of values that will be the foundation of the company culture. Use these values as an outline and guidance for how to improve your company and be disciplined in sticking to it. Translate these values to the employees, so they can operate at company standard.
  4. Company culture is defined by the weakest link just as much as it is defined by the strongest member of the team. There is no room for poisonous behavior, and in order to improve a company’s culture there has to be a zero tolerance policy against individuals that disrespect the company’s values.
  5. It takes years and years to build a company culture, but it’s easy to lose it if you tolerate any behavior that goes against the company’s well-defined values. Always keep this in mind!

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

I’d like to see special attention being paid to the physical environment, so that it better supports employees. Beyond this, I’d like to see improvements in healthier workplace cultures. I find that, with my own company, it’s all about exploring the balance between a supportive workplace environment and a healthy, happy company culture. I think these things work toward identifying how to meet the needs of employees so that they can be themselves and reach their highest potential.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

Our mission is to create a career experience that allows each individual to work at the intersection of happiness, passion and purpose to support Framery’s growth. My biggest priority when it comes to my leadership style is to ensure that the work and responsibility is spread across employees properly, ultimately encouraging those in their respective roles to feel empowered. I want people to be able to be the best versions of themselves, to feel inspired and encouraged at work so that they can be productive and successful — and most importantly, happy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe Framery’s success to every single former and current team member. If had to only pick one, it would be Kim Väisänen. Framery would most likely have gone bankrupt, if Kim Väisänen — a Finnish tech entrepreneur would have not invested in us back in 2014. He believed in our vision and the team — and we delivered.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My personal growth has flourished hand-in-hand with the success of the company. At Framery we live and breathe our company mission that we have worked to create over the years and continue to nurture. With that we are always striving to keep the greater good and wellness of the world in mind to achieve success and further growth. We are continuously operating toward fulfilling this very mission, to bring happiness to our clients as well as inspire each other to create healthier company cultures. In this way, we can all continue to grow as good, sustainable businesses, together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Growing a business is all about learning from your mistakes. There’s this notion that regardless of the mistakes you might make, you can still lead your company to ultimate success down the line. It’s about being open to experiencing failure, and a good deal of it, in order to be successful.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire any movement it would be towards bettering the environment and our impact on climate change. If everybody would treat meat as food for special occasions it would make a huge difference in our planet. I don’t believe in extremes, but being aware and raising awareness is key. If a majority of people would just make minor changes in their behavior, the upcoming generations would have a way healthier planet to live in.

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