As we are once again ensconced in the holiday season, on the top of many people’s minds is the subject of ‘family.’ After all, family should be the pinnacle of support, love, and togetherness; especially during the holidays.
For those lucky enough to have a sense of family with the people they’re actually related to, this time of year is filled with great memories and plans. Others who are less fortunate in the direct familial sense can often see the holiday season as a burden.
Regardless of one’s circumstances, I believe most people crave a sense of family, whether it’s with their own brood, groups of friends, the work place, or a combination of all those elements. Family can manifest itself in any number of ways, but support, togetherness and a sense of caring and being cared for is pretty powerful stuff. The more we have IT in our lives, the better off we all are.
Recently Bottleneck Management held internal interviews for some fairly high level positions. The process was thorough and somewhat grueling for both the candidates and interviewers alike. Because these were internal interviews, we knew these people well. We’d worked with them collectively for many years. But we wanted the process to be as professional as possible, so we treated it as such.
Much was asked and discussed during this three day period. Candidates were nervous and wonderful and surprising all within the same interview. To be honest, I’ve never been more proud to be associated with a group of people. But during this 3 day period, a theme began to emerge in regards to the company culture. There was one word or phrase that, I suppose not so surprising now, kept coming up during the interviews as the candidates reflected on their time with Bottleneck.
Family. A sense of family. A family environment. I feel like I’m part of a family. It reoccurred within each and every interview with such conviction that it was as if the participants had secretly met beforehand as a group and plotted to play some cruel and cosmic joke on us. Only it was delivered with such sincerity and frequency that even the most cynical of souls, among them mine, could only marvel at the obvious pattern. Family.
This response was not prompted specifically. This was not a desired outcome by design of the questions, many of which tended to deal with dry, quantitative analytical issues and not the touchy-feely stuff of Oprah shows. Our line of questioning, in other words, did not lead the witness. Yet, over and over again, the term family came up in our internal interviews.
I can tell you that there has never been a directive from ownership to foster a sense of family. No one has ever said to me, “Now go make a family environment.” Frankly, I wouldn’t know where to start if someone had.
What I can tell you is that I feel it too. I can tell you that not so long ago I was a bartender with this company. I can also tell you that our Director of Marketing started as a bartender with us as well, as did our Director of Operations and one of our General Managers. Another one of our General Managers started as a door guy and we have several Managers throughout the company that started in similar positions. I can also tell you that there’s an emphasis in this company on quality of life outside the workplace, that ownership all have their own families, and that many of us spend time together outside of work doing fun things.
Company Culture & Family
So family. Where does it start? I have no idea, but something tells me it’s our people, all our people. The people who lead, the people who hire, the people that open Bottleneck places, the people that work with us. What I like to call, in my weird way, “the osmosis of good people.”
There is something powerful in attracting and retaining people who are a joy to work with, as difficult as that is. And to watch them grow and flourish is a beautiful thing. The more great people we surround ourselves with, the more we’re collectively inspired by them, the more we care for them and they for each other. The more they remind us what it is to be human and the more they feel like, well, family.
Yes, we’re a dysfunctional lot like any family, no doubt. There is bickering and occasional pettiness, and we’ve lost some folks along the way. And we have our fair share of drunken Uncles at the table, chief of which may be the author of this post. But in the end, leading with the heart has served Bottleneck very well, and has created a company culture that we all enjoy.
As we head into the stretch run of holiday season, I’m reminded of the dozen or so people that were part of this quirky little Bottleneck family at the beginning of things. Back then, it was truly Charlie Brown’s tiny, charmingly bare little Christmas tree. To see how it’s grown is amazing. The fact that we’ve maintained a sense of family in our company culture, even after adding hundreds of employees, is even more amazing. As the company grows and grows, the key to retaining Bottleneck’s familial spirit is to continue to hire great people. And, of course, allowing the drunken Uncles to still sit at the table.