Creating a Culture to Attract Top Talent with Jason Carter at UNCOMN
Hiring the best is one factor in your company building the foundation for growth. The rules to attract top talent are not just in paying the most. Your culture likely plays an even more critical factor than your payscale when you want to attract top talent. Today’s guest is Jason Carter, CEO at Uncomn. Inc Magazine ranked Uncomn #2356 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Jason shares how he thinks about culture and why their company can attract top talent. We look at what gets in the way of having a strong culture. Discover how you can attract top talent in today’s interview.
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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
The human spirit is fundamentally motivated by solving problems and doing meaningful things. And so we commit as leaders, to placing our people in positions where they can truly love the problem, or they can work on something that’s meaningful to them. And that challenges their skills, and that grows them as human beings. And that if they’ve been in a position for too long, that’s, that’s not doing that for them that they can raise their hands and say, there’s no longer challenges, I can’t help the problem. And we can’t necessarily wave the wand or snap our fingers and create something new for them. But we can look them in the eyes and say that you trust us, you give us a couple of months, we’re going to find something where, where you can. And we follow through on that. And by and large, we’ve been successful on providing opportunities for people where they can really exercise their skillsets.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their group. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [1:24]
How important is culture to attract top talent? Well, it’s a big question for you to think about as a leader, because you probably are focused on the strategy, the timing, the cash flow, the financials, the metrics, there’s a lot of things to focus on. But you also know that the people organization of the heart and soul of what you’re trying to create, and the elements of culture are really important. So today, we’re going to talk about creating a culture that attracts top, top talent wants to get a sense of growth, they want to solve interesting problems, they want to do meaningful work. And you probably know these things. Today in the interview, we’re going to go a little bit further. And we have the founder and president of Uncomn and his name is Jason Carter, Jason shares with us, what does it take to be the leader that creates a place where people are willing to make decisions and have a company that runs almost without him. Now, he’s still there. He’s still in the day today, but he’s able to focus on the most important elements in his business. A lot of the people I hear are talking about leadership and talking about their businesses would really love to have the kind of experience at work the way Jason talks about today in this interview, today, we’re going to talk about creating culture that attracts top talent. Before we get there, make sure you’ve gotten the training on leadership about creating a team of A players that training is at genehammett.com/training, you will get three mistakes that many companies are making and leaders are making and how to fix them. You will see examples of how you can move forward as a leader what’s holding you back? What are the some of the things you have to unlearn inside that training will help you be a stronger, more visionary leader for your team? Just go to genehammett.com/training. Here’s the interview with Jason.
Gene Hammett [3:08]
Jason, how are you?
Jason Carter [3:10]
I’m well how are you doing Gene?
Gene Hammett [3:11]
Fantastic. excited to have you on the podcast to talk about leadership and specifically culture today. You are the founder of uncommon fast-growth company. Tell us a little bit about Uncomn?
Jason Carter [3:24]
So Uncomn is going on 10 years old. I founded it myself as a one-man consultancy in 2010. After a 20 year career in the United States Navy. So I was a nuclear submarine driver returned information professional sail all the way around the world back to hometown, USA, St. Louis, Missouri, which is about 20 miles from Scott Air Force Base. So I finished my career. And Scott spent three years there, retired from the Navy 2009 went to work for a defense contractor and learn how to do business with the government. And after about 18 months of that decided I could do that myself and founded what was then he just strategies we rebranded a couple of years ago to one common. So we’ve grown from that one-man company to just under 200 today.
Gene Hammett [4:18]
Well, we’re going to talk about that growth. One of the things that you had said to me and my team, looking at your company and really trying to understand what moves the needle was your people and the culture specifically. We all know culture is important. Tell us something about culture that that maybe we don’t know.
Jason Carter [4:38]
Yeah, I would say culture is important. Because there always is one. And if you’re not deliberate about creating a culture and fostering it and nurturing it, it’s going to create itself in some respects. It’s the shared values and beliefs of the people. It’s the way we do business. Rasmus around here. And if you’re not deliberate about creating that yourself and shaping it and guiding it, you’re going to end up with something that is shaped for you.
Gene Hammett [5:11]
Well, what happens when that is shaped for you, because I know early in that the business, it’s hard to pay attention to people. There’s probably some moments that you went through that you didn’t have that attention to culture that you do today.
Jason Carter [5:26]
Yeah, there’s a great example gene of when we were a seven-person company, four of us were on a single contract, one on another one in the back office. And we had just hired one to start a contract and ended up being delayed for a few months. And we got a no notice dismissal, off the largest contract. Suddenly, I had six of my seven employees on the bench, only one of them earning revenue. And it was a crisis. So we almost shut the doors. And instead of shutting the doors, we decided to not only double down, but to keep all of our people keep paying them, and to come out the other end stronger. And that was that was kind of a formative shaping moment for us, where we realized that if we stuck, true to what we believed in, that we could create the kinds of stories that would foster loyalty. The the people that I paid when we weren’t getting paid, as a company never forgot that. And it became a part of our story.
Gene Hammett [6:44]
Well, I’m glad you shared that with us today. There are always moments where we have to be courageous and make those decisions. As leaders. They’re uncomfortable, I’m sure you went through your bouts about is this the right thing to do long term? When you think about it today and look back? How did you grow as a leader through that.
Jason Carter [7:04]
I grew in the sense that we used that as a learning experience for the company, we use that story and others like it as part of our instantiation of our values that we did later. And now as I look back, I realize when that’s a part of our story, and we say that’s how we make decisions. Now I have to hold myself accountable to that. And now I’m I know that I’m being judged by the kinds of decisions I make as a leader, based on whether they’re consistent with what we call our founding stories are shared stories on our culture that define.
Hold on for a second. Jason’s been talking about the story for a few minutes, and what is the key elements that really needs to be shared, to allow your people to see what kind of organization you are what you stand for, what story needs to be shared with your organization, your strategic partners, your potential investors, and there’s probably some of the same overlapping elements that allow you to create that story. When you think about story, I want to make sure that you understand that you should be the one sharing the story. And you should share it in a way that others are proud to share it, make it emotional, make it really show who you are, tell the ugly of your story, so that people understand what you’ve overcome to be where you are. And I share my story with the people I talked about on this podcast. Before we talk on the mic. My story is dark. My story is not very flattering story. Because I know that people need to connect with those emotional elements. And I want to show where I’ve come from to where I’ve come to be really is a powerful way for you to share your story with the right customers, the right employees, and the right partners in your business. And share your story and be proud of it. Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [9:07]
You know, the story aspect? I think a lot of people don’t understand that every company has these stories. And I think a lot of people are afraid to tell them. You don’t spark me as as someone who is afraid to tell that story and maybe even tell them about the doubt that you feel felter on that journey. Is that fair to say?
Jason Carter [9:26]
What I mentioned earlier, Gene that I’m a sailor, and every sailor loves to tell c stories. Mine have the benefit of being at least partially true. As as I tell them, like any good fish story or any good sci-fi story. One of my business partners Jim, when he introduces me, he introduces me as the chief storyteller of the organization. Now I’ve surrounded myself with really smart great people on this company can kind of run itself without me with my hands on The steering wheel every day. And so in many respects, my job is to be out there engaging the community and telling the stories. And no, I’m not. I’m not afraid to do that.
Gene Hammett [10:09]
Well, I want to switch gears a little bit here, because we’re talking about people. But you just mentioned something that’s, that allows you to get to a place that a lot of people want to your company runs itself is would you say that it’s fairly self managed at this point?
Jason Carter [10:25]
I would say yes, in many, many respects it is Gene. We’ve created a culture deliberately around our values. I specifically do not call our values core values. I call them boundary values. And the reason I call them boundary values is when we set about articulating them, I didn’t want motherhood and apple pie values like I had in the United States Navy, honor, courage, commitment, the Air Force’s values or integrity first service before self and excellence, and all we do, you could have swapped those between the two organizations. And no one would ever know the difference. And I wanted something that was unique to us. That was prescriptive, that describe the boundaries of acceptable behavior in the organization, and describe the way that the leaders in the organization actually make decisions. And in so doing, our motto is if you’re within those boundaries, go be awesome. And so I think we’ve fostered a culture where people know how we make decisions of my leaders know how we make decisions, our second level of leaders, like know how we make decisions, and hopefully out to the, to the edges of the organization, people can feel confident that this is what this company would do. So this is what I can do. And I’m empowered to do so. And so I haven’t done that, I think we do have an organization that, you know, I don’t sit around eating bonbons all day long. But by and large runs itself.
Gene Hammett [12:15]
Well, having, you know, leaders understand and know that they’re expected to make these decisions, and they’re empowered to do so really comes down to those values is, I know, you don’t have a favorite value. But what’s one value you could walk us through and how you ensure that you live it day in day out?
Jason Carter [12:35]
Yeah, I would say maybe the easiest one to talk about is prioritize people. But I want to talk about a different one, which is its love the problem. And when I talk about it, and I introduced that value, I say, you know, we’re comprised of engineers, architects, analysts, hackers, geeks, people who like to fix things, create things, solve problems, tweak things, break things apart, to see how they work and put them back together again. And we really believe that the human spirit is fundamentally motivated by solving problems and doing meaningful things.
Jason Carter [13:23]
And so we commit as leaders to placing our people in positions where they can truly love the problem where they can work on something that’s meaningful to them, and that challenges their skills, and that grows them as human beings. And that if they’ve been in a position for too long, that’s, that’s not doing that for them that they can raise their hands and say, This no longer challenges me, I can’t love the problem here. And we can’t necessarily wave a wand or snap our fingers and create something new for them. But we can look them in the eyes and say, if you trust us, and you give us a couple of months, we’re going to find something where, where you can. And we follow through on that. And by and large, we’ve been successful on providing opportunities for our people where they can really exercise their skill sets.
Hold on for a second. Jason just talked about doing meaningful things. And when you think about your employees, really talented people, they want to do meaningful work. They want to transform their own skills, they want to increase their level of experience, their confidence and courage. When you create them the space to do that when you empower them. When you give them enough trust, and you allow them to fail forward. You really have a powerful sense of loyalty that comes back to you and they will never forget who made that possible. giving people the meaningful work goes Far as you need to, but I will say sometimes you have to turn down clients in order to get the right meaning for back to Jason.
Gene Hammett [15:08]
I know one of the things Jason, you talked about, I think we did this before we actually cut on the recorder today, is you onboard the company still yourself? Just under 200 employees, you’re there for those onboarding classes. I’m assuming it’s not one by one. But you focus on one of the first things is values in that onboarding experience. Why do you include and put so much focus of values that day?
Jason Carter [15:36]
Yeah, we’re a consultancy Jean. And our brand doesn’t live on the tail of an airplane at the bottom of a commute, computer monitor, or any manufactured piece of gear. It really lives on the breast pockets of our employees on our team members. And so when I’m investing in our people, I’m literally investing in our brand. And so making sure that I’m looking at all of our people in the eye on day one, and communicating the importance of those values, and how we behave as an organization, how we treat one another how we treat our clients, how we contribute to our communities. I want people who are carrying that message forward, and who are embodying that all day long, because it’s the secret to our company’s success.
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Gene Hammett [16:53]
When you think about people, I’m sure you’ve had some some mistakes that you’ve made in your journey as a leader. We’re not all infallible. What is one of those mistakes that you would say, caused you to really question your own perspective as a leader and cause you to shift into a higher level?
Jason Carter [17:13]
Yeah, one of the things Gene, I think, along the way, I’ve hired people who were perhaps overqualified for their position, right? I love to have really, really smart people in the organization who can do really, really interesting things. But I can only do so at the rate that I can provide meaningful work for them. And so as we’ve espoused our values, and we do this in the recruiting process, and said, What great people we are, and what a great place this is to work, I’ve sometimes got out in front and over-promised and under-delivered, and taken somebody and put them on a contract, which didn’t challenge them, which wasn’t that interesting, and wasn’t able to stretch their skill sets and the ways that our rhetoric and our public messaging would, would indicate. And so I’ve had to step back and challenge internally on the kinds of work we accept doing, we’ve started actually turning down work, because the type of work that was being offered to us was not the type of work that lived up to the promises we made to our people as we were bringing them on board.
Jason Carter [18:39]
So that’s one. And then the other was to make sure that I wasn’t simply espousing our values without also qualifying that life isn’t a better roses around here every day, you know, even in a great company. Work is sometimes hard work is sometimes boring. And work is sometimes less than fulfilling. We’re not perfect, we can’t promise you the moon, but we can promise that we will listen, and that we will create opportunities to the best of our ability.
Gene Hammett [19:10]
One of the things that stood out for me and looking at your company, as you know, you put such an emphasis on creating a unique culture that attracts the top talent. What would you say those unique elements are?
Gene Hammett [19:22]
I love interviews with leaders that talk about culture in a way that is uncommon and unique, that they know how important this is, and they’re willing to invest in their people. They’re willing to truly grow themselves and evolve as leaders to create the culture that is necessary for the experience that they want and to make the impact they want in the world. And it also helps the bottom line. When you think about your own leadership. I have a question for you. Will the next moments of your leadership define who you are and your legacy? Will you rise up when you expand into a place where you have the confidence and courage to lead your team and win help them grow to a place where they’re making an impact in the world.
Gene Hammett [20:03]
Well, I work with leaders and their teams that are in those defining moments. I’d love to get to know you what’s specifically going on. Make sure you reach out to me email@example.com. When you think about leadership, make sure you think about the Growth Think Tank podcast, share with a friend, as always. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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