Posted on Thursday, 26 June 2014 in Business Culture/Environment

Creating a culture of happiness

Contributor to Forbes Online, Carmine Gallo, recently posted a fascinating case study of a business (and it’s CEO’s) transformation, from an environment where the leadership style was more dictator than democratic, to a culture where the happiness of employees is the most important factor in the business. 


Tony Gareri had worked in the family business, Roma Moulding for 12 years. Established in 1984, Roma Moulding had carved a reputation as North America’s premier manufacturer of hand crafted custom picture frames and had thrived through several economic downturns. 


However, in 2008, the wordwide financial economic downturn had affected the company to the extent that sales had plummeted by more than 30% and Gareri was losing his passion for the business. He had lost interest in his employees, not caring what they had to say and giving little thought to what inspired them. As a result, staff turnover hit an all time high and Gareri realised that something would need to change if the business were to survive not only the recession, but also his detrimental leadership style.


It all started when he began to read a book by Tony Hsieh, ‘Delivering Happiness’ about the culture that Hsieh developed at, a gold standard in the area of customer service. He also credits Carmine Gallo’s book ‘The Apple Experience’ for his change in attitude and the resulting reinvention of the company culture at Roma Moulding. 


His plan was to build a culture that placed a premium on happiness, believing “if you build a happy workplace with an inspiring mission, the greatest people will want to work there.” Three years into a five year plan, sales have rebounded by 25 percent and the company has been named the 2014 Business of the Year by a local Chamber of Commerce. 


The steps Gareri took to rebuild the business were simple, yet inspiring. His focus on a bold inspirational vision is what set everything into action, attracting the best people into  a business where workplace happiness is considered a right and not a privilege. This mantra is injected into every aspect of the company’s culture. 


It was also about hiring the best people, the ‘A’ players who think and work differently and love what they do. Finding the right people was one part of the process, more difficult was creating an exit plan for those who did not fit with the  new vision of the company. 


Other crucial steps taken by Gareri included creating a set of core values, in conjunction with his employees, which would guide the business and help it to achieve its goals. Changing the physical space into an open plan environment was the next step in the plan, as was the creation of ‘wow’ moments, where the entire team was challenged to wow their partners and their customers, going the extra mile to surprise and deliver. Ultimately, the culture is one where hard work shouldn’t hurt and where having fun and spreading happiness is just as important as delivering results. 


For those of us more ‘wowed’ by bottom line results than the feel good factor, consider this: the company’s recruitment costs have decreased from $43 000 to $1 2000 (is this $1 200 or $12 000?) in just one year. “When you have a magical culture, you tend to attract the right people,” says Aman Randhawa , Roma’s Chief Happiness Relations Officer. 


Says Gareri, “The product is the experience. If you’re doing something you deeply love, with people you love, driven by a purpose and led with passion, greatness will come.”


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