Skip to main content

Cultural alignment is the single best predictor of career success. When a human is aligned with the culture of their employer, team, or tribe, they care more, feel at home, are family, and perform at high levels. As circumstances in healthy growing companies change, culture evolves.

Family businesses, small companies, and startups may begin as a loyalty culture to a culture of owed respect. When a company grows, has more resources, and puts a premium on growth, culture evolves from owed respect to earned respect, from a loyalty culture to a performance culture. In living, breathing, healthy companies, culture evolves.

I was reminded of this during the ConnectPreneur Conference last week, where I sat down for a fireside chat with Dan Berger, the dynamic founder and CEO of Social Tables, one of DC’s most healthy growing companies.

I first met Don in 2011 and was one of the first Angel Investors to stroke him a check. Take note; I stroked said check, knowing that Dan spelled his name D A N and yet pronounced his name Don. Looking past that, I agreed to sit on his board, and he was a member of my peer advisory group for a while. In one of our coaching sessions, Dan and I discussed a methodology to define and get team buy-in to a well-defined, intentional corporate culture.

Dan was wrestling with a skilled¬†senior employee who was constantly negative. He would push back on most requests with, “I can’t do that.”

Dan and I developed a strategy to get his team to buy into a positive culture of high performance. Dan returned to his team with a vision of the culture he desired, and then he and his team defined the Social Tables Culture that Dan had envisioned. They agreed on several cultural traits, one of which is still my personal favorite core value of all time… Yes, If. We are a “Yes If” culture. Yes, if you give me more resources. Yes, if you give me more time. Yes, if… you get the idea. Don’t say no; tell me what you need to say yes.

Back to the fireside chat, which by the way, was not beside a fire. I asked Dan about “Yes If” and how that worked out. I then asked about an incident I witnessed while a member of the company’s board of directors. In 2015 a board meeting was inconveniently scheduled to occur in the middle of a pesky weather event… a blizzard. One of the board members wanted to reschedule. I had the meeting on my calendar for 6 months and wouldn’t be able to free up for another meeting for months. I pushed to have the meeting go as scheduled. Dan agreed, and I trudged to the Social Tables China Town office through more than a foot of snow.

What impressed me when I arrived at the office? The majority of Dan’s team made it to the office. DC’s Metro Subway system was closed because it was a Wednesday (WMATA shuts down on days that end in a Y). DC was shut down due to snow. But Social Table’s customers all over the world showed up for work, and all the Social Tables team all yes-if’d themselves to work.

I asked Dan about that event; his answer was priceless and wise. He explained that back then, the average age of a Social Table employee was 22. None were married. None had kids. In those days, another cultural trait was “ship all day, party all night.” Dan expected, and Dan’s team put in ungodly hours.

Today, his average employee age is 29. Many are married with children. His company evolved, and with it, culture evolved. Today’s culture reflects the evolution of the company and the team. Companies either move or die. Social Tables was a healthy, growing company. Social Tables evolved… at Social Tables, culture evolved and thrived until CVent acquired it for $100 million.

Want to talk about your company culture? Want to discuss how you can create a culture where 12 puny inches of snow does not stand in the way of the team serving its clients? Try a one-hour, complimentary online coaching session. Schedule it now by pressing that little red button down there.


Want to learn more about building high-performance teams? You can check out my new book, Intentional Leadership, available on Amazon, in Hardcover, Kindle, or Paperback by linking here.