How the Daily Habits of our Executive Team Builds Workplace Culture

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Do you ever look up to your executives and wonder how they reached where they are today and how they seem to have control of almost everything? I’ve always been interested in exploring the daily routines and habits of successful people, and trying to adopt some of the qualities of these inspiring beings. I had a chance to sit down with Vendasta’s executives and get insights into their daily habits, workplace culture and Vendasta’s core values.

I asked lots of questions—night owl or morning person, how to deal with stress, what keeps them grounded—and was surprised by some of the answers.


Brendan King, Chief Executive Officer

Brendan-King-3332015_Are you a person who is stressed most of the time? Although you think he’d be the most anxious guy in the building, our CEO, Brendan King, has no problem going to sleep every night. While a lot of people worry about things, Brendan figures out all the things he has to do and the things he can’t do anything about. Brendan does his best to put the latter aside and not think about them any more. Among the zillions of things he’s good at, one of those is compartmentalizing a problem and having the ability to put it aside. Smart man, eh?

As for the things he can do, Brendan gets up at around six in the morning, and he feels like he has answers coming to him already. Family grounds Brendan and keeps him humble.

Approximately a third of our time is spent sleeping, another third with family and the final third is spent at work. When asked about what workplace culture means to him, Brendan answered in one simple sentence “Some place you can go where you are happy and where you are excited to be.”

As the CEO, the core values of Vendasta—drive, innovation, respect and agility—are what Brendan believes makes Vendasta exciting. A growing tech company located in Saskatchewan, a small province in Canada, we are competing on a world stage. That’s something Brendan is resoundingly proud of. Good teams need great leaders, and Brendan is ours.

Quotes or advice
  • “Don’t say something about someone that you will not say to their face.”
  • “Don’t make important decisions on the same day—always make sure to sleep on it.”

Mike Brennan, Chief Financial Officer

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When approached with the question of early bird or night owl, the CFO of Vendasta is one of the few executives to say he is a night owl. Though he is productive anytime he’s able to work, Mike much prefers to extend the latter hours of the day than heading to the office bright and early. He’s a big believer in getting eight hours of sleep a day, and makes sure to get six to eight hours himself.

Growing up, Mike was taught to take nothing for granted, to work hard and to earn people’s respect—values he lives by every day. Mike is fairly good at balancing his professional and his charitable commitments along with his family. His children and his wife give him a great way to stay grounded. He makes sure to attend all of his son’s soccer games and his daughter’s badminton tournaments, despite his busy schedule. Family time is so precious to Mike that the family enforces house rules around electronic use, especially during supper times. Great rules, Mike!

Vendasta has so many exciting opportunities that there is no lack of things to do, which is one of the reasons that makes it easy for Mike to come to work everyday. Workplace culture to Mike is absolutely critical and synonymous with office life. The moment that an organization does not have a culture that is fun and enjoyable, the organization starts to have other issues that can hurt the business. One thing Mike always remembers is that people often spend more time with colleagues and at work than they do with anyone else, so it’s gotta be a fun place to be. Life’s too short, they say!

Quotes or advice
  • “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
  • “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

Jeff Tomlin – Chief Marketing Officer

Jeff2014-bnw_

When you have the opportunity to do something that you enjoy every day, it’s not difficult to get up in the morning and get right to doing what you love. With Jeff, creating a plan and staying diligent to it helps him execute essential work from the moment he steps into the office. This helps him look forward to accomplishing those tasks, because now he has a plan of what he’s going to do throughout the day. For Jeff, he’s most productive during the early hours of six to eight in the morning.

Growing up in a family with a single income parent where means were hard to come by, Jeff had to work his butt off when he was young. Today, he appreciates his roots and places high value on the efforts of others. Jeff is proud of where Vendasta has come, and the team the company has been able to put together. Vendasta’s culture was created organically by the team that originally founded the company, who all like to work hard and appreciate achieving professional goals, alongside playing hard. Workplace culture to him refers to having something in common with the greater team. For Vendasta to be able to create 206 interesting jobs, doing interesting work and building things using creativity is another thing Jeff is really proud of. Respect in the workplace for Jeff is critical. It was and is an important trait for people who work here to feel that they are respected, but also that our partners are being respected—meaning that Vendastians appreciate the challenges that they face so we are able to solve their problems.

When it comes to balancing his professional and personal life, Jeff makes sure to take his holidays. He feels that it is important to unplug once in a while and recharge. Though he is not always great at balancing this, he has made sure to take steps this year to get away from the city, which forces him to unplug, and is hopeful that he’ll be able to achieve a better balance in this regard.

Quotes or an advice, you would like to share?
  • “You have to enjoy what you are doing. Life is too short to do otherwise.” 
  • “We don’t always have control over our titles and positions, but being a leader is simply a choice.”


George Leith – Vice President, Sales

George-Leith_The things Vendasta is doing are pretty exciting stuff—helping businesses all over the world and building an incredible culture here in Saskatoon for people to impact local economies are some of the incredible things Vendasta has been doing. George, the Vice President of Sales here at Vendasta, is known as the early riser among the executives, as well as one of the busiest executives to reach. His calendar is a giant coloured block.

Nobody likes getting up in the morning and going to a job they hate. George believes in loving what you do, and having a work place with fantastic people and a fantastic team. This is what he loves about being a part of at Vendasta, the workplace culture. Speaking to Vendasta’s core values, George has many insights. As a team, we have a drive to be the best in the world, which resonates with George’s competitive spirit. We want to impact our partners and the clients we work with, and we want to do it in an innovative way so we are constantly finding new opportunities to grow. We do that through respecting our customers, respecting the people we work with and also respecting our friends and families. These are the values that push George to be better every day.

When it comes to balancing his personal and professional life, George agrees that with his busy schedule, he is not very good at balancing these two. Though he works all the time, he does try very hard to take some time off every week, and he tries to stay active by going to the gym, practicing hot yoga and travelling. George enjoys getting away, and considers himself fortunate enough to be travelling for work. Looking at George’s jam-packed travel schedule can give me a headache, but he thrives on the constant activity. When asked about how he handles stress, his answer was that he doesn’t believe in it. Any job out there has a level of challenge to it, that’s all that stress is—dealing with the challenges. According to George, stress is just a state of mind.

Quotes or an advice, you would like to share?
  • Since George reads a lot of motivational type things he had a very hard time picking only a few from them.

Jacqueline Cook – Vice President, Growth

Jacqueline-Cook-2016_

“Workplace culture is the difference between  a job and a passion,” says Jackie, VP of Growth at Vendasta. Jackie has passion in what Vendasta does, and it excites her to keep getting better and better in what the company believes in. So much of what we do day-to-day is being surrounded by the people we like being around. If we don’t have a good culture, then it’s truly a job, it’s work. On the other hand, if you do have a work culture, it’s more of a team striving to work and reach exciting goals. Jackie puts emphasis on the word “people,” because to her, the people are more important than anything else at work.

Most of Jackie’s mornings start with a hot steaming coffee followed by her morning spin class. She’s the other executive who is a night owl. Jackie likes the calm time after everyone goes to bed, and some of her best work is done later at night or early in the mornings. Getting a restful sleep is more important to Jackie than getting a long sleep, and she tries her best to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. With Jackie, she makes sure to not let her worlds collide. By that she means, with her friends she’s “Jackie that likes to be social;” with her family she’s the “family Jackie;” and at work she’s “work Jackie.” When it comes to balancing personal and professional time, she believes in celebrating the wins and talking about things in a positive light in both of those worlds. For her, it all comes down to doing what you love and doing it with people you love.

One of her mentors in a past program talked about entrepreneurship being the relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled. And to her, that is drive, the entrepreneurship and being laser focused on a goal that you have no idea how to achieve, but you know you will get there. When it comes to innovation, it is being world class and a leader in what we are doing in our city, our province, local digital space and for our partners that really drives Jackie. Respect to her is all about empathy, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, whether its a colleague or a partner that you are trying to help win a deal or solve a challenge. Agility is getting a solution that works by being flexible and creative.

Quotes or an advice, you would like to share?
  • “The harder I work the luckier I get.” – Samuel Goldwyn.
  • “Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re often right.” – Henry Ford

Dale Hopkins – Chief Technology Officer

Dale-Hopkins_

The first thing that our CTO Dale Hopkins does every single morning is cook two strips of bacon and three eggs, sometimes on his BBQ. Believe me or not, it’s his breakfast schedule every day of the week. For Dale, a relaxing way to start his mind in the morning is spending about an hour at the gym every day. Hearing about his morning routine, there is no doubt that he is a morning person and is generally in bed by 9 pm.

“You spend a lot of time at work, so if people are going to spend this much time here, you’d better make it a place they would like to be,” is what Dale says workplace culture means to him. With the new generation today, it is not about dollars or prestige, it is a lot to do with your identity and worldview. Having a very strong culture, he thinks, is a win-win. Personally he is not a big fan of the term work life balance, because it implies that they are two completely separate pieces of your life. The belief of, “I do work because I have to and then there is the personal life which I wished I could be doing,” is not for him. Dale thinks that there is an aspect to balance, that you can’t work 24/7. If you know the people you work with and you like those people and see them outside of work, the work life balance simply falls into place.

A big part of dealing with stress for Dale is to handle it before it’s an issue and part of it is being organized and making sure to keep track of things. There are going to be things that are not going to work, there are going to be people that are not happy and there are going to be missed opportunities. But most importantly, if you feel that you have put your best effort in, you have to be okay with that. Dale believes in not taking yourself too seriously, which is indicative in both the tone and frequency of his boisterous laugh, which everyone at the office loves. People should identify themselves with more than just their work, as everyone needs things outside of work. With Dale, he enjoys outdoor sports, cross country skiing, camping, hiking, water skiing and lots of lake time with his family, especially with his just about one-year old daughter, who he spends most days reading books to and playing stuffed animals with. What a great dad!

Quotes or an advice, you would like to share?
  • “If you want to succeed in life start by flossing your teeth.” – Jim Wendler

Jean Parchewsky – Director of People Operations

Jean-Parchewsky-2015_

Jean gets excited every morning thinking about different things that are ongoing at work, connecting with employees, getting their feedback and really understanding the execution of the projects that the teams are working on. As the Director of People Operations, workplace culture to Jean is the feelings you get when you enter a workplace, based on people’s opinions and the ways people carry about their days. Her mornings at work are usually fast paced, and Jean considers this to be the most productive time for her. When it comes to balancing personal and professional time here at Vendasta, everyone here knows how much passion the executives have for their families, and that is something that is expressed freely. This freedom fosters a culture of acceptance around prioritizing family and work.

Jean’s number one productivity trick is to write things down. If you ever find Jean feeling stressed, you will see her writing everything down. At stressful times, she resorts back to pen and paper, and divides her work into three components: recruiting and hiring, retention and development and miscellaneous. This way she refocuses herself on the things that she has to finish. As soon as she has her tasks written in front of her, Jean says she instantly feels better. But in a whole, she thrives on more of a stressful, high paced environment, and finds it more fun and exciting. One thing that does really cause her stress is work politics, but with Vendasta’s work culture being highly transparent, everything gets out right away rather than festering into an unmanageable situation.

Quotes or an advice, you would like to share?
  • “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Jed Williams – Vice President, Business Development & Strategy

Jed-Williams--Vendasta-Headshot_

There are three important things to Jed: mission and vision, north star metrics and Marketplace. Jed is always asking: What are the chief problems that we are trying to solve for our partners and for their customers? That customer-centric way of thinking resonates throughout the entire company, whether you are on the success team, marketing, engineering product owner, whoever you are, you are tied to your north star metrics. To Jed, this means we are all aligned and speaking the same language. The project that he is architecting and leading is Marketplace within our platform, a huge part of Vendasta’s positioning and future. He is always thinking about what we are building, how we can build it better, how we can make sure the team is aligned and how we can make sure that we are listening to our customers and our stakeholders. What a passionate guy and what an obsession on that initiative!

Jed describes himself as a big time morning person and is up every morning between five and five thirty. Jed does not consider himself a morning workout guy, but likes working out in the evening before he has his brisket. Wait, was that just a BBQ reference? Oh yeah, BBQ and Jed are synonymous!

To be able to helicopter up and think strategically about our company and his job, his best thinking time is at his desk at about seven in the morning with a coffee. Jed calls this his zen time. For being as grounded as he is today, he credits his team, his upbringing and especially his mother—an entrepreneur and retail executive, tremendously successful by any metric and very grounded. To be in the middle of a lot of smart, bright and compelling people in our industry, Jed considers himself very lucky. This has inspired him to stay curious about learning and growing.

Work culture to Jed is not necessarily having a foosball table, a french press coffee, beer kegs or a retreat on a Saturday afternoon. He calls them the bi-products of hopefully a strong culture. So, what exactly is culture to him when he lives a thousand miles away? Culture is the core values of the company. How you instill and breathe those into all of your employees and stakeholders, day to day. You can put the core values up on the walls and make posters around them, but at the end of the day, it’s about how each member of the executive team, leadership team, each team lead, everybody in the company, instills those values in their team. When you are in a fast growing company like we are, stress is something that just comes with the territory. So each employee needs to figure out balance. For Jed, he considers running to be his stress reliever—it’s that one hour of protected time nobody and nothing can interrupt.

Quotes or an advice, you would like to share?
  •  “The one thing we can always control is our attitude.”- Rev. Charles Swindoll

Building a workplace culture where people love coming to their jobs isn’t easy. The attitudes of Vendasta’s executive shapes our office environment. Of course, it’s not just the executives that shape the workplace culture at Vendasta and has helped us to become one of the fastest growing tech companies in Canada—it’s all of the employees and all of our partners. What do you do at your workplace to build a stellar workplace culture?

Fascinated with some of those quotes as much as I am? I have got the full explanation version of each quote by them. Leave a comment if you would like to see those on a blog post and I would happily have a blog up. Toodles!

 

Khusbu Shrestha

Khusbu Shrestha was born and raised in Nepal. An intern here at Vendasta, she's getting a taste of all things digital marketing.