Powderkeg Tech Culture Awards Spotlight

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Indianapolis-based tech networking platform Powderkeg will present the inaugural Indiana Breakout Tech Culture Awards in September. In June, 50 Hoosier tech companies were named finalists for the awards, which include categories such as Overall Culture, Emerging Culture and Social Impact. This week, we spotlight five more finalists who talk about what culture means to their companies.

We asked representatives from each tech company a series of questions about company culture:

BLASTmedia (Fishers) - Lindsey Groepper, President

Why is culture important to your company?

People before profit. Happy people yield satisfied clients, which equals healthy revenue - a true virtuous cycle that does not work in reverse. If you make decisions based on profit alone and do not create a place where people genuinely care for, respect and have each other’s backs, everything suffers. We believe our culture is the main contributor to both employee and client retention, and we've developed a deliberate practice to nurture our core values across all we do. 

BLASTmedia’s core values — seek growth, hustle hard and enjoy life — help to encapsulate BLASTmedia’s culture. 

Seek growth - As an agency, we help our team members grow across the “Three P’s” of development: professional, personal and physical. While learning new job skills and growing professionally is essential for success, we put equal weight on providing opportunities for our team to learn life skills that can be used in personal relationships, as well as access to a full-time personal trainer to push their physical limits. 

Hustle hard - Smart people are all around us, but not everyone has the desire and grit to really grind and reach desired outcomes. This is sometimes seen to others as “Midwest work ethic,” but for us, it’s more. We push our team and praise the work and effort that is required to meet client objectives, as well as achieve personal goals outside of the office. 

Enjoy life - All work and no play makes BLAST a dull agency. Relationships are at the core of what we do at BLASTmedia — which includes relationships with each other, clients, friends and family. Enjoy life means taking time to do what you love and be with the people you love, as well as finding joy in the work we do together. Enjoy life is also the counter-balance to “hustle hard.” We work hard to get the job done, but we understand it’s not worth it without enjoyment; we always build in time to celebrate big wins. 

What is your most creative culture initiative?

BLASTmedia’s “Building a Better BLAST” (BBB) culture-gamification initiative reinforces our core values. BBB was developed by an internal committee and rewards employees for completing milestones related to “The Three P’s” (personal, professional, physical), which are further categorized by core value. From attending a networking event to cleaning out your closet Maria-Kondo style, completion points are awarded in the form of Lego blocks. Blocks can be turned in for incentives like an all agency happy-hour, extra workouts with our trainer, or a BLASTmedia-paid vacation stipend. In the first year of BBB, we had a team member earn enough points for the vacation stipend!

Another, simple, but powerful culture initiative is our “BLASTmedia Wins” Slack channel. We use this channel to recognize the outcomes of seeking growth and hustling hard, but it also provides an additional way to celebrate accomplishments together — an important part of “enjoy life.” After all, enjoy life is often a counter-balance to “hustle hard.” We work hard to get the job done, but we understand it’s not worth it without enjoyment, so we always look for ways to celebrate big wins. 

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

Awards acknowledging our winning culture - like the Chamber’s Best Places to Work and Mira’s Exceptional Culture - are noticed by job candidates and often mentioned as one of the reasons they apply. But, even those who don’t know about our accolades will ask about culture. Rather than tell people about what it’s like to work at BLASTmedia, we show them by hosting an annual Open House for vetted candidates interested in working at the agency. It’s an opportunity for them to experience our culture first hand, and we’ve hired three candidates from open houses.  

Another proof point that indicates our solid culture is when it comes time for a team member to pursue another opportunity. When that time comes, it is rarely a surprise or a one-way decision. Typically, transparency and consistent feedback allows management and leadership to uncover when a team member is not happy, and we mutually determine an exit strategy and help the employee find new employment - placing additional emphasis on our Enjoy Life core value.


Leaf Software Solutions (Carmel) - Mike Wilson, Chairman

Why is culture important to your company?

Our culture is so important to us at Leaf because we want people to enjoy coming to work.  We are building a work environment that is fulfilling and fun. When people enjoy their work, they are more productive and therefore, we are able to deliver better business solutions to our customers.  We believe that a culture of integrity and excellence that is built on the principles of Fairness, Kindness, Effectiveness, and Significance is key to our company success.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

We do not operate with a corporate organizational chart.  We definitely have team leads and people who take responsibility for team success.  But each member at Leaf is encouraged to work like an entrepreneur. Team success is more important than achieving rock star status.  We don’t depend on titles to communicate leadership roles. Once we all check our egos at the door, commit to serving the team, and share resources and ideas, we have the culture that is creatively addressing some of the hardest challenges in running a business.

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

We believe that our corporate culture is at the heart of our recruitment and retention efforts.  Our office is fun, attractive, functional, and chic. Our concern for our people is evident in the investment we make in our benefit package.  We try to organize regular company events and activities that build esprit de corps. When we talk about our culture, that is always on the plus side of the ledger as recruits are considering joining our team.  Our retention is high, due to all of the elements that make up a thoughtfully designed and carefully maintained corporate culture.


Lessonly (Indianapolis) - Max Yoder, CEO

(photo courtesy of Helen Gardner)

Why is culture important to your company? 

A culture is a reflection of a group’s purpose, values, and behaviors. Everything we do emanates from our purpose (what we are after, and why we are after it) and our values (how we aspire to behave and cooperate), and our behaviors (how we actually behave and cooperate). Culture is important to our company because it’s the bedrock of everything we do.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

I’d say the heart of it is making a case that compassion and business are not diametrically opposed things. You can have a healthy, growing business and treat your teammates compassionately. In fact, my take is you are likelier to win if you do. Making that case by walking the talk is our most creative culture initiative


Motivating Systems (Evansville) - Pat Heck, CEO

Why is culture important to your company?

Our primary mission is to help other organizations create great learning and working environments…so at one level, we have to practice what we preach. More importantly, we all spend lots of time at work…so we want to make sure that we love what we do and we love who we work with.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

Our Product Management team gets credit for this, but when we release a new version of our software, we often go all out in celebrating it in our office…just like it is a movie premiere. In fact, that’s generally the theme! The office is decorated, we bring in lots of snacks, and there are games throughout the day.

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

We try to set the tone right from the get-go…with our job postings. Most job postings are just factual…and just some form of the job description. We try to make sure that potential associates understand that we love what we do and we have a mission. So for instance, often in our job postings, you see something like “When we go to conferences, our customers come up to us and give us hugs. We want more hugs.” If you are attracted to that statement, you may be just the person to help us get even better.


SEP (Carmel) - Raman Ohri, President & CEO

Why is culture important to your company?

If you are a tech company (and really, who isn’t a tech company now?), you have to compete to hire and retain great makers. And you are competing with the deepest-pocket and highest prestige companies in the world. Culture is the great equalizer. SEP has always been built on a foundation of creating a culture where people want to work. If we can create an environment where people can do their best work, learn and grow with great teammates, and find meaning in their work - we know we can compete with anyone.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

Our largest and most creative culture initiative has been the transition of ownership to an employee-owned company (ESOP). Through this process, our employees steadily become owners over time and receive an additional retirement benefit (on top of our 401k) without having to contribute a dime. We’ve become very transparent about the operations, finances, and outlook of the company with our employees in order to help them be good owners. They, in turn, have developed deep levels of engagement, curiosity, and ownership because it literally affects THEIR bottom line, as well as SEP’s. Companies struggle with getting the ‘owner’ mentality into a wider segment of their company; this move has been wildly successful for us.  There are very few tech companies that have an ESOP in Indiana, so this benefit has created a unique competitive advantage for hiring talent at SEP.

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

Culture is front and center throughout the recruiting process. It’s important that candidates understand what we’re like, so they can get a good read on what it would be like to work here. We share as much as we can and give them opportunities to see us outside the recruiting rituals. 

Culture is never ‘done’. We constantly look for ways for our employees to live and shape the culture. When we are considering big changes, we host town halls to get everyone’s perspective. We are highly team-centric. If a team evolves the culture in a good way, those changes get picked up by other teams over time until it’s universal. In this way, culture becomes a powerful way for SEP to continue being the company that our people want to be a part of. We believe this has been a huge factor in our ability to retain awesome people (95% year-over-year retention!)

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