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Keeping Culture from Crumbling as Business Booms

Keeping Culture from Crumbling as Business Booms

Culture is a concept that seems to elude and confuse companies from one end of the business spectrum to the other, but a company’s culture is an ever-present aspect of any establishment. From the Mom & Pop corner diner to the highly-polished chain restaurant – and on up to the corporate offices calling the shots – each setting has a culture waiting to be understood and encouraged to thrive. Unfortunately, as business picks up and companies expand beyond the family-sized start-up, a healthy company culture is harder to harbor, and all too often as numbers grow, employees start to grumble and the culture well dries up.

As Tundra Restaurant Supply celebrates its 20th anniversary, focus on company culture remains strong, and the idea of evolving and expanding that culture as business booms has become a shared effort.

“When I started the recruitment process and we talked about what Tundra has to offer a prospective employee, Culture Crew and the culture of Tundra was brought up. It was really big for me that it was brought up,” Steve Trujillo, current face of the company’s Culture Crew, said of his hiring in August 2012. “I’ve worked for big box companies, huge companies, where I’m just a cog in the machine and I’m just a number [and] it’s more about what you can provide to the company in environments like that.”

Coming from a broad-spectrum background, with experience in both small companies and corporate powerhouses, Steve shares his enthusiasm for connectivity and community throughout Tundra, while realizing the pitfalls inherent to a growing business.

There’s Something Unique to Every Company

“I think there’s something unique to every single company,” Steve remarks regarding whether or not a culture template works across the board. “The individuals within that company need to kind of go through their own trials and tribulations to develop what that culture is and what kind of programs need to be done to keep culture strong. There are some loose methods, like communication. Every company should communicate across departments. There should be social events in every company. Those kinds of things can be thrown into a general template or process, but I think the key for every company is that [culture] just needs to be addressed.”

It’s important to evaluate a new employee’s potential to thrive and mature personally, as well as professionally, within any company. Being one of the few places Steve has worked where culture was actively discussed, Tundra’s approach to finding the proper fit in terms of employees and attitudes appealed to him from the very beginning. Throughout the interview process, professional skills and competency were discussed as well as whether or not his piece would fit into the puzzle of Tundra’s company culture.

“It felt like questions at that time were leaning towards “will this guy fit personally with the people and the team he’s going to come into, and on top of that will he fit within the company,”” Steve remembers. “It’s good to know that everybody gets some sort of question and answer period about who that person is and why they would be a good fit.”

Finding an employee that fits is only the first step of a long, tricky staircase that leads towards immersion in company culture and being a part of making that culture work. Many workplaces have a top-down “system” of culture where attitudes are dealt out like cards and employees just go with the flow. This can lead to varying views of exactly what a company’s culture means to different people, and a superior who stresses and instructs over involving and engaging employees isn’t really helping anyone.

Culture Crew

“At the beginning it really felt like one person was doing everything related to Culture Crew,” Steve says. “What we’ve done a really good job of, at least this year, is that we’ve all got a shared piece of the pie. Everything from Friday Funday to planning social events; everybody’s got an active role. Everybody’s all hands on board.”

With member representatives from a majority of departments within the company including warehouse, accounting, human resources, sales, and marketing Tundra’s Culture Crew meets weekly to discuss company attitudes and employee concerns as well as brainstorm team-building activities and events. Enjoying a company’s culture is an invaluable aspect of employee satisfaction that just can’t be built into the job. It’s a feeling of belonging that makes people want to refer friends and tell family about their fantastic company, and facilitating this feeling needs to be a daily, company-wide effort.

“I think culture is kind of all encompassing. Are you happy with the day you come in to? Is your workload easier to handle because your environment makes it that way,” Steve says of how he sees company culture in general. “To me, the culture aspect comes into play as external factors. The work’s going to be there every day no matter what. The whole idea behind why we have a Culture Crew is to keep this family, I mean it started out as a family business, we want to keep those family values and aspects.”

Tundra Restaurant Supply’s growing family of 135 employees all contribute on some level to the company’s evolving culture. Plans for the year include a company barbecue, pancake breakfast, ski trip, baseball game, softball and kickball leagues, and monthly Friday Funday and employee birthday/anniversary cake days. The company’s Culture Crew, with its rotating members, continuously tries to bring the fun back into the workplace.

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