Dec 16, 2019 | Leadership

The best organizations today understand that culture is their strongest asset and can be the glue to retaining top talent. Whether you nurture it or not, you have a culture. It may be empowering or toxic. Either way, the results are showing up on your bottom line.


Here are the 12 companies we featured in CEE News this year that show how doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive.

1. Pike Place Fish Market, “Look for ways to make others’ day.”

The city of Seattle, Washington, is home to the world famous Pike Place Fish Market where fresh fish have been hawked for nearly a century. The open air market is known for its team of fun loving fishmongers who hurl customers’ selections from the ice packed displays at the front to the scales in the back. The story of the market’s success is rooted in the story of its former owner, John Yokoyama. Its future lies in the sure hands of four former employees to whom Yokoyama sold the market to in July of 2018. The fish market was not always a place that drew crowds. In fact, 21 years after Yokoyama bought the market in 1965, the business was facing bankruptcy. [Read more]



2. Houwzer, “Our mission is to change the real estate industry for good.”

“Would you like a career with a stable and steady income? Then being a real estate agent is NOT the job for you.” That’s a description of what it’s like to work in the real estate industry according to a recent article posted in Redfin. It’s also a model that Philadelphia-based Houwzer founder, Mike Maher, set out to break. A 2018 Gallup survey found that Americans perceive real estate agents as having very low standards of honesty and ethics. Part of that distrust is due to the fact that the very people who advise you through the largest purchase of your life base 100% of their income on whether or not you sign on the dotted line. That’s a model that Houwzer is disrupting. [Read more]


3. KPMG, “The recipe for success is good work. Do good work and you will get work. There is no other way.”

You might think that getting hired at an accounting giant of over 30,000 global employees requires attention to detail and a knack for numbers. At KPMG, it also requires heart. In 2014, the company launched an initiative aimed at inspiring its workforce to reframe and elevate the meaning and purpose of their work. It started with a simple question, “What do you do at KPMG?” and a video that answered: “We Shape History!” The video was shared with employees along with an app that enabled all team members to create and share digital posters for a 10,000 Stories Challenge. [Read more]



4. EchoPark Automotive, “To infect the world with highly contagious CARE (Caring Acts Randomly Expressed).”

Before the 2008 financial crisis hit, Steve Hall was riding high on $70 million in annual revenues from the Dallas-based used car dealership he’d built in just 3 ½ years. His bank account was full, but his life was empty. It took the financial crisis to shake him out of his maniacal focus on profit maximization, and shift to a model of purpose maximization. That’s when Hall found the Conscious Capitalism community. In 2010, Hall re-ignited his company, driverselect, with a new purpose – to infect the world with highly contagious CARE (Caring Acts Randomly Expressed). The focus on purpose, culture and values sent revenues soaring and attracted the attention of Fortune 300 company Sonic Automotive, which acquired driversselect in September 2017. [Read more]


5. Chewse, “Making sure no one eats alone.”

By the age of 10, Tracy Lawrence had been bullied so much in school that she regularly ate lunch alone in the bathroom. She was naturally drawn to the new students, especially ones from other countries and different backgrounds. The ‘in’ girls were merciless in their torment. For years, Tracy tried to bury the pain of bullying and isolation. In a recent article in Forbes, she recalled, “As I grew older, I told myself that I had to move on. That remembering it wasn’t helpful. But the opposite of ‘remembering’ isn’t ‘forgetting’–it’s ‘dismembering.’ I took an important part of me, my past, and I tried to throw it out of my identity. As if I could actually do that.” [Read more]


6. IntelliGenesis LLC, “We hold ourselves to the highest standards in the way we conduct business, manage our missions, and support our employees.”

Angie Leinert credits her career trajectory over what can be described as a “chili dog epiphany.” At age 19, Leinert realized that the best part of her job as a gas station attendant was eating a chili dog while on break. She knew that she wasn’t living up to her potential, and set about to find a better path. She started by serving six years as a linguist for the U.S. Air Force, earning an MBA, then joining BAE Systems as a project manager for technology systems for the U.S. intelligence service. In 2007, she set out with nine colleagues to start IntelliGenesis, a data analytics and cybersecurity firm with a head for business and a heart for people. [Read more]



7. Heap, “Power business decisions with truth.”

Despite the Brotopia reputation of many Silicon Valley tech companies, not all startups in the San Francisco Bay Area operate like a frat house. In fact, Heap has earned the #1 spot on Glassdoor’s 2019 list of Best Places to Work in the small-to-medium sized business category. Heap provides a data management technique that automatically captures every web, mobile, and cloud interaction—like clicks, submits, transactions, emails—and retroactively analyzes data without writing code. If you work in the data engineering field, you just saved 60% of your time cleaning and organizing data in preparation for analysis. [Read more]


8. Relativity, “In order to grow the business, people also need to grow.”

If you’re mildly curious about the volume of daily data traffic circling the globe, you might check out Internet Live Stats for fun. But if you’re a litigator whose case depends on organizing and selecting the data you need to win a case, wading through oceans of discovery can be grueling. A 2012 Rand study found that records collection and review consumed nearly three-quarters of litigation expenses. Data has only become more complicated and voluminous since then. That’s a problem that Relativity is solving. The software engineers, analysts, and designers at Relativity run a platform that stores trillions of documents and handles billions of requests every day. That’s right. We’re nerds,” proudly says Relativity team member, Shawn, in this about us video. [Read more]


9. Greyston Bakery, “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” 

In 1982, Bernie Glassman, a Brooklyn-born Zen Buddhism teacher, was living with his students in a home called Greyston Mansion located north of Manhattan. Along with the Zen Community of New York (ZCNY), Bernie opened a small bakery café nearby as a way to employ the students. The café successfully supported the students, but Glassman wanted to do more. His Buddhist beliefs drew him to community development and work with the homeless and unemployed. His opportunity came when the mayor of Yonkers invited the ZCNY to move the business to his city. The ZCNY sold Greyston Mansion, closed the café, and moved into one of Yonkers’ most troubled neighborhoods. There, an abandoned lasagna factory became home to Greyston Bakery [Read more]


10. Health Catalyst, “Continuous Learning, Hardworking, Humble, and World-Class.”

In early 2013, Kyle Salyers walked into what he thought would be a typical post-financing board meeting. As Managing Director of CHV Capital and recent investor in Salt Lake City-based Health Catalyst, Salyers’ job was to ensure that his company’s investment was in good hands with the Health Catalyst management team. What happened in that meeting, however, was anything but typical. Rather than address the 128-page board packet previously submitted to Salyers and other attendees of the board meeting, Health Catalyst’s management team chose to focus on just two slides: 1) Cultural Attributes, and 2) Operating Principles. The team explained that they would put the new capital to work by hiring smart, hardworking and humble people. [Read more]


11. Danone North America, “One Planet. One Health.”

You may not immediately recognize the Danone logo, but you’ve likely enjoyed some of its many yogurt products like Dannon, Wallaby, or Oikos. Not only is Danone North America one of the top food and beverage companies in the U.S., but its commitment to social and environmental responsibility is evident in its products, its people, and its impact. The origins of the company’s slogan, “One Planet. One Health” can be traced to 1919 Barcelona, Spain, when the founder’s son, Daniel, was among many of the city’s children who suffered from digestive problems. That’s when Isaac Carasso dove into making yogurt, convinced of cultured milk products’ ability to strengthen the children’s digestive systems. [Read more]


12. Fiasco Gelato, “Enriching People’s Lives One Tiny Spoonful at a Time.”

The fire of 2009. The flood of 2013. The fire in the new headquarters in 2015. Each of these incidents in the past ten years might have made the owners of Fiasco Gelato seriously consider a name change. Instead, the Calgary-based small-batch artisan gelatiere kept cleaning up the damage and racking up recognition for its unwavering pursuit of greatness. All this while earning a B Corp rating of 110.9, slightly edging out Ben & Jerry’s. [Read more]



It’s been an honor to feature organizations that are clear about their why this year. Their show that a for impact business model can thrive regardless of whether they’re selling real estate, baking brownies, or mining data. We look forward to finding and sharing 12 more such organizations in 2020.

Question: What thought leaders did you follow most in 2019? Did you learn anything that helped you become a better leader?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News



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