Claudette Rowley host of Cultural Brilliance Radio interviews Jay Wilkinson, CEO of FireSpring

Claudette:           Today I am thrilled to have Jay Wilkinson with us and he’s going to be helping us learn more about:

How you can take your organizational culture and really transform it into a force for good in the world.

Claudette:           What is the “why” of Fire Spring and how did that all come about?

Jay:        Well we have formally defined our purpose as a company very specifically as we exist to leverage our people, our products and our profit as a force for good. And we do that through our power of three program where we donate 3% percent of our products back to the non profit sector nonprofits that need a leg up, 3% of our profit we actually take 3% of our top-line revenue and donate it to non-profit organizations mostly in our backyard here in Nebraska. And then 3% percent of our people which is done by having every team member in our company more than 200 of us volunteer one full day a month to a non-profit or a cause of their choice. So if you do the math on that, it’s a little more than three percent of their time over the course of the year.

Claudette:           It was a catalyst for this change, what went on there?

Jay:        There was a catalyst.

Hear Jay’s full story here.

And it’s changed everything about how we look at the world and about what our place in the world is and about how the people that come to work as part of our company feel about the impact they make.

The desire they have to do something that’s bigger than themselves.

More than just the tasks that they do as part of their job, that we’re making impact that goes beyond whatever their daily tasks might be. I didn’t need to be saving up for some day let’s do it now in little ways every day instead of trying to save up for one big way and our entire company transformed over that year as we were working through that.

Team Values and Their Effects on Culture

Claudette:           What are other ways that you and your leadership team has helped and employees really step into these values and live them?

Jay:        Yeah, I think the most important thing is repetition you know and understanding the importance of continuing to focus on them daily not just monthly / weekly through the quarterly cycles. Daily focus and the primary vehicle that we use for that is we have a daily meeting we call it our Fire Starter meeting. Our daily stand-up meeting happens at 11:11 every day.

That was the time of day that the majority of our people were in the building and available like our salespeople weren’t out on appointments etc. So we just picked that time 11:11 and it’s an 11 minute meeting in the ten plus years we run it, it has never run longer than eleven minutes.

And we’re constantly recognizing each other for living those values and that really takes it to the street and makes it really clear that we are thinking about this daily.

We take this into every aspect of our process from our initial hiring process, to our daily meetings.

Claudette:           One thing I always like to have experts like you and leaders like you share when we do interviews is recommendations. So people who are listening are thinking, “wow you know, we’d love to create our version right of a why based culture or a culture that really focused on purpose people and profits”. What are some recommendations you would suggest?

Jay:        I think the most important thing is asking that question to start off with.

What are things we can do in being intentional about the development and the evolution of a culture?

And far too often a culture of a business or company just simply defaults to the strongest personality in the room.

Jay:        So the starting point is just being intentional about it. I realized that there were three different aspects and like in the framework that we did without thinking about it at the time it’s just kind of the process that we went through.

  1. Understanding of how we were grounded. And this is not just the Midwest Ethos of being humble or being grounded in that way, but I mean more literal ways like feet on the street and an understanding with empathy everyone in the organization and the work that they do and how it impacts the broader organization.
  2. The word gratitude. I’m a gratitude junkie I think that there is so much in the notion of the glass is half-full vs. half-empty and just you know there’s an abundance of gratitude and recognition in healthy companies. Everyone feels appreciated, everyone feels important, everyone feels ownership in some way.
  3. The commitment to growth. It’s a commitment to lifelong learning.


Listen to the full interview with Claudette Rowley and Jay Wilkinson here.