Brittany Walters has always been obsessed with solving problems.
â€œThatâ€™s been a common thread throughout the trajectory of my career history,â€ she says. Her work in international education eventually took her as far as Fiji. Now, sheâ€™s Director of Operations at Scribe, formerly Book in a Box.
The company helps leaders share their wisdom through books and other media, and Brittany uses her problem-solving skills to optimize the business as its client base grows â€” by the time we spoke for the Second in Command Podcast, Scribe had published more than 650 books.
Brittany has a unique approach to building company culture â€” she sees it as a method for fostering team effectiveness. She started thinking about this when she was working overseas and found herself fixing the same problems over and over. But she felt like she didnâ€™t have the resources to help people work together more efficiently.
She started researching company cultures, suspecting that if she focused on culture while building and developing teams, she could better set them up for success. That research led her back to the U.S. to join the team at Scribe.
Here are a few of the key points Brittany shared that help her continue to build the workplace culture at Scribe â€” now at 35 full time â€œtribe membersâ€ and counting.
Using questions as a growth tactic
Brittanyâ€™s propensity for problem-solving perhaps comes from her obsession with asking questions. Throughout our interview, she stressed the importance of doing your research â€” not just before taking a role at a company, but also while striving to make positive change within it.
When she met with Scribe team (which took place by video chat during a hurricane in Fiji), Brittany said she asked CEO JT McCormick and cofounders Zach Obront and Tucker Max a lot of the same questions in her one-on-one interviews with each. â€œI wanted to see the consistency in their answers,â€ she says. â€œDo they have completely misaligned perspectives of where the company is heading and what their place is in it?â€
She also wanted to know if each was referencing their own company culture â€œand using it as a sense through which theyâ€™re operating,â€ Brittany says. The consistency in their answers convinced Brittany that Scribe would be a good fit.
But she also had to do some research about once-controversial cofounder Tucker Max. â€œI wanted to make sure I wasnâ€™t getting myself into a situation where I would be limited in my own growth or where I would have to accommodate anything that I disagreed with,â€ she says. She looked into the differences between his media persona, his guerrilla marketing persona and his role as company co-founder. Her findings were encouraging and gave her the confidence to take on new challenges at Scribe.
While she joined Scribe as an operations manager, she continued to ask questions, which made it clear she was destined for a bigger role in the brand. Her journey within the company â€œhas been very much one of growth, of learning and of being mentored,â€ she says. And through that growth, sheâ€™s been able to ask more varied and nuanced questions to drive the business, right down to those that the team asks candidates in the written application and interview process.
Company culture doesnâ€™t end with full-time staff
Brittany jokes that Scribe â€œputs the cult in culture,â€ but she really walks the talk when it comes to the Scribe team being a true community. Not only does Scribe have more than three dozen full-time â€œtribe membersâ€; the company also has more than 150 freelancers who serve in creative roles.
Scribe actively works to include freelancers in the company culture. The company uses a single project management platform, Teamwork, that freelancers have access to and can use to communicate with their project manager for immediate support. Thereâ€™s also a Slack channel for freelancers who want to communicate with their fellow contributors, and even meet up in person if they choose.
â€œWe share stories of things that are meaningful for us or details about how weâ€™ve made decisions that a lot of freelancers would normally not have access to â€¦ to connect with the company that theyâ€™re contributing to,â€ Brittany says. â€œThey are the life source of the work that we do,â€ she adds. â€œWe try to constantly do right by them, pay them quickly, show gratitude for the work that theyâ€™re doing and invite them to be a part of things that weâ€™re excited about as a company.â€
Vulnerability can be a good thing
Iâ€™ve always said that an amazing business is actually slightly more than a business â€” but slightly less than a religion. Brittany and the team at Scribe allow this thinking to drive the companyâ€™s culture beyond its core values of â€œrelationships, learning and results.â€ The Scribe team previously got together twice a year to do â€œsomething called Strengths and Obstacles, where itâ€™s almost like group therapy,â€ Brittany describes. For two days, the entire team would dive into everyoneâ€™s personal, professional and relationship goals.
Those twice-yearly summits were so popular that it evolved into a monthly program called The Whole Self. Each tribe member meets one-on-one with someone else in the company who serves as a guide and accountability partner.
Not only do those exercises challenge people to think big â€” it helps people at every level of the company take a moment to reconnect with their own priorities. The program has even helped Brittany recognize the need to reevaluate her work-life balance, something she continues to work on.
â€œWe see one another challenging ourselves in different ways or pushing through difficult moments, getting outside of our comfort zone, be that personally or professionally,â€ Brittany says. â€œWe invite each other to see that vulnerability in one another. The level of connection and attachment that happens as a result of that is astounding.â€
This article is based on an episode of Second in Command podcast, where your host Cameron Herold interviews the chief operating officer behind the chief executive officer to learn their tips, systems, and insights from being the second-in-command of an amazing growth company.