Our guest is COO Alliance Member Brittany Walters, Director of Operations at Scribe (formerly Book-in-a-Box).
Spreading the vision across the company is one, while integrating a culture within is another huge aspect of getting employees motivated to work in unity. Brittany Walters tells us more about how culture-infused on growth Scribe is – formerly known as Book in a Box – a company that offers a new way for leaders to share their wisdom with the world through books and other media. As the COO of Scribe, Brittany reveals their core values which catch a lot of aspirants willing to be part of their tribe and shares the trick to manage freelancers and keep them part of the culture effectively. With her long-standing passion for empowering individuals and businesses, she shares how researching the CEO of the company you’re eyeing for can be helpful and how transparency can take your tribe’s engagement into a higher level.
Putting The Cult In Culture with Brittany Walters
We’re talking to Brittany Walters, who serves as the Director of Operations with Scribe (formerly Book-in-a-Box). It is a great way for leaders to share their wisdom with the world through books and other media. Her long-standing passion for empowering individuals and businesses by solving problems, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness, developing new ventures, and cultivating strong relationships has traveled with her through diverse industries including leading operations in publishing, marine conversation and international education. She is also a member of the COO Alliance. Brittany, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Cameron. It’s wonderful to be here.
I’m looking forward to learning from you. Tell us a little bit about how you ended up with Book in a Box. What was your path and how did you end up there?
I’ve always been obsessed with solving problems, figuring out how things work and building structure. That’s been a common thread throughout the trajectory of my career history. I’ve done that in a variety of different industries. I began my career in international education through building Master’s degree programs for students from the US to be able to complete their degrees at universities abroad. Eventually, I took advantage of the chance to go and work abroad myself. I was traveling throughout Southeast Asia and landed a position in Fiji of all places where I was managing a volunteer and research projects on a remote island called Beqa. I was solving problems and overseeing the project operations but in a very different environment than I had come from. After about a year and a half of that, I found that a lot of the problems I was solving were repeating themselves. A key factor of loving to solve problems requires that you can solve them.
I was having to repair the same boat regularly and help people navigate complexities of group dynamics and I didn’t have the resources to solve efficiently a lot of the dysfunction that I saw. I started researching. I started doing a lot of investigation about culture and the different ways that other companies conduct themselves. I knew I loved operations. I wanted to stay in that realm, but I wanted a very different environment to do that in. Through that research is how I initially found the Book in a Box, who fortunately was looking for someone like me. I had a crazy interview and hiring story with them. I was evacuated for a hurricane for the majority of my interview process. There were roosters in the background of my video interview with the CEO. It was definitely an unconventional path throughout the hiring process, but it was a phenomenal fit. I moved to the US two weeks later and haven’t looked back a single day since.
How many people do you guys have throughout the organization full-time and then also all your contract? Tell us roughly how many books you guys are cranking out a year. Give us a perspective as to the scope because you’re managing something pretty fast growing and big already.
We’re about to hit 35 full-time tribe members. We’re also working with about 150 freelance contractors. Most are largely the creative roles who are designing the covers, doing a lot of the writing. They’re highly-skilled freelancers that we work with on a very regular basis. It’s well over 400. We surpassed 650 all-time books. We anticipate starting at least 400.
You’re probably rivaling any of the major publishing houses at this point.
The way we’re able to do our process is so much more efficient and streamlined than what anyone would go through on their own and through a traditional publisher. You know this as an author yourself. From start to finish, we can crank out a book, structure it, design the cover and do a phenomenal layout. We can put it through a marketing launch in six to nine months depending on how much reflection time that author would like to take, which is phenomenal to be able to do that. I have all-hands-on-deck in bringing our authors’ dreams to life.
I’ve done two books with you already out of the four that I’ve written. I’ve got a fifth one that I’m doing with you right now that’s going to come out and the process is amazing. When you’re running with all these freelancers, how do you manage the freelancers in terms of getting stuff done but also in terms of making them feel they’re a part of the tribe and part of the culture? How do you bring them in and keep them part of the culture when they’re remote? How do you manage them and get results through them?
It’s a bit different for our tribe members and our freelancers. I’ll answer the question from the freelancer’s perspective first. We’ve done a lot of work to integrate or at least to give our freelancers the option of integrating into a lot of the tools that we use. All of our project management happens on one singular platform that freelancers have access to so they can see the progress of their projects. They upload their files there. They can ask questions to our full-time team and the project manager there. It’s much easier for them to have the immediate support and access they need.
We also have a Slack channel that our freelancers can choose to join so that they have community amongst themselves. We regularly try to do freelancer Meetups in certain cities where we have a lot of freelancers that regularly contribute so that they can build relationships with one another and share advice with one another about how to level up their careers above and beyond the work that they’re doing with Book in a Box. We regularly share a culture with them. We share stories of things that are meaningful to us or details about how we’ve made decisions that a lot of freelancers would normally not have access to for the opportunity to connect with the company that they’re contributing to. They are the life source of the work that we do. They’re phenomenally talented. They contribute so much to the books and the other media products that we’re creating. We do try to constantly do right by them, pay them quickly, show gratitude for the work that they’re doing and invite them to be a part of the things that we’re excited about as a company.
You’re doing a hell of a job with it. The technology tools that you’re using, do you have the top two or three that you use that you know the company couldn’t do without?
For project management, we switched from Trello to something called Teamwork. It allows us to invite all of the freelancers onto that platform without a huge cost. We found it to be very effective. It also allows freelancers to log time directly within that platform. It keeps everything organized in one place. Teamwork is the top one. The second one internally for us is called Shortlist. That’s a freelance management platform. It allows us to send out bids for different projects that are taking place, to track important information almost as a CRM for the freelancers that we’re working with, track different details of the specific projects that they’re doing from an assignment perspective. Those two things integrate together nicely to allow us to stay organized and be able to focus more on the things that matter.
When you were scouting around, looking at different cultures and learning about different cultures before you joined Book in a Box, what were some of the key lessons that you learned from looking at culture and being interested in company cultures?
The biggest one is trying to differentiate between phenomenal marketing and companies to walk the talk. For me, the biggest thing to look into to differentiate between those things is going back to results. What’s the trajectory that this company is on? Are they going to continue rising up? What is the history of results that they’ve already achieved or any patterns that you can identify in the way they’ve made decisions, the way they’ve honored their values, the way they’re communicating about their own culture, their values and principles publicly? All of those things are important.
When I was going through my interview process with JT McCormick, our CEO, Zach Obront and Tucker Max, our Cofounders, I interviewed each of them one-on-one separately. I asked a lot of the same questions because I wanted to see the consistency in their answers. Do they have completely misaligned perspectives of where the company is heading and what their place is in it? What my place maybe if I’m offered the position or do these things align? Are they frequently referencing their own culture and using that as a lens through which they’re operating? I was blown away by all of my interactions with everybody through Book in a Box.
You mentioned that you interviewed all the founders and the CEO. When you were interviewing them and interviewing Tucker, he’s got a bit of a checkered past. He’s a good friend and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. When he did his works with I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First, he definitely has a bit of a controversial past. How did you come to terms with that in the interview process when you were deciding to come on board? Did you know about it? In the lens of this whole #MeToo Movement, how do you build such an amazing culture with a CEO that was like that in the past or has he changed?
There are several things that I would say in response to that. To start with your final comment, has he changed? Absolutely. We believe deeply in the human ability to evolve. Growth mindset is a huge aspect of our culture. Tucker Max is perhaps one of the greatest examples of that. He has a wonderful wife, Veronica. They have two beautiful children. The company that he founded is largely led by women. He treats us with immense respect. If anything sets Tucker off is when someone, male or female, regardless of gender, doesn’t recognize their own power. I would say the majority of my interactions with him are all focused around, “What are my growth goals? Who do I want to become? How can Tucker help me have more clarity into that?” As opposed to him demeaning me in any aspect. I would say people can grow.
I will also admit that before I accepted the position, it was a huge concern for me. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’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. You’ll probably get the sense that I’m a researcher. I did a ton of research about Tucker, specifically just to see the difference between a media persona, this guerilla marketing genius that this person used to their own advantage to leverage a career versus what are the actual interactions that this person has had with people who know him? What’s the feedback that those people are sharing?
Consistently, what I found through that research was that the people who knew Tucker, including a blog post from someone who had been let go from Book in a Box. Their interactions with him were all inspiring. They were encouraging. The person who Tucker was to those people was radically different than the way that Tucker is generally portrayed in media for books like I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. That persona that serves him well in certain aspects, it’s certainly not indicative of who he is as a person.
I’ve seen that in him as well. He’s obsessed about the company, obsessed about the culture.
Not to say that we should rank how obsessed our whole tribe is about our culture because we always joke and say, “We put the cult in culture.” Tucker is a huge core of it and to have culture flow down from our founders, from our CEO, it can start there and see how seriously everybody takes it. Especially at the founder level, that’s part of why it’s been able to be so strong and so firmly at the core of how we operate.
You can see it as well. I know Tucker and Zach, the two Founders. I also know JT, the CEO and now you as well through the COO Alliance. To see the strengths that each of you has but also this such similar culture and core values and fit, it’s pretty extraordinary to get four people, four leaders that vibrate the same way. They’ve done a good job.
I would say it expands far beyond those four people. We’re almost at 35 full-time. The most important thing that we do is bring in the right people, ensuring that culture is at the forefront of all of our hiring decisions as well so that all 35 of those people are vibrating at the same level and preserving this thing that’s so crucial to who we are.
How do you get everyone on the same page and the same vision for the organization? First with two founders and then with a CEO who came in as a customer and became CEO, how did you all get on the same page? What do you do to ensure that everyone’s aligned with one common vision?
In terms of cultural vision, we have a clearly-defined culture doc that outlines our values and our principles. We reference it constantly. Anytime that we’re celebrating somebody, that celebration is tied back to our value or principles. We have monthly culture calls because half of our full-time team is remote and distributed now internationally as far as Australia and Jamaica. Everybody connects together on video calls. We’d talk about culture. We talk about the decisions that we’ve made as a company. We ask questions about anywhere that we feel we’re falling short and talk openly about how we can better embody, that vision of who we are and who we will continue to be culturally.
In terms of the vision of where our company is growing, we are the core audience for the Vivid Vision because we desperately need to sit down and do the exercise. We’re phenomenal at momentum. We’re phenomenal about understanding our opportunities within our market, the importance of helping people share their messages and their ideas with the world. Initially, that started through publishing books over the course of the next six to twelve months. That will also launch to speaking, to book marketing and book coaching for individuals who want guidance to writing their own books. Each time we onboard a group of new hires, they go through a detailed culture onboarding. They go through a company vision and history onboarding, a company structure onboarding so that they can see all of the different pieces that make up our puzzle and why all of them are so important. That helped keep all of us aligned even though we are moving and changing quickly. That’s an important piece that keeps us all centered amongst that chaos.
You mentioned you do a lot of it through the onboarding. Do you do any of that in part of the recruiting process at all in terms of using it as a filter as to who gets interviewed?
Yes. We also have the tribe avatar and we do role avatars for every single role that we’re hiring for. The tribe avatars are solely focused around culture. What are the common characteristics that we’ve seen amongst every successful, deeply engaged and fulfilled member of our tribe? We’ve spent a lot of time distilling those down and reflecting on what questions can we ask candidates as early as the written application responses. What questions can we ask throughout this entire process to see clearly whether or not somebody would thrive here from a cultural perspective? We do the exact same thing from a role perspective.
You are getting ready to go through a rebrand. Is that public yet?
It’s not public yet. We’re still working on it. We’re still behind the scenes mapping out the strategy of how that will happen.
Without telling us what it’s going to become, can you talk to us about how you’re going through that process? Can you give us insights as to how a company might start doing something, or why you might start doing something or do we want to keep that off the record?
Let’s keep that off the record because, to be honest, we’re still figuring a lot of it out. I would still need to listen to a podcast with someone explaining that to us.
Tell me a little bit more about the employee recruiting process. Where do you guys go out and get your talent both on the freelancer side and also on the tribe side? Where do you go out and find your core people? How do you find them? How do you recruit them? How do you bring them into the fold? How do you interview? Walk us through some of that people side of the business.
Thus far we’ve been fortunate in that our brand has a lot of attention. We have a relatively large following of people who have discovered our culture, discovered what we’re doing as a company in terms of bringing people’s ideas to life. They’re excited about it. Thus far, all of our hirings has been passive on our end with candidates coming to us. When we open up a position, we push it out to several different job sites. We push it out through LinkedIn and Glassdoor. We also have our own recruitment list. We have about 30,000 people who follow our opening specifically. We’ve been quite fortunate in finding great candidates that way. I suspected that we’d reach the point where we’ll also have to start active recruiting, which as you know, it’s a topic at another COO Alliance event.
That was extremely helpful for us to start thinking through a strategy especially as we grow. We launched new departments. We need higher level positions to fill those departments. We understand exactly what steps we need to take to tackle that or what tweaks we can make to our existing hiring process so that we’re effective in reaching out and securing relationships with the exact types of future tribe members that we need. Once we recruit people, we have a wonderful hiring funnel that is largely automated. We use a company called Breezy HR to do that. When we’re ready to post a position, we put the career description directly in Breezy. We can push it out to each of the different candidate platforms directly through Breezy. We manage our entire interview funnel through Breezy as well.
It looks very similar to a Trello board where you’ve got each of your columns and then every candidate has a card that stores all of their information in their resume. We do one-way video interviews as one of the application steps. We ask them to complete responses to different questions related to the role or related to our culture. All of that goes on each candidate’s card. As they move through different stages of the hiring pipeline, each of those stages has automated actions that take place so that the candidates feel proactively communicated with. That we feel very organized knowing exactly who’s where and what’s happening on what timeline. It keeps everything clear.
You’re in a competitive job market as well. Austin is a pretty fast-growing tech center. It’s also fast for an entrepreneurial center. How do you attract the talent that you’re looking for versus a lot of the competition that’s out there?
For us, it ties back to culture. That’s the number one thing that people cite when they say why they decided to come work for Book in a Box as opposed to the myriad of other opportunities that they could have had. It all ties back to the way we exemplify learning relationships results, our core values and the way that they see that through each of the interactions that they have during the hiring process. Also, there are a lot of benefits above and beyond culture, but they definitely respond from it in terms of doing right by people, treating adults like adults. Everybody within our organization, be they full-time or freelance, have the complete trust and autonomy to do the work that matters most to them. We pool resources as needed to make sure we’re leveraging people’s unique skill sets, to ensure that there’s less busy work by automating or outsourcing things so that people can focus on relationships, on interactions with the officers and clients that they’re working with.
We allow people to choose their schedules, choose the days that they work with and work from because we understand for ourselves and for other humans that productivity shows up in different times and places. We trust every member of the tribe to be able to make those decisions for themselves. That’s a huge draw for folks that have come from more corporate backgrounds, places where they were restricted or where they weren’t empowered to make their own decisions about what’s best for them and what’s best for their work. As a result, we’ve seen an influx of incredibly talented, incredibly passionate, engaged people willing to give up potentially better opportunities so that they could continue to be the masters of their own ship.
You’ve mentioned the core values a number of times. What are your company’s core values? How many do you have? How did you come up with them?
Relationships, learning and results are our core values. They were defined before I joined the tribe by Zach and Tucker. Before they hired anybody into the tribe, they sat down and dug into, “Who do we want to be? What are our non-negotiables for being in business? What things are we not willing to sacrifice?” They kept it simple, which as you mentioned before, is crucial. You’ve got companies who pull in a lot of values that sounds nice that they don’t adhere to. Where for us, those things sound simple. We point to them every single day. They’re the source of some of our most heated conversations. People are very closely tied to them. That started very early on even before we had a process for making books. We had in place the values for how we would make them.
Somebody had mentioned that you know each other’s salaries. How does that work out?
We do. We take transparency to a whole other level. Not only do we know everybody’s salaries, but the entire company is welcome to take part in the monthly financials call where we go through our income statement. We go through projections of what will take place the following month. People have as much time as they’d like to ask questions about anything and everything related to our numbers as a company. We’ve found thus far that accountability has only had positive results. It’s tied to one of our principles, work like owners. Everybody in our company truly does have access to profit shares. They very much are the direct beneficiaries of the work and the sacrifice that they’re making to pour into our company’s growth. In every single way, we welcome people to be a part of that, including taking a hard look at those nitty-gritty numbers.
They also understand why you’re making the decisions you’re making as well. When they see the numbers and understand the financials, they understand why you’re making some of the decisions you are in terms of hiring or spending or reinvesting in growth. They start to understand that as a company scales, all that revenue isn’t profit.
We’ve grown quickly, but there are costs associated with growth. We’re fully bootstrapped, so no outside funding, no investors and no shareholders. We do manage our cashflow very closely. It helps people to take an interest in that. When we very first started doing the regular monthly calls, our head of Performance Marketing pool beside our bookkeeper were like, “I would like a more regular meeting specifically to look at marketing’s numbers because when we were doing the whole company financial call, I noticed a few line items that I’m pretty confident I can get down.” The sensation that you see in a lot of more corporate environments is like, “We need to take as much as we can because otherwise our budget will be decreased the following year, or something will be taken from us.” When you have a more abundance-focused mindset, you recognize, “We will rise and we will fall together. We’re all in this together. We’re only going to take what we need. We as a company are going to make the best decisions that allow us to achieve our goals and achieve our vision.” One wonderful way that we found to do that is against it to be transparent about everything including our financials.
Tell me transparently where are you screwing up. Where are you making mistakes right now that’s frustrating you or you’re struggling with?
There are a couple of places with any company. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t. I mentioned this on our COO Alliance call. We are great with momentum. We’re great at execution, getting things done, seeing opportunity and not result and the lack of focus. We need to make sure that we have our vivid vision and we are saying no to things which we’ve gotten slightly better at. There’s absolutely room for improvement there. There’s always room for improvement in ensuring that we’re bringing on the right people to continue growing and scaling the company while preserving our culture. That’s where I found so much value in one of the COO Alliance events was recognizing how we can be more intentional and proactive about reaching out to the ideal candidates rather than relying entirely on candidates coming into us.
That’s another place. Also, our Book in a Box product is a niche product. There’s a certain market that it appeals to. From a sales and marketing perspective, it’s finding that niche, recognizing what types of marketing we can use to make sure that people who are looking for us can find us because it’s not a product that you sell. You don’t do a pay-per-click and put a $25,000 book package in front of someone who wasn’t exactly looking for it. Part of our solution for that is also to diversify the products that we’re offering. You’ve mentioned before book coaching. I suspect Tucker has talked to you about it a bit, but that’s one of the things we’re most excited about right now.
That’s lower dollar completely differently structured book option where folks who want to write their own manuscripts can come into Austin and work with a team of our most qualified folks to structure their ideas, put a plan and a timeline in place. Guide themselves through the writing process and come back to us for final aspect to finish designing the cover and bringing up books through to publish. It’s focusing on that, focusing on speaking and drilling down, pouring all of our efforts, time and energy into these specific things rather than trying anything and everything because we see so much possibility and opportunity everywhere.
You have done an amazing job at creating raving fans. I’ve sent 30 or 40 authors to you from my network CEOs that have wanting to write a book that I’ve referred. All I hear back is people are happy with the process and the product. Even if there have been hiccups throughout the process, they’ve been thrilled at the way you guys change things and adopted or iterated. Everyone’s pleased with the whole process and how well it works. That’s a part of your growth as well.
We greatly appreciate that. Hearing that is our utmost delight. Fulfilled authors and folks who are able to achieve the goals that they have because they publish a book is sincerely the reason why we do what we do. It means so much to us that you’ve sent specifically so many our way. It’s the highest compliment that we could ever receive.
You mentioned the COO Alliance a few times. You’ve got a lot of value out of that. When you came to the first COO Alliance event, what did you do that allowed you to get the most value out of it? What do you think has been your big value so far?
The very first event that I came to was in July of 2017. You have grown a lot since then as well. The events have become more focused. I love the themes that you are doing because it allows me to focus on a specific area of business and then have tangible, immediately actionable takeaways that I can go back and implement right away. I would compliment you on that. That very first one, to be completely honest, one of the greatest takeaways that I had was this deep sense of inspiration and encouragement because I’ve grown a lot since I’ve started with Book in a Box. I came on in a role as an Operations Manager. I asked a million questions. I have an incredible work ethic and eventually, they realized, “We’re going to have to promote her.”
My trajectory has been very much one of growth, of learning and of being mentored. For me, it was both a grounding and inspiring shift to be in a room of people who were admitting the same issues. They were trying to solve the same problems. They had the same degrees of insecurity. We were able to come together, be authentic, support each other through those and also recognize all of the possibilities that we have in front of us. There is this incredible sense of belonging and of certainty that was transformative from that very first one.
It’s become your tribe as well because you’re hanging out with your peers that are also COOs or also running companies. I know Tucker is a part of a couple of mastermind groups. We were at an event together in New York. He’s a part of the Genius Network. Zach is also a part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. JT might be in Vistage. You guys are doing a great job but getting into those networks to grow your skills. What are you doing to grow? I did a Facebook post about this. What are you doing to grow your employees’ skill sets? Do you have a budget that you spend per year on growing people skills?
We don’t yet have a defined budget, but we do regularly look for opportunities. We do also invest up to $1,500 per year for every single tribe member to use as they see fit towards continuing education and towards any relevant education that they’d like to pursue. That’s in place. To be honest, before we didn’t have a people department. It was something that I was holding together amongst a variety of other roles. We transitioned in a phenomenal head of people, Kathleen Peterson, who was formerly one of our lead Publishing Manager, which is essentially a project management role. She’s deeply passionate about our culture, deeply passionate about understanding people, seeing which ones would be a great fit for our company and for our continued growth. She’s totally taken over all of our recruitment, hiring, onboarding and then perhaps most importantly the tribe experience. How are we going to continue developing, evolving and retaining these incredible people that we’ve worked hard to draw in? That’s her primary focus now.
I’ve always said that a leader’s job is to grow people as well. You need to work on growing our team’s skills but also their confidence. If we work on competence and confidence, that’s our sole job and the more we grow our people, the faster our company grows too. Tell me a little bit about delegation and getting stuff off your plate. Not just delegating a task at a time, but how do you get some of even your core areas that you were responsible? How do you delegate those out to people because that’s something else that allows us to grow with more we can work in our own unique ability?
In my experience, it’s still something that used to be very challenging for me, especially because of my role early on with Book in a Box was to do everything. As we grew and as my role shifted away from doing everything to ensuring that other people had all the resources and support they needed to own those things themselves. I won’t say I was incredibly grateful. There was a period of time where I had to grow my own confidence and recognize how much value I still had the offer, even if I wasn’t doing all of the things myself. I point that out because I’ve seen a similar obstacle in other COOs or directors of operations, people working and going through that shift themselves. It’s recognizing how much more engaged and excited about work people are when they feel they have full ownership over certain things.
It’s not just delegating tasks like, “Please help me do this.” It’s recognizing entire areas of responsibility that another person is well-equipped to carry forward and giving them that responsibility, which then empowers them to come to you for the support and help that they need while they’re completely driving forward something that you no longer need to keep in your mind space. That frees up to leverage ourselves for the things that we’re uniquely equipped to be able to do while also then enabling someone else to do the same with this new area of responsibility. The greatest way I learned that was through the behavior of the people that I get to work alongside directly. Seeing how excited they were to take over new areas of business caused me to reflect on how I feel when that’s been done for me in the past. That’s helped with that shift of delegation.
That’s growing their confidence. The more you delegate to them and pass off to them, the more confident and excited on their role because they see them taking something that used to be on your plate, and they feel good about it. I know you’re also personally working a little bit on getting more balance in your life. How’s that going?
It’s wonderful. We’ve started something called The Whole Self Program within Book in a Box. We used to have twice a year summits where the whole company would get together. We’d do something called the Strengths and Obstacles where there’s almost like group therapy. For two days, we dig into what are your personal, professional and relationship goals? What are your strengths and obstacles in relation to those goals? People were hungry for it. It got raw and real. They were very painful and difficult things being discussed. We all loved it. It was among the most meaningful things that we got to do that we continue to get to do as a tribe. That evolved into a monthly program, which is The Whole Self that I mentioned where we meet one-on-one now with someone else in the tribe that we’ve chosen to guide us and to hold us accountable.
For me, that was an immediate click of like, “I’m prioritizing work over all of these other things that are equally important to me. Now my work is telling me that I get to prioritize everything.” This moment of permission that I wish never needed to happen for anyone, but I’m very glad that it happened for me because what I’ve seen as a result of that is other areas of my life are flourishing. The clarity and the focus that I have as a result of that, of this wonderful intensity in all aspects of my life, that mattered to me. I find that I’m bringing that back to work. Even though I’m spending time elsewhere, I’ve gotten pretty into strength training. That’s something that I used to not make time for at all. I’m learning how to boat. I love spending time outside pouring into my relationships. All of these things are flourishing in ways that otherwise they wouldn’t be doing specifically because of the encouragement that I’ve gotten through Book in a Box.
The more that you focus on that, the more that it does trickle throughout the organization too because it’s so easy to talk that we care about our employees, but then you make them work twenty hours a day. The more you continue to bring that out through the organization and down through the organization makes a huge ripple. You also talked about you put the cult in culture. To build an amazing business, it has to be slightly more than a business, slightly less than a religion. It has to be in that zone of a cult. You’ve done a great job with branding a lot of your systems. Talking with these terms that are very Book in a Box, other than the core values that you’ve mentioned, what else drives a great culture?
I feel that’s something that we do largely in hiring it because you bring people in with the same intensity in the sense of being truly alive, but they’re engaged in all aspects of their life and that rubs off on each other. People are so curious and they’re playful. Even above and beyond structured conversations about culture, you’ve got people bringing out aspects of one another that maybe they haven’t seen in other communities or other groups. They say we’re the summation of the five people that we surround ourselves with. We’ve got 35 of those people. We see one another challenging ourselves in different ways or pushing through difficult moments, getting outside of our comfort zone, be that personally or professionally. We 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.
You’re giving some huge insights. I hope people are paying attention to this stuff because it’s massive. Tell us something that’s worked well for you in keeping your connection and communication open with the CEO.
Especially moving so quickly, that’s a phenomenal question because it’s not something that always goes as smoothly as we’d like. Our CEO, JT, is very involved in different conferences, different sales events. He’s not always in the office. We do rely very heavily on Slack. We use that for constant communication throughout the day. JT and I ensure that we connect at least every single week on a call, ideally in person for as long as is needed to make sure that we’re both caught up on everything that’s taking place. We’re completely aligned with our priorities, our initiatives so that throughout the week we can continue to make independent decisions. That’s been huge for us. Because we do have a more mentor type of relationship, JT has absolutely invested a lot in my growth.
We at least once a month will have a meeting that we call Hustle is Real. We go in at 6:00 in the morning. We’ll have from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM completely uninterrupted to focus on one specific area of business. I usually come with a million questions and we’ll dive into hiring or maybe it’s marketing or maybe it’s putting together quarterly goals or results that we expect to see for the whole company, completely uninterrupted for that period of time. That’s what we’ll focus on together. That’s also been effective.
I love it’s branded Hustle is Real. The more that you brand these meetings and the more that you brand the systems and the Book in a Box way, the more that does become more of a cult, and that’s where culture becomes huge. If you had one parting word of advice for anyone who is in a second-in-command role to excel in their jobs, what’s one thing that you would suggest that people do that’s been big for you?
The one thing I would suggest above everything else is to ask questions about everything. In a lot of different environments, people feel that they need to know the answer. They feel that they need to present themselves in a certain way. That’s the quickest obstacle to learning. It’s the quickest obstacle to growth. If we don’t ask questions, we hold ourselves back and therefore our companies are held back in an unnecessary way. If we have the curiosity and the humility to ask questions and admit when we don’t know, we’re all so much better off for it.
Brittany Walters, the Second-in-Command and Director of Operations for Book in a Box, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast. I appreciate it.
- Book in a Box
- COO Alliance
- I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
- Assholes Finish First
- #MeToo Movement
- Vivid Vision
- Breezy HR
- Genius Network
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
About Brittany Walters
Her long-standing passion for empowering individuals and businesses by solving problems, maximizing efficiency & effectiveness, developing new ventures, and cultivating strong relationships has traveled with her throughout diverse industries, including leading operations in publishing, marine conversation, and international education.