“The culture has changed” is very often framed as something negative, but that’s not what Alex Frommeyer, Founder and CEO at Beam Benefits believes. In fact, speaking of change, the last time that Alex appeared on The BragWorthy Culture the company was named Beam Dental. Alex walked us through that pivot and rebrand and then went on to discuss, among other things, why culture changes…and that’s a good thing.
Culture changes as the company changes and the rebrand for Beam Benefits was less about changing what they were already doing because the new company still does dental benefits and still has a differentiated approach to dental insurance. But adding benefits was much more about recognizing the company’s ambition. Why solve only the dental problem when you can solve more problems for employees and employers?
Alex hasn’t stopped growing the business during the rebrand. This has driven home what we’ve already mentioned: as a company changes so does its culture. When you add a lot of new people, in a way, it’s almost an entirely different company! That’s why the culture has to change. The company has to be what it needs to be next, and the culture has to adjust — and keep adjusting. And those changes, those adjustments have to be communicated to the whole team.
That’s where Alex thinks a lot of companies can lose great people. If someone says they left “because the culture changed,” Alex considers that a missed opportunity. “What probably happened,” says Alex, “is that the company had new needs, and the leadership didn’t point at those new needs and call them out proactively. Hence when the culture ‘changed,’ it was a surprise to some people. In fact, those people feel like the company left them, instead of them leaving the company…even though they end up leaving the company anyway.”
So with this talk of leadership being proactive when culture changes, you’d imagine Alex would want to lead by example. He does that by watching and sharing. “I am the observer of the culture. I then try to bottle it up and articulate it back to the company.” An example of that in practice could be at an all-hands meeting in which Alex talks about how the culture may be changing, not just for seasoned employees, but how new employees might see things as well.
In fact, with new employees, Alex tries to spend time with them individually during their first week in the business to “indoctrinate” them, as he puts it. “Indoctrinate in a really positive sense, though. I want people to be onboarded into the culture as much as they are onboarded into their actual job training.”
However, Alex knows that this approach doesn’t scale, and so part of what he has been working with his team on is how to take what he’s doing, the all-hands, the new employee onboarding, cultural roundtables, etc., and make sure that other levels of the business are duplicating those activities, without his presence or initiative.
Those sorts of activities can help to embed values into the relationship building done between managers and team members so that the company DNA can be woven into daily work life. In that way, a culture can change and morph itself as needed.
As Alex pushes for more of his team to bear the load of communicating the culture, he also has to beware of balancing what those leaders look like: he has to balance giving new leaders a chance to grow into senior positions while also keeping some tenured leaders around to offer guidance and experience.
Sometimes that problem solves itself. For example, if the company moves into new directions or strategies or technologies, and a senior leader doesn’t feel aligned or comfortable with this, they may take the opportunity to step down. Other times, those new strategies or directions mean bringing in an outsider who has the experience necessary to help with those challenges. What makes these changes slightly easier (and Alex thinks they are always challenging in their own way) is consistently communicating a “brush burning” strategy: the talent bar is going to be raised every year and Beam wants to “clear the brush” so that talent can thrive.
What Doesn’t Change
But don’t let that enthusiasm and space for change that Alex advocates for, make you think that he doesn’t see some things as immovable. “For example, tenacity is one of our core values, so we always look for that in employees. That’s not going to change. Or the fact that we care deeply about helping small businesses get modern benefits. That’s not going to change.”
But sometimes a company’s view may change because of circumstances. Covid led to Beam updating its views on workstyle and PTO. As work environments continue to evolve post-pandemic, Beam is trying to be flexible with how their team members are working.
Alex also doesn’t believe in “policing” company values. “I believe people vote with their feet; they’ll use the core values if they’re valuable, and they won’t if they don’t find them applicable.”
Recessions are Opportunities
As the worries about a recession continue to circulate, Alex sees an opportunity. “Don’t lose sight of the culture-building moments provided by bad markets,” he notes. During bad times, people tend to be more focused, as they don’t want to lose their job. Leverage that focus because “there’s always a way to take advantage.”
Check Out the Full Episode
Learn more about Alex and the importance of communication through cultural change by listening to our full interview on Apple or Spotify.
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