The Role of Culture in Recruiting (Part 2)

“The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”, a weekly blog…

I heard it again at another event this past week: “We can’t find enough talent.”

So continued my trek to discover more about how company culture and employer brandingwere important components to winning the talent war. And who is my hometown of Charleston battling against? “In the South, I think we compete against Austin, Nashville and Raleigh”, stated Christina Lock of Catch Talent. “Charlotte, as well”, added Dan Coombs of Life Cycle Talent.

I got the chance to hear Christina interviewed “fireside chat” style at this month’s meeting of Startup Grind Charleston by Jeremy Berman (see above pic), who along with Daniel Drolet, is one of the directors for the local chapter. If you ever want to experience a different take on the business interview, be sure to check out Jeremy. I am telling you; the guy could be on CNN.

Now, for those not familiar with Startup Grind, it is the country’s largest independent startup community, with a focus on actively educating, inspiring, and connecting 400,000 entrepreneurs in over 200 cities. They nurture startup ecosystems in 85 countries through events, media, and partnerships with organizations like Google for Entrepreneurs (

As mentioned in Part One of this article, Christina was a founding member, along with visionary Eric Bowman, of the super successful company SPARC, where she was VP of HR & Recruiting, hiring over 300 Team Members in less than 5 years. So how did she cultivate the culture at SPARC? “By first sitting down and determining our core values”, Christina shared.

When did she start this exercise? “On Day One”, she responded. Love it.

Personally, I always thought that most mission statements of companies I had worked at were a bunch of crap. They were top down. SPARC says it best on their website: “Core values and mission statements don’t make a culture. You can’t give people a list of rules to live by and expect a change of heart.” Maybe that’s part of the reason why they’re a 4-time winner of SC Best Places to Work.

So what are some of SPARC’s core values?

“People First, First. Accountable. Communication. Participation. Have Fun. Leave Them High.” The last one made me chuckle when Christina said this about her tenure at SPARC: “We always had free beer. I learned that people are very passionate about their beer.” Prior to their acquisition by Booz Allen Hamilton, they also had unlimited paid time off. Now that was gutsy culture.

As William Craig summarized for Forbes online, company culture is part of an organization’s DNA. It is not something that an employee brings with them. He says it not only contains values, but also vision and habits. If a business is clear in presenting these consistently to a recruit who shares similar principles, they will win them over.

Next week, I will share how highlighting community culture can also address the talent crunch, as well as more from Christine’s interview, including the concept of employer branding. It really got me thinking.

The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem is a weekly 500-word blog article by Thomas Heath, CLC that explores the world of business from an entrepreneur’s perspective. Its goals are to educate, enlighten and get conversations started. Join him with a Share or Comment, he loves to respond. And be sure to follow Thomas here on LinkedIn, as well as on Twitter: @ThomasHeathCLC .

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