By Nolan Schmidt | Photos by Hillary Ehlen
BNG wanted to provide for and reward their employees for their excellent work. So, they built a workplace Mecca.
The story behind BNG is a remarkable one. From a start-up created by three college dropouts, the business solutions company has taken off into a nationally-recognized company. Not only is BNG recognized for its ability to get the proper results for their clients with an extremely talented team, but their company culture is second to none.
Culture and the people creating it have always been the focus for as long as BNG has been around. Owner and CEO Brady Nash, along with owners Ryan Goodman and Tyler Buechler believe that people create the culture. While their tremendous new space in south Fargo is a marvel, the BNG guys see it as a reward for their employees. They are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to employee appreciation and acknowledgment. This high-tech workspace is the biggest step in that direction yet for BNG.
1. Don’t build a new space for the sake of building a new space.
Everyone wants a new workspace or some variation of that. Whether that be a new office chair, a bigger desk or more places to collaborate, workspace is a key factor in employees enjoying their job. However, some businesses see a new space as a necessity over reward for their employee’s hard work.
That is not the case at BNG. Not only was the new space a reward to their employees, but also a necessity in some aspects. Regardless, it is a place that makes employees proud.
“Having a place where people are proud to come to, we do business nationally, so we don’t have tons of walk-in clients. The place we had before wasn’t bad, but it was pretty boxy around corners and walls,” said CEO Brady Nash. “Here, the energy, we’ve got a lot of glass in here, it’s open, but we have private space. We worked really hard to give people the adequate things they need when they need to focus, collaborate or even have fun spaces.”
When creating what kind of workspace they wanted, Nash and the BNG team wanted to tell the company’s story in the process. “This building is really unique and we also want to tell the story. We’re a business solutions company, we help entrepreneurs and businesses succeed. We help them grow and decrease costs. The story and the example of this also help facilitate a lot of that creativeness,” he said. “Creativity, how do you solve a problem? That has a lot to do with our culture and who we hire. We have ambition, we don’t want micromanagers, we wanted people that we didn’t have to motivate every day.”
In the end, the reasoning behind the building is people. Nash says that people always come first at BNG. “This building, for us, one of the big messages we wanted to send was that people matter. I’ve got a wife and five kids and I can tell them that I love them, but if I don’t show them, it doesn’t mean anything,” Nash said. “I can tell our team that they matter, that they are important, but if we don’t show them, it doesn’t mean anything. This building was one big statement and we wanted to invest in our team home for the entire team to enjoy. We’re putting them first. It embodies us.”
If you are building/moving into a new workplace or thinking about building/moving into a new workplace, what are your motives? Do you see it as a necessity or a reward for your employees?
2. Big, shiny objects are not culture.
Many workplaces put a great deal of weight on having cool things in their office. From ping pong tables to darts and everything in between, many believe this is the end all and be all for culture. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the actual case. As the old saying goes “all that glitters, is not gold.”
BNG has those cool things in their office, no doubt. Not only do they have arcade games, but they have a virtual reality room, basketball court, movie theater, full gym, adult slides and more. Again, Nash and BNG see those things like perks and not what defines their culture. Andy Henderson, Chief Marketing Officer for BNG says the culture has been around at BNG long before the basketball court and other trimmings were installed.
“Culture is the people, the building didn’t create the culture. The culture was already thriving at BNG long before this was built,” he said. “However, this building has amplified everything that was really strong about BNG before.”
Nash agrees with Henderson in that vein, but is quick to point out that BNG is a “work hard, play hard” office.
“The building, toys and stuff, it isn’t the culture. It is the people and the energy. We’ve worked so hard for so long and we have such amazing people, this was me wanting to reward our team. This building is really embodying our team,” Nash said about the various “toys” around the office. “I will put our team’s work ethic up against anyone. We enjoy what we do. Making money is great, but if we can have these things, why not give it to our whole team? Why not give back to your team? Why not help the people that have helped you make this dream a reality? Why not help fulfill their dreams?”
Another one of those perks is hiring a Dream Manager. This new position is gaining steam in businesses around the country. At BNG, former Real Truck President Jeff Vanlaningham is their Dream Manager.
“We hired a Dream Manager and his whole focus and role is to help people realize what their dreams are, what are their goals and how can we help them achieve those goals. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the business, it can be anything,” said Nash of the Dream Manager position. “Maybe their dream takes them out of BNG, I’m okay with that. I don’t want to lose high-level people, but it’s really embracing that life is too short, people matter and I want people to look back at BNG and say this was one of the best blessings of their life.”
Nash gives a nice summation of why BNG puts so much precedence on their people. To him, they’re worth the investment.
“No one cares if you had $70 million in the bank, it’s how you treat people. Having a facility that embraces that and that example,” he said.
What “toys” do you have in your office? Are they serving the purpose you intended them to have?
3. Build your business around core values and employees that embody those values.
BNG lives by five core values. Integrity, excellence, ambition, creativity and happy and grateful. These values take precedence over anything when Nash and company are looking to hire someone new. He also notes that not hiring people who fit BNG’s core values is his biggest fear.
“You find your core values and you find people that fit that. Happy and grateful is a huge value for me. I don’t care how smart or talented someone is, they can’t be a jerk,” he said. “What scares me is as we grow is how much the wrong person can start fires. It scares the crap out of me.”
While hiring and firing in that fashion may seem unique to some, it’s the way it has always been at BNG. As noted above, it’s people above everything else. “A significant effort went into identifying those core values and they have been disciplined in finding people who match that,” said Andy Henderson. “Who are you? Who are we? Identify that and find people who match those traits. It’s easy to have a culture because we’re all the same people.”
“It’s always been that way. The reason we succeed is our ability to get really talented people. We succeeded because we were so driven and we hired rockstar talented people. As we grew and mature, we really needed to change our process. You can’t do that in one day, it’s about scalability,” Nash said. “We’ve always believed in people and we’re probably the opposite of a lot of businesses. We started off with recurring revenue. Most businesses are trying to get into that business model now. That was our start. In a lot of ways, we’re very fortunate as to how we got into the business.”
Do you have core values? And are you hiring/firing based on those core values?
4. Do not try to be something you’re not.
Many strive to have a culture and business like BNG. However, as Nash (or any business owner) will tell you, no two businesses are alike. Each owner and CEO are different. Because of this, Nash says you need to build your culture around those management level professionals.
“It’s a big mistake for someone to copy us. It’s so important that the founders and the owners find out who they are. Who are they, who do they want to be and what are they going to stick to? You can find examples of businesses that have been successful and have failed in any business model. You can look at us and say we’re successful because we focus on people, the arcade machines and all that. That’s not why we’re successful,” he said. “Some people would hate working for a company like us. They want to clock in, focus, deliver and they don’t joke around. We laugh a lot in our meetings, we have a lot of fun. So culture needs to embody the owners and management so that it trickles down and is consistent, so people know what they are expecting. I think when people try to be something they’re not, that’s a problem and that’s where you get a lot of conflicts because you get a lot of different types of personalities.”
Consistency is a big key for Brady Nash and BNG. He also says that consistency should be key in every aspect of a business. Having that consistency creates a more fluid workplace.
“We’re looking at values. When we interview, we look at the person and see if they’re a fit and then what are their skills. Just because you’re a nice guy and you kind of fit, it doesn’t mean you can be in the business,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t care how smart or talented someone is, if they don’t hit those core values, they can’t be in here. Every time we’ve looked at or hired someone based on résumé alone, it’s blown up in our face.”
Have you structured your culture around the owners, founders, etc? Or is it being dictated by something else?
5. Do not sacrifice your team’s sanity for an extra dollar.
Perhaps what makes BNG so impressive is how selfless the entire team is. From the owners on down, the team is not entirely focused on making money. For Nash, success has 100 different faces, not just one. In a business climate that is often built on greed and how much profit one can make, BNG has a refreshing approach.
“How do you define success? Unfortunately, when it comes to publicly traded companies, it’s based upon numbers. What I love about us is that we’re a private company. Yes, we want to make money, but it’s not how much money we make,” Nash said. “I want to grow, I want to build a $1 billion company, but not at the cost of our people and our culture. I’d rather be a $100 million company known for taking care of people than a $1 billion company known for screwing people over. Not only saying it but living it too.”
There are not too many American business owners that would say what Brady Nash said above. That being said, BNG and its team is a rarity. Their company culture is not defined by the neat things in their office or their fancy new building. It will always be about people first, not profits.
Would you sacrifice profits to ensure the security of your employees and your company’s culture?
3285 47th Street South, Fargo