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Ty Kiisel: Rivalry Week, productivity and employee morale

Published: Friday, Sept. 20 2013 9:25 a.m. MDT

Employees at Lendio in South Jordan get into the spirit of Rivalry Week with Facebook posts, window painting, giant flags and thousands of balloons.

Ty Kiisel

Sometime every fall the Utes and the Cougars face off on the gridiron for a football rivalry that has been going on for as long as I can remember. Of the last few years, the same thing happens in our office at Lendio.

This year is no different.

It started off a couple of weeks ago in the company meeting. “Don’t do anything that is illegal or will cause permanent damage,” said our CEO, Brock Blake. “And, if you make a mess in the office, you’ll have to clean it up.”

He was referring to the thrashing Utes' mascot Swoop gave an image of Cosmo with a paint ball gun last year—and the mess it left behind. It seems the Utes appreciated Swoop's addition to the artwork more than the Cougars did.

This year the Cougar fans have 50 BYU flags hanging throughout the office claiming, “There’s one flag for every point the Cougs are going to put up on the scoreboard,” claims Blake. A big part of this year’s battle is taking place in cyberspace. One hard-core Ute fan discovered “someone” had posted a blog titled Confessions of a BYU Fan—My Secret, My Passion, revealing his love for all things BYU. In retaliation, rabid BYU fans are pictured, bare-chested, sporting U-T-A-H cheering on the Utes.

The Utes, not to be outdone by a few BYU fans (in the wee hours of the morning Friday), filled the offices with more than 15,000 red balloons. Between the office pranks, Facebook posts, window painting and even a "new" company logo, the football teams don’t take this rivalry any more serious than the fans at our little company in South Jordan.

If you don’t believe it, you check out the 600 lb. “Y” flag hoisted up by two cranes in front of our building alongside I-15.

“Why do we do this every year? Because it’s fun, because it gives us all a chance to let our hair down and it’s good for our company culture,” said Blake. “It’s true, we aren’t as productive as we are every other week of the year — I can’t even count the number of private meetings we’ve had in my office trying to one-up the other side — but morale and company culture are important to us. You have to do more than just talk about it.”

Blake believes more than money, more than title, more than the benefits package, it’s company culture that attracts rock-star talent. “Have you ever wondered why so many highly talented people leave very successful organizations?” he asks. “They may say it’s money or an opportunity to move up, but far too often it’s the culture of the company or a difficult boss.”

In addition to having fun on Rivalry Week, Blake has a list of things that creates a culture that attracts rockstar talent — that I agree with:

Start with values: I couldn’t agree more. Most people want to contribute to something meaningful — something bigger than they are. Doing that starts with values. That being said, values need to be a lot more than simply a post on the wall. These values need to inform how you make decisions, interact with your customers and interact with your brand.

Have a big vision: Blake likes to quote Tim O’Reilly who said, “Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried.” Our vision at Lendio is to help small business owners fuel their American Dream by helping them find access to the capital they need to grow. That’s a dream we can all get behind. Your vision is how you inspire and motivate your people.

Focus on the customer: Far too many businesses focus on everything but the customer. If your vision isn’t focused on helping your customer, it doesn’t take long before they see right through what you’re doing and head down the road, looking for someone who really puts their customers first. This is another place where you need to do more than give lip service. You really need to live it.

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