Sandy Marsico had a vision of a digital marketing agency that was creative, collaborative and fun when she founded Sandstorm Design in 1998. Six employees later, she seemed to be off to a great start.
“I remember taking a break to pick flowers down the street,” she said. “It was fine because there were only a handful of us and everybody knew what everyone was doing.”
But once six employees grew to 10, she lost control of what had been a dream company in the making.
Employees began arguing in the office, making a once-harmonious atmosphere combative and toxic. Coming to work was becoming an unpleasant grind, never a good position for the boss to be in.
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Eventually, she decided that enough was enough. She took back the company’s reins and laid down the ground rules for employee conduct, which Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” said were essential to a healthy work environment.
“It’s really about building a box,” he said. “You tell them, ‘Have as much fun in the box as you want, but you can’t leave the box.’ These are the rules of engagement.”
Once the rules were in place, Marsico was free to focus on her next goal – making Sandstorm a fun place to work. Wine tastings now take place. Team events, such as a trip to the movies or a surprise day off, are part of the culture. There is even the occasional pajama day.
The monthly company meeting, known as the “You Rock,” is another opportunity for fun. After sharing important company information and updates, she reads thank-you notes that the employees have written to each other to acknowledge a job well done.
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Lemonis said that these morale-boosting meetings are great, but he reminded her that Sandstorm is still a business and advised her to end meetings on a note that drives it home. He also stressed that it’s important for employees to have access to growth opportunities.
“People should know that they’re part of something big and growing,” he said. “Too often employers keep people down, but you should be proud, knowing that they are products from your company. To be able to be a factory for good workers with good disciplines will actually work in your favor. Take pride if people grow and develop and get better.”
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According to Marsico, Sandstorm has flourished since her changes to the company were implemented.
“Today Sandstorm is a lot of fun, a lot of collaboration, a lot of positive energy,” Marsico said. “It’s been an amazing transformation and something I’m so proud of.”