Coolest-Places-2014-WEB-30By Dave DeWitte

CEDAR RAPIDS—Clickstop was the big winner at the Corridor Business Journal’s second-annual Coolest Places to Work Awards breakfast, held at the Cedar Rapids Marriott on June 17.

The operator of U.S. Cargo Control and seven other online stores impressed the judges at The Skywalk Group for the second year in a row. It had won the mid-size company category in 2013 before growing its way to a win in the large company and overall category in this year’s competition.

Clickstop founder and CEO Tim Guenther said the honor reaffirms Clickstop’s success in developing a high-performance workplace culture.

“This is the best piece of recognition you can possibly get,” said Mr. Guenther, whose company generates more than $20 million in revenue from seven online stores and a small onsite retail store.

Sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Marriott and the Eastern Iowa Airport, the competition honored 24 companies, eight in each of three size categories. It also included a Social Media Award (see page 3) and the inaugural award for Coolest Contestant Video, which was claimed by Rausch Productions of Cedar Rapids (see page XX).

The awards process began with the submission of a nomination for each company, and then moved onto an evaluation by the Skywalk Group that required employees and management to fill out a questionnaire explaining what they like about their workplace. Skywalk Group executives scored the responses.

“Cool factors” promoted by contestants ran the gamut from wellness programs to wild perks to opportunities to help others in need.

“This is really about what your employees think,” said Skywalk Group principal and co-founder, Lydia Brown. She said the competition attracted double last year’s number of entrants, and the scoring of the finalists was incredibly close.

The perks and performance expectations are both high at Clickstop. Perks include an everyday casual dress code, annual “Rock Star Awards” that bring extra profit sharing and prestige, and a refrigerator stocked with organic foods for employee snacking.

A profit-sharing program was expanded this year to include many part-time employees, and a philanthropic program called “Clickstop Cares” generated over $10,000 for community needs in May alone.

Wellness subcommittees promote nutrition, lifestyle fitness, competitive fitness and work-life balance strategies such as meal planning, massage and reflexology. Employees plant an outdoor garden and grill out on the patio.

Culture is defined at Clickstop as “the way we want to work,” said Jim Mayhew, Clickstop’s chief culture officer. It begins with a corporate mission statement, “To create a business that is sustainable, enjoyable and provides opportunity for those who seek it.”

The mission statement and supporting communications have evolved from a process that asked every Clickstop employees to write down what they admire in their colleagues and what makes the company a unique place to work.

One thing a strong culture does for Clickstop is make its leaders more effective, said Mr. Mayhew and Mr. Guenther. Employees understand the context for the expectations of leaders, and leaders know what kind of behaviors to encourage and cultivate.

“Being a manager and having the vantage point of leading and mentoring people, I realized that without that (context of shared values), it’s hard to lead,” Mr. Guenther said in an interview.

The culture tends to emphasize values over rules. Mr. Mayhew said the typical Clickstop response to behavior that violates the values would be corrective feedback rather than creating more rules.

Workplace culture is increasingly important as employers compete for top talent, said Billy Martin, director of employer outreach at the University of Iowa’s Pomerantz Career Center, who attended the June 17 event.

“From the companies I’ve met with the last few months, the common theme I’ve heard is culture,” he noted. “They realize that wearing a suit and tie every day is not going to help the bottom line. They want their employees to be comfortable and to enjoy coming to work.”

Even with its cool culture, Mr. Guenther and Mr. Mayhew said Clickstop has an intensive new hire screening process to identify candidates who will thrive in a high-performance culture. Leadership strives for a direct feedback loop to reward that performance in the forms of benefits, incentive payouts and perks.

Developing the culture has been a journey for Clickstop. At the end of 2013, there was a recognition that the culture had grown too comfortable, Mr. Guenther said. After attending a weekend retreat in Dubuque last December intended to address cultural issues, Clickstop has excelled in 2014.

“Investing in culture is an ongoing thing,” Mr. Guenther said. “It is not something you do in a day, a month or a year. It’s doing what’s best for the people around you.”

Three hundred people attended the June 17 breakfast event at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, and served as judges in the video contest.

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