The Spotix team poses for a group photo outside the company’s North Liberty headquarters. The North Liberty-based company was named the No. 1 coolest medium company for 2019 as part of the CBJ’s Coolest Places to Work competition. PHOTO SPOTIX
By Emery Styron
North Liberty’s Spotix, a leading online retailer of fireplaces, fire pits, hearths and grills, has cooked up a recipe for company culture that literally makes team members’ mouths water when they talk about their workplace.
“Not to brag, but we have a trained chef as one of our teammates here who cooks for our birthdays each month and other special events we have going on,” one employee told CBJ. “We also have a potluck once a month to celebrate a random national holiday, whether it be National Make Your Own Waffle Day, Bring Your Dog to Work Day or my favorite, National Margarita Day.”
Spotix President Aaron Verhorevoort agrees that tasty perks like crawfish boils, massage chairs, Friday Happy Hours and suite parties at Kernels games help make the company the No. 1 place to work among medium-sized companies, but he insists the secret sauce is “really the intangibles.”
Team building events “bring people close together, but they don’t happen all the time. The more important side of workplace culture is daily interaction,” he said. “Do people smile when you walk in?”
Employee comments, given as part of the Coolest Places to Work survey, suggest those intangibles are indeed producing smiles at Spotix.
“Everyone is incredibly friendly and thoughtful, and clearly dedicated to team success and bonding,” wrote one employee. “I am happy and excited about everyday I spend there.”
“We don’t have a traditional ‘top-down’ organization. People are allowed to step in and contribute in a meaningful way from day one. In addition, we’re all flexible in trying to shape the business and culture of a long-lasting company,” offered another.
The entire Spotix leadership works “to make sure culture is at the front of our mind, and to make sure we’re living the values of the company every day,” said Mr. Verhorevoort, adding that maintaining positive and open communication is vital. “People bring their lives into the office. Anyone can have a bad day. We try to not let that spread, working as a team to make sure everybody has the best day they can.”
In recruiting and hiring, Spotix focuses on building a team that fits its culture, he said.
“When you hire the right people who align with outcomes of the company, the sky is really the limit.”
Mr. Verhorevoort notes that the company’s rapid growth during his seven-year tenure has heightened the importance of building a positive work environment. Spotix has appeared on the CBJ’s Fastest Growing Companies list five consecutive times, including as No. 1 in 2015 with 283.6 percent growth.
“When you are a two to three person company, it’s different than when you’re 30 people,” he said. “It’s more a part of the conversation than it used to be.”
Spotix in 2016 relocated to 36,000 square feet of space in the then-new Grand Rail Development building along Interstate 380, easily meeting a requirement to add 15 new jobs at salaries of $40,000 or higher to qualify for tax incentives.
The location, Mr. Verhorevoort said, “has been great for us. Being in North Liberty, in center of Corridor, gives us a geographic advantage. It’s easier to pull from Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids.”
All of Spotix’s teams have grown, including sales, customer solutions, warehouse personnel, administrative operations, content writers and digital marketing specialists. The company’s culture has been important in helping Spotix recruit from what he calls the Corridor’s “excellent” but “fairly competitive” talent pool.
The focus on culture “helps attract high-quality talent and makes our output better,” said Mr. Verhorevoort, who is learning about work-life balance as a brand new father. He’s also gained a new appreciation for another Spotix tradition: “diaper parties” to stock up the families of newborns with diapers, toys and gifts.
Birthday lunches are another popular event, where team members take advantage of the Spotix content manager’s high-end chef training, choosing foods for him to prepare, usually by smoking.
“Since we sell grills, lots of people here are passionate about grilling and smoking food,” Mr. Verhorevoort said.
The opportunity to “grill, smoke, and sous vide [a low temperature method of cooking food] a wide variety of foods regularly” is “one of the best perks of working at a company that sells high-end cooking equipment,” commented one team member, adding, “It’s a really good thing we recently added discounted gym memberships as an employee perk.”