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Developing Culture Remotely (Jonathon Reynolds)

By quantifying success, Jonathan Reynolds has built a winning culture.

When Jonathan Reynolds first joined Titus, it was an accounting services firm where everyone worked in an office. In 2015, Reynolds completed a buyout of the recruiting division that he was a part of starting in order to launch a new company, Titus Talent Strategies, a recruiting and talent strategy firm where the entire workforce was decentralized.

It’s been what Reynolds likes to call a “mobile workforce.” “Remote” sounds too isolated to his ear.

Reynolds, now CEO of Titus Talent Strategies, says his business partner, like many, was initially wary of an all-remote workforce. How would they know that employees were doing work? “It’s going to be amazing,” Reynolds recalls saying. “We’re going to do this by accountability and trust.”

To trust employees, Reynolds established some early ground rules. First, Titus leadership must be clear about the job of each employee. Leadership worked to quantifiably define success for each position. For those who get their job done, freedom awaits — they can take time away, travel or simply walk to the park.

As employees proved themselves trustworthy, the company grew, Reynolds says, adding that Titus has recently seen an average of 60 percent annual growth.

To quantify success, Titus created a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to ensure employees knew what was expected of them, were working well, and receiving coaching and development to meet company goals. Reynolds pulls up a color-coded heat map showing each employee at the company to see who is meeting their goals and who is falling short — the majority seem to exceed the quantifiable metrics of their jobs. Having a system like this allows Titus to see where employees are succeeding or falling short, allowing Reynolds’ team to coach around problem areas and refine successful ones.

“The notion of a high-performing, highly engaged culture is attractive to business owners,” says Reynolds, a Vistage member since 2018. “To get that, you must define performance to every person in the company. If you want a high-performing culture, every single person needs to know what quantifiable success looks like in their role. It cannot be a feeling — you must make it objective.”

Jonathan Reynolds, photo courtesy of Titus Talent Strategies.

Having this system has allowed Titus and its 200 salaried employees to be completely remote, aside from a training facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And while the workforce may be mobile, Reynolds doesn’t want employees to feel remote. Employees gather to do charitable work, like building houses. Reynolds says that they’ve worked intentionally to form bonds over weekly Zoom meetings, yearly in-person team meetings, and an annual company meeting — one year, they had life, finance, and health coaches available for employees. This year, they’ll focus on business goals and next year, they will take the whole company to Mexico to build homes again.

Gathering each year allows leadership and employees alike to learn and grow together, Reynolds says. It’s an idea he came up with after speaking with his Vistage Chair, Richard Carr. Noticing that Titus was growing quickly, Carr encouraged Reynolds to ensure his company was also growing intelligently and relationally.

“Growth equals opportunity, and for employees, that means career growth,” Reynolds says.

Taking that advice a step further, Reynolds looks for ways to engage each employee or group of employees, noting that they all have different needs. A single employee, for example, may yearn for more connection with coworkers. “We spend a lot of time, thought, strategy and intentionality around human connection,” Reynolds says. “There is an exchange anytime we hire people. I’m going to pay you for your service and I’m also going to create a value-driven environment for you to work, and we will develop you.”

People often hide behind the word “culture” without defining it, Reynolds says. But just as a job well done is impossible to see without quantifiable objectives, a good culture is impossible without an aim and a definition. At Titus, it’s about creating a culture of success and winning. Because more than anything, A-level employees want to be somewhere they can win.

“A-players don’t make career moves because you have a potluck on Thursdays and you’ve got a great family culture,” Reynolds says. “High-performers want to know what winning looks like. They want to win championships, they want to push themselves, and they want to know that they’re on a team of people who push themselves.”

A mixture of trust, accountability and clarity of expectations gives employees a winning culture alongside the freedom they desire, Reynolds says. And giving employees that freedom while the company grows has been rewarding for everyone.

3 Lessons Learned

With Richard Carr, Reynolds’ Vistage Chair

Talent wants to win
A-players want to work somewhere they can win and enjoy the trust, accountability and clarity of expectations from management.

Know your aim
Culture is all about everyone knowing the aim and vision of the enterprise and the role they play.

Understand what success looks like
A virtual company can thrive when team members feel connected. Connection comes when every single team member understands what quantifiable success looks like.

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