Widgets Magazine

Culture Makes the Company

By: Alesia Hendley
With the workforce currently being focused on millennials, how to attract new, fresh talent continues to be a hot topic across industries – especially the AV industry. A key focus point has been what we millennials want on the job. In reality, no matter what your generation, the bottom line is we all want to feel some sense of purpose when arriving at work. That sense of purpose starts with company employees and management interactions; a company culture. Company culture drives employee performance, it directly affects business results and sets your company, as well as the employees, apart from any other company. Not having any type of culture on the job can be frustrating.
Earlier this year, Access Networks founder and CEO, Hagai Feiner, utilized a Twitter poll to help make a company decision. Annie Heathorn, marketing manager at Access Networks, shared with me “We have had only one team member voluntarily leave Access Networks in the thirteen years since we have been established. The company culture fostered here plays a significant role in team-member loyalty and our ability to hang on to our team. We love coming into work every day and are in it for the long-run.” This is clear evidence of the type of team and successful culture being built at Access Networks. If our industry wants to recruit and keep new talent, company culture will continue to play a major part in low turnover rates and overall exceptional business without a doubt. Hagai took some time out to tell us how they maintain and advance their culture at Access Networks.
How do you make decisions? ex: complete shutdown for the holidays
** You mentioned as CEO you have the final say, but you all work as a group so it’s not all your decision to make. Can you elaborate on the decision-making process there at Access Networks?  
Hagai: I love making decisions with a group. This way, people do not feel things are forced on them and appreciate the opportunity for being masters of their own destiny. I also use these discussions to read my team’s reaction, body language, etc. This helps me understand the impact of my/our decisions on a deeper level.  
When and if there is a disagreement, how do you resolve the issue and find solutions?
H: For a long time, my compass has been John Nash and his original theory, where the best result happens when every member of the group does what’s best for themselves AND the group. Taking this into context at Access Networks, I try to make decisions that benefit everyone. It’s not always that simple, and sometimes the team member will benefit (we call everyone here a team member, we don’t have employees) and other times the company will benefit. Oftentimes there is a middle ground, and I try to be creative and find it. That’s the art of it all: creating a win for everyone.  
In the hiring process, are company values always top of mind during an interview? Is there a perfect fit the team looks for?
H: Values are top-ranking for us. We’ve hired people for skills before and ended up falling on our faces. The reason is that while skills are learned, values are hard to change or instill, and good people are hard to find. When your entire team shares core values, it hardens your organization and allows you to succeed in difficult tasks. There is a feeling of shared responsibility and accountability that otherwise would not be there.    
Do you give yearly reviews to your staff? If not yearly, what’s your method?
H: I conduct yearly reviews with those who work directly with me. All other reviews are conducted by the individual’s direct superior. Our reviews are usually casual, mostly because I tackle challenges as they come throughout the year, and I do not wait for yearly reviews in order to raise these points or ask my peers for their feedback and expectations of me. Being assertive and addressing issues head-on clears the path for success.
In what ways does Access Networks invest and support professional career development?
H: My basic approach is that we all have different needs. In the past we have supported our team members by sending them to technical schools, paying for tuition, books and even certification costs, all while keeping them on full time pay while they were working part time. Today we have one part-time student attending a local community college and she is afforded the opportunity to work from home two days a week while attending classes.
I do not put anything in writing, but my hope and expectation is that these team members who benefit from our flexibility remain with us for a long period of time. Predictability is a priceless commodity for any business owner, isn’t it?
Are there any designated times where all team members interact on a personal level? ex: an office game or social hour?
H: Of course! We have quarterly events, usually at a closed venue where everyone is invited (but sadly not everyone attends). This can be a baseball game, a trip to the local gun range followed by dinner, or even a brewery visit. The one big event (where I also see perfect attendance) is our holiday party. We choose a different venue every year, families are welcome, and starting this year we will also announce promotions at this event as well as the winners of our new Maui trip program.  
I don’t know if you have seen the movie The Intern with Robert DeNiro – but the way they celebrated any type of success was by ringing a bell in an open floor setting and everyone would celebrate that success. How does Access Networks celebrate success on a daily basis?
H: Well… We don’t have a bell :), but we do express gratitude to our team members during our weekly company meetings. We also just enacted our new Maui trip program where I will serve as a tour guide and take three team members for a weekend in Maui every year. The three team members will be picked by their peers (I do not vote and am the only one to see the results). I encourage everyone to pick the team members who they feel are deserving of this trip based on how helpful and kind their peers have been. See that win-win?
Is there an internship program at Access Networks? If so, is it more of a mentor program or educational based program?
H: We do not have an internship program just yet, but I do believe that PAID internships are critical for our economy and look forward to enacting this program internally.  
Is your personal office an open format? From a glimpse of things, it looks like most of the office is open. Can you tell us a little more about what goes into the design? Why did you want an open office? How has it affected the culture?
H: Open offices are great in concept, but are usually terrible for phone conversations and especially support calls where engineers must focus on the task at hand. For this reason, we have chosen to build individual offices and include windows in every office so that everyone can see what the team us up to, and we maintain a sense of transparency in the office. While this has been the case with both our Encino and Valencia, CA offices, our new office in PA will be very different.  
Access Networks is opening an east coast branch. The building looks wonderful. Congratulations on that. It’s a big change from California, going into the designing process, what type of office format will it be? How significant is it to you when thinking of the future culture in that space?
H: Our new PA office is an historic building that deserves to be preserved and looked after. For this reason, we will minimize construction and only add those amenities we deem necessary for the business. We plan on building a third floor apartment to house our team while they are out there and also encouraging all of our team members to stay there with their families if they feel like they need a “change of scenery”. Just another way of having everyone benefit from our success. Here is a link.
Now I know what you thinking, especially us millennials. I need to work at Access Networks and get in on this Maui trip. The culture that has been created at Access Network holds greater value than any weekend getaway paid for by an employer. Hagai and his team create win-win situations and show appreciation for their employees starting in the hiring process that lingers as each team member grows within the company. Company culture is the foundation of this enterprise that leads the whole team to overall success.
My goal is to build my career in the industry that will continue to lead me into an environment with a strong positive culture. Let us hear about the culture at your company. How are you as an employee working to build a culture within your company? Keep the conversation going via Twitter #AVtweeps. You can always find me at @thesmoothfactor.

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