On this week’s episode of the Epic Company Culture Podcast, Roxana Shershin joins us for an in-depth look at the company culture of Digital Additive. Roxana has worked hard to create a company that is driven and guided by its core values. Values of honesty, authenticity, and genuineness have created a highly engaged, innovative, and relationship oriented team comprised of both onsite, and remote employees.

Roxana Shershin

Roxana Shershin

President | Partner at Digital Additive

Founder of Digital Additive, digital advertising with a geek edge. Spare time crossfitter, yogini, music fanatic, and travel dreamer.

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Digital Additive

Digital Additive

1075 Zonolite Rd NE, Suite 1d Atlanta, GA 30306

In a world of one-size-fits-all email, Digital Additive delivers on the promise of one-to-one. Founded in 2012, Digital Additive specializes in CRM Planning, Email Marketing Services, DataIntegration, Creative, and Campaign Optimization services to Fortune 1000 companies including The Home Depot, FleetCor, ApartmentGuide, Oldcastle and Carters, Inc. An agency partner of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Digital Additive helps clients go beyond email to a fosterauthentic conversation with their customers.

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Company Culture


Employee Retention

Culture Champions

Sales Culture

Team Building

Full Transcript

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Epic Company Culture podcast where your host, Josh Sweeney, will give you, the business leaders, HR professionals and company culture aficionados the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

Josh Sweeney: Hello, and welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast. Before I get started, I’d like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcast space. Today’s episode is part of the culture champion series, and we’re here with Roxana Shershin from Digital Additive. Roxana, thanks for joining us.

Series: Culture Champions

Roxana Shershin: Oh, thank you.

Josh Sweeney: Well, it’s great to have you in. I’d love to hear a little bit about you and your company.

Introducing Roxana Shershin with Digital Additive

Roxana Shershin: Sure. So I am a co-founder of Digital Additive. We are an email marketing services agency, but that’s sort of a very broad statement. What we’re really specialized in is trying to drive home that idea of one-to-one marketing and really delivering on that promise by leveraging data and technology, as well as creative, to create that personalized experience for our customers.

Digital Additive: Salesforce Shop

Josh Sweeney: Got it. Is there certain technology you like to use for that?

Roxana Shershin: Yeah. So we’re actually a Salesforce shop, so we do Salesforce marketing cloud as our primary vehicle for email and mobile messages, but we are agnostic in terms of what we need to plumb into that platform to make those communications work.

Josh Sweeney: I’m sure with something as large as Salesforce and their cloud, you get all kinds of integration-

Roxana Shershin: Absolutely.

Josh Sweeney: From AppExchange and data coming from all different points to make those decisions.

Roxana Shershin: Yes, exactly, very much so.


Work History: Best Company Culture

Josh Sweeney: Awesome. So let’s start off with a little history. From a company culture perspective, what is one of the best cultures you’ve worked in before … Of course, I’m sure Digital Additive is your best one yet.

Roxana Shershin: Of course.

Josh Sweeney: But before that, what were some experiences that you went through that you really just enjoyed that stood out in your past?

Roxana Shershin: Sure. So I’ve really been very lucky to have had a number of places to have worked that have been great. But one that comes to mind is I worked for Care International, which is a large non-profit organization. The fact that it’s a non-profit aside, which of course has this esoteric do-gooder kind of vibe to it, what made the culture really unique for me was really based on that time and place. I started when they moved their headquarters from New York to Atlanta, so there was a huge cohort of us. We all started at the same time. They had a number of staff members who moved from New York to Atlanta, and they were starting. So we were all kind of new and new to either Atlanta or new to the organization at the same time, and it created a real deep bond between everybody. I think when you all start … It’s kind of like freshman year in college, and you all hang out in the dorm together. I mean, we worked crazy hours because we effectively had to have no change in the day-to-day operations of the organization, but yet everyone’s still new. So it was exciting, but I think, culturally speaking, it was about those relationships, and some of my closest friends are still folks who I worked with during that time.

Fundamental Difference: Non-Profit vs. Other Company

Josh Sweeney: Got it. So what would you say are some of the fundamental differences in non-profit culture that you feel are generally the ethos of those versus other companies? I know that’s a broad generalization, but were there some standout items where it’s like that mostly shows up at a non-profit?

Roxana Shershin: It’s funny, because I came from an ad agency to a non-profit, and I had a huge expectation of, okay, the culture’s going to be completely different, because everyone’s there for the better good. There’s a little bit of that, but a company is a company. So it’s funny, because after you get past that initial piece, that you’re like, oh, my gosh, we’re doing so much great things, culturally speaking, I don’t know if there was anything hugely different. It was really all that relationship piece, and the teams I worked on were great because we had managers and directors who really cared about the folks. But just like with another company, if you had a manager, director who was about checking the box or clocking in and clocking out, it had a different vibe and a different culture to it. So I don’t think it was all that different.

Nimble Culture: Speed and Desire

Roxana Shershin: If anything, what stood out is because it’s such a large organization, it was again more of the size of it. It moved slower than the little ad agency I’d come from, so that kind of surprised me. But I think non-profit are-

Josh Sweeney: But, I guess, that’s a pretty-

Roxana Shershin: … risk-averse.

Josh Sweeney: … common theme. Yeah, that too. That speed is probably a common theme based on size, no matter what type of organization, right?

Roxana Shershin: Exactly. I think speed and desire to push things through affects a culture, certainly. Coming from a more nimble culture where people want to move really fast, and that creates a different vibe and energy. That certainly wasn’t there, but I don’t know if it was size or the non-profit-esque or governmental. I can’t tell you if that was really the fact that it was a non-profit or if it just was big, and big moves slower.


Nimble Culture: Intentional and Subculture

Josh Sweeney: Or both.

Roxana Shershin: Or both, right, exactly.

Josh Sweeney: So how does that play into what you think about with Digital Additive now, where you’re in a nimble, small agency? I don’t know how big compared to Care, relationally. But now that your business is growing, how does some of that factor into your psyche and how you’re building the company?

Roxana Shershin: Oh, it absolutely does. But what’s so funny is I think even in the companies that I’ve worked at before, I think also folks weren’t very intentional. I don’t know. I don’t remember people talking about culture, so it kind of was organic. It was whatever it was, and then you had little subcultures. As I mentioned, you had a director who led his team a certain way and that kind of spun off its own little subculture that may or may not have jived with the rest of the organization. But I do like the fact that, at least for DA and even a lot of my colleagues, we’re actually talking about culture and being intentional about it, as opposed to letting it happenstance evolve.


Culture Perspective: Being Nimble

So, definitely, for us, one of our core values is about being nimble, and so we talk a lot about, from a cultural perspective, how can we maintain that even as we grow or even as we work with clients and companies that may not be as nimble? But how do we protect that part of our core value and also that part of the energy that I think that brings to bear for the culture as well?

Core Values

Josh Sweeney: Got it. So on the core value topic, do you know how many core values you have?

Roxana Shershin: Of course, I have five.

Josh Sweeney: I always have to preface like, do you know? Maybe I should have asked you that before. So out of the five, which one is your favorite, and why?

Roxana Shershin: Oh, that’s a good one. So I think my favorite or the one I tend to gravitate toward a lot is genuine, because, for us, genuine is a mixture of being, of course, the pay to play of being honest. We do not put honesty as a core value, because that just is a presumption-

Roxana Shershin: … a pay to play kind of value. But genuine is being authentic and open and honest with each other of what we know and what we don’t know, with each other and with our clients, and creating a sense of trust that evolves from that level of authenticity and being genuine. It’s something that I like to think is my own … I actually have personal core values too, but it’s also one of my-


Core Value: Genuine

Josh Sweeney: Are they in your pocket?

Roxana Shershin: They’re not in my pocket. They’re on my phone.

Josh Sweeney: A card?

Roxana Shershin: They’re on my phone. But genuine is also a personal core value, and I just think, to build a strong relationship, it kind of, at its core, is building that authenticity and trust that comes out of being genuine.


Company Values to Self Values

Josh Sweeney: Do you feel that, since you’re a cofounder, your core values are really what kind of become the company core values, at least in the beginning? Then have they morphed from there because you added so many team members?

Roxana Shershin: That’s a really good question. So I have to admit, I kind of did this backward in that we worked on our corporate core values probably about two years in. So we didn’t do it from the get-go, and I’m glad we didn’t because it was just three of us sitting around a table in a coworking space. I think we would have come up with something that just reflected the three of us. So we did it with the leadership team about four or five years ago. It was through that exercise and having been at other companies that had core values … They put them on placards.


Personal Core Values

Josh Sweeney: Honesty.

Roxana Shershin: Yeah, honesty is in there.

Josh Sweeney: Integrity.

Roxana Shershin: But I think, going through the exercise, I recognized that I hadn’t really done … To think that an entity has core values first before I’ve even figured out what my personal core values … It was kind of like an a-ha moment. I was like, huh, I don’t have my own personal core values at some early young age. Figure it out. So I did it backward, and it was interesting having gone through the core values of the organization with the leadership team and then really working the language we actually evolved as a whole agency. So everyone had input on what does smart mean, because one of them is smart, and it’s not just intellectually smart. It’s about being innovative, but having folks really weigh in on what does that mean from a day-to-day perspective. How does that actually translate into behavior, as opposed to just words?


Core Values: Reinforcement

Josh Sweeney: How does that get reinforced?

Roxana Shershin: Exactly. So I did it in reverse, and it’s interesting, having gone through my own personal core values, there’s certainly … Like I mentioned, genuine is a shared one, but they’re not all shared.

Josh Sweeney: What are some ways that you reinforce genuine as a core value within the organization?

Roxana Shershin: A lot of it has to do with being open and trusting and honest with what you know and what you don’t know. Especially with email and anything digital, there’s this expectation that we can be fast and nimble. Part of being nimble is because there’s an expectation around it. I think sometimes in a desire to be fast and please, we sometimes will ignore what we don’t know and kind of just ram right through it. So I think from a day-to-day perspective, just making sure that people feel safe in being able to say, hey, wait, I’m not sure about this, or this is out of my comfort zone. I need help. That’s really where I think, from a day-to-day perspective … encouraging people to feel safe that they can be open and honest on both sides of the spectrum.


Peer-to-Peer Learning

Josh Sweeney: That’s what came to mind for me was feeling safe and being able to say you don’t know and know that there’s not some repercussion or-

Roxana Shershin: Right, or judgment.

Josh Sweeney: … judgment or whatever else it is.

Roxana Shershin: Absolutely.

Josh Sweeney: Let’s go find out.

Roxana Shershin: Yes, exactly.

Josh Sweeney: Do you find that that leads to more inquisitiveness across people, like they’re able to say they don’t know and they realize maybe multiple people don’t know, so there’s an opportunity there?

Roxana Shershin: Yes, I think so. I’d like to think so. It’s funny. We hire a lot of folks out of college. As much as college is such learning … It’s all about learning. There is a little bit of this fear to ask, that, oh, wait, I should know this. There’s this thought that I should know, and then you realize you really don’t. I’d like to think it translates into a little bit more of that curiosity to find out. But I think what it really does evolve into is a lot more leaning on each other and building that trust and saying, well, I don’t know, but do you know? Then having peer-to-peer learning or try to figure it out, but at least acknowledging it upfront.


Remote Employee: Trusting and Genuine

Josh Sweeney: So to be able to lean on each other and be trusting and genuine, you’ve got to have a great team. So tell us, what is the team like at DA? What’s the structure? Are you all in an office? Do you have remote people?

Roxana Shershin: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So we are about 43 people. Out of the 43, 10 are remote, and by remote I mean remote-remote, not just work from home. So we have a few folks in Upstate New York. We have somebody in Chicago. We have someone in Nagano, Japan. We didn’t necessarily hire him in Nagano, Japan. He was working for us in Atlanta and then moved to Japan. So we really work hard on trying to create … I don’t know if guardrails are the right, but just helping create some standards to help ensure that folks don’t get disconnected. So every one of our huddle rooms and conference rooms are equipped with cameras and Google Meets. We encourage everyone to always have their video on because there is something to be said about connecting with somebody face-to-face, even if it’s on video. I don’t know what the percentage is, but it’s a pretty high percentage of communication through body language. I’m sure there’s a study with an actual percentage. But even being able to engage at that level is really important, because, for example, AJ, who’s in Japan, I mean, he comes to the States once a year, so how to ensure that he’s connected and engaged and feels that appreciation and that energy is really important.


Remote Employee: Face-to-Face

Josh Sweeney: I wouldn’t say it’s a rule in our organization, but it’s highly encouraged to always turn on your video. I’ll reinforce that by asking, hey, are you turning on your video? Should we wait a minute? Whatever it is to let people know we expect to see you and build those relationships. I mean, it’s even the same with the podcast. A lot of people do remote podcasts, and we have a few that we do remotely over the phone, but being face-to-face just gives such a better experience, better relationship and things like that.

Roxana Shershin: Oh, absolutely.

Josh Sweeney: It takes a little extra time, a little extra coordination, but it works out.

Roxana Shershin: No, absolutely. It makes a huge difference. In fact, it’s funny. So many of our clients, they’re big organizations, how many of them have yet to embrace video calls or video conferencing. So we end up doing a lot of client calls all just traditional conference call style, and it’s a totally different experience. You just really can get off the phone. I’m like, I don’t know what happened. You just feel like you’re missing out on so much.


Client: Face-to-Face

Josh Sweeney: Something’s happening in the room, but you can’t see it.

Roxana Shershin: You can’t see it.

Josh Sweeney: They pause, and people talk in the room. You can’t hear the rest of it. All kinds of weird things, for sure.

Roxana Shershin: Oh, absolutely.

Josh Sweeney: I’ve noticed there is a difference. I’ll get on with some people, and they’ll already have their camera on, or I’ll have my camera on because I let them know, like, hey, my camera’s always on so we can talk. They’ll jump on and be like, oh, I didn’t know we were going to do cameras. Well, yeah, turn it on if you’re comfortable. If you’re able to, great. If not, no big deal. But even reinforcing that with clients, truly helpful to see what’s going on, all that nonverbal communication, as you mentioned.

Roxana Shershin: Absolutely, yeah. It makes all the difference, especially with clients that are further. We have a client in LA, and we can’t get out there as much as we’d like, but it makes all the difference to be able to do the face-to-face time.


Hierarchical Culture

Josh Sweeney: So before Digital Additive, what was one culture you experienced that you really didn’t enjoy, that wasn’t a fit for you, and why?

Roxana Shershin: So as I mentioned, I’ve been really lucky, because of I really … It’s funny because even in building out DA, some decisions you make because you don’t want to repeat mistakes, and some decisions you make because you want to reinforce the behaviors you enjoyed. I think there are quite a few things from a cultural perspective. I think the one thing that we’ve really tried to work hard at is to … I’m trying to think of a good way to put it, but is to kind of avoid that traditional hierarchical vibe of the president … Especially as we’ve grown, the president is in some sort of room, and you only need to go to him or her when you have something very important to say or a problem to solve or whatever that is.

Open Space Culture

So one of the things, when we actually built out our offices, we specifically don’t have offices. It’s all open space, and you just pick where you want to sit for the day, which is great because we have a highly flexible work environment. So we don’t have wasted space to have a desk for somebody who’s only going to be there twice a week. But what I think it enables is I actually physical sit at one of the big tables in the center of the office. I’d like to think folks feel that I’m in it with them, and it’s not just I’m kind of sat apart both physically and mentally and even emotionally. I know when somebody’s having a really hard time or if there’s something going on and need a second opinion. I can be right there with them, and I think that gives a different culture. There’s less looking for approval as much as it is I want to bounce something off of you. I have a thought. What do you think about this? As opposed to, can you approve this, or what would you do instead? to me. I got to give credit to my boy Brendon Burchard for coming up with PQO. That’s not a Taylor Barnes thing.

Josh Sweeney: More of a collaborative feel, like I need to come to you to hear your share, your knowledge, your experience, and then we’ll go make a decision kind of thing.

Roxana Shershin: Yeah. It’s a totally different type of conversation.

Psychology: Humans are Creatures of Habit.

Josh Sweeney: So we’ve had a few people on that talk about the culture of space and the different challenges of the traditional office. Then we went all the way to this super open office, some of the challenges from that. What have you found to be some of the challenges of having a very open office? I know it’s all the rage these days, and it’ll morph a little bit more over the years. But what one or two challenges you’ve noticed?

Roxana Shershin: What is interesting is that, just from a human psychology perspective, humans are creatures of habit. So we crafted the open space with this idea that people could sit with folks depending on the type of work you’re doing. So if you’re working on a project with Courtney today, you’re going to sit with her and work on that. No, that actually doesn’t happen. So I don’t think it’s a downside, per se, but it’s fascinating. People still sit in the same seats, and people still sit with folks that they are most comfortable with. So I’m the one … Because I am so intentional about it, I kind of rove around.


Josh Sweeney: You purposely move.

Roxana Shershin: I move around. One time I’ll be in the middle of ops corner, and I’m like, hey, guys, what are you doing here?

Josh Sweeney: Do you purposely take somebody’s seat that sits there?

Roxana Shershin: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. You’ve got to shake it up because that’s the whole point was to shake things up. So I think that’s just human psychology part of it. It’s fascinating. I love psychology, so that’s kind of fun in itself. But I think, really, it’s more around people being able to take a personal phone call. People feel like they need to walk outside. So we are actually putting in some single person call booths, kind of the old school telephone booth, but not really as claustrophobic as one, but similar. But putting places for folks to have that personal conversation. But I don’t think it’s been-

Adjustment Period

Josh Sweeney: That’s it? That’s the big one?

Roxana Shershin: The other big one, actually, is it takes people a huge time … Folks who have been in traditional spaces for a longer period of time, like mid career, when they come onboard, it’s a shift for them. You can tell. They’re like, what? What do I do? Even the fact that we have lockers and filing cabinets, but you’re not leaving your family photos on the desk or anything. So I think it’s really more that adjustment for folks who join us mid or senior positions. It takes them a minute to figure it out.

Josh Sweeney: I have to ask. Did you notice the reaction of the person the first time you stole their seat? What was it?

Roxana Shershin: I’m trying to think. The first time I did it?

Open Space: Connection

Josh Sweeney: Originally though. Yeah. Once you’re known for it, it’s just-

Roxana Shershin: I think it was obviously kind of taken as a joke, and now that’s just what I’m known for.

Josh Sweeney: So you don’t remember the first reaction?

Roxana Shershin: I don’t remember. I actually really don’t remember.

Josh Sweeney: I feel like we had some taunting at one of the companies that I worked for, where somebody bought a brand new car, a brand new BMW, and they parked very far out in the lot. So two of the gentlemen decided that they were going to park on both sides. He would go to lunch, and they would go outside and move their car.

Roxana Shershin: Move their cars just to make it … Oh, that’s awesome.

Josh Sweeney: I was like, I don’t know if that’s harassment or funny, but, I mean, I think it’s kind of funny. Anyways, so a little bit like that, a little more friendly because you know who it is, at least. This was a large company. They didn’t know who it was.

Roxana Shershin: My intention is really just to kind of get a feel for what’s going on, because, really, that’s the whole point of having done the open office is to feel … For me, connected is one of my other personal core values. But to feel connected with everybody in the agency is really important to me, so being able to sit with different folks and just get different perspectives and different feeling for how things really are going is really helpful.

Seat Arrangement

Josh Sweeney: Totally random thought, but since you said the psychology of it, it almost makes me wonder why people pick the desk that they did. Did they try other ones before they settle? What does that really look like when you all are in one space and they’re all the same? Why and how?

Roxana Shershin: There are definitely some goldilocks folks who go and try a bunch of different seats, and then they settle. So there’s definitely-

Josh Sweeney: But they all eventually settle?

Roxana Shershin: They all eventually settle. So unless they are really … And it goes back to that whole idea of intentionality. Unless you really make that intention, then just … It’s interesting to see how just human behavior is fairly driven to routine and comfort.

Permanent Space

Josh Sweeney: I feel like it’s one less thing you have to think about though. It’s like, oh, I like that shirt. I’m going to buy three blue ones in similar stitching, and I don’t have to think about it in the morning.

Roxana Shershin: Absolutely, I mean, everyone does the same thing.

Josh Sweeney: To some degree.

Roxana Shershin: To some degree, yes. I think there is something to be said about … At least, I know what’s going to happen today, I have some pieces that I can say this is going to happen. I know where I’m going to sit. I know who’s going to mostly be around, and I get that. I absolutely get that. We don’t make people move around.

Josh Sweeney: You don’t force them to unless you sit in their seat.

Roxana Shershin: Well

Team Building: Remote Employees

Josh Sweeney: I like it. That’s fun. That’s definitely a fun way to do it. What else around … So you mentioned maybe a fourth of your company is remote. What are some of the challenges that you have to overcome that? So you mentioned turning on the video, getting that face-to-face time. Somebody comes in once a year. People stateside probably come in a little more often. What are some other challenges that you’ve overcome to really help that team build a bond?

Roxana Shershin: Honestly, I can’t say we’ve solved it, and I’ll be the first person to say that it still requires a lot of work. For example, we do a lot of activities in the office. We have monthly birthday celebrations. We have breakfast brought in once a week and lunch brought in, so we try to do things that encourage some interaction beyond just working. We do some volunteer projects, things like that. So how to get those remote folks to build that rapport outside of just the work is a challenge, to be honest. Whenever folks do come to town, we really make a point to do a big outing with groups together. So we actually have some people from Upstate New York in town this week, and we are involved with the AMA AMY Awards, so they’re all part of the … We got a table, and they’re all at the table with a bunch of other folks from the agency to go out and just get to do something together and just build that bond outside of just the work talk.

Intentionally: Appreciation

Josh Sweeney: So go a little bit bigger when they come in, intentionally.

Roxana Shershin: Yes, absolutely. Then for some other things I know we’ve done where we might do a big … not big, but a quarterly event with a lot of folks. We’ll actually send something to everybody who’s remote that kind of plays along the theme. We did a big Braves game outing. Those who couldn’t make it in, we sent them a baseball-eque themed package. So they know that it was happening, obviously, but we could at least telegraph to them that we’re thinking of them and hope they’re enjoying some downtime of not being bothered by everybody else for that hour.

Josh Sweeney: Definitely.

Roxana Shershin: But just trying to come up with ways to still make them know that they’re being appreciated and connected, even if they can’t be physically there.

Relationship Culture

Josh Sweeney: You definitely have to put in the extra effort to make people feel like they’re not left out because they’re remote. I know I’ve worked within companies where it’s like everything seems to happen at the headquarters. It’s nice to be remote, and some people even look at it, the company … I’ve talked to founders that say, well, that’s the benefit, like your benefit is not that you get these things we do. Your benefit is that you don’t have to sit in traffic. I’m like, yeah, but that doesn’t really help camaraderie. It feels a little shortsighted.

Roxana Shershin: Because that’s such a technicality, whereas, really, ultimately, what makes people stay or what makes people leave is typically related to the relationships that you have. Ultimately, that’s what culture is. It’s all about relationships. So, I mean, commuting is not a relationship.

Relationship: Connection

Josh Sweeney: A relationship. It’s a relationship with your car.

Roxana Shershin: It’s a technicality. Yes, exactly. I agree with you 100%. It’s a benefit, but it’s not going to be what makes or breaks your level of connection.

Josh Sweeney: I like sports cars, so I have a special relationship with cars, and I enjoy them. But sitting in Atlanta traffic has nothing to do with it.

Roxana Shershin: Nothing to do with that, no. No one has a relationship with that.

Core Value and Vision

Josh Sweeney: It’s more like mountain run, curvy roads, fun times. That’s it. So you had mentioned themes for the Brave game. What other ways do you inject themes into the business?

Roxana Shershin: We started doing this probably … After we did the core values, I think, through that exercise with everybody in the agency, we have, of course, a vision statement and a purpose and all that good stuff. But I think folks wanted to have … I know it’s a buzzword to call it the north star, but have, really, a theme that kind of anchors what we’re doing for the year. So we do have an annual theme of what we’re doing that anchor everything else. This year we talk a lot about delivering on the promise of one-to-one marketing, so this year our theme is called delivering on our promises, so really working on defining then … Delivering on the promise of one-to-one is really big. But what does that mean in terms of what does a promise mean for me, what does my promise look like, is going to be different than somebody who is working on emails today? Working on what those promises are and acknowledging what each other is bringing to the table has been our theme this year. To fulfill the overall promise for DA is really our ability for each one of us to fulfill our own personal promise.

Finding Their Why: Trust

Josh Sweeney: So for something as broad as a promise, I mean, are you having to then also kind of inject some training around what is a promise, a verbal … You have explicit, implicit-

Roxana Shershin: Yep.

Josh Sweeney: … verbal, nonverbal? I mean, there are all kinds of ways I think somebody can almost convey a promise without making a promise in a lot of ways and set an expectation for a customer, a colleague, whatever it is. So what about that?

Roxana Shershin: Yeah, no, absolutely. You have to be careful because the intention was not to make it a pledge or oath like I pledge to DA. So we’ve crafted some workshops where we break off into small groups, and we just work on what does it mean to have a promise. How can you develop something that also helps you fulfill your goals and sets you up for success? What does that look like? And allowing everybody to have the space to find what that means for them without judgment, but find theirs why. Essentially, that’s really, ultimately, what we’re trying to do is help everyone find that why, but let that be why they’ve crafted, not the why that’s been dictated from the outside in.

Finding Their Why: Open

Josh Sweeney: I think it’s an impactful session to do. I know we do your why exercise for clients and facilitate those, and we do it internally with our team members. When we get new ones, we facilitate that as well. The amount of depth that comes out of it … People have to put some time into it, and we always set the tone by having somebody really open up from the executive team and read they’re why, and then give the other people time to go fill theirs out and come back and then share. I mean, a lot of it is kind of a little bit of a look of exasperation, like, wow, that took a lot of work. I didn’t really think about that. It’s like, what are you looking to do, one, three, five years? Why are you here? Why are you at the company? Why do you need money? Why do you need to go to work? What is it going to pay for? Go deeper. What’s the need for that? Whether it’s your family, taking care of people. We hear all kinds of amazing stories that we would have never known without doing that exercise.

Roxana Shershin: It’s super cool. Ours is nowhere near that deep. Admittedly, it’s at a very high level, but I think you’re absolutely right. Even asking people to give their input, as opposed to always saying this is the goal that we’re trying to hit, I think people are excited by that. I know I would have been, especially coming out of college, having the opportunity to think through that earlier. I don’t know if I would have made different decisions, but I might have.

Josh Sweeney: It might have given you a little-

Josh Sweeney: … clarity somewhere-

Roxana Shershin: Yeah, exactly.

Josh Sweeney: … on one item that’s helpful.

Roxana Shershin: Yeah, absolutely.


Company Culture: Building Relationships

Josh Sweeney: So the last question I have is, for the rest of the year, what are you most looking forward to enhancing your company culture?

Roxana Shershin: I think, really, what we’re trying to do is really work on just more opportunities to build out relationships, so really trying to, as we grow … Because I think we were 36 or 37 people last year. We’re at 43. We expect to be around 50 or 52 before the end of the year. So with that growth, how do we maintain and protect relationships and continue to cultivate and build them is really important. So we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like, as opposed to just more parties because you can have more parties.

Company Culture: Family-esque

But we’re really looking at how do we develop … A lot of folks want to do more community volunteerism, so really kind of crafting a more plan-ful way of doing volunteer projects and getting folks more involved in that, and just trying to make sure we protect that piece of it so that we still feel … There’s a little bit of a family-esque vibe that we have from a cultural perspective. I mean, part of that is because everyone’s kind of sitting around a big table. How can we protect that as we continue to grow will be really important? But I think, ultimately, it’s everyone feeling like everyone has each other’s back is super important, so making sure we’re always having activities that support that.

Josh Sweeney: Make sure to enhance and continue those relationships as you grow and see great success.

Roxana Shershin: Yes, exactly.

Josh Sweeney: Well, thank you so much for being on the show.

Roxana Shershin: No, thank you. I appreciate it.

Josh Sweeney: Thank you.

Roxana Shershin: That was fun. Thanks.


Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit EpicCulture.co. If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us at EpicCulture1 or email at podcast@EpicCulture.co.








Podcast Highlights and Resources


  • Being nimble
  • In a desire to be fast and please, we sometimes will ignore what we don’t know and kind of just ram right through it.
  • Humans are creatures of habit.
  • Make them know that they’re being appreciated and connected, even if they can’t be physically there.
  • Allowing everybody to have the space to find what that means for them without judgment, but find their why.

Entrepreneur Organization

Company Culture Entrepreneurs Organization

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a Global business network of 13,000+ leading entrepreneurs in 185 chapters and 58 countries. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO enables business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.

We educate, we transform, we inspire and we offer invaluable resources in the form of global events, leadership-development programs, an online entrepreneur forum and executive education opportunities, among other offerings designed for personal and professional growth.

At its core, EO is a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs focused on business growth, personal development and community engagement. In addition to our mission, vision and core values, our global makeup is comprised of nearly 13,000+ individual member stories.

Prototype Prime

Prototype Prime is a 501(c)3 non-profit incubator focused on early stage software and hardware technology startups. Our mission is to provide startup companies with the support they need to launch & scale.

Funded by the City of Peachtree Corners Prototype Prime is a regional affiliate of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech, and is located just 30 minutes north of Atlanta.

Our suburban location within a 500-acre commercial office park, adjacent to a custom- built intelligent mobility test and demonstration track, is the ideal place to envision what smart cities of the future will look like.

Care International

CARE is a major international humanitarian agency delivering emergency relief and long-term international development projects. Founded in 1945, CARE is nonsectarian, impartial, and non-governmental. It is one of the largest and oldest humanitarian aid organizations focused on fighting global poverty.