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5 Critical Employee Benefits For Small Business

Having trouble attracting great talent to your small company? Chances are, you’re not looking at employee benefits for small business the right way.

When a successful fisherman selects a lure he considers what the fish craves. When you consider your benefits package don’t make your selections based solely on what works best for your company. Rather, ask yourself: what does top talent in my field want?

High wages aren’t the only thing employees care about. As a small business, you may not be able to pay employees what larger companies can. However, as a small business, you have the ability to offer unique, flexible benefits that cater to your employees needs.  

Employees, like all humans, feel valued when their needs are taken care of and prioritized. They want jobs that can give them what they crave: a great quality of life and peace of mind.

Here’s a look at 5 critical employee benefits for small business:

1. Improved and Extended Health Insurance

Employees care about health benefits. Everyone wants to have access to quality medical care when they need it. Health insurance is one of the most expensive benefits shouldered by a company. But, offering it is an essential part of taking care of employees.

Extending health insurance to family members is a great benefit. Spending more time at work means employees spend less time with loved ones. But, including immediate family members in their health coverage helps keep employees’ minds at ease. BONUS – peaceful minds = focused employees.

2. Work-From-Home Options

This is an enticing perk that few companies offer. Allowing your employees to work from home, saves them commute time and shows trust. There are some employees that find it exciting to go to work every day, but others may find it exhausting. Giving them the freedom to work from home may also increase introverted employee’s productivity.

3. Flexible Hours

Flexible hours can be game-changer in acquiring new talent. Employees have differing needs. Allowing them to work flexible hours provides an opportunity for them to work during their most productive time of the day. Trust your employees to be responsible and work with integrity.

4. Unlimited Time-Off

You’d think this means less productivity, but the opposite is true. Not only that, this is a win-win solution for both employers and employees. Why? Employees enjoy their unlimited days-off, and employers no longer have the cost of unused time off.

However, employees should use their time-off without jeopardizing their company responsibilities. Top talent invests in the companies they work for and cares about the projects they are assigned to. Hence, an unlimited time-off benefit can help you get the top talent you need without causing an operational problem.

5. Access to Educational Assistance

Many employees are parents who are invested in their children’s education. Employees will appreciate monetary help from the company. Though education assistance may sound costly, employers can take advantage of a tax break. Making this a helpful option for companies offering an education assistance benefit as a perk.

Employees enjoy personal benefits. They make the employee feel valued and cared for. Hence, if you want to get the right people, try incorporating these employee benefits for small business into your benefits package. helps businesses craft quality, comprehensive benefits packages that take care of employees. We can help you figure out what benefits will align with your company’s culture, values and priorities. Contact us today!



Implementing Workplace Wellness Programs: The Benefits

Poor employee health creates many problems for the company at large. That’s why many smart businesses are coming to understand the benefits of implementing workplace wellness programs. If you’re on the fence about incorporating a program of your own, keep reading.

Traditional business owners may struggle to see the value in workplace wellness programs, seeing them as a luxury for hip startups. But that’s far from the truth.

Every business can invest in the health of their employees through a workplace wellness program and lower their overall employee healthcare costs in the long run.

With that in mind, here are the benefits of implementing workplace wellness programs at your company.

1. Lessens Healthcare Costs

It makes sense that keeping your employees healthy works out well for your business. After all, it’d be a bit difficult to run daily operations if everyone has the flu.

Keeping everyone healthy keeps you from overspending on medical insurance. And those savings can go a long way in benefiting your business — AND employees.

2. Increased Employee Productivity

Thorough research and analysis show higher productivity among employees who participate in wellness benefits from employers. In such a highly competitive business world, it’s important to function at full-capacity every day.

Imagine what the office would look like if ALL your employees were productive? You can work toward that goal if you’re willing to invest in it.

3. Improved Employee Engagement

When people feel cared about, they engage with the world in a different way. As an employer, gestures of concern for their well-being can go a long way to building a high-functioning team.

Chances are, you want your team to work well together. That means they need to be engaged. What better way than through getting them to bond about health and wellness?

4. Decreased Employee Absenteeism

If you want a productive workforce, it’s important that your employees actually SHOW UP to work. When employees are healthier, more confident, and bonded with the company, they’re going to miss less days.

And research backs this up. In fact, for every $1 spent on a wellness program, studies show that the company saves $2.73 in the long run.

5. Improved Employee Health Behaviors

Unhealthy employee behaviors can cause chaos, poor performance and conflict. It’s important to keep everyone in the right headspace and physical health.

Wellness programs give your team an easy way to stay fit, both physically and mentally. As they continue to invest in themselves, you may notice these negative team behaviors subside. Providing employees with a convenient, affordable way to take care of themselves is just smart.


Successful companies need to invest in their employees’ well-being — it’s only going to become more and more important. Implementing a workplace wellness program is the first step to reaping all the benefits associated with it.

To learn more about implementing workplace wellness programs download our workplace wellness eBook or contact us at [email protected] Start living well today!


Lori Bays, Chief Human Resource Officer at the City of Phoenix, on The Benifit

Lori BaysLori Bays leads Human Resources for more than 14,000 people employed by the City of Phoenix. That’s no small feat. But, Lori thrives in the role, making sure each and every city employee knows they’re valued and cared for. As a successful leader and entrepreneur, Lori has more than 16 years of experience as a leader across a variety of sectors.

In this episode, Lori chats with Kate King, CEO of and host of the Benifit podcast, about her path to leadership, how she creates an atmosphere where City of Phoenix employees thrive, and how leaders can help people stay engaged in their roles. 

Show Highlights

[2:00] Lori shares about the influence on human resources on a company’s mission and employee engagement levels

[3:00] “Employees are an organization’s greatest asset… we have no way to achieve our mission without our employees.”

[6:00] Lori emphasizes the importance of helping employees find value in the work they do.

[8:00] Lori explains how inclusion and diversity initiatives encourage personal and professional growth.

[9:00] Lori highlights the impact of employee feedback and offers ways to implement those recommendations.

[13:00] Lori talks about building a culture of excellence founded on wellness and professional development.

[18:00] Lori offers advice on how to manage large teams.

[22:00] Lori provides ways of counteracting employee disengagement.

[27:00] Lori shares about her morning routine.

[29:00] Lori discusses the three rules the lives by in her personal and professional life.

[32:00] “It’s especially important that we remember that, with making decisions that impact employees, that we consider all nuances that may be at play and try to do the right thing.”


The Benifit Interview w/ Lori Bays, Chief Human Resource Officer at the City of Phoenix

Interviewer: Firstly, Lori, thank you and welcome to today’s podcast. It’s a real pleasure to have you.

Lori: Thanks so much for having me.

Interviewer: So, you have a very diverse and rich work history. our path has been from psychology in social work and then switching to human resources. Could you tell us what encouraged you to make that switch? How come that public sector, not the private sector?

Lori: Yeah, so, I actually started my career out and I decided in and a social worker in psychology. And I was in the nonprofit, you know, at the time, working in-in mental health and started to move up in the organization and moved into administrative roles and found that I really enjoyed being in-in that administrative capacity and leading organizations for making [unintelligible 00:01:29]

and I continue to do that in the human services field for many years and I moved from the nonprofit sector into the public sector, and what I’ve learned as I did that and I promoted into higher levels at the organization, I learned that human resources is really a critical absolutely integral element to successfully achieving [00:02:00] the organization’s mission. And I started to become intrigued with that and I started to think about, you know, how do we really have, you know, the most high-performing, most engaged team?

And I was doing that from a very operational perspective and then when I had an opportunity to move into a more HR focused role. I was previously the Chief Administrative Officer for the county and decided to move to Arizona. And so went from Utah to Arizona and that gave me an opportunity to hone in on human resources.

And was fortunate to become the Chief Human Resources Officer here in the city of Phoenix and this role has allowed me to really explore that passion area of mine that I’ve explored from an operational perspective both as a chief administrative officer as well as the human services director. And I’ve been able to dive into what I think is really the most key element of any organization, private or public sector but especially in the public sector which is our employees are our greatest and we’re here for a long time.

You know, employees are an organization’s greatest asset, and I believe that it is especially in the public sector that this is absolutely true and we have to live by the notion that, you know, we have no way to achieve our mission without our employees. They are the most key element of the services that we provide in the public sector because we are service-based program and our organizations are service-based almost exclusively.

And in order for us to achieve our mission, we have to have high performing, engaged, dedicated employees. And for that, we need to have high quality human resource services.[00:04:00] and that’s where, you know, I really feel like I can make that connection to the community and I feel like my team really contributes to quality of life in our community by supporting the teams that do the day to day work and not frontline work. My team is-is the behind the scene.

My team is the-the support services that make all of that happen. We attract the employees and we, you know, we get them acclimated to the organization we help develop them through our-our organizational training and development programming. And we, you know, help them navigate through the system and what it means to be a city employee whether that benefits or whether that training opportunity, whether that educational reimbursement programming, what have you promotional opportunities, we help them navigate their city career and develop and become both high performing employees that we want to retain.

And so to me, it was just- it was a natural progression for me because it was the passion area, and it was a way for me to you know, really use my skill sets to enhance the mission of the organization and to help, um, serve the community in that way.

Interviewer: Thank you. You know, it’s interesting listening to you talk about the different strategies in place. Could– perhaps you could go into some more detail on that because what I’m interested is really how you’re kind of behind the scenes team really creates that atmosphere for all of the City of Phoenix employees to thrive. So it’s, you know, in the-in– I come from, uh, corporate, so there’s typically budget around how employee development, employee programs really kind of more that fun side of things, and really helping people in terms of well-being programs, and how are they really driving that.

I’m sure you have lots of those, [00:06:00] programs in with the City of Phoenix too, but how does your team really implement that, or perhaps you could walk us through a tactic you have that enables the employees to thrive?

Lori: Absolutely. So one of the things that we really focus heavily on is helping our employees to see the value in what they do. You know, someone who is a receptionist by title, you know, you’ll often hear an employee say something that always crushes my spirit when I hear it. “Now, I’m just a receptionist, how can I really impact the community?” And to me, you know, I feel like, “Oh, my goodness.” It is so important that that individual understands their no way shape, or form, just a receptionist. They are the first point of contact between the public and the city as an organization.

They are the one that makes or breaks that experience for that individual who is coming in contact with the city and-and hoping to receive a service. And they are the one that really makes that first impression for the city on its community. And so for an employee to really understand the impact that they have, and the importance that they have, and the value that they have to the organization is really key. And that’s one of the things that we work on quite a bit.

We have been working with you know, as you mentioned, we have lots of wellness opportunities, we really try and develop our employees and help them to understand they’re valuable to us as-as they start in the organization and as they develop through, and we want them to- we want them to stay with the organization. And that doesn’t mean that they stay where they started. That may mean that they, you know, they decide, you know, “I came in working in one department but I really have a goal of doing something totally different, and I need to develop skills or maybe education to get there.”

And the city will help, you know, kind of walk them through that process and develop them and show them that they’re valued and that we want them to remain a part of the city teams,[00:08:00] regardless of where they work in the organization. And we want them to continue to grow, we want to help them do that. We’ve also been working a lot on inclusion initiatives and working on celebrating the diversity. In our workforce, we have about 14,000 employees. So we have, you know, a huge opportunity to celebrate all of the different types of perspectives that are brought to the workforce or to the workplace through our workforce.

And so we’re working right now in focus groups with our employees to really, you know, talk to them about, how do we draw that out? How do we really celebrate that across our-our employee culture and our organization? And we’re getting some really-some really great feedback from our employees about, you know, let’s learn more from each other, let’s talk to each other more, let’s get to know each other as people and to not just have those professional interactions but to have more of human interactions.

And we’re, you know, we’re loving that feedback that we’re getting from our employees and trying to implement messaging, programming, training opportunities, appreciation opportunities that we can share throughout the organization to build upon some of those lessons that we’re learning in those focus groups.

The other thing that we’re really focusing on is our current and future generational needs. We are, you know, public sector tends to be a little bit more rigid than the private sector when it comes to workplace. And we’re trying to think about, you know, how do we need to behave as a workplace. What sort of environment do we need to offer in order to attract and retain the workforce that we want now and in the future? And again, getting feedback from our employees we’re hearing, you know, “We need more flexibility, we need some more work for- work-life balance.”

And we are, you know, really trying to implement or make use of [00:10:00] policies that we’ve had for a long time that, you know, just maybe help them widely use. You know, for example, we’ve had a telecommuting policy here in the City of Phoenix since 1992. It’s been in place, it existed but it’s not used very often. And so we’re trying to explore how do we get departments to explore where that can be beneficial, where can employees, you know, make use of that, which-which jobs and which positions makes sense to have those opportunities?

I mean, how do we encourage, uh, managers and supervisors to really embrace that revised talents and to really focus on– You know, if my employee didn’t get the work done, not, you know, is my employee sitting in their chair eight hours a day, 40 hours a week and you know, could they work remotely? Could they a work a more flexible schedule or to, you know, make-make their work-life a bit better with their home life?

You know, those kinds of things. And we’re really hoping to build an atmosphere were people wanna come work for us because they have those opportunities to really balance [unintelligible 00:11:03] you know, myriad of things that all of the tasks going on. You know, many-many people have children and lives at, you know, [unintelligible 00:11:09] and to go or-or dance to recitals or they wanna, you know, volunteer in their child’s classroom, those types of things. And-And it’s really important that they have those opportunities to balance.

And that, you know, we all also incorporate wellness opportunities. Give people the opportunity to take care of themselves mentally and physicallyand because of that, we know that they will do a better job at producing for the organization at, you know, really take caring- taking care of the organiza tion and the city because they’re a more healthy individuals. So, you know, it really see those of a city concept that we-that we say, “Good work matters.” And it matters to us, it matters to the community.

And having that balance and having that ability to thrive, um, personally and professionally, [00:12:00] really contribute to a better work environment which contribute to higher productivity which contribute to better service for our community.

Interviewer: Lori, thank you. I really love the point you made on the culture of excellence and really building that brand for the City of Phoenix. You know, that receptionist example you gave which is really the outcome being, you know, there is a row on a piece of paper but you’re the front line, you’re really dealing with our customers, you really are dealing with the public. And really that diversity and inclusion having the employee voices matching your customer voice, which I think is, really it is, supercritical. You mentioned wellness programs, what type of wellness programs does the city offer its employees?

Lori: To make a quite a few things, we offer lots of different mindfulness and exercise classes throughout the day that employees can sign up for and participate in. We’ve also got through our through our benefits programs, we’ve got some healthy lifestyle, sort of programs that you can participate in. And these are things that helps, you know, with nutrition, um, exercise, programming.

Really trying to help address, um, some of the lifestyle, um, choices that-that people make that can help them to be healthier individuals, help them to have higher energy levels, to be more productive, to feel better, um, to have better, you know, physical and mental health. Um, and we are, um, really trying to- we’re actually currently, um, in a bidding- uh, bidding process, we go through, uh, a competitive procurement process as most governments do, um, for our medical benefit services. And that ones of the key things that we’re really looking at right now.

That’s what sort of wellness programming are they gonna be able to offer in addition to the traditional heal- healthcare models. Um, because [00:14:00] we want to add, um, opportunities for our employees to have, um, that wellness programming, to have- um, to have the ability to have that balance and to have some of that even, you know, at work. To have classes at work, um, that they can take. You know, which we have, um, we have brown bag opportunities now, we have, um, some before and after, um, classes to discuss things like, you know, chronic disease management, um, how to have a healthy balance.

Um, we have parenting classes, we have all kinds of things that, you know, financial management. All kinds of things that can really help employees, you know, depending on their needs and their interest levels, um, for different subject matters. Um, so we do everything, you know, from physical, mental, financial, um, wellness. And we really want to, um, we want to broaden that out. Um, and that’s what we’re looking to do right now. And to offer services that might be, um, things that our employees can take advantage that will just help them, um, one, be healthier, and two, um, to really feel as though they’re valued, and that they’re not just here to provide a service, but they’re here to be part of a, um, you know, a work family that’s going to support them and-and really- and, you know, help them to be, um, well as a holistic person. Um, so that’s really what we’re- what we’re focused on right now.

Um, we also have, um, a initiative within the city that’s called Fit for Phoenix. And it’s an exciting, um, employee wellness initiatives that partners with our Parks and Rec department, um, to provide opportunities to employees, you know, to get out and be active, um, and-and it’s, um, something that, you know, also promotes camaraderie between employees, um, to, you know, partner and we do, you know, walks and walking exercises.

We actually have one coming up next week, where we’re-we’re doing the city versus the county. [00:16:00] Um, and doing kind of a competition of how many walkers each organization can-can get out there. Um, so we’re hoping to win, but, you know, we are-we are, um, you know, trying to do lots of different things that just promote our employees, um, you know, being healthy but also, you know, having that interaction and that, um, that camaraderie that we think, you know, really helps to promote a positive workplace.

Interviewer: Great, I love, um, any effort on mindfulness, I feel that this is just so critically important that not just physically but mentally there is a space and tools that people can leverage, uh, really in that space to have an overall well being. So thank you so much for sharing that.

Lori: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Um, 14,000 people is a huge team, um, then you’ve been a leader and manager for many large organizations. Um, what advice could you give to somebody who’s really leading large teams? Um, and how can they really be effective in the faces of kind of major challenges or opposition?

Lori: Well, I think, you know, the best advice I can give to anyone leading a large team is to really embrace the assets that you have in your team. Empower your team to do the best work, do their best work, excuse me, and, um, you know, because any leader that thinks that they’re going to, you know, be the-the one who’s going to, um, you know, make all the decisions or provide all the direction I think it’s fooling themselves. Um, truthfully, I think, um, you know, you have to empower your team and allow them to shine to do what they do well.

I always say, you know, I try and hire-hire people that are smarter than me, because, you know, we really need to, um, embrace the-the value that each and every member of a team brings to the table. And everybody has their own strengths. Um, so I think, [00:18:00] you know, what I would say is, you know, focus on the strengths. Um, and then the other thing that’s been really, really helpful and useful to me as I’ve grown as a leader and as a manager of large teams is-is it’s important to manage in a hierarchy. Most-most organizations are set up in a hierarchy but it’s also important to manage in what I call circles, some people call them networks.

Um, but to really manage within the natural leaders and the-the natural, um, places of influence within the organization. Um, you may, you know, come into an organization and notice that there’s a particular individual or team that’s not necessarily, you know, um, have any authority in the hierarchy, but they are very influential based on either individual personalities, or just the-the, um, function that that team, um, conducts. Whatever it is, you know, there are natural leadership, um, points within any large teams and to utilize those in addition to the hierarchy, um, is something that I would recommend to any- to any leader of a large organization.

You have to pay attention to those to really hone in on your where your natural leadership areas are, because, um, those can be really effective ways of learning information about the team and the organization and also getting information back out and through the organization. Um, so that would be- that would be my advice, you know, when there’s challenges or efforts or, you know, times of opposition, those are really opportunities to figure out what you’re really good at.

Figure out where your strengths are and to really capitalize on those and just focus on, um, you know, using everybody’s assets to their fullest ability. Um, and then, you know, kind of like the-the Coach Wooden model, you know, you do have to know where you need to develop but-but that’s not what you focus on. You focus on what you’re good at and you focus on really developing what you’re good at and

[00:20:00] putting people in the role that really suits them and-and what their natural skill sets, um, are. And then- and then other things will come along.

Interviewer: Fantastic. Focus on the strengths. And I love that you’re looking at the circles or through network opportunities because I agree with you. I think that, you know, hierarchies are where we really good to get the goals done but how you get it done, how you really can affect some great change and move creativity I think is actually leveraging those natural synergies of people working together. Um-

Lori: Absolutely.

Interviewer: You know, it’s long been said out that a Gallup says, you know, a whole bunch of research-orientated how to say it that’s about 86% of people worldwide disengage from their jobs. What are your thoughts on how leaders can impact the staff specifically for organizational growth?

Lori: Yeah, you know I think, um, I think one of the biggest ways that, uh, leaders can impact that is by, um, being inclusive of employees when changes are made. Um, we all know, as humans, you know, change tends to be hard. Um, and I wou- I would venture to say in the public sector that’s probably more true than-than some other places.

Um, but the-the importance of involving employees who are impacted by change in developing how changes are going to be made, you know, there may be that a decision has been made and we’re going in a particular direction. But if you can engage employees and how we make the change and what the process looks like, you’re going to have so much more buying and so much more support and getting there than if, you know, if you just take a dictatorial approach of, you know, this is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it and, you know, just like it, you know.

[00:22:00] That-that is, um, to me, you know, the absolute opposite of what should happen. There may be- there may be a reason to say, you know, “We have to do X,” you know, we have to either, you know, change this particular, um, service that we’re going to provide or we’re going to stop providing or we going to implement this new program. Whatever that may be, but if you incorporate the employees into how you do it, they’re gonna– for one thing happen have some great ideas I guarantee you.

But two, they’re going to have that by and that, um, that ability to influence the process and to lend their expertise once again you know to provide that value and the knowledge that they have. Um, you’re going to get a better product at the end of the day. Um, so I think- I think engagement is especially important around any type of change.

Um, but I also think it’s important to, um, you know, focus on the management of the organization and reiterating to them, um, that it’s important to have relationships with employees throughout the organization, to care about them and people, to know them and people. It doesn’t mean, you know, that you are socially involved with them at all. It just means that you have that human element, that human interaction. “Hey, how was your weekend?”

To know a little bit something about them, you know, to know do they have children? Do they have pets? What do they do as hobbies? You know, those types of things, most human interaction really go a long way for, um, building that engagement for people to feel like they’re cared about at work, to feel like they’re important, that they’re not just an expendable, um, commodity. They’re really a valued member of the team.

And that goes a long way, you know, when there are difficult times, when there are challenges and there are changes to be made, um, you’re gonna have people, so much more, um, behind you and on your team if-if they feel like you care about them as a person and to impart that to managers and supervisors and especially new [00:24:00] supervisors because I think sometimes, you know, we think someone is good enough at a job that they’re promoted to be a supervisor but they’re automatically [inaudible 00:24:09] going to know how to do that and how to do that well and that’s not the case.

You know, supervisory skills a lot of time are learned skills, they are not innate and-and, um, it’s important to help people in-in supervisor and management roles learn how to be good supervisors, how to interact in that way with their their members of their team, um, because, um, the better that they do that and the more that they’re prepared to do that in the right way, um, the better the entire organization is going to function and the better that employee engagement is going to be.

Um, and then the other thing I would say is to try to have a little fun. Um, you know, honestly, um, that’s one of the things we’ve been working on in-in my department is, um, is to bring the fun back into the workplace. You know, when I got here, I heard stories about, you know, years ago here, um, you know, people used to have this fun staff and that it has been such a calmer, uh, atmosphere for a while and so we’ve been conscientiously really trying to bring fun back into the workplace and it’s really paying off and people are enjoying it. And Blake, you know, even silly little things that we do to either recognize someone who is doing a great job or just to, you know, just to celebrate and have fun and bring a lighter mood into the workplace. I think, you know, even little things like that go a long way from place to feel engaged and liked.

Interviewer: I love the energy you have around that and I couldn’t agree with you more as well. You know, the supervisor skill one is interesting because people, you know, what got you there won’t get you to the next place, right? Um-

Lori: Mm-hmm. Right.

Interviewer: I-I agree with you, you know, when you look to research to the number one reason why people leave their job is usually because of their boss. So, I think that some great advice for our listeners in terms of really focus on inclusion and change, skilling up your leaders [00:26:00] that they are really human interactions, not just a transactional interaction from the company side and-and having fun. Um, I love those three points, thank you.

Lori, I’m gonna switch the questions a little bit to, um, more of a personal kind of so you can share with, uh, our view– our listeners, um, some things about you. Um, the first one being as they often say that success that the day is set out by having a great morning routine. Um, do you have a morning routine or set morning routine? And if so, could you share it? If you don’t, what would you love it to be?

Lori: Yeah. So, [chuckles] I love this question. And I, um, you know, to be honest, I don’t have a very consistent morning routine, um, and I’ll say that I have, you know, one of the-the thing but it’s something talking about my routine is there’s a lot of chasing around of children. So I have [chuckles] I have few children in elementary school, and, um, so, you know, the morning routine comes with a lot of, you know, helping them to get ready, um, and-and trying to get myself ready in-in the process.

Um, I-I aspire to really, um, do some sort of exercise and my dog often looks at me in the morning like, “Are we gonna go for a walk today?” Um, and sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. Um, but we, you know, I-I love to get a little bit of exercise in the morning. I am not actually a morning person, so, um, so, I have to get up extra early to kind of wake up before I get going and actually get out and do something. Um, but I’ve- I’ve started to enjoy that. I’ve started to enjoy now getting up, having a little bit of time before other people get up, you know, have some coffee, um, ideally take my dog for a walk, he loves it when we do that, and then come back and, you know, get everybody ready, help the kids get ready.

Um, my husband, you know, usually shuffling around [00:28:00] getting ready himself and-and-and that I’m trying to get off to get ready for the day. Um, so, there’s usually, you know, a little bit of chaos but hopefully a little bit of-of serenity. You know, here in Arizona, the morning especially the [unintelligible 00:28:12] especially night.

So, I have been trying to enjoy that. Um, but I do- I do think routine is important if it was- if I had, you know, the ideal, um, morning routine, I think it would be, you know, a little morning meditation, um, some coffee, a little exercise. Um, so, yeah, you know, the good days are probably pretty ideal on Monday, but cha- more chaotic days are maybe the days where we don’t all get up on time, or a little less ideal, but that’s real life, I guess. Right?

Interviewer: Yeah, I know, absolutely. I think you hit the movie mo- morning routine, you know, I wake up, I meditate, I don’t know what I have this time but the reality is always chaotic in every household do all the [unintelligible 00:28:54] in the mornings. I am not [unintelligible 00:28:56] I got two seconds of calm, I’m going to enjoy I think is the reality of our lives [laughs] So, Lori-

Lori: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Give us these three rules you live by.

Lori: Yeah, you know, the one- the one thing that, um, I-I that absolutely comes to mind and that I live by and say to myself all the time is, um, is do the right thing. I really, um, I really try and make sure that I feel like when-when I’m making decisions, you know, especially, um, in my personal life but also at work, you know, doing the right thing is important. Sometimes I think we get caught up in, you know, where well a rule says that, or a policy says that.

Um, but nothing is ever a simple as it was intended to be when it was, you know, written down in a rule or policy. And sometimes real life situations, um, need a little

[00:30:00] bit of, um, of a subjective viewpoint and-and there are- is a lot of gray areas. And so, I always trying to just think, you know, “What can I do to make sure that the right thing is done in that in that situation?” I think that is especially applicable in human resources because we deal with, um, you know, so much of people personal life that leads into the work environment and we have to remember that we are, you know, we’re called Human Resources for a reason.

We’re dealing with human beings and we are, you know, trying to serve them in their capacity as an employee, but also as people. And I think it’s especially important that we remember that with making decisions, um, with or about employees that we, um, that we really consider them as human and, uh, take into consideration all of the nuances that might be at play and to-to make-make decisions and do the right thing, even if it means we have to change the policy or make an exception, um, because sometimes it’s just necessary to do that.

Um, the other- the other thing, but I, you know, really think about are, um, I try to remember that I am not the most important person in the world. Everybody has got things going on all the time and all of that plays into, you know, how, um, how we interact with each other. And I try and remember that when I’m interacting with people, I mean, again, in HR, you know, sometimes we deal with people who are not at their best place.

And, um, and to remember to take into consideration, you know, everybody has got their own priorities, everybody’s got their own situation going on, they’ve got their own distractions and to try and remember that, you know, even, you know, in basic everyday situations like they commute to and from work, you know. Being a good, um, citizen of the freeway and-and making sure that, you know, I’m not acting like me getting to my meeting on time is the most important thing in the world.[00:32:00]

A lot of people have a lot of things going on in their, you know, making their way down Interstate kind of just like I am. And, you know, if we can all be a little bit more considerate of each other and remember, you know, that we are all not the most important person in the world every day, um, I think that will go a long way. Uh, and then the last thing-

Interviewer: I feel like I’m- [crosstalk]

Lori: If I am looking at-

Interviewer: – sticker.

Lori: Yeah.

Interviewer: There will be a [unintelligible 00:32:23] mistake.

Lori: [crosstalk] [laughs]

Interviewer: I love it.

Lori: [laughs]

Interviewer: [unintelligible 00:32:29] stage of [inaudible 00:32:29]

Lori: [unintelligible 00:32:29] Yeah, yeah. Um, the last thing which is written on my whiteboard is whether or not that I make better today and that’s really kind of what I keep with me all the time, um, is, you know, how do I make a difference? What did I- what I did do today that matter to somebody, um, and that-that’s just the-the third thing that I live by and just try and– whether it’s, again, at work or in my personal life, um, every day matters and-and so it’s important that every day, you know, I can identify something and, um, that I did that-that made a difference.

Interviewer: Lori, fantastic. Thank you. The-the each one of those I think is very inspirational and very usable for our listeners to be able to think about. Um, you know, managing 14,000 people, um, every day and-and a family, and a dog, and, you know, all of that I think is, you know, an incredible fate in itself. So, I really appreciate you taking the time with us today to share some views. I think your insights are very usable. So, thank you, um, from, you know, from entrepreneurs to CEOs. So, I really appreciate that inside and thank you very much for being on the show.

Lori: Thank you so much for having me. It was an awesome opportunity.


What’s the Purpose of Employee Benefits?

It is possible to build a prospering company, full of thriving employees. In addition to creating a great work environment for employees and providing engaging opportunities for them to grow, companies can use employee benefits as a tool to support employees. If you’ve been asking yourself, what’s the purpose of employee benefits?, you’re in for a real treat.

Employee benefits help cultivate a community of fulfilled people within your company. Here’s how.

1. Employee Benefits Help Attract Top Talent

Freelancing is on the rise, and many companies are noticing a dramatic drop in employee loyalty. After many years of this trend, talented job candidates are starting to wake up to their value. In the recruiting process, one powerful way to hook them is through your company’s benefit package.

Great talent is going to wait for the great benefits. They’re looking for vacation time, personal time off, sick days — and lenient policies around each of these.

Think about it, your benefit package is one of the first glimpses they have into your priorities. And with companies trying new things, like unlimited vacation, the typical 401K fund isn’t seeming like as much of a draw.

It can get a bit overwhelming, we know. That’s where comes in. We can help you build a program that attracts the right employees for your company.

2. Employee Benefits Help You Take Care of Employees

Satisfied employees perform better, and that’s good news for both of you. Many companies offer a variety of health benefits — from basics life insurance to onsite nutritionists. Smart leaders understand the positives of keeping their employees healthy.

Aside from physical well-being, a company with strategic benefits will see increased morale. Showing workers your care about them evokes feelings of loyalty, contentment and productivity.

The ultimate win for entrepreneurs investing in an employee benefits package? Lower turnover rate. You see, when people feel valued, they add value in return. They experience that rare feeling of loyalty to their employer.

Each of these aspects of employee care makes EVERYONE’S life better.

3. Employee Benefits Reinforce Company Values

So, you’ve attracted the top talent and made them feel loved. Now what?

Well, employee benefits packages aren’t just about the immediate value received. In fact, if you go VERY strategic with your program, it can even reinforce your company values.

Want your employees to give back to the community? Offer days off for community service.

Want them to continuously learn? Incorporate a learning stipend, free office library, or an Audible membership.

Want everyone to feel comfortable with one another? Allow casual work attire, cater lunch so team members are more inclined to eat together, or plan after-work parties throughout the year.

As you can see, there’s a creative way to approach this process. And it’s what we love doing most! Whether it’s helping you reinforce values or attracting the best-of-the-best.

Now that you know the purpose of employee benefit packages, it’s time to take the next step. If you want a thriving company culture, schedule a review with us today. One of our benefits architects can guide you through building the perfect program for your team.

Click here to learn more about our services and how does benefits differently.


How to Increase Employee Participation in Wellness Programs

If you’re wondering how to increase employee participation in wellness programs, you’re not alone. Though 85% of large employers introduced wellness programs in 2015, only about 40% of the employees that knew of the programs participated in them.

Many companies are investing heavily in wellness programs, but they aren’t seeing great results. Often times, employees feel disconnected from their company’s wellness programs, leading to low participation rates.

Is your company experiencing a similar trend? Tackle it head on with a comprehensive wellness program with a consistent message. The program should tap into what motivates employees and what is relevant to their needs. Give your wellness program a makeover with these 4 simple tips!

A Consistent Message Across the Organization

To efficiently spread the word about your new wellness program, maintain a consistent message across all departments. When everyone in your company knows about the program’s goals and purposes, you’re more likely to see interest in wellness and preventative care increase.

Developing a Culture of Wellness

A great way to send the message that health is important to your company is to cultivate a culture of wellness within your organization. Make talking about health and participating in wellness activities normal. Casual even. You can do this by incentivizing wellness activities and making them readily available to your employees through on-site amenities or subsidized memberships.

You can also assign wellness ambassadors that become role models for all employees! They could share tips, suggest new activities and talk about their lifestyle via corporate communication tools.

Engagement Through Encouragement

A major reason why employees don’t engage with wellness programs in the long run is because they feel defeated after the first few tries. Encourage all employees to participate and give their best effort. To combat discouragement, pair employees with others who can motivate and inspire them!

When daily work revolves around deadline-driven projects, an encouraging wellness program provides a much-needed break from the stresses of the day. It can include fun activities that everyone participates in where the only requirement is to try your best and celebrate the wins.

Customization for Employees

Employees who feel that their wellness program is personalized for their unique needs and level of fitness will be more engaged with the program overall. One way to allow for customization is to offer support for a variety of wellness activities. Going to the gym isn’t for everyone. You can subsidize more than just gym memberships! Try subsidizing the costs of other fitness activities such as yoga classes, community sports teams, martial arts programs, and dance programs!

The benefits of employee wellness programs are endless. They impact your bottom line and your employees lives in a positive way.

A Rand Corporation study on workplace wellness programs found that companies saved an average of $30 per participant each month in healthcare costs. Saving an extra $30 per employee annually may not seem significant. But, it is! Every dollar saved adds up in the long run. designs customized employee wellness programs that align with and support company goals.

We understand what helps employees make the most of wellness and healthcare programs. As a result, our support has helped companies and organizations craft meaningful benefit programs that engage employees.

Contact us today to design a customized employee wellness program based on your company’s unique culture and purpose!


Matt Likens, President and CEO at GT Medical Technologies, on The

matt likensMatt Likens has been in the businesses of improving lives through biotechnology for more than 10 years now. As the president and CEO at GT Medical Technologies, Matt seeks to improve the lives of people with recurrent brain tumors. He won Phoenix Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO’s award in 2012 and was awarded an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the mountain region in 2015. With more than 25 years of experience leading companies, Matt has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about how to lead people. 

In this episode, Matt chats with podcast host and CEO Kate King, about why it’s important for CEO’s to be authentic, why he came out of semi-retirement to work with GT Medical Technologies, and why balance is key for leaders. If you want to be inspired by an incredible, experienced leader, this episode is for you!  Listen below.

Also, check out all of our podcast episodes featuring interviews with inspiring, respected leaders who prioritize their employees. Then, learn more about how does employee benefits differently. 


Show Highlights:

[1:30] Matt shares his opinion about the role CEO’s play in setting the tone for a company’s culture

[2:00] “The CEO has got to live and breathe and act that way, or there’s no chance for that culture to really gain momentum and be effective.”

[4:00] Matt discusses why CEO’s should move slowly when joining a new company and trying to affect the company’s culture

[6:00] Matt shares how he established operating principles and values as the CEO of Ulthera

[8:00] “I think the most important characteristic that a leader needs to exhibit is authenticity.”

[10:00] Matt talks about why leader’s must overcome the desire to always be liked

[14:00] Matt explains why he joined GT Medical Technologies

[16:00] Matt talks about why balance is a key to a successful life

[18:00] “My advice to people who strive to get into a leadership role is, it wouldn’t hurt to work.”

[25:00] Matt sheds light on his morning routine

[28:00] Matt talks about why he thinks people should work to fulfill as close to 100% of their potential as they can


The Benifit Interview w/ Matt Likens, President and CEO at GT Medical Technologies

Kate King: Hi, this Kate King host of The, where every episode we dive in and explore companies on how they enable employees to thrive.

Our guest today is Matt Likens, the president and CEO at GT Medical Technologies, which is focused on improving the lives of patients with brain tumors. He has a long history of success in both the corporate and the startup world. He shares his insights to culture and leadership and his key guiding principles to life.

Good afternoon, Matt, and thank you for joining us on The podcast today.

Matt Likens: Yeah, thank you, Kate. Nice to be with you.

Kate: Wonderful. So, I’ve got some, you know, few questions. One, um, is much more generic for you to get us started. Some people say that the CEO sets the tone for company culture. As someone who’s led several companies, do you agree with this sentiment and why?

Matt: I do agree with the sentiment. And I-I think that that’s one of the obligations or responsibilities for leadership. Um, and-and I think one of the biggest issues related to culture, relates to authenticity. And so I think the CEO, as the the leader of hopefully a group of leaders within an organization, um, to lead with credibility, they must be seen as authentic and truly believing, uh, in what they are espousing. And so, that’s why I-I do think that the CEO taking the lead and establishing whether there’s a purpose or operating principles or a big herodaceous goal or whatever the key elements are that define a culture of an organization.

[00:02:00] The CEO has got to live and breath and act that way, uh, or there’s no chance for that culture to really gain momentum and be effective. So, I think it’s gotta start there and hopefully, it’s something that as you’re building an organization, you’re inspiring people to join you who can relate to that culture in– and really thrive in that type of environment.

Kate: Thank you, uh Matt. Now, it’s interesting because some, um, CEOs are coming in as kind of taking on an existing culture and some are having the pleasure of kind of starting up a culture. And I believe you’ve been in both of those arenas. Um, what would you say to that CEO coming into a culture, just to how they would, uh, embrace and kinda change that take the lead and the reigns in there.

Matt: Yes. So, I would caution them to move slowly. [laugh]. Yes. And so, um, as I’m sure you know, change is very difficult for every person and certainly every organization. And so, I think it’s really important for anybody coming into an existing organization to be, uh, take your time and really understand what the existing values are, what the operating principles are, what that culture looks like, and is it effective. Is the company thriving? You know, are they achieving their goals? Is it a place with low turnover and highly inspired employees or very productive? If it is, you know, you probably don’t wanna change too much.

And if you do wanna change things, more to your way of thinking, if it’s slightly different than what’s operating there, then I think doing it over time with incremental change is probably more likely to be successful than if-if you want to establish a new operating [00:04:00] environment tomorrow. [laugh]Uh, that would be my recommendation. If-if it’s not an organization that is highly performing, then I think you-you probably have a license to still take your time and understand what it is exactly before you embark upon a major, uh, change to-to the environment. But you probably can do it much more quickly because there is more of a sense of urgency when the ship is sinking, or it’s just not achieving its goals and people are more likely to understand the need for change in that environment.

Kate: Now, I think that’s, um, some wonderful said advice. I think you have people coming into a– or CEO’s coming into a new company who want to make a kind of a quick impression. And I think that caution is absolutely required in what you should build for the long term and have that long view plan. So, thank you for that.

Now, you worked to 10 years of President and CEO of Ulthera. Um, how did you enable your people to thrive there?

Matt: So, in the early stages, I-I was the second employee, and, um, it was the first time I’d been a CEO, and so you really have a blank slate, right? So there isn’t an operating environment, there-there aren’t principles or values, uh. And-and so, I really when– in an operating room previously with Baxter Healthcare organ-organization, um, Healthcare, uh, I was able to come into different operating roles and establish my principles and see whether they would work well or not. And I-I made all the mistakes, right? I tried to change certain divisions of the organization probably more quickly than they should have been changed. Um, and-and so having learned from all that and having really been able to refine, um, what was important [00:06:00] to me as a leader, coming into Ulthera and having that blank slate, you-you establish something where nothing existed previously.

And I found that to be, um, a-a-a great way to do it. There was no change required, [chuckles] there was nothing, right. And-and then I-I established operating principles really as the foundation to the culture and I established five of those. And, uh, then as we were hiring people, I got to talk about what you can expect if you join Ulthera and or the operating principles in some detail. And I interviewed everybody, of course, because initially we were a small group of 220 employees. But even at the end, I was interviewing everyone just so they could hear from me what they could expect if in fact this was a good place for them to work and-and whether they had the skills that we needed in order to continue to grow the business. I just thought it was a-a great filter to use.

And then when somebody did join us, there shouldn’t have been any surprises if in fact, “Oh my god, you’ve got these operating principles who– I don’t agree with these two.” right? Um, eventually the five that we established initially grew to seven when the management team that had been assembled came to me and said, “No, I think we need to add a couple of more. I don’t think the five that we have really fully define what we need to be as an organization.” That’s when I knew they weren’t Matt’s operating principles anymore, but they were Ulthera’s operating principles, and-and everyone saw value in them. So that was, uh, really-really a great point in time for us.

Kate: That’s tremendous. Yeah. I love that, uh, statement, “They went from Matt’s to Ulthera’s.” I think many CEOs aspire to get that moving very quickly. Um, so you have over 25 years of experience in people leadership, what’s one lesson [00:08:00] that you’ve learned about leading people?

Matt: Again, I-I think the most important characteristic that a leader needs to exhibit is authenticity. Um, along with that, you’ve got to operate in a consistent fashion. So, I have worked for other leaders in the– it was like going to an amusement park and being on a roller coaster ride. You know, one never knew, when you showed up for work in the morning, [chuckles] you know, whether you were going to be, you know, at the beginning of the ride, either at a point of stability, or whether you were going to be, you know, plummeting down the highest decline, you know, in the roller coaster. And people don’t do productive work if there can’t be some, uh, sense of consistency, uh, in-in the work environment.

And so, consistency doesn’t mean that you don’t change, but when you do change, you change in a more controlled fashion and all the right communication is accompanying that change, and you’re explaining why we’re-we’re, you know– so, we’ve been operating this way, this way, and this way. Now, from this point forward, we’re going to change and these are the reasons why. The outside dynamic has changed, the market environment has changed, our capabilities have improved or declined or whatever. And then people move along with it because you’ve taken the time to really explain to them.

So, I- so, I think it’s authenticity. You-you-you can’t be seen as saying one thing but acting in a different way, uh, and-and if you are saying it, and you say you believe it, then you better damn well believe it because people are really smart and they will catch you, you know, if there’s anything that’s, you know, not quite true. Uh, and-and then just be consistent in the way you operate.

Kate: Fantastic. And do you believe authenticity is learned? You know, if you look at the operating principle, was that you’re authentic to the operating [00:10:00] principles and culture of the organization, or that you have a natural authenticity as a leader.

Matt: Yeah, I-I think you have to have a natural authenticity. And-and so maybe you grow into that over time and you realize that you can’t be all things to all people, you’re never going to please everyone, and it doesn’t matter. And-and also it doesn’t matter whether people like you, okay [chuckles]. I think a lot of us grow up, you know, wanting to be liked, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and it is great to people like you, but obviously much more important that they respect you, and they respect what you stand for, and they view you as operating, uh, in an equitable fashion that you’re-you’re exhibiting fairness in what you do.

And if you’re gonna-going to move in a new direction, you know, you build trust over time and you have, um, the capability to move the organization in new-new direction because you’ve earned that respect over time.

Kate: Fantastic. No, I-I couldn’t agree more around the, you know, to be- to be respected for what you stand for, it’s really that consistency that you mentioned earlier. So I think, you know, being able to align that to have a natural tendency to be authentic or have that honesty, and then to align with the company culture to live and breathe it everyday is absolutely the key to success there.

So now you’re president and CEO of GT medical technologies, what do you do to find great people to join the team? And other than authenticity and consistency, what do you look for in them?

Matt: Yes. So, um, until we get some more, um, uh, external funding, we won’t be looking for a lot more people to join the team [00:12:00].


Yeah, and we-we have four full time employees currently, uh, but a fifth has agreed to come on at the end of this month, so we’re very excited about having, uh, having that person come on board as well. Um, two of the people out of the five that will be at the end of March, uh, I’ve worked with previously. And so having done that and having seen their work and understood who they were as individuals and how committed they are to, um, to the task at hand, you know, it does give you, um, a-a really great feeling that they will be effective contributors here. A lot of the-the risk that is sometimes inherent in hiring new people is taken out of it. So, um, but-but what you really look for is people who, um, believe in what– we-we have a purpose at GT Medical Technologies. You know, the purpose is improving the lives of patients with brain tumors.

And so, you know, one might say, “Well, isn’t that motherhood and apple pie?” Yes. [laughs] So, certainly is for people who are going to have brain tumors, if we can improve their lives, that’s a good thing. But it is something that we need to be emotionally behind and committed to because that-that’s really what it’s all about. And so I think if you can appeal to someone’s emotional, uh, being as well as their intellect– I mean, intellect is pretty easy to get. I mean, they bring that to work with them every day, but if they’re emotionally involved and committed to the cause as well, you’re just gonna get so much more out of them. The company will benefit from it, they will get more satisfaction out of the work experience, and ultimately, and in our situation, patients will benefit and hopefully patients can live much longer tumor-free as a result of the technology that we bring into the marketplace in the next couple [00:14:00] of years.

Kate: And is that why you joined?

Matt: Yeah, that’s exactly why I joined. So, I’ve been in a variety of therapeutic areas in the healthcare business in over the last 10 years, you mentioned Ulthera. And Ulthera’s business was really, uh, more aesthetic medicine. So, we had a focus ultra sound device that was very consistent in providing a firming tightening and lifting result for, um, customers, uh, not really patients, because they weren’t sick, but-but cash paying customers who were looking to, uh, improve the way they looked compared to, uh, the chronology that they represented tha-than their age. And we can do that in [unintelligible 00:14:47] and we had a very high percentage of ethicacy, uh, and-and it was fine. But we worked, um, you know– we-we weren’t curing diseases and we weren’t dealing with, uh, illness at all.

And so having been, I think pretty effectively semi-retired for about 16 months, um, I wasn’t really looking to get involved in an operating wall again. But I did feel like this GammaTile technology that is represented with GT Medical Technologies has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes, uh, with brain tumors, which is, you know, that’s just not a great prognosis, uh, no matter what type of brain tumor you have, um, and-and no matter how skilled the neurosurgeon may be if in fact you have to have that tumor resected.

So this-this feels like it’s really worth while work and something that certainly I can get emotionally behind and-and I think attract others to this, uh, where it’s quite meaningful for them as well.

Kate: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is, you know, not just life changing for the people working there, you know, to your point the life changing of the patients [00:16:00]. Um, how do you, you know, being so passionate about it and, you know, clearly there’s lots of work to be done, how are you finding balance?

Matt: So I think you’re going to ask me a question maybe in the future about [chuckles] one of the keys to, uh, being successful, you know, and-and what drives someone. But I think balance is a key to a successful life. And-and so it is something that’s worth socializing with the team as well because if any one aspect of your life gets out of balance, you won’t be effective in the other aspects of your life. And so if you think of physical wellbeing or your spiritual being, uh, and also of your professional life, um, and-and, uh, all of that has to, uh, be, uh– you have to pay attention to each aspect of that for you to have a chance to be effective in everything. And so that’s-that’s just something that I think you learn over time. I don’t think my life was always as balanced as it is now, and I encourage anybody who joins our-our company to– We have talked about it, I have lunch with one-one of our former employees today, and that was part of our discussion of lunch because of some things that he has going on his personal life.

And so I think it was good for us to talk about it and recognize it and we’re all whole people and we always see a portion of that whole person at work, but we should see the whole person here, and we should talk about things overall and I think that that makes a better operating environment in itself.

Hey Kate, coul-could I go back to one other point on leadership?

Kate: Absolutely.

Matt: Yeah, I-I really– I-I don’t think there are, you know, ‘natural leaders’ necessarily. Um, [00:18:00] I think people learn over time what resonates for them and what style works for them if they, uh, if their desire is to be a leader. Um, and so I know that, you know, the sort of environment and the-the high tech and healthcare tech community that, you know, you have a few Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of hulled who, you know, they drop out of Harvard or some other fine institution and these are leading what becomes a, you know, global, you know, multibillion dollar enterprise and somehow they-they do it, and they lead it and they do it fairly well. But I think that’s really a rare-rare exception.

And so my-my advice to people who strive to get into a leadership role is, it wouldn’t hurt to work. Uh, you work for AmEx, right? And-and for a significant period of time, and I worked for Baxter and J&J for a significant period of time, and I was exposed to really good leadership practices, management practices, process practices, and-and-and I was also exposed to some miserable behaviors and practices and stupid rules. And-and so over time when you’re exposed to that, you realize [unintelligible 00:19:21] this is how– If I’m gonna have an opportunity to be in the leadership role, this is what I would bring forward with me, they’re really best practices, and this is what I would definitely leave behind. And this is what I would add, you know, my own twist on things to make sure it’s authentic.

And so I encourage younger people to– you know, J&J got to be $150 billion market cap company because they do a lot of things right. Uh, and at the same time, I wouldn’t want to work there anymore because they’re large, and they’re slow, and they have all those things. And, you know, AmEX put a lot of things right, but I’m sure there were a lot of things that drove you crazy.

And so as you move into a startup [00:20:00] world, then you’re only bringing forth those things that-that make sense to you as an individual and are more effective than some of the practices there.

Kate: Now, I think you bring up a great, um, differentiater between, you know, learning to be a leader in a corporate environment versus that of an entrepreneurial venture. Um, you know, I think last time we met, we spoke about in the corporation, you have many people. Many people have specific roles and responsibilities, and being a leader and, um, also being a doer, whereas in an entrepreneurial mindset, especially in a startup, you literally are doing it all and bringing the best of what you bring from this skill. Um, you’re both a leader as well as the doer always.

Um, but why I liked the-the what you said was the progression to being authentic, and that really is that personal growth and learning and really taking what you love, what inspires you as an individual to then become authentic with that. And then, if you go to a company and have that matched with the operating principles, that’s where you found your kind of like working Nirvana, so to speak.

Um, and I think that le– being able to lead authentically is absolutely the priority, but how you get there with an organization does involve that questioning learning really what do you stand for and do you have also the experience to be able to stand where you are. So I thought that was– that’s a great intro into kind of ways in which to become more authentic as a leader. Coz I think using the word is great, but a lot of times, you go and say, “I’m authentic.” or what does that really mean?

And I think having that, uh, perspective in self-development, self-perspective, self-compassion, really understand what lights you up, what inspires others, um, is a process that you have to continually work on.

Matt: [00:22:00] Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I-I-I think you just said it very well. Um, and just, you know, we’re diverging a little bit maybe from what– where are you going next, but I was on a panel last week as you know, and, um, you know, it was from a very accomplished folks. And-and one of the folks in the panel, um, is a-a young leader of a very successful company and they’ve got an unbelievable culture.

Uh, and he was talking about, gee, I just, you know, ho-how did you develop such a great culture? He said, “Well, it-it just kind of happened and-and I don’t think you need to necessarily be intentional about it. You get the right people and voila, it just happens.” And-and I had to speak up and say, “That’s wonderful that it worked that way for you, but I wouldn’t take that chance.” [chuckles]

Kate: Yeah. [chuckles]

Matt: I think you absolutely, as the leader, you have to be intentional about it and-and-and drive what’s the right culture for you, [chuckles] you know, and-and then, you know, if it’s the right culture for the right other people, then great, but, uh– Anyway. We-we-we had a little bit of a difference on that, but I-I-I still stand by my conviction. I think the CEO has got to drive that culture and represent it and be authentic about it.

Kate: Yeah. Absolutely. Maybe, you know, he’s one of the outliers like Steve Jobs and-and-and Bill Gates, where he just, you know, was able to ins-inspire or create that as it was going. I think, you know, to a point, most people are deliberate with culture. And I think when you look to other examples in the industry, that we’ve seen in the news in the last kind of year, not having intentional culture has serious impacts to the bottom line.

Matt: Yes. Um, are-are you thinking Uber, by any chance?

Kate: [chuckles] It’s just to name one, yes.

Matt: Yeah. The-the-there are lots of examples. And again, I think a great idea, you know, and obviously a very valuable company, but, you know, it was just, uh, wasn’t moving in the right direction. So, big changes and, you know, it’s too bad [00:24:00] but in a way, it’s understandable, right?

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. When you grow that quickly, um, without a doubt, but I think it opens the doors that CEOs and the leadership teams to really think about this, and more and more this becomes really the winning formula to how successful you actually are in your industry.

Matt: Yup. Yup. I agree.

Kate: So, Matt, I have a couple of questions more personal for our listeners, um, if that’s good with you. Um.

Matt: Sure,

Kate: You know, there’s much talk about successful leaders having morning routines, and it’s really been seen as scientifically proven and critical to their success. Could you share your morning routine with us?

Matt: Um, sure. Um, I-I-I get up early, um, and-and by early, you know, it’s 5:00, 5:30, uh, timeframe, and three– at least three times a week, and four if I’m lucky.

Um, I-I go to Orangetheory. It’s a one-hour exercise class, there are franchises all over the country.In fact, I read last week, it’s one of the fastest growing franchises in the country. And, you know, monitoring your heart rate, uh, and your metabolism, and you have an ideal, um, activity level, which is the orange level. And you should spend at least, at least 12 of the 54 minutes or so of workout at that orange level or above. Uh, and I-I just find it, um, if I devote that time early in the day and really get a great workout, you monitor your how many calories you burn based on your, uh, your body mass index as well. Uh, I have more energy all day long. So, um, so that’s a great way to start. But even before I go there, I have to do, uh, my stretching. [laughs]

I play a lot of basketball, and I run marathons and, they’re not great on your back [00:26:00] or knees. So-so I-I do that religiously as about a 20-minute program, where I’m stretching and sit-ups and moving so that I can move and go to Orangetheory and actually be on the treadmill or, uh, or on the rowing machine, or in the weight room and-and perform well. But I think that taking care of yourself physically at that time, I think sets me up for a very productive day. I also try to spend some time, and even when I’m doing the stretching, I wouldn’t call it meditation, but I wouldn’t call it thanking deeply about, you know, who I am, who I am [laughs] how far I need to accomplish, and, you know, whether-whether everything’s in balance. And so I find that to be, uh, very relaxing, and also gets my mind straight for the day ahead.

Kate: Wonderful, truly wonderful. And the last question for you, um, and it doesn’t have to be three, I just put it out there. What three rules do you live by?

Matt: Yeah, and so I-I don’t know if I live by three rules, but one thing that drives me, and always has, for some reason, is, uh, that one should strive to reach one’s potential. So and, and not to be too spiritual about this, but, you know, God has given us certain gifts and certain capabilities. And I almost feel like it’s a sin if you don’t take advantage of your God-given abilities. And so, we all have potential as human beings, along a number of different fronts.

Um, but then if-if you relate it to business, you know, so you’re-you’re starting a company, and you have a technology, and you need to hire resources, and you need to try to define the market, and you need to try to figure out how you’re going to compete effectively. And by definition, you-you-you [00:28:00] have a certain potential for that business, and it might be the number in-in health care, of course, the number of patients treated or benefiting from your product. There are– For me, after all those [unintelligible 00:28:11] there’s gotta be a financial potential for the company, uh, and that helps to measure things as well.

And so what is that overall potential? Can you try to define that? And then the goal of the company is to achieve the– as close to a 100% of that potential as you possibly can, and you’ll never get there, right? But, but I think, uh, lost potential is to me a– it’s a- it’s a big- it’s a big waste. [laughs] And so, I’ve always admired athletes who may not be the most talented, but you just know that they worked harder than anyone else and they achieve a greater percentage of their potential than a lot of other people who are more physically talented and gifted than they were. And-and that relates to for me across business and across life in general. So, I guess that’s, that would be the one driving, uh, force in my life.

Kate: Fantastic, I love it. I think that, you know, this will give many of our listeners foo-food for thought, in terms of how many of you could do strive for, uh, their potential every day. You know, as it is interesting you give the experie– the example of business, but I think from a personal standpoint, how many of us could really put our hands on our heart, and every day say I’m striving for my top potential, I’m better than I was yesterday.

Um, that probably comes to people maybe, you know, “Oh, I remember that,” “I’m supposed to do that,” or, “Oh, I remember”– Like a couple of months ago I was thinking that on the day to day, you know, when a new show gets taken over, but I think that’s a-a fantastic, you know, guiding principle with you like of, of, uh, leading your lives.

Matt: Yeah, I-I-I guess other thing is, you know, treating people the right way, right? Where any-even in a company, you know, obviously there is a CEO, uh, in a lot of companies and-and there is that person who’s, you know, just starting for the company and maybe has, you know, a-a first level role. Um, each person is equally important even though they’re at different levels and play different roles, but it does– You know, so you’re-you’re in the mail room, right? [laughs]. That’d be the traditional way-way of stereo–typical way that-to-to look at that. Well, that role is really, really important, and that person is important. And so treating people the way you wanna be treated, I mean, it almost goes without saying but, um, it shouldn’t matter the level in the organization, it-it’s, we’re all individuals and deserve that respect.

Kate: Fantastic. Matt, we’re coming up on our time today. I truly want to thank you for not only your insight but your experienced insight, uh, for our listeners today. I truly appreciate it.

Matt: Sure, thanks, Kate. Thanks for having me, and I really enjoyed it.


Kate: Firstly, thanks for listening and spending time with us. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Matt. For a transcribed version of the show, head over to That’s B-E-N-I.F-I-T/podcast. This is the start of compensations that begin to identify the best practices when human strived companies prosper. If you would like to recommend anybody for the show, please email me at [email protected] [email protected]

[00:31:59] [END OF AUDIO]


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Kathy Sacks, Entrepreneur, Startup Consultant, and Former VP of Marketing at Infusionsoft on The Benifit

kathy sacksKathy Sacks has been building, marketing, and inspiring businesses for more than 20 years. She’s done it all. From starting her own angel investing firm, to founding multiple businesses, to working as the VP of Marketing at Infusionsoft, Kathy’s gathered a wealth of knowledge from her diverse work experiences. Lucky for us, she shares it with the world on our podcast!

In this episode, Kathy chats with podcast host and CEO Kate King about how her time at Infusionsoft informed her perspective on HR and people leadership, why she believes entrepreneurship is the answer, and why she feels companies should invest in their employees dreams. Give it a listen!

Click here to check out more episodes of The Benifit, and here to learn more about how helps humans thrive, and companies prosper. 

Show Highlights:

[2:00] Kathy explains how she initially got connected with the founders of Infusionsoft

[4:00] Kathy describes how Infusionsoft’s leadership time intentionally crafted the company’s culture

[8:00] Kathy talks about Infusionsoft’s Dream Manager position

[11:00] Kathy shares why she believes it’s important to embrace employees’ whole person at work

[14:00] Kathy shares a personal story about her parent, immigrating from Hungary and making a life for themselves in America

[17:00] “The number one challenge I see is, is the ability to see past self-imposed obstacles.” – Kathy talking about challenges for startup leaders

[20:00] “I think we take ourselves just too seriously. And, therefore, we’re unwilling to make mistakes.”

[22:00] Kathy shares her thoughts on why it’s important for leaders to be authentic in the workplace

[24:00] Kathy tells a story about when Infusionsoft’s executive team gathered to come up with the company’s values

[30:00] “Ultimately leadership is about service. It’s about being of service to others, and how do you do that without your heart being a part of it?”

[33:00] Kathy shares her morning routine. (Hint: it includes journaling!)

[36:00] “What I’ve realized is, is as a woman especially and a working mother, you can have it all.”


The Benifit Interview w/ Kathy Sacks, Entrepreneur, Startup Consultant and Former VP of Marketing at Infusionsoft

Kate: So, hi Kathy, and thank you join- for joining us today on The Benifit Podcast. It’s a real pleasure to have you on board.

Kathy Sacks: Hi Kate. I’m so glad to be here.

Kate: Great. So- so Kathy, we have a few questions for you. Um, I’m really excited to- to really understand your perspective. So, you have a very diverse and rich work history. From starting your own businesses, to investing, to serving in executive marketing positions, you’re pretty much, uh, done it all. Um, you say your time as a VP of Marketing and Communication at Infusionsoft was critical to your- your view of HR, people leadership, and how companies grow. I think while you were there, you went from under a hundred employees to over 600. What is it about your time at Infusionsoft that informed your perspective on these things?

Kathy: Hmm. Yeah, it’s interesting. Um, in Infusionsoft, it is a place where, uh, having gone from worked in- working in, uh, companies that I had started. Uh, well, one I had co-founded with my husband, but they were small businesses, um, successful, but they were smaller. We’re talking, you know, 12-15 people tops. And, um, a few of them I had sold, and, um, and so moving into Infusionsoft it really was the largest, um, the largest company that I had been a part of.

And to see it moved from, before it was 30 people and the early days pre-Series A, I was a consultant. [00:02:00] So they’d hired my agency to come in and work with them and really be their first agency of record. So, I got to work shoulder to shoulder with the founders at the time when they didn’t actually even know what they had. In other words, at the time we’re talking, this is 2006, uh, 2005, um, no actually a little earlier than that. Um, anyway, doesn’t matter.

The point is, is [chuckles] that at the time they thought a big win was gonna be, “We’re gonna sell this for like 10 million dollars right?”. And- and over a period, in pretty short order there, over the course of about a year, the transformation of their vision shifted to that of a company that saw itself becoming, uh, multi-billion dollar company. It saw itself as a- as an organization that was not only out to sell software, it was out to change lives for small business owners. And also, and just as important to change the lives of their employees.

And so, my time there was really interesting, uh- uh, initially on the outside and then I end up joining the company, uh, joined the executive team, working with Clate Mask, the CEO, and, um, and the rest of the folks on the team. And I had joined there full time when we were about 100 people. And I remember him telling- telling me, “Big differences as soon as you hit that three digit number, Kate, everything changes.” And you could do things very differently and make different considerations and really put an eye on the scale.

And by the time I left a few years ago, we had about a 600 employee company. And so, it’s fascinating to see what they did right and that was at the outset focus on thinking big, and focus on making this a place that people would want to come to. That would be proud to be a part of this company, this brand. And, um, and it wasn’t just talk, they made investments. We made investments, we made, um, we made real meaning for effort, we put money, time, resources towards- towards creating a culture of winning, [00:04:00] high performance. And, um, dare I say, it sounds cliche, but fun.

Kate: Fantastic. You know, a lot of, um, companies in that massive growth- high really growing from, as you said 30 people to 600 really, uh, find it challenging on the culture. You-you mentioned that you’ve done the investments, but could you just walk us through maybe some of the thinking at the time for, uh, how you constructed the culture as an Exec Team?

Kathy: Uh, yeah. Well, for one, uh, for one we all took ownership of it. And so, one of the things that we did as a leadership team, was we would have offsites. Uh, lots of offsites. So there will be a monthly offsite of the exec, so it’s about anywhere between five and- and 10 of us as we grew. Uh, so it was the CEO level, it was– we’re VP level until we began to grow and then we moved into CEO roles as well. And, uh, and so we made investments on making culture our top priority.

And so what that look like was, um, we had a team would discuss, um, goal setting and how we make goal setting and accountability, and your focus on metrics. Something that not just execs were- who were rallying around, but the entire organization. And we would empower people to, uh, take ownership over their departments, or over, um, let’s say director or manager level. People would have an opportunity to rally and organize others around accomplishing goals, that may actually be outside their purview, but that they wanted to get involved in.

And, um, each quarter we would have these, um, these ‘TOPs’, Top Operating Priorities. And then we would have annual priorities. And, the TOPs on each quarter would roll up into the annual priorities. And then, there will be rewards around that, and we had smart goals. And so, there was this culture of, um– You know, it’s interesting. When- when- when you hear the word culture, you think of– especially in a Venture-backed company. [00:06:00]

This is a Venture-backed software company, you think, “Oh, it’s fun”. It’s Ping-pong tables. It’s–” You know, we had a football field, we had Nerf guns, we had a Coke machine, you know, uh, soda machine. We had, um, unlimited supplies of cereal. Yeah, that is one part of, o- one part of that makes it casual and- and, um, it sort of it normalizes it. But really culture is founded upon high per- creating high performing teams that can collaborate, respect each other, treat one another with kindness, and with um, and hold on to another accountable, but doing it in a way where you grow from it, right?

And that’s I think what we were able to do by engaging in and iterating on this culture around how we hire people, how we fire people, how we invest in them, um, and there’s so many examples of- of investments that we made. You know, one- one that comes to mind is our Dream Manager. You might have heard that at one point, um– I’m trying to think about how soon into this. It would have been when we are about, probably somewhere between 115-250 people.

We ended up creating role called, the Dream Manager. And the dream manager’s, the dream manager’s job was to help our, um, employees, we call them Infusioknights to- to dream, and to create goals for themselves, and to work towards those goals. And so, your dreams could be paying off your mortgage, taking your family to Disneyland, uh, losing 20 pounds, learning Spanish. You know, playing the violin, it could be anything. Um, doing a triathlon, or it could be, “I wanna start my own business.”

And so, I think it was really fascinating as we were, we were not afraid to invest in people, and- and support them in identifying dreams, and then picking a dream that they wanna go after. And then, on a weekly basis, or actually weekly to monthly basis, you had access to this coach, your dream manager. Who would work with you, [00:08:00] and support you in moving through the necessary actions in order to attain, um, that dream.

And, you know, when you’re- when you’re managing people, and you’re working with anyone, especially in a coaching type of relationship, you wanna help them get small wins. So often the dreams were small, you know it’s like “I want to, uh, take my family into a two-week vacation, uh, in two quarters,” right? And so, or it could be “I wanted to lose five pounds this month.” So it’s like what can you do to create small wins but then build confidence.

So the reason why I share this is- is, I think what’s so different about what we did at Infusionsoft, Kate, is that; if people had a dream of starting their own business, which could become to others, to other companies maybe this is threat, like we might lose this person. We knew that when we made investments in that person, we encourage those because our customers are entrepreneurs, we encourage our employees to be entrepreneurs.

So I think 80% of the people inside the company have some kind of side hassle. We gave everyone a free app, a free Infusionsoft app to use and we wanted them in the app in software using it. And they will build their own businesses, selling products, information products, doing services, whatever it might be. And so, we knew that at some point, you know, either we’d have them for several years, or a decade, or for two years.

Whatever the- whatever the amount, we knew that we wanted to make investments in our employees. And- and the trade in return was for them to make- make a high contribution to Infusionsoft. So as a result, I point to the deliberate decisions that we made to allow people to grow, to invest in them growing. Uh, it paid in dividends and what that look like was, the ability to, uh, get to 100 million dollars in revenue. Or- or frankly at this point the company is well over that, uh, to be able to raise over a 150 million in- in, uh, in venture capital from the likes of Goldman Sachs, or Bain Capital. [00:10:00] Yeah, I’m gonna stop and like, ask another question. [laughs]

Kate: You know, I- I- I’m blown away. I think that is probably one of the best examples of somebody explaining culture that I’ve ever heard. And I think you’re absolutely right, in terms of– most people think about culture in terms of, “How do I grow this fun family environment?” And they don’t really link it to business performance which is so critical. and I think what you said high performing teams that collaborate with each other, who bring kindness, um, was so eloquent.

Uh, what I loved though is this ‘Dream Manager’. Because when people are truly inspired themselves with their dreams, they come to work so much more purposeful, and so much more intentional. Um, so I- I think that probably is one of the best examples, um, I’ve heard in terms of a company who really embraces the individual, uh, to be part of the collective pulse. So, thank you. I think that’s amazing.

Kathy: Hmm, yeah. Well, and I– if I could- if I could share on that. Consider this, people come to work everyday as a whole person.

Kate: Yeah.

Kathy: Ideally. They come as a whole person. And so they don’t come as a work person. They come as the whole person. A person who is a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, husband or wife. Uh, you know, whatever. And add all the other roles inside of that. And they’re a dreamer. And, if people– If you think that anyone on your team isn’t dreaming about what they might do beyond this role, or how to enrich their lives or what experiences they want to create for themselves, then you’re kidding yourself.

And so, I think when- when leaders ignore that aspect, then the consequence of that is you get a quarter, a half, three quarters, whatever it is. But it’s going to be sub-100% of that person. So, let’s– I- I think the- one of the- one of the keys as a leader is to embrace, identify, expose, allow that person to understand what their whole person- what the wholeness really- really encompasses. Uh, but here’s a thing. It takes time. It takes some effort. [00:12:00] Um, and- and oftentimes especially in– I- I- I don’t know.

I- I guess anyone that worked at Infusionsoft Kate, myself included, really got spoiled, because a lot of corporate America does not work this way. [laughs[ And so I’d like to say that anyone who came into Infusionsoft always left a better person. And, um, with any luck would land at another company, or that would be, you know what, in some way, um, at the same level. Or candidly they most likely would go off to start their own business. And that was the pattern that we would see. Which is exciting.

Kate: Yeah. There’s definitely the exciting turn I feel with– so very small moves to turn this huge ship of what was corporate America into this, um, a person is coming to work. And I think, you know, forever we’ve seen the stats of 86% of people disengaged from their jobs. The trillions of dollars it cost in absentee and lack of productivity, ’cause people just are truly not inspired. Um, I truly love that dream manager.

I think that if more companies did that and embraced that whole person to a point; yes, it does take time. Yes it does take investment, but what a tiny investment to make in terms of the actual bottom-line impact you make. Fantastic example, Kathy. Thank you. Um, I’m gonna switch gears a bit to you as an entrepreneur. Um, and a- a business owner, investor. Um, On your website you say that you believe in entrepreneurship, and that’s really the answer. Can you just give us what is– wha– You know, the answer to what? What do you mean by that?

Kathy: Hmm. The person that comes to mind when I think about what you’ve just asked. Whenever I think about entrepreneurship, I envision my- my dad. Um, my father was– Both my parents are, uh, immigrants. They escaped communism, uh, communist Hungary in the ’60s. And they came here with– They came separately. My father actually, physically escaped. [00:14:00] My mother happened to come here, visited an uncle, and at the time was easier to just stay than it is, you know, now.

Um, and so they both have their own approach. They came to the US-wide for a better life, right. Um, and my dad came here with $20 and they both had eight grade educations, and he had one skill and that was as a mason. And so I grew up watching him- watching him as an entrepreneur. Um, with his broken English, you know, with his gruff, gruff, sort of, demeanor. And he built the business. And, um, I’m really proud of how hard he worked.

And, uh, so I- I– To me, it was very normal growing up. Pre- predictable income. That was not common. He’d have seasons growing up in New Jersey. Snow, couldn’t, you know, couldn’t work. Um, and my mother, on the other side, cleaned houses when she was– when I was, uh, you know, two year old. She’d take me with her to work in a lipstick factory. I mean, you see, you’re talking about, you know, really, uh, blue collar.

And, um, and so as a consequence of that, I’d like to think positive, I learned to appreciate uncertainty and, um, the uncertainty that comes around entrepreneurship. And so, I find that exhilarating. And, as a result, um, the people that I spend the most time with, um– You know, today I coach entrepreneurs, hmm, more- more particularly women, around how they can- how they can up level their leadership, lead themselves more powerfully so they can lead others more powerfully and grow their businesses.

So, for me that theme around taking risks, that theme around believing in yourself, um, believing in others. Making investments in yourself and in others, and growing something special around, um, something that is capitalistic, of course. There’s a measure. You know, does this work? If it doesn’t make money, then how’s that gonna work? Uh, but then, also, through that exercise, can’t you get to do something really great.

And I was working with people to collaborate and making something out of nothing. [00:16:00] Whether it’s a service or a product, you- you’ve constructed, um, something that didn’t exist before. So, to me, entrepreneurship is, is creation. Um, this- this- this successive moment of- of, um, of taking a chance and really not knowing what’s on the other side. And I find that just so interesting and, um, just very sexy.

Kate: You talk about the, um, coaching startups. Um, what challenges do you see and face when it comes to people leadership?

Kathy: The number one- the number one challenge I see is, is the ability to see past self-imposed obstacles? So, what I mean by that is– As an example, there’s a critical conversation that, let’s say, uh, CEO needs to have with a person on their team that isn’t performing at a level that they need to. And- and they’ve been managing and- and coaching and trying to get this individual who if it’s a small startup is- is their- their- their key, their key role.

And, they’re trying to sort out why they can’t help this person, either get more motivated or get more capable in their role, so they can be more successful in the role. And everyone knows that there’s something that’s off. And here’s what I find. The obstacle that they put in front of them, the CEO as an example, is how to have the conversation in a way that exposes the truth. And how to do that is for you to have truth about yourself, and about what your expectations are for example, in this role.

And about how this person perhaps isn’t measuring up. And how perhaps the answer is, is, “This isn’t gonna fit,” and they need to replace this individual and hire someone else. But obstacle they place in front of themselves is- in this example is, they’re afraid. [00:18:00] They really like this person. They, um, they think they have what it takes but, you know, just with a little bit of effort, they might get them to the place that they need to be so they can be performing.

But at the end of the day everyone knows, and the CEO knows that they just need to sit down, have the conversation, get them to place of- of understanding that this is the right decision and- and moving forward. And, um, and- and I- and often in these cases, what they- what they’re trying to avoid is that critical conversation. And, um, they don’t wanna let someone down. I find that to be the case often with first time startup entrepreneurs.

Um, and it’s about making decisions and trusting their judgment and doing it swiftly. Um, that’s- that’s one example but, uh, i- in my, uh, there’s- there’s- there’s probably others but I really think it’s, we get in our way. You know, another one is, “Am I good enough? Do I know enough?” Right? And so, it’s sort of death by a thousand cards. They hold themselves back in, uh, in critical moments. Uh, they don’t speak up. Um, they don’t– They don’t believe in themselves in that moment.

Or they don’t raise their hand to go and speak at a conference, or to- or to weigh in on a topic, or to go after a large amount of- of capital. Um, you know, those are those moments where you must see yourself at a level of greatness and potential. And also be kind to yourself knowing that you’re gonna miss- gonna make mistakes. We don’t have to take ourselves so damn seriously. [laughs] That’s the issue.

I think we take ourselves just too seriously. And, therefore, we’re unwilling to make mistakes. We’re unwilling to see ourselves perhaps not, uh, you know, on flattering moments. And at the end of the day though, that’s where the growth happens. So, I- I think the pattern that emerges is how to push yourself and force yourself to grow each day through the uncomfortable, you know. [00:20:00] 

I mean think about yourself like how uncomfortable do you get each day. Have you been uncomfortable yet today, yesterday, the day before? And, uh, each day the richness of that level of- of discomfort should grow otherwise you’re plateauing right. And so just, sort of, going after bigger and bigger challenges, um, because that’s where the self-betterment happens. I see it all the time. We, sort of, allow ourselves to live smaller than we know, uh, we should cause it feels safer.

Kate: What I love about this whole dialogue and what you’re talking about, and both the- except three of the examples and the, um, answers you’ve given, is that whole person that you’re bringing to the forefront. Uh, i- it- it’s very inspiring to hear you talk about that, because many leaders, successful leaders really don’t talk about the whole person. They talk about to your point earlier this is the what person, this is the parent, this is the- the partner, this is the friend, and they very never bring the whole person.

And I love what you’ve mentioned about failure, because getting in your own way and your belief system, um, your own personal emotional set. Or how you think how you process that thinking into emotions and actions, never really is truly embraced in corporate, right? You need to put on that hat, or put on that coat and play that role. And I think many people do, especially with entrepreneurs who maybe are on the second goal, their first goal was in corporate. Now they’re the age where they want to start a company and they go in. First of all they get the shock of, “Uh, I have to do everything,” right ? I used to have tea-

Kathy: Right.

Kate: -while doing this in the past. But they perhaps don’t bring in– you know, in corporate I think it masks a lot of the leadership training your given in corporate to be authentic. Actually is to be authentic in the workplace not be authentic as a whole person. [00:22:00] And I’ really, really I’m inspired by what you’re saying in terms of, typically it’s how you-how you’re creating and growing through that discomfort, but knowing you are the only one creating that discomfort. It’s not because people are seeing you like, “Get out there embrace yourself.”

Um, so both all- all three of those I think from that Dream Manager, to how you just go get, go do. You know, you have- may have nothing, but go do it anyway and really getting out of your own way. I think three tremendous examples of a new face I think to business. I- I’m excited about what you say, because I think if more and more leaders can embrace this, the productivity and the enjoyment people have whether you spend 8, 10, 14 hours of their latter day um, will-will be mind blowing, I mean it will be groundbreaking.

Kathy: Well, what I think is that– and I love, I mean it sounds, um, I love- I love having this conversation with someone who gets it and sees that, um– That the power is really in the human. And, you know, one example from Infusionsoft, but I think is really interesting as well for your listeners and I think this- this shuttles both the personal and the work, and that is what is your value system?

Right, so what is your personal value system, and what do you- what are the values that you uphold that keep you focus, and also keep you honest, right. And keep you- keep you able to say no to the things that don’t align and then- and then- and then by virtue of saying the nos it- it opens a space for the- for the yeses. And I don’t mean just like yeses, I mean, “Hell, yes,” right. And so, the same applies I think for organizations, whether it’s at the company level what are the values?

And we’re not talking values that are, sort of, marketing yourself on the wall and then no one ever pays attention. And you put them on the website cause it looks cool, [00:24:00] but it’s whatever values that you live by? And one of the things that we did, uh, that was really exciting in fact, as an executive team had spent three days at the Phoenician. I’ll never forget, it was like really long. And, um, uh, really well worth it.

But when you have it smart people in a room they’re all passionate there’s a lot of debate and debate takes time. And at the end of it the donuts that we made was a complete rewrite of our- of our vision, which is your purpose, your mission and your values. And about half of the team, half of the- of the leadership team was new in the last year, to three years, and then the other half were, you know, founders and- and really-really, uh, full time employees.

Um, and so- and so there- there was this- there was a vision that had been written previously but it was time to update, it was time to make it, uh, one that could- one that could travel. You know, one that could be easily understood and didn’t require someone to explain it to you. So I’ll give you an example. Out of this came, uh, our vision and the vi- and our- and our- and our purpose was to help small businesses succeed.

Now that sounds pretty okay, simple well, simple is way harder to get to, way harder and longer to get to. And if I told you [chuckles] it took us I think about, I mean it took us a day and a half just to land on that, right? This is an expensive meeting if you think about it. I mean not only expensive ’cause it’s at the Phoenician. But expensive because you’ve got eight highly paid, you know, execs who are all, you know, uh, going at it. Um, then the other was our values.

And- and my point about values that sit on a website or a wall, versus values that are in execution day to day and one that people adopt. In fact, when- when we would hire people at Infusionsoft, it’s likely still the same today, is you have to be able to memorize and you have to- you have to- you have to, um, share the values from memory. And you walk into meetings and- and, [00:26:00] let’s say you see someone who is just not thinking about not going outside of themselves in a moment, where a decision has been made, and you see an ego show up.

And you would have- you would have permission in the organization to say, “Hey, are we all really checking our egos at the door?” Well, guess what that was one of our values, we check our egos at the door. And so we made this simple to- to understand true to our soul and spirit of the company and the um, and the ideas it was founded on. In a way that, uh, I think at the time it was 10 but it’s since been a thing reduced to seven.

And I always think you know shorter, uh, shorter list is always better. But as an organization, you can even extend this to your department. You know, I don’t know how many of your listeners are within larger organization versus small. But let’s say you have the- the technology department or you have, um, or you have the marketing department. What are the values of your- of your- of your team? Right.

And when each of the individuals in- in your department can be a part of giving birth to those values, they see themselves in it, right? They’ve made a contribution and those- and that value system lives on. Um, and there’s something really I think powerful about that that creates leaders at all levels of the company, at all levels. And, um, and on the other side you know what are your values as a- as a person um, outside of work.

Um, I think it’s a question that we all, um, sort of, kind of, like flossing. Like, “Yeah, that be good,” but how many actually put into practice? I think that’s the difference between successful and I mean monetary necessarily. But successful meaning happy, joyful, fully expressed people who feel like they’re making a difference versus those that are– I don’t know. You know victim, lost, drifting. I think the difference is, is [00:28:00] identifying articulating and living the values.

Kate: That’s great. Um, I truly– I’m sitting here and I’m writing, because all of the things you’re saying, um, really you have to write a book. [laughs] You have you know you have to write a book on this because I feel that you know just this even the words you’re using victim, lost, drifting that is most of people in their day to day jobs.

And really espousing values of the organization, to your point ‘upon the wall’, um, is many times where they stay and they sit and you- you know at your annual review, or your half review you start talking about values. But it’s really the heartfelt. If I’m heartfelt of about the values of myself and the company and my team imagine the possibility.

Kathy: Doesn’t that make you sad to think how many people are just showing up?

Kate: Yeah.

Kathy: And right– Um and you’re– By the way we’re talking like privilege at this point. I mean you know my heart goes out to a single mom who, let’s say, works at a convenience store who’s trying to raise three kids right? And is having a hard time. And I mean like what we’re talking about is, um, and- and their values being aligned, um, can be useful right? But- but I think you know what we’re talking about is- is a level of efficiency, as one example there’s still many other examples.

It’s my one- it’s my one reference, um, that I can point to where we made really big investments, and- and so the return on that. Now it’s not all roses, uh, at the same time too. There’s also challenges to this as well especially as you begin to scale. But, look I mean ultimately leadership is about service. It’s about being of service to others, and how do you do that without your heart being a part of it. I don’t- I don’t know how that how that happens and so. [00:30:00] When you have people that are just showing up think about it, you know, think about it as a lot from a logical perspective Kate. How expensive is that for me, if I’m running 100% organization and 20% of my workforce is just checked out. Okay, that’s super-expensive, really expensive think about that. Um, in productivity in the impact of that 20% on my other, uh, my- my other 80%, and how it’s dragging on the 80% that it should be high performing.

So I think this is the number one problem, um, and a number one opportunity to address. Um, I think the challenges is- is- is it has to be somewhat customized, you know, because not every– The same thing doesn’t light everyone up. So ultimately it has to start at the outse, which is your recruiting. You know, how are you, what is the- what is the brand, what is the message, who are the leaders that are out there waving the flag for this company that is then–

What is the purpose, mission, vision, you know values– what are you up to doing in the world that’s going to attract the kind of people that can be lit up and excited to be getting on the ship and at point say, “Yeah, I wanna go there, you know, I wanna go there. And, uh, and so within recruiting it’s a matter of making sure you’ve got the right people on the bus. Different kinds of people.

I don’t mean the same people that all look the same and act the same and have the same level of its– of life experiences, diversity so- so- so important. That’s something that we really I think missed the mark on at Infusionsoft, especially in the early days. Um, and, uh, you know we see this in the headlines. So many companies are- are, “Challenged by it”. I’d say that’s really more code as in too lazy to do anything about it to be honest, but that’s by another topic.

Kate: Yeah no absolutely. And I think, you know, riding that ship, um, is to your point it’s- they see it as a huge agenda. Um, perhaps isn’t laziness to it, but, uh, you know I also think that is a must do. [00:32:00] And-and your example earlier of 20% of 100 people are not productive. You know, when you look to the stats in the marketplace where people aren’t really intentionally in fuse with what they want to do on a daily basis, it’s almost the reverse, right? That 20% of your people are the doers and 80% are just showing up.

Kathy: Mm-hmm.

Kate: So in- in- incredible examples there. Kathy I could literally talk to you all day on this stuff. I think that, uh, you know we share a lot of the same passion about the whole person. I do-

Kathy: That might be fun, but I don’t know if everyone would wanna listen all day.


Kate: I’m sure they would, you know. Um, I have two other questions for you and they’re much more to do with you personally. Um, you know there’s much talk of discipline morning routines, uh, for leaders as a key to their productivity or even their success. Um, can you describe your morning routine to the listeners.

Kathy: You know, I could make up something that sounds very Tim [Ferris], like, “I’m very disciplined.

Kate: [laughs]

Kathy: And say, “These are the things I do,” and that- that would represent who I was about a year and a half ago, no try really more like. A year and half to two years ago. Currently- currently, uh, it’s a great day if I can get 20- a 20 minute meditation going in the morning before my one year old gets up. And um, I think that for me has been the biggest– And I would– So what I used to do was meditate for 20 minutes then I would journal.

I have this gratitude journal, I’m actually looking at it here. Oh, it’s a five minute journal, um, you can get it online. There’s– I mean today there’s so many journals, but it asked these questions of, “I am grateful for–“, and then you list the three things. “What would make today great?” And then you list the three things and then daily affirmations of I am and then you can list that. And then at the end of the day three amazing things that happened today and you would know that. [00:34:00]

And then the final question for the night would be, how could I have made today better? And you do this every day. And, um– I don’t recall who I heard that said this but, “You can’t be grateful and angry in the same moments.” In other words you- you can’t be grateful for– You can’t feel just gratitude for something, for your life for whatever it is and then also be mad at the same time.

And so while being someone who lives a more great full life is- is a path I’ve been actively choosing to, um, to live on. And I say the last five years have really been an exercise in that and I just– I like my life, um, so much more. But um, ever since having my- my baby, we have a nine year old, and then we’ve got a, um– She’s just turned one few months ago. And so, like I said I’m winning if I can meditate about three or four times a week like that’s a really great week.

Kate: Fantastic. You never leave the door with both– with the same pair of shoes on right? I think sometimes-

Kathy: Yeah.

Kate: -in the mornings it’s, “Did I put an actual pair of shoes on, or- or did I ever got– Because I don’t know if you’re like me, if you find a pair of shoes you like– I buy every color. Um, so you- you will walk out the door with one red, one blue shoe on like, “Okay,-

Kathy: Oh, yeah.

Kate: -this is for every morning. [laughs]

Kathy: Yeah-yeah. Well you know actually my latest life hack was I got rid of all my socks, I did this with my daughter as well. I got rid of all the socks that required you to identify pairs.

Kate: Yeah. Right, right.


Kathy: And we ordered- we- ordered into a block, a bunch of just black. Black low, you know, like a little low no show socks on Amazon. Her and I are now the same size, and so I ordered like three dozen. Split in half she’s got and so there’s never an issue and surprise event at time.

Kate: [laughs]

Kathy: Number one. Number two, when I’m gonna grab socks I can just like done they are there. Um, so that’s been really key. And the other thing I do, which be careful you don’t wanna be driving behind me, or in front of me. I don’t text while I drive but I do- but I use Siri, uh, but I put my make up on the car. [00:36:00] So for me it’s like getting somewhere and then putting the makeup on in the car like that’s how I make it all work, and you know, it’s interesting Kate.

What I’ve realized is, is as a woman especially and a working mother, you can have it all. What I’m realizing is you just can’t have it all now. And so- and so this level of like impatience and it all has to work right now, and all has to happen by the time I’m– insert whatever age, you know, you like made up. I am learning, I think this new education that I’m- that I’m moving through is called the, School of Patience. And it’s not my natural- it’s not my natural way.

Um, and so it’s the way I’m trying to be uncomfortable is just like slow down and just be more patient with myself. Uh, three rules, uh, okay, so one is growth that’s pretty obvious from what we’ve been talking about. Uh, and growth is just possessing, creating, cultivating, fostering this internal motivation to constantly improve as a human being. How to a better friend, a better wife, a better mother, a better- a better- a better fan of myself, a better just humans others.

Um, and I think contained within this idea of growth is to like the highest level is purpose. Um, I don’t mean like this one purpose it’s been emblazoned on your forehead when you were born, and your role is to, sort of, rub it, you know rub at it until you figure out what it is. I mean more of like a higher purpose that’s guiding you. And I am not religious um, but I’m certainly very spiritual. And so I think growth- growth is a function of, um, of growing to be the most- the greatest possible human being that you can be. [00:38:00]

Um, number two is- is– What is that? That’s, um– It’s presence. So it’s finding how do I- how do I find peace, joy, fulfillment and appreciation for this current moment, you know. How do I– like right now here talking to you, how do I enjoy this and be here with you and not think about my 1:30 meeting. And not think about, uh, what I gonna have for lunch after this. You know, like how- how- how I can actually and fully be here and when you’re not there me think about of yourself, we all do this.

Maybe reading a book to your kid at night and you’re not actually think– the words are coming out of your mouth, but are you really there, you know. Um, I admit it happens to me often and so it’s living every day, living every moment and being detached to the outcomes, um, and just being there. And then I’d say the third is contribution. Contribution. How can I be of service? What will you have me- what will you have me do today? I don’t say to myself to this higher purpose, call it God.

My God is not a dude um, but it’s you know sort of a universal power that is out there and, uh, doing its thing. How can I contribute and make a difference and take my talents, my-my resources and my effort towards activities and towards people and communities that are making a difference in the way, um, that I think needs to happen. Um, where we’ve created something better than what we had before. And uh, creating sustainability. So yeah, those three growth. Growth, presence and contribution.

Kate: Thank you very much Kathy. Thank you so much for your time today. Um, incredible insight, um, and an incredible woman, mother and entrepreneur, uh, that you are. Truly inspiring, to me personally and I know to our listeners. 00:40:00] Um, so I really wanna thank you for your time today on our podcast, truly.

Kathy: Okay. Oh, okay. Okay, thank you. Thank you. I- I too enjoy you and I- and I acknowledge you. It’s like, “Right back at you, girl.”

Voice-over: Firstly, thanks for listening and spending time with us. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Kathy. For a transcribed version of the show, head over to B-E-N-I.F-I-T/podcast. This is a start of conversations that begin to identify best practices of when humans strive, companies prosper. If you would like to recommend anyone for the show please email me at [email protected]/fit, [email protected]

[00:40:56] [END OF AUDIO]


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Denise Gredler, President and Founder of BestCompaniesAZ on The Benifit

Denise GredlerDenise Gredler built BestCompaniesAZ, a great places to work program in Arizona, from the ground up. After leaving her corporate job in Human Resources to give birth to her son Max, Denise knew she had the skills to be an entrepreneur and create a business of her own. For the past 16 years, she’s grown BestCompaniesAZ into an incredibly respected program in the state, honoring hundreds of Arizona’s best companies over the years. She was named one of AZ Business and AZRE Magazine’s Most Influential Women of 2017. It’s safe to say, Denise is doing amazing things in Arizona.

In this episode of the Benifit, Denise chats with podcast host and co-founder Kate King about what some of Arizona’s best companies are doing to attract and retain talent. She provides context and examples from her experiences working with these companies in a detailed, engaging way. Give this insightful episode a listen below!

Show Highlights:

[00:48] Denise talks about the purpose of Best Companies AZ and shares her motivation for starting it

[06:02] Denise explains how and why she made the jump from working in the corporate world to being an entrepreneur

[10:49] Denise talks about benefits and perks trends she’s seen in Arizona’s best companies

[14:56] Denise sheds light on the importance of Employee Resource Groups

[20:40] Denise shares the building blocks she believes build a great company culture

[28:34] Denise shares her insights about why people leave jobs

[30:36] Denise talks about the 3 rules she lives by


The Benifit Interview w/ Denise Gredler, BestCompaniesAZ President and Founder

[00:00:01] Kate: Good morning Denise, and thank you for joining the Benifit Podcast today.

[00:00:12] Denise Gredler: Well, thank you for having me.

[00:00:14] Kate:  You’re welcome. Firstly, I’d like to truly congratulate you on being honored as AZ Business Magazine’s most influential woman in 2017 for Arizona. This was, to me, very exciting to be able to interview this, and I think it really is an honor that goes to the recognition of the great leadership of what you do at Best Company AZ.

[00:00:37] Denise: Well, thank you.

[00:00:37] Kate: To get us started today in that, can you spend a minute or two on the purpose of Best Company AZ and your motivation for starting it?

[00:00:48] Denise: Yes. Actually, this will take me back to my corporate days when I was the VP of HR for a company that I actually helped create the path to get on Fortune 100 best list. Looking back obviously at the time, I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. But I do see now that that actually built the foundation, my corporate career built the foundation for what I’ve really brought to Arizona over the past 15 years.

I can remember in my corporate job, my CEO walked into my office, tossed the Fortune magazine on my desk and he says to me, “We should be on this list. Why are we not in the list? We’re doing everything that these 100 best companies are doing.” At that time, we were only 150 employees. From that day, I was responsible for helping to grow the culture and the creating a lot of the different programs at the company that eventually were recognized number 12 on Fortune magazine’s 100 best list. I’m not going into a lot of details about I ended up going out on my own.

Right around 9/11, I’m dating myself, right around 9/11, I actually took a maternity sabbatical, and during that time period, our company had a big huge loan write off that actually put the company under. No sooner did we get our company on the Fortune list frenkie number 12, the first year number 16, the second year. The following year, the company was liquidated and my last assignment in my last job at my corporate position was to help everybody go through outplacement. Guess who was the first one to go through outplacement? Me. [laughs]

Obviously in a liquidating company, you don’t need somebody managing corporate culture, training development, organizational development programs. The CEO said to me, “Denise” he said, “You’re going to be one of the first ones to go through it, so find a really good outplacement firm.” We got together with an outplacement firm, and it was actually the coach I had at the outplacement firm that really helped give me the confidence to start thinking about going out in business on my own. That’s kind of how the Best Company model was created. I approached Fortune magazine at the time, the Great Place To Work Institute. I’m assuming you’re familiar with the Great Place To Work Institute, the research partner.

Kate: Absolutely.

Denise: I approached them because I had a relationship with them because of being number 12 on the list.

We were interviewed a lot and shared a lot of different stories, and I asked them, “Would you ever be interested in doing the best place to work list here in Arizona?” I see they were doing the list, I think in Pennsylvania and Idaho at the time. Not thinking they would say yes, I just threw it out there, “Would you want to do it?” They said yes. I kicked off in 2003, the very first best companies to work for, an Arizona program. We had to find a media partner to help us. At the time, I approached the business journal, the Phoenix Business Journal. They were the media partner for the very first program, and my goal in managing the best place to work program was really to help identify in Arizona, who were the companies that truly cared about culture. That was going to be my foundation to start building my practice. Companies that wanted to start going down the path of learning how to build an award-winning culture could participate in the program. For those companies that would win, we would help them with the branding and promotion of their award. For those companies who didn’t win, we would help them through consulting and coaching, survey analysis to help them get there.

From that point on, the business really took on a life of its own with the community. The program was so popular, it went from 20 winning companies the first year, up to I think 75 winning the second, up to a hundred. Now 15 years later, we have like three different award programs in town that many companies, hundreds of companies are benefiting from.

That’s a long answer to how did I get started. It really was my corporate Foundation which at the time, if you would have asked me then, if I would ever be an entrepreneur, I would have said heck no. That would be the last thing that I would think I would do, that it really set me up to be able to create these programs for Arizona and help other companies benefit from them.

[00:05:32] Kate:  What was your — In making that jump to the entrepreneur, I loved how you said it like, “Who would have thought I would ever do that?” What was the two, three highlights, if you like, of making that leap to be an entrepreneur from corporate? Because there’s many people I think who are in corporate want to do it or an entrepreneur and look at corporate. Your perspective on that would be fantastic to hear.

[00:06:02] Denise: Let me take this in and answer this a couple of different ways. The one main reason I think is, when I look back at the company being liquidated — Any HR professional out there who has pride in helping to build a culture that is recognized as number 12. That is a great accomplishment and a lot of fun being able to create something like that for a company. To see that fall apart overnight — when 9/11 had to — you think that nothing would ever happen, that this company would go under.

People think that my company will never go under, they’re going to be around forever. That’s what we thought. I thought I was going to retire at this company. When that came apart overnight, it came apart at the exact same time I was on a maternity sabbatical starting a different phase in my life. I could remember, not going into a lot of details, but a lot of employees lost a lot of money through stock options. I’m at this period of time, I’m a new mom, my son was in the first year of his life. All of a sudden, I don’t have — despite of my corporate life that I had 15 years prior, and I was in a scary place. You lose your nest egg, you’re a new mom, you’re trying to figure out what to do, going back to another corporate environment in HR, I felt would have taken me away from wanting to be a parent. The work in HR, you typically don’t have work life balance. At least back in the 90s was the day of more face time. I would never have been able to have the autonomy or flexibility like you see today, companies offering so many flexible work arrangements. Back in those days, when you were in HR, you were in before the CEO and you left after the CEO.

I just didn’t want to do that, and it was really going through the outplacement and having that coach, that’s why I so much believe in coaching. It was that coach who really helped give me the confidence to show me I have the tools, I have what it takes, I have so much knowledge and information on building an award winning culture that I should be sharing it with others. Instead of going back to just one other company and sharing that knowledge with one other company, why not share it with the community. It was the coaching from my friend Kathy at the time, DBM. I don’t even think they’re around here in Arizona anymore. She really helped me create that path and then they helped me get started. Does that answer your question?

[00:08:43] Kate:  It does, yes. I always think that having those uh huhs coming from a long and bustling corporate career and to the entrepreneur. You have your reasons, but it’s quite interesting the metamorphosis that happens. I did a similar thing in going from a corporate to being an entrepreneur, and for me, the big highlight was that I’d have many different colleagues and great team members who were the masters of their domains.

When you go and you luncheon to be an entrepreneur, you get to learn every single detail and do it yourself on that journey without that kind of support. It’s interesting the resilience you create and you sustain in making that leap, but also the incredible accomplishment you have from getting in at the minimal detail to the big stuff on a daily basis, which is the real beauty of making the leap.

[00:09:50] Denise: Yes, and it’s exciting because, like you said, you’re on your own and you’re able to build – it’s your vision, it’s your company, you can build what you want. But at the same time, you’re learning, oh no, my computer broke down.

[00:10:02] Kate:  Exactly.

[00:10:03] Denise: I can’t pick up the phone and call IT to come and help me. Or I need a payroll check. I can’t call payroll. You’ve got to go into Quick Books, and as you’re getting started, figuring out how to be the accountant, how to be the salesperson, how to be the IT person, how to be the administrator. It was quite the learning curve and I don’t think you ever stop learning as a business owner always trying to juggle all the different hats you have to wear.

[00:10:29] Kate: Yes, absolutely. Denise, thank you. My second question for you is really talking more about companies in Arizona. What are some of the things that Best Companies in Arizona are doing when it comes to creating benefits and parks for employees?

[00:10:49] Denise: I actually manage a couple different programs. One program, I’m the consulting partner for the Republic media AZ central stop companies to work for in Arizona. I have an opportunity to see benchmark data coming from that group, as well as managing Arizona most admired company, where we look at the company a little more holistically. I’d say if I look at both of those audiences, I see — some of the common things that I see this year – It’s actually interesting, because way back in my corporate days, I did a lot of these things. We introduced a lot of these benefits that I’m seeing that it’s even more important today. A lot of companies are focusing on wellness, creating all different types of wellness, creating a wellness environment that looks at the employee as a whole.

From when you enter the door, if you’re a college student having debt to pay from a college loan, to moving into wanting to have a family where you might need some wellness programs to eat healthy through your maternity to baby boomers. If they’re starting to retire, what you could do to help prepare people for financial wellness. It’s the big picture, looking at not only health-wise, the mental wellness as well as financial wellness. I see a lot of companies offer a lot of variety in the different things that they provide.

The second thing I would say is flexibility. Obviously flexible work arrangements have been around for years. Not back in my day. Like I said, I used to have to work face time. It was called face time. If you came in after the CEO, you came in late, if you left before the CEO, you were leaving early, and he used to work 6:00 to 6:00. Today, you see just a lot of flexibility. You see companies and managers allowing people all different types of flextime arrangements, and they’re really accommodating people for each individual person’s needs, whether it be job sharing, coming in late, working remote.

I know some companies offer sabbaticals. We have a lot of clients that offer three month sabbaticals. Companies are offering — three of our clients; Vanguard, USAA and Direct energy, offer 12 weeks of maternity and paternity leave. You see just a whole variety of flexibility in the workplace trying to help employees have that work life balance.

The third thing, actually might be a fourth, but the third thing. You do see a lot of companies creating fun work places. I always tell everybody, that some people when I approach them to participate in competitions, they feel they’re not going to be able to make it because they don’t have maybe all the bells and whistles like a GoDaddy would. If anybody has been to the GoDaddy office, they have an incredible work environment where they have a slide to go from one floor to the next, they have bikes, they have basketball, they have full blown cafeteria. They have a lot of fun things like that. I think Infusionsoft has the football field, the cereal bar.

But you don’t need to have all those things in order to compete to be a best company. Some people might even just have a meditation room, a conference room set up for either yoga or meditation. You’re seeing companies trying to create fun workplaces, but again, customize it to fit your demographics obviously. What did I say? Wellness, work life, creating fun, work places.

The other thing — I don’t know if you would call this a perk, that I’m seeing a lot of different types of employee resource group. Do you know what I mean by Employee Resource Group?

[00:14:54] Kate:  Yes, absolutely. But why don’t you explain that for our listeners?

[00:14:56] Denise: Okay. They’re usually like groups of employees that have commonalities. For example, if I look at Charles Schwab for example, because they have a whole variety. They have an Asian Pacific Islander Network of Black Professionals Association. Almost all the companies we work with have some military veterans group. They have an LGBT group.

Those are some of the common things that you see. They are just groups of employees. When you’re hiring people or want to retain people, you’re creating a community for like-minded people to come together and filling part of the culture and part of the group. Some interesting things I’m seeing that — For example, Schwab has a parents group which — that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of anybody creating an employee group for parents.

I think GoDaddy has a fitness group, fitness and technology, where they have a group of employees to get together, to be active and get fit. You’re just seeing, again, a variety of these employee resource groups surfacing. Again, I believe that it’s all to accommodate the demographics for the workforce and what employees are asking for. That would be — let me think. You have said benefits and perks? Did I cover those?

[00:16:22] Kate: You did. Yes, the fullest. We have wellness, flexibility, making the workplace more fun, and these great groups that are emerging around employee resources. I think they are –

[00:16:33] Denise: Yes. That’s –

[00:16:34] Kate: – great examples.

[00:16:36] Denise: Yes. I think that the employee resource groups really what’s driving that is diversity and inclusion. Everybody is looking and all the companies look at creating an inclusive work environment.

[00:16:50] Kate: Fantastic. Now, that was actually going into my next question I had for you, which is not so much talking about benefits or perks, but the changes you’re seeing and the kinds of things companies are doing in AZ to support the employees. I think that the employee groups or support groups is definitely — No, I think the diversity inclusions have been there for many years. People are getting much more focused on either lifestyle choices, special interests, and I think that is propelling the change.

I love the example you gave of fitness and technology. There’s so much data now that can help aid your fitness. These days, having a group around that then being able to share the autocracy organization, I think it’s a great way that we’re seeing companies change. Is there anything else that you’ve seen in terms of changes around the employees support?

[00:17:51] Denise: Let me think here. A couple of things. It relates to the diversity and inclusion group. I think some of the changes or the shift maybe in this direction is to create more of an inclusive environment. I know several of our clients here in Arizona have high volume hiring. They do a lot of hiring. I think these types of groups even help with recruiting.

For example, the military veterans group or the Black Professionals Association group or the Schwab parent group, they can be utilized as a team of employees who are out there trying to generate employee referrals to help recruit like-minded individuals who will fit the culture at these companies.

And then in terms of retention, I think you’re seeing a lot of these groups, because it also helps to retain people because you do feel you’re part of the family. Not only part of the family as a whole with the company, but with your department or with some of the employee resource groups or the community outreach groups. Almost every company does something, giving back to the community and they have teams of employees who get together for that as well.

In terms of change, the one thing I do notice is just, because I’ve been managing over the years award competitions, I am seeing more and more companies wanting to participate in a top company to work for program. Whether it’s a state program, an industry program or national program like the Fortune Program, whether it’s best places to work in IT that I think computer world runs.

I think The Great Place to Work Institute has all different types and best place to work programs for millennials and all the different demographics. I think that’s what you’re seeing. Companies are now seeing — CEOs, CFOs, the ones who usually manage the numbers, they are seeing the ROI. They know that there is ROI that these companies are building this great culture and then they are being branded and recognized as the best place to work, that really does impact your bottom line in terms of obviously low turnover hypertension, and in just in recruiting, just recruiting alone. They’re able to hire and attract high-quality people.

[00:20:19] Kate: To that point where are we getting into culture and really attracting talent, and in your experience, being both an entrepreneur and helping companies and really consulting with companies as well as your corporate experience, what would you say are the key building blocks of the great culture?

[00:20:40] Denise: I actually have a model that we use, but I think big picture the core building block really I think is trust building. Building trust in a work environment. I think if you look at how Fortune evaluates and ranks their winners, it’s all about trust and they break that down into three areas. I’m going back to a model they used to use years ago, that trust has to do with credibility, respect, and fairness. That’s all again about how you treat your employees, how managers treat employees, how employees treat one another.

A lot of companies will say to me, why don’t I want to participate? We don’t have enough money to pay for the perks and the compensation that these other companies are doing. I tell them that really the main driving force behind building the best place to work is creating an environment of trust. Where your employees are respected, and there’s fairness, there’s camaraderie, and people enjoy working together. That’s what it’s all about.

When you look at some of the competitions, I know in just things that I’ve been involved in, pay and benefits, yes, they’re important, but are they what is driving in the rating so to speak of how you’re selected as a best company? Probably not. It’s more that relationship. It’s more the relationship with managers and employees and with the team environment.

[00:20:24] Kate:  Great.

[00:20:24] Denise: Did that answer your question?

[00:27:26] Kate: It does, absolutely. I think that for the most part people going back to the four things that you mentioned earlier on perks and benefits, I feel that some people, some companies get confused in that. That as we start looking at perks and benefits that’s really building that environment, but that not necessarily is then your culture statement. I think having the purpose of your company really be foundational to their annual culture. Then the building block on top of the culture then becomes, what are you doing to keep, to retain, attract and really grow your ROI in executing a great culture? I think that’s very distinct steps there, that some companies may have trouble along across the landscape on. I think [crosstalk] now very well in those three things and trust. I completely agree with that. To me is fundamental in any relationship regardless of work or my boss, my employees etc.

[00:28:34] Denise: It’s like you hear everybody say people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. That’s so true. When you really get in and you research turnover and why people are leaving, the majority of the time, that’s just from my own personal experience, is that, number one, there was no path for development or no opportunity for growth. Or they just did not have a good working relationship with the boss, or they had conflicting values or their values weren’t in line with the company values.

Even like looking at the AZ central top companies benchmark data, there’s eight different criteria that we’ll look at, and the ones that are rated the highest is in the categories of corporate culture, communications, leadership planning, role satisfaction, and relationship with supervisors. They’re usually in the 90% to 92% favorable range. Then when you look at training the development and paying and benefits, their average score is like around 87%.

You see that there’s a difference, that there’s more emphasis even though that’s not a big gap. There’s typically more emphasis and that you have higher favorable ratings as it relates to culture, communication, satisfied in what they’re doing with their job satisfaction.

That’s what really drives the company to get on these best place to work with. That encouraged anyone whoever– if you ever work with anyone who feels they don’t have a robust benefit package or comp package, that that should not discourage them. If they have a good culture, good people, and a good vision and employees engaged, they would do very well in the competition.

[00:25:27] Kate: Okay, great, that’s good to know. Denise, I’m going to switch gears, if that is okay with you. Because I’d really appreciate it. I think we’ve got a tremendous amount of great information that our listeners can actually go and put into practice whether they reach out to you directly or they’re just kind of getting started in this arena. I’m going to switch gears, if that’s okay to you. We heard a bit about you at the beginning and you are making strides from corporate into being an entrepreneur. And there’s two questions that I feel that are always great to really get underneath, what powers people through the day. The first one is, what does your morning routine look like?

 [00:25:14] Denise: My morning routine. As I mentioned a little bit earlier when we were talking, my morning routine — I have good intention, so let’s put it that way. I have good intentions to get up early, and early for me would be probably like 6:00 AM. I know some of my colleagues get up at 3:30 to get to the gym. I am not a morning person.

[00:26:36] Kate: Wow. 3:30, that’s impressive.

[00:26:40] Denise: Yes. I have one colleague who he gets up at 3:30. That’s his productivity time, I think for a couple of hours, and then he goes off to the gym and then he goes to work. I’m usually up at 6:00. I try to get up early, but I’m usually up at 6:00 and I usually try to work out in the morning. Like, try to at least get 30 minutes in with an elliptic or 30 minutes walking. But do I do that every day? No. That typically could be dependent as a working mother. It all depends on what’s going on with my son that morning. You think when your children get older, it will be easier, but sometimes it’s just as challenging trying to deal with a teenager getting them out the door.

If I could describe what my perfect day would look like, it would be working out in the morning. After I workout, I typically will do my e-mails, and usually from home, I’ll be responding to e-mails before I get to the office. Then once I get into the office, I work with one of my colleagues, Lindsey, who helps me run the operations side of the business. She is really good at setting up our goals for the week. We use the system that she introduced me to called trello. We’ll set up what our priorities are for the day, and she has really helped me.

Prior to that, I’d be on my own, as I said as an entrepreneur trying to figure out where to focus your time, whether it’s sales, or service, or accounting, she’s really good at coming in and kind of setting the tone for the day of what the team needs to focus on. We typically will follow her lead. I always tell her, “You’re my boss, you tell me what you want me to focus on today and then we’ll get it done.”

It’s interesting, when my son was younger, my mornings were always off. I never was able to do anything in the morning. I thought once he became a teenager, I’d get into my routine where I could get up at 3:30 and do the early morning workout. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m never going to be a morning person. I do what I can to at least get some sort of exercise in. I do daily reading. I have daily reading or daily prayer, daily meditation. I look at every single day to kind of set the tone for the day and then take it from there.

[00:29:08] Kate: That’s great. It’s interesting you say you’re not a morning person. I think some people say 6:00 AM, that’s definitely morning. [laughs]

[00:29:16] Denise: Yes.

[00:29:17] Kate: In the middle of the night person at 3:30 AM.

[00:29:22] Denise: Actually I know my one friend who gets up at 3:30. I said to him half the time I’m going to bed. I used to go to bed at like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning because I couldn’t sleep. At least now I’m getting to bed by 11:00. If that I used to stay up all hours of the night working, that’s when I would have my peak productivity. But again as a mother, you work around your family schedule, on when you can have that quiet time.

[00:29:46] Kate: Absolutely. Denise, to close out the podcast, and thank you for all the insights, especially for businesses and your experience in that cross between corporate and being an entrepreneur. What are the three rules you live by?

[00:30:06] Denise: The three rules I live by. I would say, looking at the three rules I live by, just overall, not just in business, just in life, is I try to be true to who I am. I guess authenticity, be authentic, be real. I think I learned this early, early in my 20s when I first started my career in HR. I had a CEO who told me to never be afraid of asking questions. Never try to pretend you know something you don’t. If you don’t understand, ask the question. I think within my career, that helped me always just be real and just true to who I am, I can’t pretend to be somebody I’m not.

The second thing is I do try to operate always with high integrity. Sometimes I’m so honest, even I tell my son, I can’t even tell little white lies sometimes. I just always I’m trying to teach high integrity operating with the highest level of ethics. I know over the years, being an entrepreneur, I actually– there are some people that I have not worked with because maybe conflicting values. I really try to stay true to that, to always operate with high integrity.

I think the other thing I’ve always operated by is I always try to put people first. When I look at in business, putting people first, people are driving your business, people are what you need to run your business. I think sometimes as a business owner, it’s hard you know being an entrepreneur that you have to make business decisions that I try to always balance managing by the heart and the mind. A lot of times I’m managing more by the heart, and as an entrepreneur, you can do that, but there’s pros and cons to doing that. I think that I will always put people before any financial conflict, or any type of conflict. I’m always focusing at before I go to bed at night, how can I resolve this conflict with anybody? Again, I think that stems back to my early teenage days or childhood days, with my parents training me to never go to sleep mad or angry at anyone.

[00:32:40] Kate: Thank you.

[00:32:42] Denise: Those are three, right?

[00:32:43] Kate: Yes, they’re three.

[00:32:43] Denise: Authenticity, integrity, and always put people first.

[00:32:48] Kate: I love your first one. I love them all. But your first one on being authentic. I think people come into an environment and think they have to know everything. That somehow creates anxiety with people and that creates a challenging environment. Having the freedom and the permission to ask questions and be inquisitive and curious, I think absolutely makes not only for a great person to live their truths, but also great companies in which have that real open and honest transparency in it. So I love authenticity.

[00:33:25] Denise: Exactly. Even when I think about making mistakes, or if you screw up, or an employee makes a mistake, don’t ever be afraid to just admit. I’ve never had a problem, even with clients, if I dropped the ball or something. I’m always going to make it up to them. I may have slipped on — missed a deadline, but I’m going to go above and beyond and make it up for you in another way. I never try to pretend that or wipe mistakes under the carpet. I’m always just very transparent.

[00:34:02] Kate: Fantastic. Denise, my sincere thanks for joining us today on the Benefit podcast, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know you a bit and really understand your journey as well as the really useful insights you’ve given to our community. Thank you.

[00:34:19] Denise: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to learning more about your organization and things that we could possibly be doing together.

[00:34:30] Kate: Wonderful.