Your Company Does Not Have DNA

Company Culture with A to Z Wineworks Founder Deb Hatcher

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The B Corp community in Portland just kicked off the first installment of our brand new invention: PDX and OR B Learning.  I serve as Community Engagement Chair on the PDX B Local Board—a new board formed to assist B Lab in engaging our growing community of PDX and OR B Corps.
We launched PDX and OR B Learning to create an opportunity for B Corp employees, leadership, and owners to come together to learn more about topics that matter to us and our commitment to measure what matters.
We’re spending the first three months of the series on Culture.
Our first guest was Deb Hatcher, one of the founders and CMO of A to Z Wireworks, Oregon’s largest winery and fellow B Corp.
Hatcher spoke about her thoughts on company culture, what makes it, what that means to A to Z, and how others might think about applying these ideas to improve company culture in their own workplace.
Here’s what jumped out at me and four questions I’ll be asking myself as I think about our own company culture. Hint: It starts and ends with the people. 

1. Listen to how people talk about the work.

People say company culture is observable. A cool open office, maybe 
a ping-pong table, inspirational quotes painted on walls. While these external testaments to company culture can reinforce what is hopefully more deeply present, they’re not the best indicator of your company’s culture. The best indicators of your company culture are in your people. How are people engaging with and talking to one another around the office? Are they commiserating about the overwhelming nature of the work and stress they carry? Or offering up ideas on one another’s projects and talking about weekend plans? When people leave the office, how do they talk about the work they do? What would they say about why they keep showing up? Taking time to engage with fellow employees across the workplace and listening to what they’re saying—and what they’re not—is important to understanding your company’s culture.
Key Question: What do we have to say about our work?

2. Culture is a verb, not a noun.

Culture does not just exist, it must be grown over time. So, how do we do that? Through the people. Ask, are we allowing our people to grow, and if so, how? What sort of education or opportunities are we providing them? Hatcher spoke of an opportunity A to Z offers for employees to travel to New Zealand for the second wine harvest. In one instance, two people had never been abroad. One person had never even been on a plane. Some employees that have taken this trip have soon after left A to Z. Why? Because their worlds, perspective, and possibilities grew. A to Z helped make it happen. Being an advocate and provider of personal growth to employees, regardless of whether that means they stay or not, can grow your company culture. 
Key Question: How do we grow by providing experiences to those among us?  

3. There’s a difference between making the same mistakes and making new mistakes.

Fostering a culture where experimentation is expected and not revolutionary means more possibilities for your people and your company. Say yes more than no. Give people the go-ahead to make new mistakes. Note: There is a big difference between making new mistakes and making the same mistake over and again. New mistakes mean you’re trying and learning new things.
Key Question: How many new mistakes are we making?

4. Think about the language you’re using. 

Review your company’s print materials. Look back through your work emails. Think about how you communicate with each team member you engage with. Would someone outside your company, or someone on their first day, understand what you’re saying? Is your language so full of jargon that the recipient has to read it twice over to make sure they understand what you’re asking for? And how much room are you leaving for a response beyond ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Communicating internally with clarity and an eagerness for insight can do a lot for your company culture. With more people saying what they mean -with no fear of backlash for doing so - this inevitably leads to more experimentation, more growth, and of course, a culture you can be proud of. 
Key Question: Am I talking like a human?
For more on A to Z Wireworks, visit their website at:

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Twitter: @ESGoetz
MARKETING OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Raised by a family of communications professors, politicians, activists, and public school teachers, working for social good was a non-negotiable for Emily. A dedicated creative problem solver, Emily is a listener first and synthesizer second. She loves showing up every day to work with a group of incredibly authentic, talented people. She works closely with her clients to uncover opportunities and define clear, outcome-oriented goals. Then, she leads multi-disciplinary teams of strategists and creatives to find an expected—and unexpected—path forward to accomplish goals. Emily spends weekends playing in her beloved John’s Landing neighborhood with her Black Lab/German Shepherd Cliff and her better half. Emily received a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of Washington's Jackson School.