When you are building your company, the most important factor -after having your financials in order- is finding the right people to create the culture you are looking for.
“Building a great culture where people want to come to work can be challenging,” says Chris Rockwell, President of Lextant. “It’s satisfying when you see young people grow and come up through your company.”
Rockwell began Lextant in 1998. He had been working at Hewlett Packard and saw a need for a company that could drive product innovation from the front end; conducting research to enhance the customer experience.
“Customer experience is the last competitive market,” says Rockwell. “What kind of experience did a customer want to have? Answering that will allow us to help companies create products and services that will help improve people’s lives and design things that people really want.”
At the beginning, Lextant had it’s offices in Grandview, in the space above Figlio.
“There was about three or four of us,” says Rockwell. “One day I came in and saw people sitting on the floor with laptops and I thought ‘We probably need more space’.”
His company had been doing some work with Retail Planning Associates which had a space in the Smith Bros’ Hardware Building near Downtown. In 2004, Retail Planning Associates was acquired by Fitch, and the offices were consolidated with the Fitch campus near Powell. Rockwell moved Lextant into the old Retail Planning Associates space, about 4k-5k square-feet, with a few offices.
“I just love the views here,” he says.
He has since grown Lextant to 11,000 square-feet, with a large format research facility at the former Fitch campus near Powell.
The company has relationships with many colleges throughout the United States, where they give lectures, and keep an eye out for new talent. To help them understand more about the graduating generation, Lextant recently completed research on Millennials. Some of their findings surprised them.
“Many feel Millennials have an attitude of entitlement,” says Justine Carleton Gage, Director, Insight Translation. “Our research found the opposite. They grew up with change, often crave it, and have a different view about it.”
Those attitudes can make it hard to for Millennials to find their place in a company. They may not feel like they need to spend the time doing the work and moving up the ranks through a company; they are more likely to want to find something to work for that they are passionate about and can have a sense of ownership of.
Rockwell has been making some changes to his company culture over the years, in part to help make them an appealing place for all generations to work.
“The best thing about entrepreneurship is you get to build something, but that’s often through a series of non-fatal mistakes,” he says. “I like the idea of always learning and being more in control of your own destiny.”
The company recently worked with Ed Eppley, area manager for Dale Carnegie Training of Ohio, for an assessment of their leadership.
“We found that with our growth, we had some needs with leadership that needed addressed,” says Rockwell.
With Eppley’s findings, the company was able to identify ways they needed to make changes. As they were growing, management and leadership were getting away from the day-to-day. Changing their workflow to a smaller studio model got managers back to checking in with people more frequently.
“Now we have small, more integrated teams,” says Gage. “It used to be that work would be brought to whomever was available to work on it. That led to projects being scattered, and you didn’t know who you would be working with. Now, a project comes to a studio, made up of a team of people that enjoy working together and have a good workflow. Small studios provide more consistency.”
As a leader of a company, Rockwell realizes that not every decision you make is going to be popular with everyone.
“People have to decide on their own if they are going to be happy here,” says Rockwell. “It’s hard not to take someone’s leaving inward and wonder, but you cannot always please everyone. Sometimes people will leave and it makes me happy that our people are so employable and learning so much.”
Photos provided by Lextant.
For more information, visit www.lextant.com.
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