“At Tuft & Needle, we are a team of dreamers, disruptors, and creatives—a group of individual minds working together to achieve a common goal: disrupt the mattress industry. We are unique, powerful, and different. We invite and celebrate the diversity between our teams, our backgrounds, and our experiences every day because these are the things that make us who we are,” says Marisa Munoz, a CXer for Tuft & Needle. She affectionately describes “Traditions Day” at T&N this past holiday season saying, “The sound of conversation and laughter reached every corner of our HQ, and teammates reminisced, related, and shared with each other. As our team enjoyed experiencing each new tradition, we learned more about each other and why feeling comfortable enough to be your authentic self in the workplace can have such an astounding impact on the culture of an organization.” What a rare and beautiful sentiment that is all too often neglected in the workplace.
Many business owners and executives make the mistake of assuming culture building is an easy, maybe even superfluous part of creating a productive work environment, thus moving it to the bottom of their list of priorities to be considered if they ever have the time and energy. The founders and leaders of mattress startup Tuft and Needle did not make this mistake. Evan Maridou, COO of T&N, knew that creating a culture where each of his employees felt valued would take a great deal of time and intentionality, but he also knew that it was the only way to find lasting success. Due to this wisdom and foresight, Tuft & Needle recently landed the No. 1 spot in Entrepreneur’s Top Company Cultures list in the large-sized company category.
How did they get there? Maridou views culture construction as a labor of love, and believes it should take precedence over business advancement.“He describes the company as being ‘culturally flat,’ meaning everyone has a voice at the table, or bed. To encourage this, he did 50 one-on-one meetings in two months last year, which helped him identify reoccurring issues among the staff. ‘It was painful, but one of the most valuable things I’ve done in my time at the company,’ he says. ‘It also sent a message to everyone in the company that, as a leader, I valued their opinion.’” This is a leader who understands that the time and effort you put into building a strong foundational culture, you get back 100 fold.
Even when they are in a bind professionally, T&N remains focused on their values as they recruit and interview in a deliberate, unhurried fashion. They strongly believe in “hiring first for values, then for skill” while they look for “kindness, humility, and intellectual honesty.”
T&N has adapted an open concept office space with many shared communal areas, allowing employees of varying groups and rank to sit together and strike up a conversation. Maridou claims that this environment and the informal meetings it instigates has inspired unique collaborations and birthed new ideas that otherwise never would have come about.
Not only does T&N see the big picture in the sense of time and equality, they are also very wise with their finances. The founders chose to move the company to Phoenix, where they enjoy a lower cost of living. While they are saving money on facility rental costs, they do not turn their savings into profit. Instead, they give back to their hardworking employees in the form of a paid Health Savings account, free medical insurance, and a required 25-day minimum vacation time annually. “We don’t see time off as a cost. We see it was a necessity to preserve the culture,” says Maridou. What a selfless way to invest in your staff! And that is only the beginning. T&N team members gather together quite frequently both inside and outside of work for yoga, meditation, dance classes, sports teams, hiking, and Monday tea time (a staff favorite).
Needless to say, T&N team members feel invested in professionally, emotionally, and financially. It’s no surprise that the company has been in business for four years and their turnover rate is less than 5 percent. They pride themselves on trust, craftsmanship, and reasonable prices, but their greatest feat is providing an environment where their employees feel appreciated and simply love to work.