Why I Believe Every Company Should Work Like a Tech Company
This article was published in the Tech Summit 2020 issue
by Sam Malouf, founder/CEO, Malouf
What features might be attributed to a “tech company” by someone who hasn’t worked at one? Benefit programs, a fast-paced work environment, and a millennial staff might quickly come to mind, but I think there’s more at play. The tech companies of Silicon Slopes share certain traits with our business — and they’re the key to our success.
My wife, Kacie, and I existed in a self-imposed vacuum when we started this business. Now, at the beginning of 2020, we have more than 500 employees across the country. In 2003, it was just the two of us. The work was fast-paced and rewarding, and for the first 10 years we were consumed with the day-to-day.
At the same time, something similar was happening in Utah County. A thriving infrastructure and network of companies was becoming a center for high-profile business. Malouf in Cache Valley and the businesses of Utah and Salt Lake Counties went through the same period of crucial growth in very different environments. That independence produced some differences between us and Silicon Slopes — but we’ve reached roughly the same conclusion.
We all decided to make Utah the home for our biggest ideas. You know why? Utah is awesome. It’s filled with hard-working, determined, and kind people. The state’s strong foundation in innovation led to an environment that supports the cutting edge. There’s also a bootstrap history, a real blue-collar-to-financial-dreams story that perfectly marries hard work to new ideas. And, I suspect there’s a little magic in the mountains.
Another common factor is our approach to business. We’re forward-thinking disruptors in our industries, driven by custom tech and thoughtful people. At Malouf, our initial focus was luxury bedding, but we’re now exploring sleep science and honing in-house software development. Meanwhile, in Silicon Slopes, the avenues of tech being traveled are unmatched anywhere except the Silicon Valley.
With an emphasis on development comes an equally important focus on efficiency — something any startup knows all too well. I believe efficiency is one of the primary ingredients in a successful company. For us, this manifests in our daily operations, benefits, and company culture.
One commitment we’ve made to an efficient work environment is our proprietary software. HQ was designed by our in-house team to support everything we do: order fulfillment, warehouse management, inventory forecasting and analytics, customer relationship management, company and HR management. HQ touches almost everything we do, down to ordering lunches and voting for our favorite Halloween costumes, and has processed 72 trillion database transactions in its life span.
Many companies in Silicon Slopes have built their bedrock on similar problem-solving software and expertise, creating a product that does for their customers what HQ does for us. We all recognized the necessity of efficiency but developed the idea uniquely.
But efficiency doesn’t just mean tech processes — it means creating an environment that allows employees to do their best work. At our headquarters, we include an on-site gym and salon, free daily lunches, and beautifully designed facilities so employees can be healthy, happy, and connected. Efficiency also means taking away outside stressors so people can invest in their jobs. We provide comprehensive insurance with 100-percent-paid premiums for employees and their entire family to remove that stress and replace it with security.
All you folks down in Silicon Slopes know exactly what I’m talking about. The amount you invest back into your workforce is something we agree on, and our collective benefit programs should continue to inspire and model off each other.
Another key to our success is ambition. If no one cares, your work will be underwhelming — no matter how streamlined your systems. I feel like tech companies excel at recruiting passionate people, and no one needs tips from me there. But at Malouf, we create drive through our work with Malouf Foundation and cultivate personal motivation from individual initiatives.
Building a company that does more, like our work through the Malouf Foundation to end child sexual exploitation, is essential to engage today’s employees. They want to do more and be better. The strength of commitment I see from our employees because of the Foundation inspires me every day.
Also, we were named a B Corp last year, which was a completely employee-driven initiative. Many of our most popular programs — our Sustainability Council and the Women of Malouf — were founded by employees. Giving employees ownership over their work and listening to their ideas sets us apart from other companies, which I wish wasn’t the case. I encourage more CEOs to invest in ambition.
For all our similarities, there are distinct differences between us and the companies of Silicon Slopes. In Logan, we like to keep things low key. For better or worse, we’re more isolated. Our commutes are short, our spaces are open, and our neighbors are farmers. But people who know Cache Valley want to live here — including me. The desirability of a quiet lifestyle makes us attractive to a different type of talent, which suits us perfectly.
But all in all, we share a lot with the tech companies of Silicon Slopes. Efficiency and ambition are the most useful tools in our belts, even if we use them a little bit differently. And if these are what sets tech companies apart, I think everyone should take a page from their books. Dream big and get to work.
Read the rest of the articles in the Tech Summit 2020 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine