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Gerald-Wagner_avatar-240x240Guest post by Jerry Wagner.

The Institute for Inspired Organizational Cultures (IOC) aims to develop a global community of leaders who are advocates for organizational cultures of wellbeing and happiness. In addition to IOC’s self-paced video lecture program about positive leadership and culture, IOC-founder Dr. Gerald Wagner also strives to shine a spotlight on companies and individuals doing amazing things through IOC’s Role Models monthly newsletter. Are you ready to get inspired? Let’s take a look at some of them.

As Gallup Business Journal wrote: “Developing thriving employees requires taking a whole-person approach. After all, employees bring every aspect of themselves to work each day.”

womanAny organizational culture strategy needs to echo a “Whole Life Organizational Culture” approach. It needs to include the traditional perks and benefits along with teachings of the “soft” sciences, addressing employees and their families, customers, suppliers, advisors, owners, and the community as a whole.

But what does the Whole Person Organizational Culture model look like? Here’s a collection of individuals and organizations that embrace or embody Whole Person Cultures. These are role models that have made life better for their employees, customers, owners, and communities.

Happy State Bank

The Happy State Bank and Trust Co. is headquartered (on paper anyway) out of Happy, Texas. With a population of 700 or so, the town is in northwest Texas and often called “The Town Without a Frown”.

Currently celebrating 107 years of operation, The Happy State Bank & Trust Co. is a local, independent, community bank serving the financial needs of friends and neighbors in 33 locations in 22 different communities. With over $2.6 Billion in total assets, Happy State Bank is the 27th largest bank in Texas. Happy State Bank also owns a non-depository branch – GoldStar Trust Company, with over $2 billion under trust management and is the largest servicer/custodian for Precious Metal Self-Directed IRAs in the USA. Today they have 610 employees.

To thrive, employees need a whole person approach. Click To Tweet

m_HappyWhen employees come to work at Happy State Bank, they’re not just joining one of the Best Companies to Work for (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013); they’re joining the “Happy” family. The day an employee starts, they’re immediately inducted into a working family that’s all about supporting each other.

One way employees can show support is through “For Happy Sake,” a program funded by employees, for employees. Contributions to the fund can be made by payroll deduction and include a dollar-for-dollar bank match. In 2014, total employee contributions exceeded $35,000. A board of employees prayerfully discusses submissions and how to best help alleviate the financial burden for those employees who are in need. Most companies ask that employees leave their issues at the door; Happy has created an open forum for employees to share their burdens so that they can be prayed over and uplifted.

Employees can encourage one another. Click To Tweet

m_girl sideWords of encouragement are another way employees can support one another. Through the “Pat on the Back” program, named after Happy’s CEO, Pat Hickman, officers can nominate employees who they feel have done something exceptional and deserve praise. E-mail is sent out to let everyone know how that particular employee is exceptional, and the employee is literally given a “Pat on the Back” from the nominator. See the photos of employees with the pat on the back patches.

However, there’s more to joining the Happy family than just supporting one another; more than anything Happy supports putting family first – all the time, every time. Employees are not just allowed to take time off to be with family; they’re expected to. In fact, “Family First” is one
of the twenty core values that guide employees on how to be present and active in building the “Happy” culture. Any employee will gladly report that these core values are more than words on paper – they’re the Happy way. m_family


Once called “The Coolest Small Company in America,” Zingerman’s is unique. Started as a small corner deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the food purveyor has earned international accolades for its remarkable company culture. Today, Zingerman’s represents a community of nine businesses, each focused on its own specialty, from baked goods to mail order items to coffee.

Open book management means we run the business together Click To Tweet

m_twomenFounded in 1982 by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, the company now has a staff of 700 with annual sales of $55,000,000. Growth has come through the organization’s own unusual model that prizes employees’ wellbeing and opportunities for advancement over rapid expansion.

In addition to making incredible food (as any employee will tell you), the organization lives, breathes and teaches progressive practices including servant leadership, open book management, consensus decision-making, open meetings, stewardship and much more.

m_groupTeam members are encouraged to share ideas and work together towards the collective success of the organization. As many people as practical are involved in the operation of the business, and each employee’s abilities, creativity, experience and intelligence are identified and utilized. The result is a growing team of happy, healthy and motivated employees—and equally happy customers. Here’s a video about them:

m_open bookOpen book management, which Zingerman’s practices, is not a spectator sport—it’s not just about showing people the numbers. Transparency is important, but open book management involves everyone participating in running the business. It’s about people understanding how the whole organization works and their roles within it; it’s about accountability, collaboration, and taking initiative; it’s about looking forward and working together to win. An open book organization is more fun, more interesting, and, bottom line: it just plain works.


RealTruck is a successful online retailer specializing in the sale of aftermarket pickup truck accessories. Founded by CEO Scott Bintz in a duplex basement in the late 1990s, the company relocated its headquarters to Jamestown, N.D. in 2000 and added a satellite office in Fargo, N.D. in 2010. If it belongs in or on a pickup, they have it.

With the new culture we realized a revenue growth of $3M. Click To Tweet

While the company has experienced a high level of success and seen tremendous growth over the past few years, they remember times when things were different. It was only five years ago that RealTruck was unhappy with its efforts. The company was experiencing high turnover, moderate sales, and had an unhealthy company culture. Inspired by a tour of Zappos by the CEO and President, RealTruck worked to deliberately change the culture of its company. The new culture was centered on six guiding principles that encourage employees to be better people, both at work and home: Transparency Rocks, Be Humble, Deliver More, Include Fun, Take Risks and Improve.

m_group 2

With a new culture in place, the company realized a revenue growth of $3 million. This number grew to over $44 million in 2014, with a 43.3% growth rate. The company was named one of the 2014 North Dakota Young Professionals Best Places to Work, and is one of the top three companies on Prairie Business Magazine’s “50 Best Places to Work” list. When asked to name a few of their keys to success, President Jeff Vanlanginham notes, “Valuing employees as individuals, focusing relentlessly on guiding principles, and the wisdom that if you treat your customers the way you want to be treated, they’ll keep coming back.”

Every Friday, employees spend a few hours practicing one of the aforementioned Guiding Principles. The photo shows some employees on a Friday when the guiding principle they followed was: Improve. Employees thought it would be a fun way to help the community by going and cleaning the Ronald McDonald House.

CEO Scott Bintz identifies himself as “CEO, occasional janitor and chair spinner.” He says “We are a fun, passionate, dedicated, exciting and slightly wacky group of people. Each member of the RealTruck team plays a vital and important role.”

The following video is probably the most fun, unique, but still serious video you will ever see about a company culture. Do not miss it:

Roma Moulding

Roma Moulding is the world leader in handcrafting the finest Italian picture frames; the company has a team of over 150 people with distribution centers throughout North America and a vibrant headquarters in Toronto, Canada.

It’s a happy workplace – but that hasn’t always been the case. CEO Tony Gareri “reinvented” the organization in 2008 when he returned from vacation and realized: “I don’t like who I have become.” He transformed the culture in a couple of years. Read more about that in this Forbes article.

m_group 3The company is proud of their success, but what truly defines them is “Why” they exist: Roma employees are dedicated to making the world a happier place.

They have ten core values, captured on video, that may inspire you too:

Deliver WOW through Service, Jo Anne Simons, Leader of Wow
Be Real and Live in Integrity, Camilla Brown, Wonder Woman
Be Different, Have Fun and Deliver Happiness, Tony Gareri, Chief of WOW and CEO Roma Mouldings
m_CDsBuild a Positive Team and Family Environment, Michael Polatta, Grand Poobay
Be Passionate, Committed and Driven, Melissa Gareri, Marketing Coordinator
Inspire Innovation and Drive Change, Steve Magirias, Chief of Efficiency
Be Humble, Joey Talotta, Operations Leader
Be Creative, Open Minded, & Share Ideas, Don Cortell, Godfather of IT
Deliver Transparent, Open, Honest Communication, Gordon Thain, Commander of Communication
Love Living and Pursue Growth and Development, Joe Faria, Captain Receivables

After reading about these four inspiring examples, we invite you to take the time to think about each one. Then, ask yourself:

• Which of these resources inspired you the most?
• What is your takeaway? What will you apply to your work life?

Gerald R. Wagner, Ph.D. is a software entrepreneur, statistician, and simulation modeling technologist turned behavioral scientist. He is the founder of the Institute for Inspired Organizational Cultures at Jerry loves to speak about happy workplaces and aims to recognize organizations and individuals who advance the concepts of Whole Person Organizational Cultures©. The IOC’s ROLE MODELS newsletter is published monthly at

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