A great company culture develops from the inside out. The people on the ground floor craft the character of a workplace through collective pride, thoughtful feedback, engaged learning, celebrating team achievements and shared excitement about opportunities. How a team embraces new hires, appreciates diverse personalities and echoes the integrity of individuals is a big part of what makes a company hum. This belief was a driving force in the creation of Marxent Labs. It is the opposite of a bunch of executives on a swanky retreat defining a company’s culture and forcing it downstream. When my brother and I started Marxent, we wanted to create a company where the inspiration and values of the employees flowed upstream to management; where going to work hardly felt like work; where people came first; and where everyone had the opportunity to make a significant contribution.

What does this have to do with superheroes?

A good culture is good business. Alongside scale, innovation and revenue goals, the venture capitalists and investors with whom we work ask that we strive to create a great culture.  As the CEO, company culture is always top of mind for me. Here’s what it looks like on my task list:

  • Create a fun and creative office environment
  • Listen to team members
  • Reward based on merit
  • Be transparent
  • Communicate openly
  • Get to know the people I work with and find out what moves them
  • Hire people that other people want to work with

To fulfill the last two items on the list, we always ask prospective hires to describe their favorite movie and their favorite superhero. Why? Because it’s one of our cultural keystones.

What your favorite superhero says about you

Cultural keystones act as a visible reflection of a company’s culture.  For example, the book of ISMs from Quicken Loans, which is a collection of collective wisdom contributed by team members rather than constructed by management. At Marxent, it’s our wall of posters. When we ask candidates to share their favorite movie and superhero during the interview process, we gain insight into the person behind the resume and how they think. We also get a glimpse of the values that they’ll bring to the team. Once an employee is hired, we hang posters of their favorite movie and hero as a way of introducing them to the team. It can be surprising and funny, creates an immediate conversation and welcomes new contributors into the company in a personal way. Their values are immediately reflected in the office. The answers are both interesting and insightful, ranging from “Anchorman” to “Ghost World” and Goku to Gandhi. The only wrong answer is no answer at all. Here are some examples:

“Goku is my favorite superhero. He is one of the few superheroes who takes his craft very seriously and works to become the best while also not taking himself too seriously, enjoying life and being genuinely pleasant as a person.” “‘Lord of the Rings’ extended versions are my favorite movies. Movies are primarily escapes for me, so epic action adventures are my favorite. Books are where I like to drive imagination and be challenged – whether it is tech and business books or the Song of Ice and Fire series.”

A cultural keystone should help you to know immediately whether or not you want to join a company. If you don’t get why your favorite superhero is important to us, then Marxent probably isn’t the right place for you to work. If you can’t wait to tell us about your favorite movie and your all-time favorite superhero, we’re hiring.