Though we’ve seen a shift in work norms, with more and more companies emphasizing remote or hybrid models, running an office is still a robust and ever-changing experience. As a startup, part of our momentum and drive comes from interacting in person, and being able to share live exchanges where employees can learn, grow, and seek community beyond the screen. With safety and flexibility continuing to be a priority at Valon, we’ve seen our company culture flourish—both in person and remotely.
Run by a dynamic unit of individuals who work closely under a title we call Internal Operations, Valon’s culture is driven by their consistency, creativity, and passion. To celebrate how far we’ve come, and recognize the importance of their work, we’re highlighting the ways in which these team members succeed at maintaining a strong company culture. Building office connections, fostering open communication, and learning new skills are all things that seemingly happen behind the scenes—today we bring them center stage.
No day is ever the same. Maintaining a safe and fun office environment entails a number of things—building out physical spaces, meeting with vendors, negotiating contracts, and managing projects. Aaliyah Gibbs, based in our New York office, enthuses, “My day to day definitely has changed over the past couple of months. I not only do a lot of inventory, stocking shelves and stocking the fridge, but I also help out with a lot of the new hires. So that when they first arrive they get all their Valon merch, their swag. I give them a tour. I make sure they have access to everything they need.”
Internal Operations interacts with everyone—which allows the team to have a pulse on all major projects and milestones. As members of the overarching People team, they have front-row seats to company growth and are constantly planning ahead to ensure everyone has enough space and resources. By partnering with Leadership members, in particular, Internal Operations are also able to plan events and activities that align with the company vision for brand culture.
Valon’s company culture
Valon’s culture is authenticity at its core. Across the board, we want employees to feel seen, valued, and engaged—whether they work from home or commute daily. This goes beyond the snacks in the pantry or plants and artwork. It means listening to people about their frustrations with the space, policies, procedures and making changes or advocating for them. Shannon West, based in our Arizona office, reflects that she’s learned a lot about authenticity, especially when it comes to communication: “Communication is key. I’ve grown so much, from learning how to properly write an email, to handling conflicts in the office. I’m very proud of that.”
Alongside communication, adaptability is another important element when building an authentic culture. Sometimes ideas don’t work out the way we envisioned, and that’s okay—we learn and pivot. At the end of the day, no matter how many times we shift gears, we always aim to put people first. This prioritization, then, comes from Internal Operations building connections with employees. Shannon reveals, “I like to interact with everyone individually and have new conversations with new people. That makes me feel like it was a good day—that I got to build connections. I’m a big people person, so I love getting to know everybody. They can always find me if they’re having a bad day or just wanting to rant about something.”
Putting people first also means recognizing the importance of work life balance. Beyond Slack channels and work meetings, employees need other ways to be their authentic selves. In September, Shannon set out to do just that when she had the idea to plan a company outing to a Diamondbacks baseball game. Shannon recalls, “There was a lot of work that had to be done to get it to happen. First, I had to run it by Human Resources. Next, I factored in all of the safety and health concerns. Later, it was a matter of contacting a sales rep—he and I worked closely for about 4 months. We had to make sure we had all the correct number of attendees, etc. We got the budget, he told us the amount, then I just needed one last approval from both Human Resources and Finance. It came together nicely. We sent out a calendar invite, bought the tickets, and went to the event. It was a lot of fun.”
From ideation to execution, so much goes into these events that we don’t see. In addition, members of Internal Operations also help maintain a cultural balance between offices. Aaliyah reflects, “We try to keep things as cohesive as possible. We don’t want any one group to feel as though they’re favored more than the other. Between offices, we keep budgets the same, and we don’t do anything overly extravagant on one side and not on the other. At the end of the day, we are one team. It’s also about timing. Arizona has a warmer climate than we do, so we know that we won’t get many people in the office during these cold months. The employees in Arizona tend to be in the office a lot more than we are. So while we do try to keep things as similar as we can, we do recognize there are differences and work hard to make sure everyone feels included.”
Maintaining culture throughout our virtual landscape is also an important part of building an office community. Each office tries to host four quarterly events as a site to help build connections within all the different teams. For employees who work exclusively remote (roughly 20%), Internal Operations also works hard to plan their social experiences. Shannon breaks down the goals and infrastructure of remote event planning:
“We try to do one event a month for remote employees. We’ve done a couple of things across the board. I think it is very beneficial because it helps me get to know everyone. When remote employees do come into the office, I’m the one booking their travel. I’m handling all that stuff—so these events really help build trust. I think it also demonstrates that we care about work life balance. We want to show remote workers that they work hard, but also deserve fun. Each month, we’ll send out a survey with options for events. Then we follow up with the calendar invite. After the event, we sent out another survey for feedback on how they liked it and what could be improved.”
In addition to being playgrounds for camaraderie and recreation, events are also places to build trust. People are the foundation of our company (check out our Culture Video to hear it from employees!), so that means everyone should feel valued and included.
At the end of the day, Internal Operations runs the gamut as far as their strategies, achievements, and goals. As Valon continues to grow, so will the knowledge and tricks we have for maintaining a vibrant workplace. For anyone looking to take away more from our story, consider some advice from Aaliyah: “As much as you want things to always go your way, something is bound to happen. Being able to keep a level head and maneuver when you feel things didn’t go your way (like a vendor canceling at the last minute), will help manage your time and expectations. Go with the flow, but remember that time management is extremely important. Make sure you’re organizing your days, even your months, out. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s what I’ve definitely learned, especially working in a startup. A lot of things are new to a lot of different people. If you don’t understand something, ask for help. If they don’t understand, Google is your best friend.”