Culture Sneak Peek: PIRCH

Culture Sneak Peek

Remodeling a bathroom. Renovating a kitchen. Building an outdoor entertainment area. Picking the right appliances for your family’s needs from a sea of options. These tasks aren’t easy. Many times, the projects – big and small – we do at home cause stress, anxiety and take up more time than we have to spare. The process can be anything but pleasant. Or joyful. That’s where PIRCH comes in.

PIRCH is a luxury retailer for indoor and outdoor kitchen and bath products. Everything about PIRCH is different. Products in their 30,000-square-foot experiential showrooms are activated. In-house baristas provide complimentary coffees. Chefs help you try before you buy. And team members are carefully trained and then given autonomy to make decisions in the moment to create the best possible experiences for guests. This month, PIRCH’s Mark Tomaszewicz, Ambassador of Joy (how cool is THAT title?!), shares his thoughts on how culture can help a business differentiate itself from the competition.

How is the culture at PIRCH different from other organizations that offer kitchen and bath products?

Our focus, both in our showrooms and in our organization, is on authentic human experiences. There are many unique aspects to PIRCH, but one of the most special is our Manifesto, which defines our culture. Our Manifesto espouses human values on which one can build a joyful life, a brand and a business. We want our people to believe in making the best of every single moment … that every single moment can be meaningful. And some of the best moments are those you create for others. That is our why and the essence of our culture.

The January 2016 issue of Fortune included an article that stated, “PIRCH teaches its employees how to work joyfully.” What does this mean?

“Live joyfully” is one of the 23 Elements of our Manifesto. We are not an organization that speaks about “happy” employees. The work we do is challenging and not every moment of every day is going to be joyful. For us, joyful work is working in service of others, having purpose in what we do, liking whom we do it with and believing we can make an impact on someone’s life or, at least, day. Our simple charge to our team members is to try and make the moments you have with guests, customers and each other the best part of that person’s day.

How do you empower your team members to create great moments for others?

We work really hard to eliminate any obstacles and processes that might stand in our team members’ way and give them the permission to do the wonderful things they should be doing. We can’t possibly imagine every moment or decision our team members will encounter. And we don’t try to. Instead we set fair and foul lines to help guide their decisions. And when things don’t work out, we talk about it and learn from it.

Does PIRCH employ any specific strategies to help people understand this unique culture?

Our desire to demonstrate genuine care for our guests at every encounter is the foundation of our culture. To help people embody this we have our Manifesto as a guide. To teach it we have five-day learning experiences, called Elements, where people across all roles and levels in the organization come to our headquarters in San Diego to learn why we exist, how we do what we do, and how the Manifesto supports our work each day. We educate our people on how to make the right decisions in the moment and how to create the habits that will make them successful on our team. We talk transparently about the business and share what everyone in the organization does. Our goal is to immerse our team members in our culture and business while setting clear expectations.

We also do other things like share short stories each week demonstrating our Manifesto in action, hold a monthly talk show with our CEO, and educate and inform team members through internal communications. We’re always working to find new and interesting ways to keep our culture top of mind. Throughout it all, we stress the team member experience has to be better than the customer experience so our team members know what it feels like first.

What does the leadership at PIRCH do differently to help foster this culture?

There is no better way to teach our way than see it in action from leaders. Our CEO chooses to spend time with team members on an individual basis. People want to be heard and to feel acknowledged. We want to learn from our people – they’re the ones who often have the great ideas. And making the time to speak with or send an email to recognize a team member can have a profound impact. We care for each person in our organization and strive to demonstrate and that each individual’s contribution is valued.

Personally, I believe in taking work seriously and yourself less so, and this is applicable at PIRCH. Every email, phone call, and personal interaction with our guests, customers, partners and colleagues matters. At the same time, we can’t let our ego get in the way or care about who gets credit. To quote Harry Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

How do you keep people engaged and committed to your culture?

After people attend Elements, they’re on fire. They’re feeling super enthusiastic and inspired because they’ve just spent five days learning, discussing, and living all of the best aspects of our organization. Once they leave, we work really hard to ensure this passion and connection to purpose is sustained despite the duties of everyday work. We view it as our job to keep the Manifesto top of mind so when people are challenged at work, they will make the right decisions.

What else can you tell us about what makes the PIRCH culture different?

At PIRCH, we have a strong focus on empathy and connecting it to the work of each team member. We teach it in a very visceral way during Elements to ensure people understand the importance of seeing things from another’s perspective, questioning to understand or, at least, recognizing you don’t know what going on in someone’s life.

We also believe that not only is attention to detail important, but so is intention to detail. We work to set ourselves apart by creating the best experiences for our guests. This crosses everything – from the cleanliness of our showrooms to ensuring citron traffic cones are set in the right place by our trucks in front of a customer’s home. Everything matters. Everything adds to or detracts from the experience of the customer and the impression of our brand.

Employee engagement has been a long-standing issue in this country. What is your opinion on this issue?

You cannot focus on a number. It’s not about “getting the employee engagement scores up”… that’s just not what it’s about. Scores should merely be a reflection of the work you are putting in to build a pretty special place and successful business.

It’s about having your people understand your purpose, to connect to it, and live it. Organizations need to ensure that their leaders are committed to the culture because they’re the role models. Ultimately though, your people own your culture. For example, I know the culture in our SoHo showroom is somewhat different than the culture in our Dallas Distribution Center. The organization’s role is to provide the guidelines and tools and trust in the people we have attracted to our business.

Any final thoughts on the topic of culture?

Culture in any organization, at its best, is intertwined with the business. They aren’t two separate concepts. At PIRCH being kind, caring and compassionate is just as important as being accountable, high performing and intensely focused on every detail. It’s not always easy and we are not perfect. While we have much work to do, I am confident we’re on the right path and working every day to be better.