Sabrina Meck Perez

A Conversation on Culture – with Sam Silverstein & Cal Zant

During the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation’s latest episode of Build Your Talent Toolbox, Sam Silverstein, national keynote speaker, helped employers see the value in building a culture to retain the right employees. Sam teamed up with Cal Zant, President of Betenbough Homes, a local employer in Amarillo, Lubbock, and Midland.  After they shared their experience and expertise on work culture, Sabrina Meck Perez, AEDC Director of Workforce Attraction & Retention, sat down with both Sam and Cal to share their thoughts with you on the importance of being purposeful with work culture.

Why is it important to retain employees?

Cal – “Well, from a pure business perspective it's very expensive to replace and retrain people. Every time somebody leaves I feel like it erodes trust on the team because people don't understand what happened. If you keep doing that, eventually the team is going to fall. We also hope that over time, we can bring out the best in people. We don’t want to just grow them for our benefit. Growth might mean that we grow them to a point that they can go start their own business. That doesn’t happen instantly but it takes some time to understand what they have inside of them and then build up their confidence. That's another part of wanting to retain people.”

What role does culture play in employee retention?

Sam – “With unemployment as low as it is today, it's so easy to get a job someplace else. If the only reason someone is staying with your organization is the amount of money that they're getting paid, then there really is no reason to stay because they can get that someplace else. So the reason to stay is the culture, a culture that's created around people, that values people, that people feel safe in, that they can make a difference in, no matter what generation.”


What role does leadership play in creating that culture?

Cal – “Everything rises and falls on leadership. A culture will only be as strong as the leaders want it to be. It’s embodied in the way the leader models it.”

Sam – “If leadership was easy everyone would do it, right? But the title doesn't make you a leader. What makes you a leader is that you've accepted the responsibility for those people that you're leading, so it all starts with you.”

Cal – “Tommy Politz, the pastor of Hillside, said so many people mistake leadership as power, but real leaders recognize it as responsibility, and it's the responsibility, I totally agree.”

Sam – “It's not the cool parking place, the corner office. No, there's a responsibility and it's serious. I don't know if all leaders understand the full seriousness of that responsibility.”

What would be your best piece of advice for employers and business owners for employee retention?

Cal – “Make them your priority. The founder of Southwest Airlines said one time, ‘You know people see it as a paradox:  do you focus on shareholders, customers or employees?’ But he said there's only one way and it's focusing on employees, then they'll take care of the customers and that will bring return for the shareholders. In any other order, it doesn't work. So I try to focus on serving the people, and you know that's the way Jesus did it. He didn't say “Hey, you guys go wash people's feet,” he himself washed people's feet and then they went and did it. If I care for them, they will care for others. When you pursue profit, you're not going to get a healthy culture. When you pursue culture, you will most likely also get profit.

Sam - People won’t voluntarily leave a family or an organization where they feel valued and loved. Being worried about the bottom line is such nonsense; it all comes back on the bottom line. When people feel that they're valued, they're going to bust their chops for that bottom line. Create a place where people want to be.  It's not the employee’s responsibility to find happiness; it's the leader’s responsibility to create a happy place. That doesn’t mean we don't work hard, make tough decisions, or burn the midnight oil, but it's a place where you want to do all that.

Why is culture so personal?

Cal – “If you're only caring about them for what they can do for your company I'd say you're not caring about them, you're caring about your company and you're manipulating people. So if you really care about them, then you'll want the best thing for them.”

Sam – “When you go to work, it's personal. How you're treated, it’s personal.”

How does this affect the way you view the workplace?

Cal – “I think the deepest craving of every human being is to be fully seen and truly known and loved anyway. I believe as leaders we have a sacred responsibility, we can give people that gift, like we can we can totally I want to know all of them, I want to know their strengths, I want to know their weaknesses and I want somebody to know me like that and still believe in me, that's what we all want. We have the power to do that. So many people have never felt that in their life.”

Sam – “Well, they've never felt it, so they don't know how to give it.”

Cal – “Once somebody washes their feet, they can do it for somebody. I did not come this way, somebody did this for me, and now my job is to do it for other people. I have been grown more professionally, personally and spiritually since joining Betenbough Homes than ever in the history of my life.  It has had a bigger impact on me than my parents, pastor or anything else. Who says that about a business? That's ridiculous! Now, I want everybody's story to be transformative like that!”

Sam – “Look at Betenbough’s example. Cal is now part of their legacy. So if you really create an amazing culture in an organization, what we find is that culture doesn't stay within the four walls of that organization. That culture will spread outside of the organization, going into the community. The organization gets to be known for the culture which will eventually results in people wanting to work for you. So now you're attracting the best people. Those are bottom-line dollars. The other side of it is that an employee takes that culture home. It impacts their spouse, it impacts their children, it impacts their spouse’s place of business. So you as a leader in your company can make that culture a priority and impact your entire community.”

Building a culture on purpose is just one of the tools to retain your workforce. The AEDC will highlight multiple topics throughout this series to better equip you to grow your business and hire the right employees. Register for our next session for the Hiring Tool: Hiring Right the First Time with Margaret Graziano of Keen Alignment and Joshua Raef of Chick-fil-A on February 7th.  Find more info and sign up here!