Measuring the Value of Culture at Sundog Interactive

Amber Johnson Care for people, Culture, Leadership, Metrics

Sundog's energetic culture brings enthusiasm to the workplace.

Sundog’s energetic culture brings enthusiasm to the workplace.

“If you’re going to ask people to live in Fargo to work for your company, you have to really offer them something,” says Brent Teiken, CEO of the marketing and technology firm Sundog Interactive. Teiken and his partners believed they could offer their team members a strong, positive culture shaped by their commitment to work-life integration, and their cultural values of passion, creativity, integrity, quality and fun.

But like all business owners, Teiken also had his eye on the numbers.

“We believe there’s a tie between our culture and our success,” says Teiken. But he wanted to know for sure. So Teiken and his partners began to measure the impact of their culture on traditional measures of business success, such as profit, team member retention, and the performance indicators of specific team members.

“There’s a social component to culture, but there has to be a business driver as well,” says Teiken.

Sundog began by establishing a budget for culture. “If we’re going to spend three to five percent on systems (like hardware and IT) that help people be more effective, let’s also spend three to five percent on culture,” he said.

With a budget in place, Sundog worked to integrate their culture into internal practices, starting first with hiring. Teiken’s team developed an interview protocol that evaluates a candidate’s alignment with the Sundog values.

“The goal,” Teiken says, “is to get us to the right people faster,” saving time and resource investment in the recruitment process and ensuring that the new team members brought on board “fit in faster” with the Sundog culture.

Once on board, the company culture shapes Sundog’s approach to orientation, training, and rewards. It also provides the impetus for company-wide events, like their annual Octoberween party for team members and their families.

As CEO, Teiken sees himself as personally accountable for the company culture. He lists maintaining and strengthening the culture as one of his three most important responsibilities, along with overseeing the business and developing client relationships. Taking an integrated view on his areas of responsibility means that Teiken is now searching for ways to show the culture’s positive impact on the business bottom line.

“Three years of data shows a tie,” Teiken says. The company has doubled in size in the last three years, and will likely repeat that growth pattern. He gives credit for this success in part to Sundog’s culture. “The culture helped us determine how and when to grow, and to make sure we’re hiring the right people.”

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Sundog’s Tips for How to Start Investing & Measuring Culture

  1. Set a budget for culture: Establish a budget for culture development; Sundog’s budget is three to five percent of their gross income.
  2. Build an environment that reflects your culture: Create physical work space that aligns with your values, establish a committee for planning culture-based events and activities, look to leaders to set an example with their behavior.
  3. Integrate culture into primary business practices: Start with hiring, orientation and training, performance evaluations, and incentive systems. Then expand to integrate your corporate culture with your client practices.
  4. Identify metrics that may reflect these results: Look first at culture’s impact on team member retention and engagement numbers, as well as customer satisfaction and loyalty. Then look at your overall bottom line: has growth improved?
  5. Reinforce at the highest levels: The CEO is also the Chief Culture Officer for any organization. Make sure he/she is setting the example and telling the positive story of your culture and its results.

home plate sundog 2

How Values are Home Plate
Marketing and technology firm Sundog Interactive has doubled in size in the last three years, earning a spot on the Inc. 5000 in both 2013 and 2012. CEO Brent Teiken gives credit for the company’s rapid expansion in part to their strong, positive corporate culture which is grounded in six shared values >>Read more


Amber Johnson
is the Corporate Relations Advisor for the Center for Values-Driven Leadership and a marketing and brand specialist.


Program booklet image thumbnail 225wOur Ph.D./D.B.A. program is designed for senior executives leading values-driven companies. Learn more >> Download our comprehensive program booklet today. 

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