What makes a “Best Place to Work?”​

By Lacey Picazo

It’s the time of the season where we are all asked to reflect on what we are most thankful for, and without a doubt, our recent recognition as one of the city’s Best Places to Work is near the top. I am immensely grateful to work with such an energized, supportive, and happy team, sharing a culture we’ve naturally crafted together in our studio at ZoCo Design.

Though this is only the second year we have been eligible for this award, it is also the second year we’ve been honored as a top-ten small employer in Columbus. As the founder, and based on my own personal beliefs and motivations, this is the single most fulfilling acknowledgment we could receive—especially because it comes from the direct feedback of my team (who I adore). Feeling that my love for ZoCo and all we’ve built is mutual and that our team has made our success possible through the environment they’ve crafted, gives me immense pride.

So what is special about ZoCo? What is the secret sauce for building a great culture and why is it that our team will go out of their way to share their love for this place? It’s taken me a while to realize, but today I believe that this is actually all very simple—a strong culture, and thus “Best Places to Work,” is all about alignment.

Our team is intensely aligned and in agreement on what we genuinely value in our careers. We all seek the same characteristics to embody in our culture, in our work, and in our relationships. It’s that simple. We are a diverse group but are intentionally very uniform in the values we prioritize, which enables our team to steer the ship in the same direction and strive for mutual goals. From how we operate, to the growth we pursue—we share a desired experience which limits misunderstandings and unmet needs. This is the single most important tenet of who we are today.

We all seek the same characteristics to embody in our culture, in our work, and in our relationships. It’s that simple.

Ensuring these are qualities our team shares starts with who we hire, but in recent years we even probe to ensure our client relationships regard similar principles—because we’ve learned this just makes every relationship more compatible. We’ve become uncompromising that all of our partners need to place high value in these areas, or we just won’t be a good fit together. Call it our matchmaking philosophy.

Curious what we are all about? Funny you say that—our values are:

  • Curious // Explore the why. We start with questions, seeking to discover the opportunities and define the insights that drive effective creative.
  • Strategic // Design with purpose. We deliver purposeful, intentional design, analyzing experiences and business challenges holistically to solve real, impactful problems.
  • Collaborative // Integrate as partners. We believe our best work is achieved when we work closely as partners and advocates, learning from others and checking ego at the door.
  • Inventive // Envision a bold future. We are catalysts for change, pursuing to inspire and provoke ambitious ideas that push the boundaries of what has been done before.
  • Transparent // Keep it real. We openly share our thoughts, feelings, and expectations—with clients, with our teammates, and with ourselves.
  • Hungry // Elevate your aspirations. We are empowered and driven to challenge ourselves, try new things, step out of our comfort zones, and punch above our weight.

Are you nodding your head in agreement? Lucky us! I’m thrilled we’ve found each other and hope to collaborate one day! But if not, we completely understand and expect that our principles won’t attract the masses. Culture isn’t about being the right fit for everyone—it’s about authenticity and being the ideal fit for our specific team and client partners.

So how do we define a kick-ass culture? While many talk about “ping-pong tables and beer kegs,” I think these elements are overrated (or maybe I’m just salty because we don’t have them in our office). Sure, we have our own rituals—we play D&D on Fridays, cram into Chicago airbnbs together for conferences, and have more inside jokes than you’ve ever had with your BFF—but these things alone don’t make us a “Best Place to Work.” Shared values and a mutual understanding for what we want out of our roles are where it’s at. More than words on a wall, everyone on the team can share countless stories of times they’ve experienced living these values at ZoCo—and they do so with enthusiasm and pride.

Big thanks to my team who have made it painstaking clear staying true to who we genuinely are is the key to everything we achieve. I am full of gratitude and proud to work with each of you.

Lacey Picazo

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