At Mueller, we like to think of ourselves as “backstage, behind-the-scenes” type of people (we learned that from our namesake, by the way). We put our clients first and allow their stories and successes to take center stage. However, every once in a while we are provided an occasion to reflect upon what we have accomplished and the team we have assembled. The Milwaukee Business Journal’s Best Places to Work award, was one such occasion.
Several years ago, we had the opportunity to become succession business owners. And, of course, it was a fantastic opportunity to build and grow a place we love. But what excited us most - and was one of the biggest motivators for us to take the reins - was the opportunity to shape a culture and a workplace for others that we would want to work in as our careers progressed.
This year, Mueller Communications was named the Best Place to Work in the small business category by the Milwaukee Business Journal. As such, we were asked to share some insights with fellow award recipients at the Business Journal’s luncheon event. You can hear a podcast of our remarks here (we start 19:00 in), or keep reading for a list of fun facts that we believe have helped Mueller achieve Best Place to Work status:
1. Find Your People
We have been colleagues for nearly 20 years and partners for about seven. But our connection goes much deeper: we were both born on November 25, we both celebrate our wedding anniversaries on November 4 and Lori gave birth to her oldest daughter on literally the same day James adopted his oldest daughter.
The moral of the story? Find your people. Obviously, these crazy connections are unique and incredibly rare. But we have continued to build our team with what feels like “our people.” No one else shares our birthday or anniversary, but they do share a love for our community; our sense of work as play; the feeling that we are with friends at work - and the joy that comes with that. We truly think of our Mueller team as another family, and word is getting out. Part of our success - and our hiring pipeline in 2021 - is people who have specifically sought us out to join the team.
2. Prioritize Family
More than 80% of our team is women, which is significantly more than the average US company. It’s true that this presents James a very eager audience for his dad jokes, but more importantly, it reflects how our culture prioritizes family. We are parents of young kids, and share the belief that being successful at home as partners and parents is a far more important driver of happiness than being successful in the office. We also know that both are important and home success depends on work success. We are committed to creating the type of workplace that truly supports success both personally and professionally and that recognizes what a team member needs for that success changes over time.
We do our best to walk the walk by taking time off for conferences, doctors appointments and to coach our kids, as well as bringing our kids into the office to share in our work experience. We believe modeling this behavior among firm leadership has helped create an environment where others can share in this balance too, guilt free.
3. Channel Competition in the Right Direction
Here’s a Mueller fun fact: 10 percent of our staff ran hurdles in college. (For those of you doing the math, that means there are nearly as many collegiate hurdlers as there are men in the office.) And we don’t just have accomplished athletes, we have accomplished musicians, talented artists, incredible writers, and over achievers of all sorts. Moral of the story: Great competitors and high achievers make great teammates, if you can channel the competitive fire in the right direction.
We are very intentional about setting expectations around competition in our office. We end our weekly staff meeting with founder Carl Mueller’s mantra “Let’s Go Get ‘Em” - a testament to that competitive zeal. But inside our walls, we are a team. We don’t compete against each other, we support and care for each other. Always. We reinforce this by setting up a growth and promotion system that is based upon accomplishing goals and mastering skills, not on waiting for a spot to open up and throwing elbows to vie for the open position. Each member of our team is assigned a mentor who helps guide their growth and is reviewed personally each year. Our team supports one another with the same vigor that you would expect from top athletes, and it makes us incredibly proud.
4. Do The Right Thing
If “civic service” were a client at Mueller, it would be among our largest. On average, we donate nearly 1,500 hours each year for pro bono service to non-profits in our community. So why do we spend so many hours annually on pro bono services? As a small business, how can we justify donating that time, and in turn, those resources?
First, because it’s the right thing to do. Doing the right thing is our first principle at Mueller. And over the years, we’ve shaped the firm around the belief that the work we do should be a force for good. We love this city and love that we get to do paid work every day to help make it stronger. But we also believe in the importance of volunteering to support the organizations making a difference in our community.
We also know that community engagement work is an investment that pays off – not only for our community, but for the firm. Our team members love that they get paid to help support organizations that make a difference in their communities. Last year, in recognition of the events of 2020, we expanded our civic engagement policy, doubling the number of civic hours allocated for each team member, but with the expectation that those additional hours would be devoted to efforts that are helping our community achieve equity and dismantle systemic racism.
If we had to summarize the key to our success - and why we believe we are a “Best Place to Work” - we believe it comes down to this: take care of your people and success will follow. The future has never been brighter for Mueller Communications.