The Boxed Blueprint: What Small Businesses Can Learn from This Startup's Rapid Rise to Success

Ecommerce disruptor Boxed went from garage to national phenomenon in just a few short years. Its focus on employee culture has been a big part of the growth story. Read on for three tips from the Boxed growth blueprint that you can put into play at your own company.

Throughout 2019, we will be running a series of articles recapping BizConCLE 2018 and the lessons attendees learned at the show. Today’s article focuses on the keynote address delivered by Boxed’s Chieh Huang on how to effectively retain employees. Check out January's BizConCLE article by clicking here.

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    Boxed started in 2013 as a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation in a garage and has turned into a major wholesale ecommerce disruptor that has raised $180 million in funding.

    During his keynote address at BizConCLE 2018, Boxed’s CEO and co-founder Chieh Huang laid out his blueprint for rapid growth and how the company goes about retaining talent.

    Your people are the difference

    Huang told the crowd gathered at the I-X Center that customers today aren’t just shopping based on price; but rather, a combination of price, convenience and brand name familiarity. Companies that can offer all three of those things tend to stand out from the rest of the pack. And the best way to create a standout impression in the minds of your customers begins with the people you hire.

    Huang listed three things Boxed, known for generous perks such as paying for employee’s weddings, has done that small businesses could replicate in order to establish a strong company culture and differentiate from the competition.

    Tip No. 1: Don’t micromanage

    No one has ever said, “We never would have closed that deal if we hadn’t used the Times New Roman font,” Huang joked. His point? Don’t micromanage. Your employees who feel the most tired everyday are those who are being micromanaged.

    It’s a natural tendency for business leaders to want to be hands-on, he said. After all, the further you grow your business, the more people you must hire. And the more people you must hire, the further you get removed from the daily goings on at the company and want to get back to having a say in the direction things are moving.

    Resist that urge, Huang implored. Your people are staying with you not just because of the amount of money you’re paying them, but because there’s something they like about your management style. The easiest way to destroy that relationship is to begin micromanaging.

    Tip No. 2: Install innovative employee retention strategies

    Again, employee retention isn’t all about the size of the paycheck you’re giving your employees. There are other things small businesses can do, particularly as it relates to your policy on leave, to encourage longer retention rates.

    At Boxed, for example, the company offers unlimited maternity and paternity leave. No one yet has taken gross abuse of the policy—the longest someone took off was 10 months and the shortest was four weeks. While small businesses might not be able to offer that strong of a perk, there are other little things businesses can do to keep employees happy. For instance, let your employees take off a little early to spend time with family or volunteer at their child’s school. Small touches like that can go a long way, he said.

    Tip No. 3: Nail the hiring process

    The best way to ensure your company culture stays intact is by consistently hiring the right people, Huang said. Here are some of the questions Boxed hiring managers like to ask:

    • Tell me something that’s not on your resume.
    • Tell me your life story. What are you all about?
    • The hiring managers also aren’t afraid to throw in a curveball question every once in a while to see how good the job candidate is at thinking on their feet. (One of these curveballs: “Which country will ban autonomous cars first and why?”)

    Huang also takes time to meet with every person who is hired. It’s not a full interview, but more of a “jerk test” to make sure the company is hiring a nice person.

    BizConCLE is just one of the many events hosted by COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership each year to help give businesses the education and resources needed to succeed. Click here for a list of upcoming events that can help your company grow, too.

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    Next up: Turning Passion Into Giving Back

    Turning Passion Into Giving Back

    No one wants to admit that they’ve had to deal with pest or insect problems in their home or business, but hey – it happens. Dealing with an infestation is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to deal with on top of everything else, and it always seems to happen when you are least prepared for it.  Fortunately, with someone like John Young, owner of Speed Exterminating Co., in town,  you can rest assured that if you were to run into this pesky dilemma, you'll be bug ridden in short time. 

    No one wants to admit that they’ve had to deal with pest or insect problems in their home or business, but hey – it happens. Dealing with an infestation is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to deal with on top of everything else, and it always seems to happen when you are least prepared for it.  Fortunately, with someone like John Young, owner of Speed Exterminating Co., in town,  you can rest assured that if you were to run into this pesky dilemma, you'll be bug ridden in short time. What's more is that Young isn't your average termite terminator. He runs his business with the same passion, integrity and honesty that his family instilled in the business years ago. 

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    While Young has been at the forefront of Speed Exterminating since 1998, the business dates back more than 106 years, founded in 1908 by John W. Speed (Young’s great grandfather). After Speed, the business transitioned into the hands of Young’s grandfather, and later his father.  In 1963, the pest company was relocated to Old Brooklyn before once again being passed down to the next generation -- at which time Young acquired the reigns to the family business.

    Alongside his dedicated and passionate perspective toward the family’s industry and business, Young has also maintained a deep-rooted connection to volunteering and service.

    “I saw [my father] take great pride in having a strong small business community in Cleveland, and I feel that way too,” Young says. “Small businesses are the back bone of Cleveland. If there is going to be an economic revival in Cleveland, it’s going to be because of small businesses.”

    Turning his passion into action, Young co-founded the grassroots event, “Pedal for Prizes,” and has also provided leadership for the Cleveland/Akron Cystic Fibrosis Annual Bike Race. In doing so, he has achieved the ideal combo of mixing work with pleasure.

    “When I want to get away from the office, I’m big into bicycling,” Young says.

    Having been an avid cyclist for over 20 years, Young -- along with four other Old Brooklyn residents -- eventually came to unite his love for cycling with his deep-rooted Old Brooklyn heritage to create the event, “Pedal for Prizes”.

    The objective for the event is simple. “The idea is to just get on the bike and ride,” he says.

    With its inception in 2010, the event was founded with the idea of bringing together businesses in the Old Brooklyn community while also promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. Each participant is presented with a map that pinpoints 20 destinations. For every destination reached, the riders are given a raffle ticket to be entered for a chance to win various prizes such as Cleveland Indian’s tickets or bicycles. Destinations are divided between local businesses/merchants and points of interest, and are announced on the day of the event.

    The event, says Young, provides him the opportunity to give back to and promote a community that means so much to his family and business. “You succeed because the neighborhood succeeds. It’s not my success; it’s the neighborhood’s success,” Young says.

    Growing from 75 participants in its first year to over 600 people in 2013, “Pedal for Prizes” has been making a noticeable impact in its surrounding communities.

    “Biking gives me an avenue of things I’m capable of doing. I can’t solve world hunger, but I do have a connection to cycling,” says Young.

    Along with “Pedal for Prizes,” Young has also been actively engaged in the Cleveland/Akron Cystic Fibrosis Annual Bike Race. Created in 2012, the event raised $40,000 its first year and doubled to $80,000 this past year.

    For an involved small business owner like Young, the desire and urge to volunteer is always in abundance and, despite a busy work schedule, he always finds time to give back.

    “I want to give back to this community. I want to take time to make a difference,” he says.


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    Next up: What the Cleveland Indians Can Teach Small Businesses About Beating Big Competition

    What the Cleveland Indians Can Teach Small Businesses About Beating Big Competition

    During the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan and play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton explain what small businesses can learn from the team. Read on below for a brief summary or click below to listen to the full audio of the session.

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    Small business owners have a lot more in common with the Cleveland Indians than they might think.

    During a panel discussion featuring Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan and moderated by play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton, Dolan said the team in many respects is like a small business in how it is a small market team competing with franchises in major media markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

    The key, he said, to being successful in a situation such as that comes down to making sure you have the right people on your team.

    “The beauty of the game of baseball is the $25-million guy has to get on the field with the $500,000 guy,” he said. “But when you get the right $500,000 guy, you draft well, you develop them well, they turn into guys with names like (Francisco) Lindor and (Jose) Ramirez.”

    Francona agreed with Dolan’s assessment, adding that while it might not be fair for smaller market teams to compete against the bigger market teams, he’s not one to accept excuses.

    “We may not have the same payroll as the Yankees or Detroit or whatever, but we trust the people we have,” he said.

    The COSE Annual Meeting is just one of the many events COSE hosts each year that help small business representatives learn what they need to know to grow their business while also making new connections. Click here to view a list of upcoming events and find one that will give you the tools you need to succeed.
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    Next up: What's the Hardest Thing About Being an Entrepreneur?

    What's the Hardest Thing About Being an Entrepreneur?

    We met recently with two of the nine finalist small businesses for Season 2 of Cleveland Chain Reaction and asked them what the hardest thing is about being an entrepreneur.

    What began as a field of more than 100 hopeful small businesses hoping to receive a $100,000 investment from the project’s investors has been narrowed to a field of just nine.

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    We had an opportunity recently to meet with two of the finalists—Hatfield’s Goode Grub (a food truck and catering business) and Cleveland House Hotels (a provider of vacation and temporary rental homes around Cleveland)—and asked them what the hardest thing is about being an entrepreneur.

    Jessica Hatfield of Hatfield’s Goode Grub pointed to the unique situation she has of being Ken Hatfield’s first employee when the business started and of the two of them being married as well.

    “Working together as a team, it’s really awesome but it has its challenges,” she said.

    Nick Semertsidis of Cleveland House Hotels also pointed to the importance of communication with others on the team when growing a small business.

    “At times we have different ideas on things, but we always work it out in the end,” he said.

    See what else these entrepreneurs had to say in the video below.

    Learn more about Cleveland Chain Reaction and its mission to create jobs, investment and prosperity in Cleveland’s neighborhoods while providing education and information for entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners to benefit the community by visiting www.clevelandchainreaction.org.

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    Next up: Why I'm Going to the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting

    Why I'm Going to the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting

    In the lead up to the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting later this month, we will be running a series of stories focused on what attendees are hoping to get out of this year’s event and the lessons they’ve learned from previous Annual Meetings. Read on below to learn why one of our attendees is particularly excited about the 2018 Annual Meeting.

    Bridget Thibeault is the chef and owner of Luna Bakery in Cleveland Heights and she recently registered for the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting taking place Jan. 23. Thibeault took time recently to sit down with Mind Your Business to talk about why she registered for the event and what she’s looking forward to getting out of the experience.

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    I registered for the annual meeting for two reasons—the speakers (Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton and Indians’ Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan) and I am a new member and would like to learn more about what COSE has to offer me as a small business owner.

    I attend as many events as possible to learn new ways to lead and manage my company. We are a relatively new business that has grown very fast and we are preparing to open a second location in the spring of 2018.  For the past couple years, I have been focusing on organizing my company so we can grow with vision and strategy. (As a side note, my husband is the baseball coach at John Carroll University so he is coming with me as a guest since the content will be great for him too.)

    Luna is a very busy cafe and teamwork is one of the keys to our success. I'm hoping to learn some new strategies for teamwork and leadership from the speakers. I’m also looking for some additional insight into COSE and, of course, networking.  I find that every event I attend in Cleveland leads to more people finding out about our brand and we gain new customers.

    I am excited for the COSE Annual Meeting!

    Swing on by the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting and get unique insights on leadership strategies and how to build a winning team from the Indians’ Terry Francona, Tom Hamilton and Paul Dolan. Click here to register today!

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    Next up: Why 'Scanning' Is an Important Part of Organizational Success

    Why 'Scanning' Is an Important Part of Organizational Success

    Scanning, whether it’s for an external environment or more of an introspective look at your own self, is a powerful skill that is not as easy to master as you might think. Read on below to learn more.

    Scanning is an individual or group’s ability to pay attention to what is going on around them, internally and externally. When you walk into a room, you immediately look around to see who is there, the layout, and what is going on. A lot of it is unconscious behavior. Some people scan that same room for danger. Some scan for safety or to see if anything is familiar. Others scan to see if there is anyone there that they know. Some scan for what is different. Some scan for gender or race or class for example—how many women or men are in the room.  

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    Some people have an agenda or clear goals and scan the room for the people they have attached to those goals. So, why pay attention to your scanning?  

    How do you scan and what do you scan for?

    What you don’t see is as important as what you scan for in assessing situations and leveraging them for your own goals. What is missing in your picture can greatly impact your ability to accomplish your goals or see the bigger picture. For example, if you scan for the familiar, who in the room you know, then you miss all the new people that could be potential new clients if you go to know them. 

    The second part of scanning is the internal scan. How are you scanning yourself? What in your internal world are you paying attention to i.e. your thoughts, your feelings, your heart, your gut, your physical being, your energy, your history, your present, your future, and the impact of what is happening externally on you internally? And pay attention to how effective you are at shuttling back and forth between your internal scan and your scan of the external environment?

    This is a powerful skill. As I facilitate meetings or coach clients, I am paying attention to multiple levels of system. I am constantly scanning my internal self, the room, the group dynamics, the energy of the group, the content of the session, how the world outside of the room is impacting the session and discerning and intuiting what is needed from me in each moment to support the goals and intention of the session and the bigger unit of work that we are engaged in together. This allows me to remind the client of context, of what they may be missing in their scanning process and all kinds of factors that can be taken into consideration and integrated into their decisions, solutions and actions. This is especially helpful in discerning strategies so as much of the current reality picture is taken into consideration.  It is also critical when doing problem solving to minimize unintended consequences.

    You can increase your scanning ability just by paying attention to what you pay attention to in any given day or moment. Observe yourself and your daily patterns. This will give you insights into where you are, and then you can begin to pay more attention to additional data points or information. This is the time to take the opportunity to broaden your skill in your efforts to be more effective in life and business. Think about it: What in this article are you paying attention to? What feelings come up from your reading this blog? And how will you move forward now that you have this new awareness?

    Monika Moss-Gransberry is a 30-year entrepreneur, business coach and organizational consultant, author of Life Mapping: A Journey of Self Discovery and Path Finding and The Technology of Doing Creating & Being, both self-mastery books teaching readers how to make their visions real. She is on the faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Initiative and the Gestalt OSD Center. For more information on Monika’s work: www.mossgransberry.com and www.monikakmoss.com

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