COMPANY CULTURE

What An Employee's Funeral Has To Do With Company Culture

The community you build at work is just as important as anything else you do. A case in point.
Advertisement

I debated sharing this story here because of how recently these events had taken place. But the opportunity to show the impact of how we treat people in the running of the Beryl Companies reinforced the importance of sharing it now. While everyone at our company wishes that we didn't have this experience to speak from, I thank you for giving me the chance to relate what it can mean to be not just a business, but a family. Paul Spiegelman

Validation of the impact of our business philosophies can come from a wide variety of places.  

Last week, I attended the funeral of a 50-year old co-worker named Bill who had lost his two-year struggle with cancer.  I got to know Bill, not only for his good work for BerylHealth, but because he was a very special person. He was the kind of guy who, even though he was very sick, managed to attend our company holiday party in December. It was a special moment to see someone fighting so hard to join us for a celebration. With his recent passing, it was imperative for me to spend time saying goodbye to someone who was extremely special as both a friend and employee.

I drove up to a non-descript building and went down the hall.  I entered the room and the service had just started.  I was struck by how small the group was but immediately noticed that probably half of the attendees were employees of my company.  It was a source of comfort to see so many people from our Beryl family there to celebrate his life.  I grabbed one of the few available cardtable chairs and sat down.  As the minister began to recount stories about Bill, from childhood until now, he spent a long time talking about how Bill loved to work at Beryl.  How it was the place of work he had always been looking for, and though he was only there for two years, it became a very important part of his life.  It was a warm feeling to sit there and hear that he cherished his time with our work family.

But then family and friends got up to share their stories about Bill.  What struck me was that each and every person talked about Beryl.  His mother, his brother, his friend.  While they talked about how much he enjoyed working at Beryl, what they talked about most was the support he felt from his Beryl co-workers during his time of struggle.

They simply couldn't believe that a company could care so genuinely about its people and show it during times of greatest need.  Bill's brother recounted a story when Bill was awaiting a special appointment at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Bill was at a conference in San Francisco at the time and got the call.  The folks at Beryl immediately changed his flight for him and put him on the next flight out.  When he arrived at the airport in Texas, a car was waiting for him to take him home.  When he got home, he and his wife Denise prepared for the three hour drive to the hospital.  He opened up a card from Beryl, and inside was a $500 gas card to help make the trip easier.  When he finally had surgery, his boss at Beryl flew to Houston to be with his wife in the waiting room.  His brother said: "Companies don't do people like Beryl does people." 

After the friends and family finished speaking, Bill's boss (our Chief Information Officer) and our VP of Human Resources also got up and shared moving speeches about Bill. Bill was the project manager for the largest infrastructure project our company has ever undertaken.  He took so much pride in his work that he came to work in deep pain when he should have been home in bed.  In addition to setting milestones of his 50th birthday (he made it) and his 25th wedding anniversary (he made it), his only other goal was to see the successful launch of this project. He made that too and we were able to have him at a party with his co-workers to celebrate the accomplishment.  

I learned three valuable lessons that day.  First, I am so blessed to work with a group of people who open their hearts to others in amazing ways.  And while some would say that I had something to do with it, I honestly feel that all I did was empower people to do what comes naturally to them.  Second, we got as much from Bill as he got from us.  He was one of those people that simply loved life.  And he lived it to its fullest.  We need to remember that in our crazy entrepreneurial lives.

Lastly, while I loved the comments about how special our company is, I couldn't help but wonder, "Why does just being who we are make us unique?" What about business causes people to push this capacity to care and impact people's lives? What do we have to do to make over-the-top caring about our people the standard and not the exception?   

It's my intent that by sharing how our BerylHealth family celebrated and was a part of Bill's life, we can all remember how rewarding it is to be more than just a professional part of our employee's lives. I hope you realize that the effect we have on the lives we touch is equally as important as any other metric we measure.

Last updated: Feb 29, 2012

PAUL SPIEGELMAN | Columnist | CEO of BerylHealth

Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at PaulSpiegelman.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: