Recently I had the opportunity to visit the offices of The Motley Fool and speak with Todd Etter, their chief collaboration officer. Imagine a financial company with no cubicles, no dress code, and as much vacation as you need. Sounds impossible? Not in the world of The Motley Fool, a web-based stock management and education company that in 2014 was named the number one company to work for in the U.S. In an industry full of stodgy investment bankers, notoriously long hours, and stringent rules and regulations, Motley Fool is breaking down stereotypes with innovative ideas and collaboration.

There are a lot of things that contribute to a successful company, but much of how The Motley Fool operates can be narrowed down to its six core values. The values are prominently displayed at the company and create the groundwork for every HR and employee-driven initiative.

Although The Motley Fool's core values are specific to its structure and purpose, the ideas can be applied to organizations in a variety of industries. The Motley Fool's six core values include:

  1. Honest. This is especially true in the financial industry, says The Motley Fool's chief collaboration officer Todd Etter. The company aims to be transparent and honest with its employees and customers.
  2. Competitive. The Motley Fool's goal is to be the best. Within the industry, it aims to do better than the competition and continue to produce strong results for good business.
  3. Collaborative. Any success of the company is a team effort, meaning no individual takes the credit. The Motley Fool realizes that the whole is greater than the parts, meaning that together employees can create something great. As a result, learning and sharing are a pivotal part of company culture.
  4. Innovative. When new ideas are presented, a common phrase around The Motley Fool offices is "Top it." Employees at all levels are constantly looking for ways they can improve all aspects of the company through cutting-edge ideas.
  5. Fun. It may seem unusual to have fun at the core of an investment company, but the idea of being a jester who can make learning fun goes back to the company's name. Establishing a fun workplace improves retention and employee morale, among other things.
  6. Motley. Be definition, motley means a diverse collection of colors. In the office setting, each employee brings his or her own colors of personality, skills, and goals. To represent this, The Motley Fool employees creates their own final core value, which is displayed in their workspace. It showcases the unique perspective and drive each employee brings.

The Motley Fool uses its six core values as a constant reminder of what the company is capable of. Instead of following in the footsteps of companies that have gone before, Motley Fool challenges assumptions of how a company should be run. With an open mind and a penchant for experimentation, The Motley Fool has created a flat hierarchy where employees are respected, listened to, and valued.

With an eye for experimentation, the company has tried numerous employee programs, some of which have been more successful than others. Employee dry cleaning didn't last long, but weekly yoga, regular health fairs, and monthly meditation sessions have been big hits.

The Motley Fool also stands out in how it involves employees through the use of games and challenges. From quarterly reports to get to know you activities, managers are constantly on the lookout for ways to involve employees and get back to the company's core values. One of the most memorable games was when all nearly 300 employees had to name all the other employees to unlock a bonus--the catch was that everyone had to participate for the bonus to kick in. It's creative ideas like that that connect employees and foster an environment that reflects the stated values.

From its unconventional office space to quirky employee programs, The Motley Fool does a lot to stand out from the competition. Behind it all are company values that can inspire companies across all kinds of industries. Most importantly, The Motley Fool brings those values to life!

Published on: Jun 9, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.