I wouldn't last a day at TRX. Hell, I wouldn't make it past the orientation. When ex-Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick launched a business to sell exercise equipment and programs, he embedded his obsession with fitness deep in the culture. Employees aren't just encouraged to work out during the day; they're expected to. Staff members tread the hallways dressed in Lycra. When employees do sit, they sit on exercise balls. I'm not entirely comfortable with casters.
So TRX is not for me. But for the 132 toned or toning bodies employed there, TRX is, as one employee put it, "Perfect. Perfect." TRX is among the 2011 Top Small Company Workplaces selected by the not-for-profit organization Winning Workplaces and honored, as were last year's winners, in Inc. To read these companies' applications—chockablock with bountiful benefits, ample vacation, flexible hours, and tuition reimbursement—is to appreciate how generous, and often ingenious, caring leaders can be.
As editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan points out in her story about the Top Small Company Workplaces ("Core Values"), entrepreneurs enjoy a remarkable opportunity: to build from scratch cultures that reflect their beliefs about what is important, fair, and fun. They tailor practices and policies to the kinds of people that will help their businesses thrive while fulfilling their personal need to invent something. Employees know what their employers value, because the entire company lives those values every day. Decisions become easier when anyone in a company can ask, In this kind of situation, what do people like us do?
Thinking about these companies inspired me to ask Inc.'s editorial staff members how they see the magazine's culture. To assure anonymity, I used that great—and free—software tool Survey Monkey (which brings me to another helpful story in this issue: "Best Business Bargains"). I received some insightful responses and was gratified to see we're on the right track. And the exercise reminded me of another truth about cultures: They are an ongoing collaboration between leaders and the people they serve.