‘We’re people builders,” says Guy Cochran, owner of DVE Store of Everett in describing his company. These words really stuck with me after a recent conversation with Cochran.
He could have chosen words that business people often use to describe their employees like “value and “appreciate.” But instead, he used the words “people builder.” His employees are clearly at the center of his company. He is very intentional about the culture he’s trying to create.
DVE Store (www.dvestore.com) is an online retailer of digital video equipment. In the past five years, Cochran’s business has grown from 5 employees to 26. Three years ago, he moved his company from Marysville to the old Herald building in downtown Everett where he has 18,000 square feet of space. The company has a large social media following with over 1,000 videos online.
We also discussed managing his company’s growth, its biggest challenges, social media strategies and some lessons learned in building his company. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
What do you look for when you are hiring a new employee? How would you describe your company’s culture?
90 percent is attitude, 10 percent talent. I used to think it was the other way around.
We’re at 26 people, predominately millennials. I’ve found that you have to care, and you have to have empathy. We believe in developing people, everyone is working on their IDP (Individual Development Path). Your employees should see where they are going. We also have a culture of giving back, we support charities and local food banks with not only cash, but with our talents — we have provided tens of thousands of dollars in video services. I would describe our culture as one of caring, being cutting edge, always growing and being truly helpful by solving problems in the marketplace.
Your company has seen significant growth the past five years. How have you successfully managed that growth?
Hiring people smarter than me. It might be a blow to some people’s ego to admit, but yes, you need big brains on your team. By stopping and paying attention to the numbers. When you get moving so fast it is easy to put things off. Especially when you’re a “Driving” personality, these types are usually the opposite of the “Bean Counters.” But every good team needs both personalities.
What were your biggest challenges when you first started DVE Store?
Trying to do everything myself for too long. I should have been seeking help earlier on. I’m more of a creative person and a teacher, so when I had to do the bean counting I absolutely hated it. It was pure torture to come in on a weekend to do the books. Had I brought in someone earlier to perform those tasks, I could have focused on what I was best at (producing videos) and got us more momentum much sooner.
What social media strategies do you use to market your business?
The business has long used “tutorial videos” as a way to earn a seat in front of a potential customer. We build trust by sharing our knowledge. Because we only have so much reach and so much time, we also have accidentally found success utilizing “Influencer” marketing. This happened when customers turned out to be of notoriety. Now because of the past success that we have seen, we will go so far as to seed out products to YouTube creators. We also have dedicated a social media coordinator on staff to make sure that we are not missing any comments on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter that may need to be addressed. To keep up with it all, we use a service called, “Sprout Social.” This person has a dream job of just getting to “Like” stuff for part of their day.
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of college services at Everett Community College and former small business owner. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org