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Posted by  in Charlotte Region

So Thursday night was a study in contrasts.

Jim Sharpe, Harvard Business School

DARTON GROUP co-founders Rochelle Rivas and Mark Weber headed out to the ‘burbs for an evening with the Harvard Business School Club of Charlotte.  As entrepreneurs, we were excited to soak up insights from Jim Sharpe, HBS Senior Lecturer – Entrepreneurial Unit who was presenting at the stunning new corporate HQ for Red Ventures, one of the Charlotte region’s red-hot “it” companies.

We kicked off the evening with a tour of the creative building.  Red Ventures certainly did it right.  Creative, open work environments.  Walls of glass.  A basketball court with an elevated running path serves as a central part of the building and is used for both exercise and communal gatherings.  Conference rooms that are reserved using iPads.  Fresh. Creative. Invigorating.

It is no surprise that Red Ventures was Voted #1 “Best Places to Work” in 2010 by the Charlotte Business Journal.

Red Ventures Corporate Headquarters

Here’s where the contrast begins.

Jim Sharpe, a passionate and funny speaker, centered much of his presentation on his experience in starting a career at GE (where he interacted frequently with corporate icon Jack Welch) and later purchasing, building and selling a business in the aluminum extrusion fabrication business.

Here we sat, in a state-of-the-art creative building housing a fast-growing technology-centered marketing company, talking about an old-school aluminum extrusion fabrication business.  We’re betting that the building that housed Jim’s business was NOTHING like that of Red Ventures.  Yet based on Jim’s compelling story, he was successful in building his company.

How?  He demonstrated true care for his employees.  Jim personally distributed paychecks to his employees.  Jim delivered bonuses to 100% of his employees.  From the secretary to the head of sales, when one would bonus, all would bonus.  And all were paid the same bonus for contributing to the success of the company.

So does the creative, modern building make the happy, engaged and productive workforce?

We’re betting no.  The culture of the company, as set and managed by the senior leadership team, determines the outcome with the troops.  If not for the invigorating leadership provided by co-founders Ric Elias (CEO), Dan Feldstein (CMO) and their leadership team at Red Ventures, the happy setting would be tainted by a workforce of unhappy souls.  Marry a caring culture with a great setting, and you have a winning combination.

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