The Secret To Being Great

Jaki Rangel
The Secret To Being Great

Key Takeaways:

  • Value your colleagues as much as you value your key clients
  • Use a hybrid approach to stay connected on more than just business
  • Don’t just charm candidates, extend that to existing employees as well
What We Do To Make Sure GD Is Recognized As A Top Employer.

This blog was difficult to write. My first pass at highlighting why Gunderson Direct is a Great Place to Work focused on things like Unlimited PTO, generous benefit packages, and other things that a lot of other companies our size also do. What I wasn’t including were the important aspects of our culture: things like team lunches, ‘get well’ boxes for ill employees or birthday cards from the boss.

I wasn’t including these because, honestly, they’re such an integral part of how we do business that they don’t stand out to me. But when a new team member mentions being wowed by something our team does regularly, I’m reminded of how we go above and beyond every day, and that these things are a fundamental part of what makes us stand out above other employers.


But that input leads to a larger point: being a Great Place to Work starts with hiring the right people. When we’re interviewing candidates, we look beyond qualifications in order to find employees that align with our goals and understand the values that embody the agency. Digging deeper into that, I see that the choices our team is empowered to make each day—and the ways we have found to stay connected without being in the same office—are the nuance of it.

  • It’s the round-robin introductions during a new employee’s first week.
  • It’s the optional 9:15 check-ins that started with a workflow-specific agenda but morphed into what we’re watching, or how a new pet is adjusting to their new home, or how much to tip a hairdresser.
  • It’s the weekly team meetings that not only highlight the work going through the agency but give each department the chance to present to the entire team.
  • It’s the in-person lunches for those of us close enough to join (and care packages for team members that can’t join).

It’s the implementation of processes, the acceptance of critiques on pain points, the open lines of communication, and the upper management team that actively encourages feedback. And it’s the bonus given to employees celebrating five years of service (one large enough to pay for some well-deserved R&R time in Hawaii).

Personally, I see it as a team member and a leader in the organization. A few months back, I received one of those birthday cards from the boss. Every year I proudly share these hand-drawn well-wishes on my personal Instagram, but this year it was… different. The card looked computer generated: a bit generic and lacking the wow factor. I mentioned it the next time I saw him, and he responded—understandably—that now, with so many people on the team, it felt like a lot of work to create a unique card for each birthday, and this cool new software was able to do a lot of the heavy lifting. I explained that it made sense: the team has quadrupled since I was hired. Expecting the president of a fast-growing agency to hand draw a birthday card for each of us did seem unreasonable.

But fast forward to the next team birthday: a hand-drawn card was sent to the employee directly from the boss. He had taken that feedback and recognized that sometimes being a great company takes a little extra work, but the payoff is worth it.

At the end of the day, Human Resources is about recruitment and job performance, benefits, and retention. But being able to lead a team of thoughtful, cooperative people—and encouraging them to support one another in their work along with the rest of their lives—has created a culture of great people who do great things. And that’s what makes Gunderson Direct a Great Place to Work.

Jaki Rangel

People person. Avid reader. Bay Area born and raised. Managing the office and all of our human resource needs, Jaki wears many hats to ensure the Gunderson Direct team thrives and the agency sees continued success.

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