When Sarah Thomas saw a job ad for a customer service point in an office full of puppies and foam rocket battles in 2015, it seemed almost too good to be true.
Six years later, Thomas, who is now Head of Redtail Customer Service, cannot imagine wanting to work anywhere else. It appears that Redtail CEO Brian McLaughlin's dedication to turning customers into "avid fans" has had a similar effect on many employees.
"The people, from top to bottom to your everyday front line employee, we are not a number. Everyone is important," says Thomas. "It's a family environment."
Launched in Sacramento, California in 2003, Redtail has become one of the most popular CRMs among financial advisors today. The company has more than 100,000 active users in 30,000 consulting firms and ranks fourth among CRMs in Financial Planning's 2020 technical survey and first in T3's technology survey.
Its popularity with financial advisors is matched by its reputation with employees. Redtail's office life with dogs, race slides, and free meals is well documented, and the company routinely scores well on the list of the best fintechs for financial planning work.
But how does McLaughlin keep that redtail spirit alive as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing employees to work remotely and cancel popular events like volunteer dog kennel visits or the annual team building trip?
"I think top-down openness and transparency are key," says McLaughlin. "I really opened up communication during this time."
When the national lockdown orders began, McLaughlin hosted weekly Wednesday updates to let everyone know about Zoom, what was going on with the company financially, product updates or new releases, and anything else that fell on the CEO's desk.
Redtail has hosted several virtual events for employees, including karaoke, game nights, and cooking classes.
"Redtail will send us the supplies we need for the events, and then we'll do them all together," says Thomas. "We have one tonight, a comedy night in which one of our team leaders and some other comedians do a sketch."
McLaughlin has also found ways to continue giving back to the Sacramento community while personal volunteering is not an option. For example, on “Takeout Tuesday”, Redtail buys dinner for every employee and their whole family – but only in a local restaurant and only if the employee writes about the restaurant on social media.
During the summer social justice protests, Redtail donated $ 5 for every $ 5 employee donated to organizations that work with the Black Lives Matter movement to increase diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“As leaders, we want to show that we can give back to the community every day,” says McLaughlin.
"There was a time when we missed each other," says Thomas. “But we adapted and turned so quickly. Our culture is currently thriving in the home working environment. "
Although McLaughlin can no longer walk around the office in shorts and flip-flops with a coffee in hand and check into every team, he has managed to transfer his unique leadership style to the virtual environment, says Alison Hawkins, Director of Customer Service at Redtail. He makes employees laugh with a range of zoom backgrounds and video filters, tries to connect with dogs and children in the background, and sometimes surprisingly calls employees on the phone.
"This can scare an employee who doesn't speak to Brian regularly, just wants to check in," says Hawkins. "As if he called me out of the blue for my fifth anniversary."
McLaughlin insists that he is not trying to micromanage. He just likes surprising people and livening up their day.
"It's just who I am," he says. "I want to touch the grassroots and make sure they are happy and that they are being taken care of."
No one can say they were fully prepared for the pandemic, but McLaughlin was able to draw on what he learned in 2019 when he faced any technology manager's biggest nightmare: a data breach. After we found out in the middle of the night, the entire development and operations team came together to find out and fix the problem.
It was the first data breach in Redtail's history, and changes to compliance audits, as well as internal reviews and procedures will help ensure it never happens again, says McLaughlin as he knocks on the wood. He was most impressed with how his team came together in a moment of crisis.
"It shows you how much they bought for what we do," says McLaughlin. “Was it stressful? Hell yes. I can't deny that. … But it's proof of how Redtail works. We have our backs on each other. "
"In difficult times we pull ourselves together, we support each other," he added, "so that we can play in good times."