The Synergy Culture – November 29, 2020

Today is Sunday, November 29, 2020. It has been the most amazing Thanksgiving weekend. Misty and I brought our family to the Macy’s Day Parade for the first time! It was truly amazing. The boys
absolutely loved New York. Michael is going to be 12 soon, Maddoc just turned 10, Max just started 1st grade, and Maverick just turned 6 in September so he is still in VPK. They were all the perfect age for this adventure. We had a balcony that extended from our room so we were able to watch the entire parade from our hotel. It was the coolest thing. We arrived back yesterday exhausted from the travel. As I was enjoying my coffee this morning I re-read an essay I had written in 2008 called “Synergy Billing a Culture of Achievement”. Twelve years ago feels like an eternity but reading this took me on a trip down memory lane. As I read this essay it made me think about 2015. The year that we decided to actively focus on Synergy’s culture. While I had a vision for what I wanted Synergy to become, I don’t think I fully understood then how critical the culture was going to be to turning that vision into reality.

Thinking back, the past five years have been an amazing journey. We have conquered some “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” and we transformed Synergy Billing into a world-class company. Of course in my mind we have always been world-class but the reality back then was we had some gaps. The growing pains could be felt when you walked through the office. We were a team of about 100 and
we were struggling to find talented people. Not to mention, physical space was a precious commodity. We were in the early stages of professionalization but that didn’t overshadow the excitement that we all felt. If you worked at Synergy Billing in 2015 you probably felt the stress but you also felt that you were a part of something “game changing.” It still feels that way only more so. I can say without hesitation that the biggest contributing factor to Synergy’s success has been our culture.

In 2015 Synergy had a great work atmosphere that encouraged learning, achievement, and professionalism. We had a definite purpose and chief aim that we were shooting for and we had
clearly defined guiding principles that served as our “compass”. We hadn’t yet defined the beliefs, norms, and way of life but the environment was positive and employee satisfaction was good. Our
culture was a reflection of the dominate personalities within the company. As a result, we had some subcultures going on within different departments. With a little focus and planning we knew we
could go from “good” to “great”. In fact we branded 2015 “In Pursuit of Greatness: A Year of Synergy”.

When I think back 5 years ago I recall that we were having some issues with feedback and accountability. We hadn’t yet created a human resource department but we were ready to and we wanted to do it the right way. We ended up calling this department “Team Member Operations” and we were very careful to build it the right way with the right leader. Today, it is has the awesome responsibility of making sure that the Synergy Way of Life is maintained for current and future generations. Earlier this year, we were recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of America’s best workplaces!

In the early days of Synergy I wasn’t very good at communicating my goals and the company’s goals. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my failure to properly communicate created uncertainty amongst the team. As a result, we suffered from a lot of drama and interpersonal issues. Once I figured out what was going on I set out to improve my communication skills. By 2015 I became focused on making sure that everyone understood my vision for Synergy Billing. That was just the beginning. As we got better at planning I started to lead workshops with teams and departments to share my vision. We took that a step further and made sure each person understood how important their role was to turning that vision into a reality. We recognized that clarity starts from the top down and it would always be critical for our leadership team to be on the same page. If we were dysfunctional everyone would be dysfunctional. It just seemed to make sense that if we were going to set big goals for the company we needed everyone on the same page. We decided the first building block of our formal culture management would be clarity. Clarity of purpose, clarity of our destination, clarity of everything – it is a key part of the Synergy DNA.

Today, the way that clarity radiates through our company is very dynamic. It is more than just communicating a message. We have taken clarity to an entirely new level by connecting every component of Synergy into an online digital ecosystem. 5 years ago this started as a simple intranet with a knowledgebase that also centralized digital documents. Today, this technology is the second
most important part of Synergy. Our people are the first. By putting the best minds at Synergy together we developed an online platform that is an extension of everything we do. It interfaces with our client’s software so that we are all using a single billing software and then it interfaces with Team Member Operations (HR), Accounting, Client Services, Document Management, IT Help Desk, Training and Education, and Quality Assurance. 20 years prior I had nearly gone bankrupt developing an online billing software. I had nearly given up on it but Dad kept advocating for it and we pushed
forward. One of the proudest moments of my professional career was the day that software was finished. The two of us went out that night and had a celebratory “Black Russian.” We earned it. Having our own software was a game changer for our operations but this is only one (albeit a very important piece) of the ecosystem. Each team member has their own dashboard which is customized and has certain access levels depending on their role at Synergy. From our dashboards (some people call it the Synergy Splashboard, long story but it stuck) we can see a feed of information very similar to Twitter style messages. You can follow different people, departments, and projects to stay in the loop on what’s happening. Those that are major contributors to our social network receive “Synergy Badges” and accumulate a ranking within the system. It is actually very cool and has taken a life of its own. While we expect each department to communicate updates, there is not a financial incentive for participation. Being an influencer in the Synergy ecosystem has become more of an intrinsic reward and badge of honor. In a company of more than 500 people it also helps people stand out
and we use it as a way to identify emerging leaders in the company. Most importantly, it creates clarity and gets everyone “rowing in the same direction.”

As I was reading the essay from 2008 I couldn’t help but chuckle. I had written that I wanted to make sure that everyone could take a vacation and spend time with their families when they wanted to and I wanted to make sure they received summaries of their benefits and PTO. Today, when we login to the Synergy Intranet each team  member’s personal profile displays all of their benefit information
(including retirement, PTO, and incentives) along with their personal scoreboard that gives them objective and subjective feedback. Under the “Personal and Professional Development” section their individuals goals are outlined and a Synergy Coach securely messages with them to help make sure they are on track to achieve their goals. This is light years ahead of where I was 12 years ago and just one of the many ways we are helping our team members maximize their potential.

One thing that has remained constant in the “Synergy Way of Life” has been a passion for learning. Through the Synergy Billing academy we train and develop our world-class billing specialists but our internal training teaches each team member the “Synergy Way.” For instance, when Team Member Operations adds a new Synergy Billing Specialist into the online system, they select their specific job and position. This populates into the new team member’s profile all of the training and education programs that they will complete and to advance to the next level on the Synergy Career Ladder.
Every policy, process, and procedure has an interactive training but not every team member needs to know every process. In most companies policies and procedures are stale and stagnant. At  Synergy, we recognize that they are key to creating the framework of our culture. We just choose to make them fun and interactive. I would say we have succeeded. We made it a goal to be recognized for the best corporate training and education program in the world by 2025 and I think we are on track.

Our way of life at Synergy has evolved but it hasn’t changed much. The core principles were always there we just needed to help people clearly see and understand things. Clarity of purpose throughout
Synergy helped us understand our mission and our vision for the future. Our values became our guiding principles which really shaped the way that synergy “felt” for anyone working there.

Since I way a boy I had always been raised to do my best and to work to the best of my ability. Based on that upbringing I came to realize that people (including me) are capable of more than they realize. This was so closely intertwined into my upbringing that it became a staple of the Synergy culture. Today, this is evident through the ways that we encourage our team members to be the best version of themselves. We help build our team members up so they can maximize their potential.

Comparing the culture of today to five years prior the most dramatic difference is probably accountability. Back then the expectation was for people to “do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.” In theory that sounds simple but in practice there were no consequences. People were not held responsible and there was little sense of urgency and proactivity. The world at Synergy is much different today and the outcomes have been amazing. It hasn’t been negative in any way but instead there is more of a sense of fairness and we get things done on schedule.

I take great pride in the fact that that every person that works at Synergy earns more than a “living wage.” In fact, our people are the highest paid in the industry. What has been amazing is that when
people don’t have to worry about paying their bills they become much more creative and effective. As a results, the people of Synergy live to work not work to live. In other words, each person at
Synergy understands they are in charge of their own destiny. They could choose any profession but they choose Synergy and the work we do because they love it. We all need money to survive but at
Synergy the paycheck is secondary to doing what we love. We are a very creative people that love to solve problems and serve others.

Another characteristic of our way of life is that we pay forward knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Synergy employees do this with or without a financial incentive. The majority of the Synergy team is rewarded intrinsically rather than extrinsically. Don’t get me wrong, we all need money to achieve economic freedom, but our culture here is such that the money is secondary. It comes naturally as a byproduct of doing excellent work.

It saddens me to think of the great many people that wake up each day with anxiety about going into their place of work. I am so grateful that at Synergy we are a part of something much bigger than us. It is so rewarding to know that the work we do is having a positive in the lives of millions of people. I don’t know what it is like for other companies but we all share the passion for helping others.
Whether it be our clients or people in the community, the people at Synergy genuinely care about others.

There is just something magical about the culture at Synergy. There is passion that radiates from each person and it can be felt when you walk through the halls at the Fountainhead Campus or speak with any team member. Yet the true “magic” is much more than just passion, the people of Synergy understand that there are no limits to human achievement. We believe that if we can dream it we can create it and if we set our minds towards something there is no mountain we can’t move. What started as a culture of achievement has evolved into a culture of enlightenment that teaches its’ people that they can be anything and do anything. Synergy is much more than a company, it is a way of life. We know because we live it every day.