The Steam Logistics leadership team had just rolled out a new work-from-home policy, testing the concept at the company, when coronavirus fears all but emptied the office.
"The prevailing model in our industry is people at work in seats in an office," CEO Jason Provonsha says. "This transition had me concerned, but it has worked out exceedingly well. It has shown us that remote work is possible. Other than missing each other, everyone is doing well."
Once they get to the other side of this crisis, leaders at the international logistics firm will take what they've learned and apply it to the company's next chapter, which is a hallmark of their approach to guiding the company as it grows, Provonsha says.
"Culture is not something you set and forget," he says. "We're focused on what is the next stage of Steam culturally."
Steam Logistics began as the international arm of Access America Transport, a domestic third-party logistics business that scaled to $500 million in annual sales before merging with Coyote Logistics in 2014. Coyote sold to UPS a year later for $1.8 billion.
Provonsha followed Steve Cox, now the president of Steam, over from Access America, and the two say they see clear parallels between the workplace culture they helped to cultivate at Access America and the entrepreneurial, informal mood at at Steam.
"This is a sister company, so we have some of the same cultural DNA carried over from Access," Provonsha says. "We weren't starting from scratch. This is a culture that grew that business from $50 million to $500 million in five years, and we understood how culture contributed to that story."
Clarity and autonomy are two of the greatest strengths of their workplace, Cox says.
"It's very entrepreneurial," he says. "People have a clear path. There's no mystery. They know what the commission structure is, they know the path to be promoted."
But as the company has grown, and as the complexity of the work has expanded, so has the diversity of the roles across the company, says Chief Financial Officer Adam Shearer.
"You have someone who works to get the materials through international customs," he says. "You have people working through the details of those processes all the way to the sales team and everything in between. There are so many ways to measure performance."
* Founded: 2012
* Employees: 73
* Why this is a Best Place to Work: We take our jobs very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to make work fun and to bring a little levity to the fast-paced, stressful environment that is ever-present in the logistics space. You will find us approachable, authentic, and without pretense.
* Online: steamlogistics.com
About a year ago, Human Resources Manager Brittany Paone and a few other employees launched a culture team to organize efforts to connect more with the community and with each other outside the workplace. Community service projects and fun outings have become an essential element of the workplace culture, she says.
"That has been one of the best things we've done — getting to know each other as people and getting more involved with the community," she says. "People once they connect more as people, they work more easily together."
Transparency is also central to the culture, and quarterly State of Steam meetings offer updates on business progress, customer stories and opportunities to share successes and challenges.
"There's a lot of tribal knowledge, but all of this was put into place when we were 15 to 20 people and we're over 70 now." Provonsha says. "We're doing work to prepare for the next big wave, and to be thoughtful in how we do that."