People-focused: 3 Ways Swoogo Leads with Action

Aprilynne Pike

I joined Swoogo earlier this year, in the marketing department. But I’m not in leadership or anything, so for my first couple of months I didn’t do a ton of liaising with other departments. So it was only at our (amazing) company off-site, that I heard the customer support team’s philosophy: The way we treat our customers is the way we treat each other, and the way we treat each other is the way we treat our customers.

Swoogo is a people-focused business. But, I mean, come on, we’ve all heard that before. Tons of businesses claim to be people-focused before they charge you twice their estimate, send you a link to a How-To pamphlet instead of helping you solve your problem, and then ignore you until it’s time to renew your contract eleven months later.

On the inside, sometimes it’s even worse. “People focused-companies” will fire an employee for wanting maternity leave, say they offer unlimited PTO but then never approve your requests, and think expecting you to do some work on your company day off is perfectly acceptable. 

Swoogo begs to differ.

So who are these people?

I hear the phrase “customer-centric” pretty often. And some version of “work family.” So when I say Swoogo is people-focused, who are these nebulous people?

All of them.

But okay, let’s break them down into categories. How about community, customers, and coworkers.

Community

You might have noticed this blog is free. Also, that we like to use it to spread education and ideas rather than just tossing Swoogo in your face. That’s on purpose. Legit, before I applied to work here, I didn’t know what the events industry was. I know, I know. But the truth is, it’s a small industry. Growing, but even your plugged into tech brother-in-law in San Francisco probably couldn’t name three event management platform companies. (I can now!) Not like, say, the way most people can name three mobile service providers, or three media companies. That means we’re a bit of a niche community. 

2020 was rough on the events industry. It was rough on everyone, but with the cancellation of basically all in-person gatherings, we had a rather specific difficulty. But even as we’ve all started coming back from that, just in the last six months two of Swoogo’s competitors announced significant layoffs—one of them last week. Even in our private company Slack—where no one else could have known—no one cheered.

A loss for one is a loss for all. After all, people-focused doesn’t just mean our people. At Swoogo we understand that the goal of our industry isn’t to grab the biggest slice of the pie, it’s to make the whole pie bigger. 

How do we contribute to that? We spread helpful information here on our blog, we give you some fun laughs on our LinkedIn page, we share pics on Instagram and Facebook. But more than that, we treat everyone like a real person. We share information and advice, and yeah, we totally compete for business. But at Swoogo, we do it by being our best, not by sabotaging our competition. Because we want every customer to come out of their event—whoever they run it with—thinking, that was amazing; we should hold another event. 

That’s the pie getting bigger.

Customers

We love our customers. Our customers make us possible! And we work really hard to show them how much we appreciate them. Because really … They keep us running. But this is more than that, the customer is always right, talking point. One thing I’ve learned since starting at Swoogo, is that when our CEO and leadership team tell us our customers are important, they mean it.

One of the biggest signs? We don’t outsource our customer support. We keep them in-house and treat them like the valuable employees they are. When you prioritize your customer support team, you’re really prioritizing your customers. You’re telling them that they are worth the expense of curating an entire team of employees just for their benefit.

2020 found Swoogo learning how to help customers refund tickets en masse, something we’d never had to do before. And at that point, many companies—especially SMBs—also had to let go of Swoogo. It was hard for everyone. Last week, we were stoked to get one of those companies back. Colloquially known as the boomerang effect, this particular company said that the reason they came back to Swoogo, was because they were treated so well, and so respectfully, after their Account Manager knew they would not be renewing their subscription. It’s easy to write off a failing account, but this AM didn’t, and that’s what brought this account back. 

Now, we’re a business. We compete for accounts, we celebrate big deals, and we spend plenty of time looking at the numbers. But at the end of the day, the whole point is to do exactly what our company motto says: empower anyone to bring people together. A slick sales talk will get you a customer. It might even get you enough customers to do well.

But it won’t help you keep customers, and it certainly won’t bring them back after a rough go. A good product and a focus on people is what will create the kind of account that stays around. To riff on the iconic Seinfeld scene, you know how to get the client, but you don’t know how to hold the client. And holding the client, well, that’s really the most important part. People-focused = Customer-focused.

Coworkers

Without spilling the tea too much, I come from a very culturally fraught industry. So when I logged into training on my very first day, and our SVP of Engagement and Culture smiled and said the first rule of Swoogo was, “Assume positive intent,” I certainly hoped that would happen … but I wasn’t going to hold my breath.

Boy howdy, y’all, she meant it. And it’s extraordinary how much the entire company has taken that simple concept to heart. In my opinion, this sort of culture starts at the top. Every employee not only has met our CEO, but we see him every week at a casual, company-wide digital meeting. We travel together to offsites twice a year, and everyone is encouraged to play hard, even as we also get business done. We have specifically earmarked mental health benefits, and a generous parental leave, no matter what parental role you play. We have a company-wide Slack and everyone’s—everyone’s—DMs are open. 

Another key example of being people-focused is our unlimited PTO policy. When I was first hired I told a friend that we have unlimited PTO and he immediately replied, “It’s a trap!” He’s not wrong. Studies show that employees who work at companies with unlimited PTO actually take fewer days off, which is why at Swoogo, we’re all incentivized to use more PTO days. No really. Once a year we can be reimbursed for $1000 of travel expenses … as long as we leave our state or country, and take a minimum of five consecutive business days off.

We literally get paid extra to take a whole week of work (or more) and go on a real vacation. That’s our leadership telling us they value our out-of-work lives. That’s amazing.

Swoogo employee using travel stipend
Swoogo employee using travel stipend
Swoogo employee using travel stipend

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It’s hard to quantify just how this trickles down to the way we all treat each other. I’ve never seen a group of 75 people get along so well. (Have you been to a family reunion lately?) But being people-focused and treating people well is contagious, and at Swoogo, the entire leadership team works hard to be an example. It’s precisely this kind of emphasis on culture that led to Swoogo making Inc. Magazine’s Annual List of Best Workplaces for 2022. This is an award based solely on employee feedback. We’re extremely proud of this award because we’re the ones who made it happen.

Be the people-focused change!

Swoogo isn’t a superhero. There will still be supposedly people-focused companies out there who are actually anything but. We can’t control them. But we can control us. And we can lead by example, by showing all of the people we come into contact with, what our values are. Not telling, showing. Because the way we treat our coworkers, is the way we treat our customers, is the way we treat our community.