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The Foosball Table Facade: Defining Culture in the Workplace

These days, it’s hard to enter a job interview without the conversation touching on company culture. Why do you think you’re a good culture-fit? What is it about our culture that drew you to our company?  Culture is one of those strange, intangible things that most people can agree is an important part of a company (leading to higher job satisfaction, lower turnover and attracting talent1), but is often not fully comprehended. Fewer than one in three executives (28%) report that they understand their organization’s culture.2

Recently I was talking with two friends who both have longstanding careers in the outdoor industry, one as an editor at Backpacker and the second an editor at GearJunkie. I mentioned that a co-worker had introduced me to an incredible backcountry ski spot last season on an early morning “Dawn Patrol” tour before work. In fact, I said, I’ve done this tour with a number of my co-workers. The gearheads were intrigued; while a morning ski tour with co-workers wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for them, they were surprised by the turnout from a marketing firm.

I couldn’t blame them. My former life involved working at an ad agency on Fifth Avenue in New York City. While people had varying and diverse interests, given our Manhattan location (and small closet spaces to store equipment), kicking off the work day on skis was never really an option.

Landing in Boulder, and more specifically at Vermilion, I’ve been lucky to find a great group of people to spend working hours with, and get after mountain adventures in our down time. Co-worker recreation used to mean venturing to local NYC drinking holes. Now the adventures include sport climbing in Boulder canyon, backcountry hut trips near Aspen, hiking the Arapaho Traverse in the Indian Peaks, camping in Kenosha Pass, and scrambling up the 2nd Flatiron in Boulder.

This fervent love of the outdoors comes through in some of Vermilion’s clients, including the Town of Vail, Aspen Snowmass, and recent engagements with Protect Our Winters and PeopleForBikes. We don’t just “talk the talk,” touting the great access we have here in Boulder. For us, that’s a given. At Vermilion, we work with a number of partners to amplify their mission of addressing climate change through sustainability and political impact.

Culture (in my opinion) is much more than the foosball table, beer on tap, or the DJ headlining the company holiday party. Culture is defined by people. But it’s also something more basic: it allows employees the space to launch and cultivate shared passions leading to collaboration, camaraderie, and at Vermilion, a mutual desire to create great work for great clients. So by that metric, Vermilion is doing pretty darn well, I think my gearhead friends would agree.


Dawn patrol with the Vermilion crew. Photo: Jake Marty

Me, rappelling off of the Vermilion roof, for a pitch photo shoot. Photo: Jake Marty

1 Source: Harvard Business School 

2 Source: Deloitte University Press

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