Insights & Ideas

Salo’s Special Sauce: A recipe for a great workplace

We’ve been serving up our special sauce for more than 20 years and people still ask for more!

At Salo, we’re celebrating 20 years in business. As we reflect on what got us here, it comes down to one thing: Putting people first. Those people are you—our consultants, clients, employees, partners, and supporters. We are so grateful for each of you, whether you partnered with us, worked with us, or inspired us. Together, we’ve created a unique workplace that proves that prioritizing people helps businesses thrive.

Over the years, many people have said that Salo has a “special sauce” that makes our organization unique. We heard it so much that we started using the phrase ourselves. To understand the ingredients of our not-so-secret recipe, we went straight to the source that matters most: our people. We asked them: What’s the recipe for Salo’s “special sauce?”

This is what they told us.

The recipe for Salo’s special sauce

Here are 10 steps for cookin’ up Salo’s specialty.

1. Start with a sense of purpose

Salo’s purpose is “to build a world that works better together.” It’s an audacious, transformative goal that’s simple and meaningful to pursue. “Salo’s purpose guides us in everything,” explains CEO Lisa Brezonik. “It ignites all the work we do.”

Our purpose is about making Salo great, but it’s also about helping people in businesses everywhere have career success. We’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge during 20 years of helping clients solve finance, accounting, and HR problems. We share that knowledge through thought leadership, such as Salo’s guide to people-first workplaces.

“We actually care about what people want to do in their careers,” says Christen Cole, business development director (BDD). “And we help to facilitate making that happen.”

2. Then, fold in our values

Our six values—connecting, curious, driven, aware and intuitive, professionalism, and positive energy—are part of everything we do. They help us determine how we hire, who we work with, how we make decisions, and how we celebrate each other.

We use these values to help us empower others and define our work. “We like to start meetings by sharing our values on the first slide,” Lisa adds. “It helps remind us why we do what we do. And, if we get stuck on a problem, we look back at the values to get us back on the right track.”

3. Add in thousands of Meaningful Experiences™

What’s a Meaningful Experience? “It’s simple,” says CIO, James Pierce. “We care that every interaction has the potential for an awesome experience.” We’ve seen that when people find their work meaningful, the possibilities are endless.

That’s why we focus on matching our consultants with assignments that light them up. And why we go the extra mile to make sure our clients get the advice and help they need to move their organizations forward. It’s also why we’re driven to keep our internal employees engaged in work they love. (Want proof? Gallup research found only 32% of employees are engaged in their work1, but Salo’s 2022 engagement survey (operated by Energage) showed that a whopping 76% of Salo employees feel engaged.)

4. Choose relationships over transactions

When Salo was founded in 2002, putting relationships over transactions was baked into our original business ethic. Sure, we want to attract clients and consultants. But more than that, we genuinely care about building relationships and helping the people we meet—in whatever capacity they need. As a result, the people who join Salo are experts at connecting people to other people, information, and ideas.

“This can be something as simple as referring a babysitter to a client, or recommending good restaurants in different cities,” says John Folkestad, one of Salo’s co-founders. “Even if we’re not involved in a business deal, we’re still driven to provide a positive impact to whoever we’re working with.”

5. Sprinkle in shameless celebrations

At Salo, we believe work can be fun. “When we started Salo, we wanted to create an environment that people wanted to be in,” says co-founder Amy Langer. “We figured, let’s enjoy the ride—wherever we are. And we have!”

We celebrate wins and milestones with dancing, music, and disco balls. Our S.T.A.R Shout Outs (peer-nominated, company-wide kudos) are for people who help others, add value to a team, or go above and beyond. And we have a Culture Committee dedicated to finding ways to keep work fun and exciting for everyone.

“Salo is intentional about hiring people who are genuine and have a zest for helping others … while having fun, too,” says Yee-Ling Supik, BDD.

6. Infuse the workplace with good energy

“The energy here is something I’ve never experienced before,” says Kayla Cocchiarella, Salo Compass™ program lead.

You feel it when you walk into our offices, but also when you meet us on video calls. This is the magic of Salo. Each person has a light about them, fueled by our collective passion to bring meaningful experiences to others. And our energy doesn’t evaporate when tough situations arise. We’re not afraid to be real and practical about challenges. But we frame any situation—no matter how difficult or complex—as one we can solve with positivity.

7. Ensure diversity and inclusivity rise and expand

No company “recipe” is complete without diversity and inclusion. At Salo, we believe people are the most valuable part of any organization. We’re constantly looking for ways to include everyone—celebrating their talents, experiences, and backgrounds.

“Salo encourages people to be their whole, authentic selves at work,” says Kaleen Robinson, chief people officer. “We are stronger as a business with input from many voices and perspectives.”

We’re always thrilled to welcome new people into our world—whether they’re clients, consultants, employees, or partners. “Salo people INSTANTLY welcome you to the Salo family,” says Nikki Broderick, HR consultant. “They send welcome messages, they invite you to connect with their network, they introduce you to other people, and they step up to help out anytime someone in the family is in need.”

8. Solidify trust with transparent leadership

Our leaders are consistently clear about what’s happening in the company—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And transparent leadership leads to trust. “Transparency is legitimate here,” says Natalie Chandler, total rewards manager. “The leadership team openly communicates changes, before, during, and after they happen.”

Salo’s leaders “explain the why” behind any given task or project. When we all know “why” something is important—or why it’s broken, or incomplete, or taking longer than we thought—we all feel less stressed about it. When people feel they can ask questions and get real answers, they take more ownership of the outcomes.

9. Fully bake the business strategy—with help from every employee

Our employees help formulate our strategy and make it come to life. How? They have regular opportunities to share feedback, take part in annual strategy sessions, lead/participate in annual strategic projects, and work cross-organizationally. We even regularly ask employees for feedback on our purpose, mission, and values to make sure they still ring true.

“At Salo, there is collaboration across the organization,” says Christine Erickson, director of people connections. “There’s a willingness to listen to feedback and ideas, regardless of where you reside in the organizational structure.”

10. Garnish it all with innovation and continuous learning

Sharing information and ideas is crucial to our business. For a company focused on connection, collaboration follows naturally. We seek out continual learning—and we seek out people who seek it out, too. When our teams can partner with each other, we deepen our relationships and build institutional knowledge. Additionally, because we all learn from each other (regardless of our place in the organization), the acquired knowledge is exponential.

“Everything we do is focused on how we can concretely help others,” says Janeen Vogelaar, chief marketing officer. “Which makes curiosity, learning, and continuous innovation natural and authentic to our work.”

And that’s just a taste of what Salo can do

At Salo, we’ve served this recipe every day for 20 years. After all, building a world that works better together never gets old. Like any favorite recipe, we’re constantly adapting “the sauce” (adding some new spice here and there) to serve all of the people and businesses we serve. The foundational ingredients stay the same, but we keep striving to make it better.

 

 

About Salo

Interested in learning more about Salo? Whether you want info about our people-first workplace tools, want to try consulting, or need a consultant at your business—connect with us! (As you may have noted above, we love connections!)

Attribution
1. Gallup, Is Quiet Quitting Real?