SquareTrade's Steve Abernethy: Creating an Award-Winning Workplace

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Most leaders want to build a workplace that employees are exhilarated to be a part of, but it's not something that happens on its own. Award-winning workplaces come from thoughtful effort, and awareness of what truly drives and motivates you and your team.

We met with SquareTrade's Steve Abernethy, who shared some excellent insights into how he and his team built one of the Bay Area's best places to work.

Q: SquareTrade has been voted as one of the Best Places to Work in the Bay Area for the past two years running. For you, what makes SquareTrade the best place to work?

Steve AbernethyA: Most everyone is happier and works harder and smarter if they believe in the mission of a company, and they see their work making a tangible difference.

SquareTrade is a disruptor, and I think most everyone likes to be actively reshaping an industry for the better to benefit consumers. We’re on a mission to transform the old-school warranty industry, which has a reputation for terrible customer service. SquareTrade culture is very action-oriented, so employees are aware of their daily impact on our success.

We can actually see the transformation happen as we grow, win new partners, continuously innovate and improve our services.

Q: Building and maintaining a positive work environment doesn’t only benefit employees. What are some business advantages to SquareTrade’s investments in a positive work environment?

A: Maintaining a positive work environment not only makes employees happy; it makes partners and customers happy too. Our environment encourages employees to think creatively about business problems, challenge the status quo and ultimately deliver better service.

Q: Making an impact is an important element of a fulfilling career. What are some ways SquareTrade employees make an impact on the world around them? What are some ways SquareTrade makes an impact on employees?

A: “Make an impact” is one of SquareTrade’s core values. That means being passionate about what you do, getting stuff done and making a difference.

Within our industry, we are delivering a customer-first warranty experience and relentlessly focusing on innovation. We try to create very collaborative relationships with our retailer partners to challenge each other to innovate and improve the consumer experience.

When it comes to our employees, we hire “get it done” types who have good judgment and learn quickly. This is easy behavior to reward and for others to learn from.

We also try to give employees the ability to move from challenge to challenge across the company, versus only working on any one area. It’s critical to innovation to bring in new thinking, and fun for the team to try new things. By fostering a work environment of like-minded individuals, everyone benefits. Partners get savvy business ideas, employees are challenged and rewarded, and customers get excellent service.

Q: SquareTrade’s core values are prominently featured on the website: Why is it so important to have a set of core values to follow, and how does that translate to SquareTrade’s culture?

A: Core values are extremely important as we continue to grow. They help us recruit for culture fit during the hiring process, and they help us reward and promote employees.

Employees call out each other internally, thanking each other publicly for making an impact and delivering on our core values. By creating a work environment that’s value driven, we ensure that everyone is aligned and working together to drive the entire business forward.

Q: Transparency is a brand promise SquareTrade makes to its customers, but it’s also one of the qualities mentioned in the Best Places to Work nomination. What is it that makes transparency such a valuable asset, both for customers and employees?

A: Being consumer branded and transparent is fundamental to how we have built our service. Being publicly researchable allows consumers a public place to easily comment, and allows everyone at SquareTrade to see instantaneous feedback. It also is a fantastic aspect of our culture to celebrate our team members who are called out and thanked in various forms of social media.

Q: If you could give one parting piece of advice for someone working to build an exceptional company culture, what would it be?

A: Achieving success always takes longer than you expect. Build a team that’s working toward a long-term vision of success, rather than what’s fashionable today. Your business will be better off.

Originally published on June 22, 2015 → Last updated April 16, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


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