Founder’s Corner #12: 3 Tips for Building Culture with Rick Backus

By Max Thomas

I had the opportunity to visit with Rick Backus, Co-Founder & CEO of CPC Strategy in San Diego, about his three tips for building culture and a great company overall. I think Rick hits the nail on the head. His recommendations are particularly poignant because he knows these from real experience: Rick and has team have grown CPC Strategy from inception to one of the leading retail search agencies in the industry. We’ve kept the video short (around 2 minutes) so I encourage you to watch it. Along with his 3 tips for building culture, Rick also shares some other golden nuggets for creating and growing a dynamic organization. If you’re short on time, check out the transcription below.

This is the first of several interviews with founders and leaders at organizations that are creating new ways to work. It was an honor to get to speak with Rick about this directly. I hope you find it as inspirational as I have.


Hi. Max here from Thunder. Welcome to this month’s Founder’s Corner. Today we’re going to talk about culture. We’re going to talk about culture with Rick of CPC Strategy. Rick is CEO and co-founder of CPC Strategy, which is a fantastic retail search agency based in San Diego. Today Rick’s going to share with us three tips for building culture.

So, three tips, tip number one is a culture of fun. When I first started the company, the original founding team, I was the oldest one at 25. It was pretty easy to build the type of environment that we wanted to work in. I think especially as a agency, when you’re recruiting a lot of the talent out of college, you need to create an environment that’s exciting and fun. Tip number one is to create a culture of fun.

Tip number two is the culture of leadership. To actually get the company past the stage where you have four or six people, you have to have leaders. You have to develop those leaders from within. Early on, you can’t afford to hire a $200,000 operations person to come in and run your company. You need that leadership to come from within. Your first hire should be people that can come in and execute and start as doers but grow into leaders. Fun, leadership and then, I think, the sign of a really mature culture is accountability. When you can hold each other accountable, when the leadership team can hold each other accountable, when the entire team can hold each other accountable, I think that really is when your organization can take the next step. It’s easy to have fun, it’s not so easy to transition from a fun team to a team that’s full ears, to a team that can hold each other accountable. When you get all three of those things right, I think that’s a recipe for a company that’s really going to take off. So, those are my three tips.

That’s fantastic. Thank you Rick. To recap, fun, leadership and accountability, and something I want to highlight. Rick talked about how it all came from within CPC. I think that’s a really an awesome point. When you’re building a team, you don’t need to bring people in from the outside to build it up, we can start with what we have and build from there. Thanks for tuning in this week, we look forward to seeing you at the next salvage corner. Take care.

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Max Thomas

By Max Thomas

Max is a nationally recognized digital marketing specialist who is an expert on search engine optimization and data-driven digital marketing who has spoken at SMX and SMX Advanced, LMA Southeast, LMA Tech in San Francisco, WordCamp and other industry recognized conferences. As the founder and CEO of ThunderActive, Max has lead his team (with offices in San Diego and New York City) to success for clients in legal, real estate, life sciences, consumer goods and new tech. A Columbia undergraduate with a Yale MBA, Max is an Impact Circle Member for The Trevor Project and is an advisor to start-up companies and angel investment networks, including Gaingels and Serval Ventures in New York.

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