I just returned from a trip to Nicaragua to learn more about cigars—a passion of mine. While there, I had a chance to visit a couple of different factories. The one that really grabbed my attention was Drew Estates. Though only in operation since 1998, this relative newcomer to the industry is one of the largest producers of cigars in the world. Even more noteworthy, the other factory I saw produces less than 15% of Drew Estates’ volume—and they’ve been around for nearly 40 years!

In the U.S. we hear a lot of talk about corporate culture. Companies want their employees to have fun, feel like they belong and serve a bigger purpose. There’s a reason for that: culture sets the foundation for business success—a notion clearly embraced by Drew Estates.

At Drew Estates, every employee is treated like family—all 2200+ of them. And while they offer great benefits, as many do, what sets them apart is that everyone seems to know one another; there’s a strong sense of camaraderie. If one person falters, others pitch in. If the company needs extra help, employees volunteer their support. What’s more, they also provide training and education programs for new employees, which helps them sustain their families, long-term.

While at the factory, I heard more than a few times about how employees are constantly being approached by friends, family and acquaintances to help them get a position in this company. That doesn’t happen unless you treat folks well. Interestingly, I also found out that the current Vice President of Operations used to be the company driver, and the head of Marketing was constantly getting in trouble before he joined the company. Today, however, they’re excelling. Where they came from before didn’t matter. What did matter was what they could bring to the table.

What also became clear to me: this company promotes based on merit, not nepotism, which is so common in this industry. There were countless such stories and they all ended the same way: people saying, “I am loyal to this company and CEO, forever.”

I was pleased to see that corporate culture appears to play an important role across the globe, not just in the U.S. At the end of the day, it’s about treating people—all people—with respect. It’s about seeking to understand what’s important to them and helping them achieve it.

“One of our values is that you should be looking out for each other. Everyone should try to make the lives of everyone else who works here a little bit simpler.” – Stewart Butterfield, Founder, Slack

Have a great weekend.

–Vijay

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