Building Great Places to Work

April 10. 2014

Winner Spotlight: Findaway World

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April 10. 2014

Findaway World: Always Find A Way

Findaway World, located in Solon, produces audio and digital content and is best known for its preloaded audio player, Playaway.

Mitch Kroll, CEO of Findaway World, co-founded the company in 2004 after watching Steve Jobs introduce the iPod to the world. To date, Playaway has sold more than 4.5 million units and has contracts with schools and libraries all around the country, as well as the military.

Findaway World has won the NorthCoast99 Award for the past 5 years and it’s not just because of the innovative product it produces. We got the chance to speak with Kroll and some of the Findawayers to understand what makes this company one of the 99 best workplaces for top talent in Northeast Ohio.

What is a Findawayer?

Findawayers live and breathe Findaway’s culture and its 7 core values, which are: take responsibility and give respect, do the right thing, embrace change, exceed expectation, pursue growth, work with passion and of course, find a way.

“Everyone here really believes in the core values and lives them,” says Will Dages, Manager of Web Development at Findaway. “Findaway’s core values are perfectly aligned with my core values, so it was an immediate fit.  It’s so refreshing to work with such great people who are not only technically competent and experienced, but also have set morals that guide us all to do great things.”

Kelly Lytle, Business Analytics Manager, couldn’t have said it better about the environment at Findaway.

 “What separates it from other companies is its energy. When you walk in it’s pervasive across the company: people are excited to come here every day because they believe in what we do. They believe in the products and the gift of stories and I think we have done a great job of cultivating a culture of shared enthusiasm that brings people together. When you bring people together and get all of the energy into the same building, you spark ideas, motivation and inspiration.” 

The Culture at Findaway

The culture at Findaway is unlike any other. Culture is not words on a wall, or an on-boarding process or something that starts in an interview. Culture starts the minute you drive into Findaway’s parking lot and you see the sign “Welcome to Findaway World.”  In one office you can stumble on a Findawayer who plays guitar, while another may be showing off a headstand she learned in yoga (both happened while we were there!). But what drives Kroll to create this culture?

“It’s that belief system that culture drives everything that we do. I learned early on in my career that the more freedom I had- the better work environment I had. This then led to more collaborative environments which resulted in me doing my best work,” says Kroll.

Kroll felt that if he could create an environment with hundreds of people that were like minded, inspiration would allow the team to create an environment that was as powerful as anything that he could have done alone.

“If you hire great people who are like minded around the importance of culture, inspiration, creativity and innovation, and you set up a vision and let it go, the team will take it further than any senior leader could. That is a testament to our team and to our belief system that culture drives success.” 

At Findaway, any decision made is always centered on culture first and business after.

“It’s unequivocally clear that all success at Findaway is driven by Findawayers, and Findawayers are driven by a great company culture.”

Work Hard. Play Hard.

With an enthusiastic culture and workplace, it’s no wonder that events at Findaway are another thriving part of this company. 

Kimberly Sullivan, HR Manager, could not contain her excitement as she told us about all the events that happen at Findaway World.

“Some of the fun things we do here include taking a trip to Patterson’s Apple Farm to pick apples in the fall, making valentines for children at local hospitals, and walking to Mitchell’s for ice cream on the first nice day of spring,” says Sullivan.

Findaway also holds multiple "gives back" events, including:

  • Coffee Break meetings the first Monday of every month for a state of the business
  • Volunteering as elf’s at the Polar Express to spread Holiday joy to all the children
  • Annual Findawayer Fest celebrating all Findawayers and another successful year 

Every month we do something called PROPS, where Findaway chooses one team in the company to be in the spotlight and every other team does something nice for them.

“Ours was just this past month and we were showered with breakfasts, lunches, dinners and drinks, rock climbing and bowling,” says Dages. “It’s good to get outside of the office because you get to know people that you don’t necessarily interact with on a day to day basis. It can spark ideas and collaborations that otherwise wouldn’t of happened.”

Findaway World is constantly receiving letter, cards and emails thanking them for its Playaway products and the impact it has had in their lives.

Playaway has turned into a literacy tool and a learning product for reluctant readers. It’s even helped older adults who were patrons of libraries learn through technology for the first time. Kroll has even met people in the military who have personally thanked him because Playaway products were the only thing that got them through their deployment.

After putting all of these success stories together, the company put a new campaign together called Findaway World, Built to Change Lives.

Winning NorthCoast 99

“The NorthCoast99 event is our most favorite awards event of the year,” says Kroll. “Not only is it a chance to celebrate with other companies that are recognized for great work cultures and work places, but the speakers that come each year have been such an inspiration.”

Kroll says that every Monday after the NorthCoast99 event, all of the Findawayers talk about what they have learned at the event.

 “We have the respect for individuality and when you have that sitting next to the fire and passion in our eyes, and you blend that together with a group of high quality people that are respectful and passionate, it becomes the foundation to drive collaboration, creativity, innovation and above all else, to drive change,” says Kroll. 

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