Former BYU basketball player Travis Hansen spent nearly 10 years playing professional basketball before he retired to work in business.
Over the past five years, he has worked to build Tesani Companies, a local holding company that incubates businesses from the ground up. Through his experience building businesses, Hansen has come to realize that creating a positive company culture is key to encouraging the best work and relationships within the office.
Hansen said he sees his employees more like family than anything else. Creating a business culture where people genuinely connect as friends may be difficult, but Tesani employees come together around food — just like a family might do.
“Food is such an important part of a culture,” Hansen said. “We measured out the time it takes an employee to decide where to eat, to go to pick up some fast food and to come back — we just lose so much productivity, and also you lose the ability to build relationships and eat together.”
Tesani has an in-house chef, Mindy Kirkman, who knows the dietary needs of each of the more than 50 employees. They call her the heart and soul of the company — the office mom. Hansen said one could look at a hundred different companies with catered food and never find something quite like Mindy’s Café.
Employee relationships and connections are vital to culture, especially when it comes to personal attitudes toward work and play, Hansen said. Tesani takes team trips to Lake Powell, Disneyland and countries where they do humanitarian work, enhancing these relationships and ultimately helping their employees be the best they can be.
“Human connection is something that is undervalued in benefits. It’s not just about your health benefits. That human touch and knowing you are important and special to the company and someone recognizes you and does something personal for you is a benefit that we’ve done really well at keeping, even as we’ve scaled,” said Noelle Stolworthy, managing director at Tesani.
Strong leadership and opportunities to develop leadership skills also strengthen employee connections. Tesani gives employees “leadership offsites” to allow them to hear from leaders outside the company, emphasizing mentorship within the office.
“If I were looking for a job, I wouldn’t look at the job or what the job entails or what the pay is and all these other things. I would look for leadership,” Hansen said.
As the founder and CEO of Tesani, Hansen has deliberately self-funded his ventures and has not brought on shareholders to invest because the expectations of investors may take away from the freedom Tesani has to build its own culture.
“The Tesani world is funded entirely by itself. That is a benefit that is very rare and enables other benefits — going to Lake Powell, doing Tesani trips, etc.,” said Caleb Wilkins, Tesani vice president of sales.
The two leaders agree that without the need to please shareholders, there is an adaptability that enables Tesani to create memories and not just get work done, ultimately creating a culture where they can both work hard and play hard.