The Wireless Experience began in a garage in 1997 with one employee. Over the past 21 years, TWE has grown into over 80 retail AT&T locations throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts- all under the direction of TWE’s first employee, our CEO Brian Wainwright.
For the last several years, TWE has been recognized by several outlets (including Great Place to Work, Fortune, Inc. Magazine & CEO Report) for our culture and how we work hard to create a place for our employees that makes them want to come to work every day.
To understand the how and the why, I sat down with Brian to ask him some questions about what makes TWE a Great Place to Work:
Q: In your opinion, what makes The Wireless Experience a great place to work?
BW: What I hear a lot is that it feels like a family. We try to connect with people as individuals who have hopes and wishes and dreams rather than looking at them solely based on what they’re trying to accomplish at work. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to maintain our sense of family.
Q: Can you tell me about your best day on the job? What about your worst?
BW: The best day was when we were selected to become one of AT&T’s top 10 national dealers. As a company that started in a garage, we had no reason to think we’d outperform thousands of similar businesses and become something of importance to a Fortune 50 corporation. That recognition validated all that we had achieved. The worst day was in 2008. We had expanded too fast, and then the recession hit and we struggled to make payroll. There was a day when I thought we’d lose the business. That was a tough drive to the office.
Q: How do you keep employees at all levels engaged and manage retention?
BW: We treat people as people, not numbers. Otherwise, it’s just a job. For us, succeeding at engagement and retention has less to do with taking specific actions than with making a commitment. My commitment started when I was in college and had a boat detailing business that put me in contact with a yacht owner who treated employees in a degrading way. I promised myself that no matter how successful I became I would never treat people like that, and that promise became ingrained in The Wireless Experience. For example, our monthly business meetings with folks in the field start with people sharing one minute about themselves and their lives, and I do my best to get to know people at all levels of the organization. But what matters most is the principle: the amount of money you make or don’t make has nothing to do with your value as a person, and we will treat you as a person. It’s as simple as that.
Q: As CEO of a retail company, what do you think about the so-called retail apocalypse? How has your job and the jobs of our employees changed with online shopping and other changes that have swept the industry?
BW: An apocalypse is a real possibility, but shoppers will deal with people as long as the experience is better than what they get online. For many years, the retail experience was very transactional. You came into a store the same way you would go into a grocery. Today you probably won’t go to a store if you have to wait in line or deal with uninformed salespeople or endure aggravation of any kind. As a retail company, we’re now focused on providing highly knowledgeable salespeople who create a great purchasing experience.
Q: Tell me a little bit about how you got here
BW: I’ve been self-employed my entire professional life. My first business was in seventh grade selling gummy bears at high school football games. My friend and I got hold of one of the fundraiser catalogs that were floating around the school. The minimum order was eight cases and we bought five each of the snack size. We would get dropped off at the games and wander the stands selling bags of gummy bears for 50 cents apiece. We also drew up a partnership agreement stipulating that anyone who loses his product is responsible for it. That contract now hangs in my office.
Blog by: Jen Quinn, Marketing Director with Brian Wainwright, CEO ⋅ Business Support Center