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ASU Enterprise Partners makes Top Companies to Work For list

CEO R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. discusses the importance of corporate culture


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June 08, 2018

ASU Enterprise Partners has been named a Top Company to Work for in Arizona by the Arizona Republic for the fifth year in a row.

ASU Enterprise Partners’ mission is to advance the success of Arizona State University. It raises resources to benefit students, researchers and programs contributing to ASU’s impact in the world.  

To learn more about what makes ASU Enterprise Partners a top company, ASU Now turned to ASU Enterprise Partners’ President and CEO R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. to discuss the importance of corporate culture.

Question: How do you define corporate culture?

Answer: Corporate culture is an interesting term. People throw it around a lot and sometimes it is hard to define. It’s the intangible part of an organization. It’s about mindset. It’s about how people interact with each other. It’s about values. It’s about principles. It’s about all the things that you really can’t get your arms around but are still important to a successful, functioning organization. To define our culture, I look at some of our values. We innovate. We certainly have this concept to be innovative and entrepreneurial in what we do. We engage. We communicate effectively with people. We serve. We are a service organization. And, finally, we care. All of our other core values roll up into us caring about our colleagues, caring about donors and caring about the folks that we surround ourselves with. I do think we live those values here at ASU Enterprise Partners. They’ve become embedded in our culture.

Q: What are a few things you have done to help create a culture that employees love?

A: Creating culture, too, is hard because it’s not something that you can just dictate saying, "Here’s a culture." But, there are some fun things we do here. We give people their birthday off, which, I think, sends a signal to the organization that it’s important to enjoy yourself and have fun. We have "You Rock" cards, which allow employees to recognize their colleagues for their hard work. Every time I get a "You Rock" card, it puts a smile on my face; I know that it must put a smile on somebody else’s face when they get one. We do a lot of fun events around the holidays, such as parties or contests. We’ve had chili-tasting contests, pumpkin-carving contests and salsa-making contests, to name a few. I think these contests bring the team together and put a little competitive spirit in our teams by doing something fun. These fun things we do send a signal that work is supposed to be productive but it's also supposed to be fun.

Q: How do you promote diversity and inclusion?

A: Diversity and inclusion really starts with myself, making it clear that I think it’s important to have diverse points of view and that we need to be inclusive of others no matter what their backgrounds are. We always work hard to make sure we bring diversity into the workplace. As we promote and then hire, we need to have that as an explicit part of our consideration in the way that we think through those decisions. We also need to make sure that we have a workplace where, in the workplace itself, people are accepting of diversity and inclusion. When they’re not inclusive, we immediately stop and say, "Timeout, that’s not acceptable in our organization." So, while we can always improve on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I think we have the right mindset and mentality around it and now it’s a matter of continuing to execute on it.

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