When your friends say, “Say cheese!” from the other side of their camera, what do you do? Whether you’re having a crappy day or a good day, you smile. But just as importantly, what do they do? They smile, too. For this reason, “Say Cheese” has become a core value at Quontic – something that each of us lives at work and outside it, and is completely unique to our company.
Rewind to the creation of “Say Cheese”: We did an exercise with all employees where we each nominated our choice for “model coworker.” Employees from receptionists and assistants to tellers and executives showed up in the results. We then asked, “Why were they nominated?” And one of the reasons that kept popping up was “that person is fun to talk to, they make me smile!” That’s how we came up with Say Cheese as a core value. An approach like this is how companies should decide ALL their core values.
The Say Cheese mentality is integrated into every interaction at Quontic—whether that’s between coworkers, or customers and employees. It’s a fun way of saying one of our core values is having fun with each other and our customers too. The idea is to bring optimism and enjoyment into our routine. “Say Cheese” is how we recreate and capture that. Plus, by including Say Cheese in our core values, we’re attracting talent that is more inclined to be on that page with us.
Obviously, that’s a bold goal to have, and we won’t be able to do that all the time. Much of the time, because Say Cheese is built into Quontic’s framework, the mentality of fun happens organically. Of course, our job as leaders is to foster that, and we have ways of keeping it alive.
One way we do that is by starting meetings, whether they’re internal or with customers or vendors, with what we like to call a “positive focus.” It’s a short exercise where everyone goes around the room, (or, these days, the screen) and names something positive in their life. It could be personal or professional. I’ve noticed as we started implementing this into our routines, everyone tends to be smiling and we start the meeting off in a positive way. You also get to know your coworkers or customers better, and it sets that familiar tone for the meeting. I’ve noticed that as a group that starts with a positive focus, we’re more productive and the meetings go well. It’s how you set the tone for the meeting and your time together.
Another example of how we integrate this mentality of fun is sending out gifts every week to customers and partners who have closed a loan, bought a house, had a kid, or any other life event worth celebrating. We do it because we want to; because it’s completely our culture. We’ve sent everything from cupcakes, branded pet collars, and keychains for new homeowners to massage certificates, theater tickets, and hotel stays. We try to make them as specific to that person as possible.
Of course, as a manager of people, I can recognize that right now is an extremely difficult time. It’s not possible to be happy and have fun all the time. That’s toxic positivity. Within our framework of “Say Cheese,” we’ve carved out space for empathy and understanding. In my eyes, a Say Cheese mentality allows me to empathize with people more. It reminds us all that long term, we are a happy place at Quontic.
When humans see someone who is sad or angry, it scares us. Some try to avoid dealing with these harder emotions by trying to avoid them or simply move past them. But, you know what would actually help someone going through a hard time? Getting in the hole with them and empathizing. That’s how you embrace this value. It’s a reminder that no matter what you’re going through right now, the ultimate destination is happiness, and we’re with you until you get there.
If we’re going to have a culture where change is a key piece, we still need to have a reminder to have fun. Quontic’s mission is to break the system for financial empowerment. Our other core values, things like “Try It On” and “Progress Not Perfection,” keep us in a constant atmosphere of change. Our nature of doing things fast, differently, and being innovative can be anxiety-inducing. So Say Cheese works to bring in the fun when it comes to our core values.
Similarly, our other core value, “Know The Goal,” has us focusing on results and outcomes. But that pressure can become negative and toxic. Say Cheese again acts as a great counterbalance. It completes the picture.
One core value begets the next. Try It On. Progress Not Perfection. Know the Goal. Say Cheese. At Quontic, we are all of them.