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StockX co-founder believes open dialogue and a variety of team-building experiences is fueling its culture of innovation

Kazi Awal/Insider

Employees grouped togetherIt’s important for managers, particularly those at startups, to know that they don’t have all the answers, Schwartz told Insider.

10’000 Hours/Getty Images

  • The co-founder of StockX said the key to driving innovation starts with adaptable leadership and integrity. 
  • Greg Schwartz said the company has spent a lot of time trying to inspire and incentivize team members.
  • As a first step, managers must realize they don’t always have the answers, Schwartz said.
  • This article is part of a series called “Culture of Innovation” exploring how companies are setting the stage for innovation, transformation, and growth.

Whether it’s by rethinking their approach to professional development or soliciting feedback from team members, StockX co-founder and COO Greg Schwartz told Insider it’s important for all companies, but particularly startups, to have a strong culture rooted in integrity and innovation — and to know that managers don’t have all the answers. 

“For me, there’s this lesson of making sure that you know what you don’t know,” the $3.8 million Detroit-based tech apparel startup executive told Insider. 

Schwartz said fostering a culture of innovation at StockX starts with adaptable leadership. Team leads at weekly meetings encourage employees to present ideas and raise questions about areas they can be better in. 

“You’re simply trying to put the best players on the field, create the best team, [and] constantly be learning — and that transitions from thinking it’s not all about me, [to] realizing it’s all about what’s best for the company,” Schwartz told Insider. 

Team-building is crucial in a hybrid and remote work environment

At the quarterly all-hands meetings for the company — the first marketplace for consumer goods modeled after the stock market — all 1,500 employees gather virtually. Company values are read aloud, and employees receive a custom pair of sneakers if they have embodied those values in their work. 

“I think the important part is not just the sneakers, of course; it’s the importance of making sure that we’re recognizing and amplifying work that’s being done to live those values,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said StockX also recognizes employees who are taking risks by bringing insightful, innovative ideas on a weekly basis during the company’s leadership meetings.

“We’ve always encouraged our team to bring new ideas to the table and to not be afraid to fail,” Schwartz said. 

When it comes to burnout, PTO is not enough

As burnout continues to drive employees, particularly younger employees, into leaving their jobs in what’s become known as the Great Resignation, Schwartz said StockX continues to stay in conversation with its workers about their mental and physical well-being. And while StockX has always had unlimited PTO for all its employees, he doesn’t believe that it’s enough.

The company has “No Meetings Day” every other Wednesday, and in one-on-one meetings, Schwartz encourages team leaders to ask their employees how they and their families are doing — to find out how people are doing as human beings first and then get to work second. If it’s been a few months since an employee took PTO, managers are instructed to tell employees to take a few days off. 

Overall, Schwartz believes this way of connecting ultimately leads to team members being mentally engaged — which fuels new ideas and innovation, he said.

“That makes all the difference in the world,” Schwartz said. 

Innovation isn’t possible without inclusion

According to Schwartz, StockX understands that inclusion, not just diversity, is integral to company culture and cited by experts as a key to retaining talent rather than just another box to check. The company hired a chief impact officer (CIO), who reports to the company’s CEO and whose job is to come up with ways StockX can weave diversity into every aspect of the company.

One of the things Schwartz said he’s most proud of in this area is the company’s Candid Conversations initiative, where the entire company is invited to participate in a talk about a timely cultural topic; their latest conversations were about Juneteenth and Pride month. Leadership will often invite guests — such as Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.com, and Jane Elliott, an internationally known teacher and diversity lecturer — to come in and speak to employees.

Schwartz said StockX is constantly tweaking its practices by working through a feedback loop that includes both company surveys and quantitative data like team member engagement.

“We combine the traditional metrics with the importance of us as a leadership team and our peers, making sure that we’re constantly talking, listening, and taking the feedback from our team members — because it’s their feedback,” Schwartz told Insider. “It’s gonna help this company continue to grow.”

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