How to Build a Winning Company Culture: Insights from Gary Cook of Pacific Companies

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I had the opportunity to talk to Gary Cook, President and CEO of Pacific Companies as part of our Staffing Speaks Out conversation series. In part 1, Gary reflected on his experience of running a healthcare recruiting business. In part 2, he shared insights on how to use technology to strengthen relationships with candidates and clients. In the final part of our conversation, he spoke to the importance of company culture when it comes to building a winning team. Watch the video (transcript below) to learn more about Gary’s story.




Katie Tierney [KT]: Tell me a little bit about your company culture and how you’ve gone about building a winning team.

Gary Cook [GC]: I think corporate culture is very important. That’s probably one of the lessons I had to learn a long time ago. I used to be one of those guys thought, ‘Oh, culture, sure’ because I’m a very self-motivated, get-stuff-done type of person. But there are a lot of people that need that vision and they need the culture. So one of the best decisions I ever made was to put an emphasis on culture.

Our saying at Pacific Companies is ‘Take A STAND.’ So the A in a stand is having a positive attitude. The S is for sense of urgency. The T is for teamwork. The A is for accountability. The N is no drama or ‘Save the drama for your mama,’ as we say. And the D is for driven to win.

We try to find really competitive people. What we’ve found is, by building this culture we hire around it, we promote around it, and if someone’s not there, we remove people. If you build a great culture, people will want to be there.

We find more and more people coming to our brand every day, and over the last couple of years,  we’ve gotten listed in the Modern Healthcare Best Places to Work. Over the last couple years, we’ve also been included in SIA’s Best Places to Work and Orange County Register Best Places to Work. So I think it shows that when we put an emphasis on culture, it attracts the A-players we’re looking for. I think it’s very important, and I think everybody should put an emphasis on it if they really want to grow their business.

KT: As somebody who’s been in the staffing industry for a while, is there a particular placement that’s memorable to you?

GC: Yeah, it was my first one ever. It taught me a valuable lesson about staffing. We’re in California, and the thing about California—and I think it’s one of our strategic advantages as a staffing firm—is that no one from California is from California. I’m from Texas, I live there. We have people from Chicago or Wisconsin or New York or Florida.

The first search I ever had was in Bismarck, North Dakota. And it was for an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon. And I remember thinking as a guy who grew up in Houston, Texas,  ‘What’s in North Dakota? It sounds cold and not a great place to be.” But when I went up there and we did our side evaluation, I found it was a great community. And I was able to get three spine surgeons interviewed. Two wanted the job, and I placed the guy—he’s been there for 20 years.

He’s still there, and it’s memorable for me because it was my first placement. But also, I’m thankful that it was in a more challenging location and challenging specialty because it made some of the metro areas a little bit easier for me.

KT: Why do you think somebody should be proud to be a recruiting professional?

GC: It’s one of the things that gets me excited every day. And I talk about this in our interview process all the time. When someone asks what the pluses are of our business, I tell them that one of them is the satisfaction that we get. We’re not only helping people find the best practice opportunity for themselves, but I’ve had hospital CEO’s in rural communities tell me, ‘You’ve indirectly helped save lives in our community. If we didn’t have this physician, someone could potentially die. Or we could lose our certification in the ED,’ or what have you. I think that’s rewarding—we help a lot of places that really need our help.

We had a surgeon in Bethel, Alaska, which is a remote village in Alaska. They were having a really tough time. They had spent over a quarter of a million dollars in search fees and got nothing.

We came in there and filled two of them in 90 days. And that felt really good. They were so appreciative that they didn’t have to spend all this money that they had on previous search firms. And we found them, somebody, to be there and really help their population. I think for physician staffing you really get that feeling because you really are helping save lives, essentially.

Missed part 1 or part 2 of our conversation with Gary Cook? Find them here. Looking to improve candidate engagement through your company culture? Watch this interview with Steven Branstetter of Crawford Thomas Recruiting.

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