Pomello’s Secrets for an Authentic Company Culture
We get asked a lot about our name. So I decided to write the definitive guide on why we named our company after an obscure citrus fruit most often found at Chinese groceries.
Pomelos and pomellos are the same things. One is the English spelling and the other is Italian. When we were researching the name www.pomello.com was available, simple as that. In retrospect though I like the Italian spelling better.
A pomello, aka citrus maxima, is a large green or yellow citrus fruit most similar to a grapefruit. Its primary characteristics are its size, the thickness of its skin, and its sweet fragrance.
And this is really where the analogy with company culture comes into play. Like a pomello, the best part of a company is not visible from the outside. You have peel through an outer layer to understand what’s underneath. And like the inside of pomello, a company culture is made up of different components aligning with teams, locations, hierarchies.
Understanding and Managing Culture is Hard
If you’ve ever tried to peel a pomello then you know that it is extremely difficult, requiring strong technique and dedication. For those who haven’t here is an instructional video to inform you.
Now this is someone with an actual knife and some skill with pomellos. Our experience involved 5 people with zero knife skills and a boxcutter. It took us roughly 20 minutes to peel our pomello. Special thanks are due to our Head of Sales, Michael Goldman, for persevering.
The larger point here is that peeling a pomello, managing your company culture requires tenacity. It is not a surface-level exercise, and it can only be effective when you dedicate yourself to the task by really working to understand how employees perceive the culture around them, and how you as a leader impact that perception.
We’ve written about authenticity before, but it is always a challenge to define. In some ways, it is easier to identify what it means to be inauthentic. When it comes to company culture this means not digging beneath the surface, only talking about culture in terms of concepts, chasing a vision of some other company’s culture, or not caring about culture at all.
At Pomello we had a relatively tough week as a team. We are working through some complex development priorities as well as trying to juggle the work for 10 people on a team of 5. Things came to a boiling point during one meeting, where I can say we were not at our best as individuals and as a team.
What happened next though is what makes me confident in my team. First we all acknowledged what had just happened and no one person avoided responsibility. And each person took the time to talk through their feelings with less emotion and more introspection. We talked as a group, and we talked 1:1 with each other. It was a demonstration of care. And that is one of our most important values that we support each other even when things are tough. We don’t point fingers and say, ‘you didn’t accomplish this’, instead we ask ‘how can we solve this puzzle together?’ I am really proud to be a a part of team that can do this.
And that’s the thing about culture, it’s not a concept, a word, an ideal, it is real actions, it is what you do. There is often so much pressure to address the urgent, that we forget to tend to the strategic. Culture is strategic, and it is essential. It requires your constant attention.
At Pomello we want to make it easier to pay attention to culture, and to talk about culture in ways that make it tangible and real to every employee. It is not a destination or achievement, but a journey that you are asking every person that you work with to join you on.
Culture is what allows you to disagree passionately with respect, and still be able to find a solution to a shared problem. Culture is what allows you to go from a difficult meeting to a who wore it better contest.
— Juanita Lee (@thejuanitalee) February 19, 2016