Business & Leadership

Is Culture the Key to Your Best Year Ever?

February 11, 2022 ──── MRINetwork
Employment Trends, Leadership, Motivation & Retention, Recruiting Best Practices

Is Culture the Key to Your Best Year Ever?

Is Culture the Key to Your Best Year Ever?
Great people are hard to find, not just for our clients, but for our own recruiting businesses. As the demand for recruiters skyrockets, many search firms are digging into their operations to improve recruiting and retention.

Winona Search Group has seen tremendous success over the past two and a half years, by making significant culture changes. They’ve grown their team by about 60 percent, and their billings are up by an average of approximately 50 percent, year over year. Last year, the search firm celebrated its best year since 2007. Today, they’re on track to beat that again by about 40-50 percent.

Evolving Culture to Improve Results

What is the key to their success? Bryan Crigler, President at the firm and a participant in MRI’s NextGen leadership program, says it comes down to people. “None of this happens without them. I’m just trying to create an environment that makes them feel as if it’s worth it to them.”

As a company, Winona Search Group has spent a great deal of time working to build a company that’s more inclusive of its employees. The goal, Crigler explains, is to make team members feel as if they’re part of the bigger picture, that it’s not just a job. This has been a major shift in the company’s thinking, and has paid significant dividends. While there was nothing wrong with the firm’s previous culture, Crigler says they felt it was time to evolve and move on.

How do you define culture? For Winona Search Group culture encompasses a number of factors including leadership style, work/life balance, compensation, and a feeling of wellness.

Leadership Style

As a leader, Crigler believes in managing to results. Rather than micromanaging his team, he prefers to give them the space and autonomy to control their own destiny. As President, he stakes out where the company needs to be revenue-wise, then gives his team the latitude to do what they need to do to get there. On a day-to-day basis, Crigler is very involved in strategizing with people. It’s seldom a conversation of “how many calls did you make today?”

Work/Life Balance

Imagine just living your life, rather than having to keep your work and home lives separate, and wear different masks throughout the day. That’s the goal at Winona Search Group. As Crigler says, we live in an interesting time where a lot of people are working from home. Winona Search Group gives people the flexibility to take care of their work and life demands congruently, in their own way.


While Winona Search Group hasn’t implemented any specific wellness programs, their culture is focused on wellness as a priority. A certified yoga teacher, breath instructor, and meditation teacher, Crigler feels strongly that you can’t be your best if you aren’t feeling your best. As he says, “If you are feeling horrible… if you wake up feeling bad every day, how are you going to show up in the best way that you can, or feel motivated to improve your skills?” 


Another major change for Winona Search Group has been compensation. The company has restructured their compensation, and now offers profit sharing opportunities to team members once they reach certain thresholds. Crigler says the initiative has gone far in rewarding people for their hard work. Additionally, the new compensation structure allows people to put on their owner hat, and think through their work in terms of profitability.

Remote Work

Leveraging lessons from owning a 100% remote company, Crigler has helped Winona Search Group to navigate the digital age. When COVID-19 hit, they were ready. Remote operations have allowed the search firm to expand their footprint in many areas. Recruiting is easier as they aren’t limited to any geographic region. They also don’t have to worry about office space limitations as they grow. Allowing people to work online removes a number of barriers, while also improving work/life balance.

Collaborative Teams

In terms of teams, Winona Search Group has also shifted from a team of all 360 recruiters to team members working together towards results. The move has added a level of accountability and self-management, which frees up Crigler from having to manage teams extensively. Within the team approach, there are many different levels that work. This collaborative approach has been very successful for Winona Search Group.

Prioritizing Your People

With more choices than ever before, employees and candidates alike are seeking out opportunities that work best for them. Crigler views this trend as an opportunity to lift people and the business up together. The key, Crigler believes, is turning the lens on team members. He explains, “It’s not just about us, and the bottom line, and how much profit we’re going to make this year. Rather, it’s more about making people a part of something larger: How are you going to be a part of this company? What’s in it for you?” With evidence of such tremendous gains, culture may just be the key to your best year yet.

Improving Your Culture

Need help elevating your company culture for improved business results? Contact us to learn more about MRINetwork member programs and our NextGen leadership development program.

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