TELETIES: Insights From A Start Up

A Million Little Moments Series

Company culture is not fully in your control. As owners, HR directors, and culture champions we can make nudges and suggestions to how it is shaped, but ultimately, culture is made up of a million little moments happening all over your workplace — — from private Slack channels to one-off interactions between the CEO and an intern. What do those moments look like? How can we make leadership choices that give us more of the moments we want and less of those we don’t? The Million Little Moments Series is an exploration of successful, often enviable, companies in Orlando and the million moments that have shaped them.

Having established my career in HR at digital marketing agencies, I could speak for ages on the many layers of company culture in this or similar environments. But it was important to me in this series to explore culture at a wide variety of companies, at various stages of growth, to truly understand how the million little moments are born and how they change over time. Which is how I sat down with the founder of the Orlando based fashion brand TELETIES, Lindsay Muscato. An entrepreneur since high school, Lindsay graduated from Rollins College and boldly invested in herself and her ideas to make this now 39 employee strong business.

So, what’s TELETIES? Well, if you’re fashion forward or COVID-closed salons have added a few inches to your locks, I suggest you nab yourself this innovative hair tie. The coil plastic design prevents creases, doesn’t snag, relieves tension, and looks good on the wrist (where everyone stores their hair ties, of course). But also, the brand has partnered with FORCE, a non-profit organization that improves the lives of those affected by hereditary cancers. Meaning your fashion choice also does the world some good.

Starting From Scratch

Like many entrepreneurs, Lindsay started TELETIES from her garage.

Lindsay: “In my heart of hearts I knew that it would be a very successful product, but I think, like anything else in life, it’s best to start small. You want to see how it goes and so, because of that, I said to my husband, ‘You have to give me the shot. Let me use the garage for a year, see how this is done before we do anything.’ It’s getting me out there packing and literally launching the company. And it started taking off like crazy. We got a deal with Pure Barre and then we got in at HSN.”

Lindsay individually packing and shipping TELETIES from her garage is like Sara Blakely shipping off individual pairs of Spanx from her apartment. What makes the experience so special is that the owner is playing every role, getting their “hands dirty,” and committing. What comes with that is an inherent trust, as employees are added, that the owner of the company is in this as much as everyone else, and is figuring out how to make it work, too. Lindsay jokes that they have a saying around the office, “If you don’t know, Google it, and if it’s not on Google, then just figure it out.” I don’t think anything else sums up the nature of a startup quite like that.

As Lindsay has added other members to her team, they’ve continued to prioritize full understanding of the company.

Lindsay: “Everyone has done every job here. I was out packing, Emily was out packing, Bob was out packing… we’ve all done it. So we know what it takes. We are not afraid to get down and dirty. We will do whatever it takes.”

Understanding a least a little bit about every job in the company creates empathy and understanding. Yet, we often don’t make time for it. Especially as busy HR professionals in larger companies, we know the concept of “job shadowing” but it is easy to prioritize elsewhere. If we can learn something from the structure of a startup, it is that when all teammates are opened up to the workings of every facet of the business you end up harnessing much deeper collaborative thinking. Like Jeff Dean at Google, the solutions to your biggest problems could be found in any department. (See the book “The Culture Code” for the Jeff Dean story.)

Granted, over time, each teammate gets immersed in their own job, but this is where strategically planned, cross team communication can make a big difference. No matter the size of your company, think about staff meetings as if you’re small and recognize that not every role in the company has a transparent view of the big picture like HR does. At TELETIES, that looks like a weekly meeting where each department runs through what they are working on. During COVID, the weekly meeting wasn’t running as consistently and it was missed, just highlighting its importance. Lindsay had to remember that while she was talking to every member of staff, some of her teammates were more siloed.

Lindsay: “We are very transparent here. Because we are so small, we all know what everyone is doing. It’s important that everyone is on top of their to-do list, and we know what’s important that week. And I look at it more as what is important for the month but then we break it down weekly.”

The Work Family

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see Patty McCord speak about the culture she built from scratch at Netflix. Within her radical perspective on HR is the concept of companies as a “team” vs a “family.” According to Patty, your business should be like a NFL team, holding the players to an exceptional standard and cutting those who keep you from winning. As she says, in a family someone can suck and you have to put up with it, “because they’re family.” On a team, you can move on. Cue my years long juggling of this concept.

Lindsay will tell you, most of her team is made up of friends and past business partners. However, it is clear by how Lindsay interacts with her staff, no matter who joins the team, they will be treated like family and also treated like people with a life outside of work. Which is why she’s ok when someone shows up to the office in active wear or they take a 15 minute mental break to jump on the trampoline in the office gym.

Lindsay: “Being a mom, I get it. I’m a mom. I have two kids. We have good days, we have bad days. If someone isn’t going to make it in one day because the kids are sick, I get it. As long as the job is getting done, I’m flexible … our motto has always been, ‘As long as you get the job done, do what you need to do.’ I’m not here to say, ‘Oh, you can’t go to your kid’s soccer game.’ You need to do what you need to do. Family first. Family is always first.”

But that doesn’t mean her team gets a break on doing the work, and doing it well. Lindsay expects open communication and problem solving. She prides herself on being an active listener, and taking her time with her decision making. Even “sleeping on it” if need be.

Lindsay: “If you’re going to come to me with a problem, bring a solution….We’ve always just had this open environment here. I don’t think the team has a problem coming to me with anything. And I can literally bring them into a meeting and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job at this and we need to work on this.’ I think everyone is open to criticism here, because we all want to be better at what we do.”

For many companies, the idea of work being like a family has more to do with creating an environment of trust and human understanding, like Lindsay has done at TELETIES. In fact, she has a personal motto that sums it up and is a true guiding light towards creating strong moments with everyone she interacts with.

Lindsay: “People ask me, ‘How are you so good at what you do?’ And it’s so simple. It’s literally one line: Treat people the way you would want to be treated. That’s it. And even in business, it’s not that complicated. If you were on the other side, how would you want to be treated? … It’s very simple, I think people forget about that … If I was working in the TELETIES warehouse, how would I want to be treated? I think if you go out there and talk to any of them, it’s that I treat people very well. I think that’s why we have a very small turn over rate, and people love working here.”

The Future Of Hair Products

So, where does a hair tie company go from here? As Lindsay points out, if you take a stroll down the hair product aisle of any CVS you’re going to see a lot of the same products that have been there for decades. In TELETIES mind, there’s room for improvement. Lindsay and her team are continuing to innovate, including the release last month of their new Headband in the signature coil style. In an environment like theirs, it’s the wins that really contribute to their million little moments as they all work hard to push this company forward, together.

Lindsay: “When something goes right in the office, we ring a bell. It’s always fun when we get an email and it’s a really good email, and we ring the bell. It’s like, ‘YES! It’s going to be a great day.’ It’s been fun to secure some of the things we’ve been able to secure. Going from being in 10 accounts (how we launched the brand) to getting in to Target, to doing celebrity deals. It’s all been moments where it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh this is happening. It’s all coming together. You guys, look, we’ve worked so hard and it’s all working!’ And I think those are the moments, the ringing the bell moments, that have just been amazing.”

The A Million Little Moments Series is created and written by Chelsea Stonerock, a Director of People and Culture in her hometown of Orlando, Fl. Interested in sharing your company culture’s million moments? Email MillionMomentsORL@gmail.com

Get your traditional TELETIES or their new headbands at: www.teleties.com

Million Moments celebrates the inspiring, unique business cultures in Orlando.