“Employees are the engine of every business.  Ensuring they’re inspired is critical to motivation and success.  A democratic culture creates a foundation of belief and togetherness that allows passion and inspiration to bloom”—Dave Balter

We interviewed Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent, one of our fellow honorees from 2009 WorldBlu’s list of Most Democratic Workplaces.

Nearsoft: Can you start by telling us what is BzzAgent is about?

Dave Balter: BzzAgent is a word-of-mouth media firm that creates brand advocacy through guided product experience, then provides advocates with tools to share opinions both in person and throughout their online social networks.

Nearsoft: What is the role of a BuzzAgent?

DB: BzzAgents are an incredibly special bunch.  They are highly active in social media, love to experience and talk about brands, and are more than happy to share their opinions with those around them.

Nearsoft: As we know, BzzAgent has recently been listed in th WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces. What are the key ingredients for being a democratic workplace?

DB: There are two keys to democracy in the workplace,

  • Giving employees a voice that actually is heard and responded to.  Many companies will provide a resource for letting people speak their mind, but it’s the reaction to requests that creates a true democracy.
  • Being transparent about how the business runs and why decisions are being made.  This needs to be taken beyond traditional executive updates – how can you inspire employees by letting them be fully “in the know?”

Nearsoft: What has been the most “democratic moment” at BzzAgent? Is there any particular practice that you would like to highlight?

B: Every two weeks, we get all employees together in a room to have an open forum.  As part of that forum, I agree to answer any previously submitted anonymous question about any subject that relates to the company.  The questions end up being a range of trivial, such as how big the utensils should be in the kitchen, to the serious, such as the reason the management team is structured the way it is.

Nearsoft: What has been the impact of being a democratic workplace?

B: Better employee morale, certainly – and a sense of pride and ownership.  It makes me incredibly proud to run a business that is about the internal team as much as the clients we support.

Nearsoft: How do your clients benefit from your democratic approach?

B: Inspired employees are willing to go that extra mile for the client.  You can’t fake this type of behavior: If you don’t love where you are or what you do, you can’t effectively inspire a client.

Nearsoft: What do you think are the downside of democracy in the workplace?

B: The critical element is you can’t be “half-pregnant” with this.  Stay away from “do what I say, not what I do” executive behavior.

Nearsoft: While I was learning about your company I discovered a “Code of Conduct” in your website.  Can you explain its value?

B: We’re in the business of enabling people to spread their opinions throughout their offline social networks.  The value of these opinions resides in the fact that they’re authentic, believable and credible.  Because of that, we need to reinforce the notion that authenticity is a critical component of how our platform works.  It not only makes the result stronger, but it also is the ethical thing to do.

Nearsoft: How is BzzAgent spreading the idea of workplace democracy?

B: Thought your blog post, of course!

About BzzAgent

Please, visit BzzAgent.com for more information.