How One Cleaning Company’s “Humanifesto” Is Redefining Corporate Culture

Former roommates, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, founded Method Products in 2000 to offer consumers environmentally-friendly products that were safe and effective in the home. As an eco-friendly alternative to chemical-heavy brands, packaged in a sleek design, the company quickly rose to become one of the fastest-growing organizations in America.

As it turns out, social responsibility and snazzy artwork were not the only things driving the company forward and helping it to maintain its relevance. Ryan and Lowry had another important strategy propelling company growth: investing in a unique company culture.

The leaders at Method Products have prioritized the employee experience and, as a result, the company’s workforce lives and breathes its company culture. Defining this culture is Method Product’s “humanifesto,” an employee mission statement comprised of 15 manifesto-like tenets. Each is cleverly crafted with a sense of humor, yet purpose, for instance, “we exercise by running through the legs of the giant; and while we love a freshly detoxed home, we think perfect is boring, and weirdliness is next to godliness.”

This humanifesto is reinforced every day by the leadership team, beginning with the employee selection process.

Keeping It Weird

From day one, Method Products searched for imaginative individuals who would not only drive creativity, but also deliver tangible business goals. Uniting these two facets has been the cleaning company’s employee culture.

“We made a huge commitment up front to hire the best people we could, and create a culture where diverse skill sets could work well together,” Ryan said. “Method would not be where it is today without its culture.”

For Method, it’s less important what a potential employee can do; what’s vital is how they will do it. “We give them a homework assignment before the interview that consists of three questions related to their position,” Ryan explained. The last question, however, is the same for every employee: How will you help keep Method weird?

For Ryan and Lowry, who spent a lot of time at Whole Foods’ headquarters in Austin the company’s first few years (and were inspired by the city’s “Keep Austin Weird” slogan), the question allows the management team to understand how employees will fit into their company culture.

“It’s nothing more than prototyping the chemistry between a new candidate and us, and reinforcing the culture,” Ryan said. “We need to know how they will think differently, and we want him or her to bring their personal self to work.”

To foster this weirdness as the company grows, Method Product’s leadership considers it part of their job to remind employees to bring their truest, most creative selves to work.

“It’s nothing more than prototyping the chemistry between a new candidate and us, and reinforcing the culture. We need to know how they will think differently, and we want him or her to bring their personal self to work.”
– Eric Ryan, Method Products

Inside Corporate Weirdness

Part of Ryan and Lowry’s strategy for inspiring creativity is giving each employee a chance to take on a leadership role.

For instance, each Monday, Method Products holds a team meeting, “the huddle,” where employees take turns leading the weekly check-in. The alternating leadership allows them to share updates, celebrate successes, discuss office events, and make personal announcements. Each meeting leader is expected to inject his or her own own flair into the session.

According to Ryan, this inclusive exercise pushes employees to be more dialed in to their role. It also gives company leaders a sense of employee enthusiasm. “It’s a great barometer for where the culture is, and we can adjust it based on the meetings,” he said. “We do it in corny ways, like writing stories about or applauding employees, and we don’t take ourselves seriously.”

Leaders at Method Products have also found that the more engaged employees are in the culture, the better it is for the cleaning product company’s bottom line. To keep employees excited about Method Products, the leadership team developed an unconventional group activity: a company prom.

Much like a Christmas party, Method has a yearly prom, complete with a prom committee, a theme, and special attire. “Three weeks leading up to the prom, there is a lot of dialogue within the company,” Ryan said. “Everyone gets into it.”

The prom, which has been an annual event since Method’s second year of business, brings employees from manufacturing plant in Chicago to the San Francisco headquarters. The prom combines different people from diverse backgrounds in cities across the country; the leadership team takes pride in the fact that in their company, all roles are viewed equally.

Reinforcing this spirit of equality is a corporate policy at the San Francisco headquarters whereby all employees must work as receptionist. This protocol appears in every job description from marketing associate to chief finance officer. “It’s an ego thing,” Ryan said. “Nobody is better than [anyone else]: you deliver mail, answer phones, greet everyone at the front. People put their own spin on it.”

Technology as a Cultural Tool

From the get-go, Ryan and Lowry viewed technology—and its relationship to consumer behavior and demand—as a tool to extend the company’s humanifesto beyond office walls.

“Social media and technology were so instrumental in helping us gain market share at the beginning,” Ryan said. “We were able to leverage technology to further our social mission and share our values with our customers,” he explained. “They became our advocates.”

An early adopter of social media, Method was able to use social tools to stay ahead of its slow-moving, conglomerate competition—engaging with consumers as real people. “We weren’t talking about the rational side of cleaning,” Ryan laughed. “We were talking about things people were talking about. We had these shared values with potential customers, and we understood the way social media operates. Its not a monologue, it’s a dialogue.”

Method’s customers continue to engage with the brand on social media, touting its design, fragrance, and eco-friendly story. Part of this, Ryan explained, comes back to the preservation of weirdness within the company as it grows.

“We weren’t talking about the rational side of cleaning. We were talking about things people were talking about. We had these shared values with potential customers, and we understood the way social media operates. Its not a monologue, it’s a dialogue.”
– Eric Ryan, Method Products

So far, this investment in culture has paid off. When Ecover purchased Method Products in 2012, the company had $100 million in annual revenue and was able to seamlessly maintain the culture that makes it Method Products.

Employees may come and go and sales may fluctuate, but Method continues to stay competitive by reinforcing the principles laid out in the manifesto. “You can copy our ads and you can copy our products, but you can’t copy our culture,” he said. “It’s the only sustainable competitive advantage that we truly have against huge multinational competitors.”