Do you have to work in a Christian organization to hold onto your values and integrity? Chief Operating Officer of NZXT, Inc. Rob Brinkman, doesn’t think so.
“A company can be successful and hold onto its core values, and keep those values aligned with its team members and aligned with a strategy that allows it to foster and grow,” said Brinkman at a Crowell Distinguished Speaker Series event earlier this year.
NZXT is a leading provider of computer gaming products and services. Brinkman joined NZXT in 2018 and has operational responsibilities for sales, global operations and more. Previously, he was Chief Administrative and Operations Officer at Vizio. He graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University and received a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Biola University. He is also a mentor in Crowell’s MBA program.
Using NZXT as an example, Brinkman shared how integrity leads to success showcased in the following eight principles. These principles apply whether you’re starting a company or looking for the right company to join.
1. Culture is the foundation of success.
Brinkman defined culture and how they think about culture at NZXT.
“What is culture? Culture is the fundamental set of beliefs of a person or an organization, the guiding principles that decide how we act, what’s right and wrong, if we're on the right path,” said Brinkman. “We will hire people on a culture-fit over a skill-fit because we believe that our culture's right. If they understand and fit our culture, we'll teach them what they need to know, because part of our culture is learning and growing.”
2. Keep it simple and focused.
Simplicity is in the DNA of NZXT. Brinkman shared that after NZXT founder Johnny Hou said, “We've got to simplify. We've got to go after perfection,” the company really started to grow.
“We will never have more than five products in any one category,” said Brinkman. “We focus on gamers. Our products don't need to be everything to everyone. And our growth has skyrocketed in the last two years.”
3. Identify and serve a community.
Brinkman shared the importance of identifying a particular community to serve. For NZXT, that is the gaming community.
“We serve gamers by relentlessly evolving our products and services,” said Brinkman. “Our vision is to become the most authentic brand for gamers, based on our core values. If we stay true to that, not only will our employees see it, but our customers will too.”
4. Every voice matters.
At NZXT, employees are able to send questions to “town halls.”
“We expect to hear from everyone,” said Brinkman. “Every question is answered, even questions that say, ‘I know you won't answer this … ’”
Brinkman emphasized that the town halls do not necessarily change the decisions the company will make, but people know that leadership is listening.
“We believe that [if] people know they're being heard, they're going to be more willing to take risks,” said Brinkman. “And in business, in order to grow, you have to take risks. We believe in staying humble, being vulnerable, and actively listening to the needs of our community.”
5. Keep learning to keep growing.
Brinkman shared that at NZXT, founder Johnny Hou would personally build computers multiple times a year in order to ensure the products he designed for gamers actually worked. However, as his company and his family grew, he realized he no longer had time to build gaming rigs, and he believed that other gamers, as they got older, had the same concern. Out of this realization came a business opportunity.
“We created a division to build computers for gamers,” said Brinkman. “We do it a little differently, not hard drive size and speeds and feeds, but ‘What are you going to do with it, specifically? What games are you going to play?’ We learned, we made some changes, and our ‘build service’ is now the largest custom configuration business in the industry.”
Ideas can fail, but NZXT creates opportunities from them. For Brinkman, that’s the true definition of a “learning company.”
“A learning company means an environment that is safe, where if you take risks and make mistakes, you'll learn from them,” said Brinkman. “Most companies say that, but when it happens, they’re pointing fingers and placing blame.”
“We tried a retail [store] concept,” said Brinkman. “Apple is in retail, maybe we could be in retail! We spent a lot of money, but we made no money. People loved coming in and playing, but they didn't spend. We stood up at a town hall and said, ‘It didn’t work, but we'll learn from it.’ We made it an example for our team that failing and learning is okay.”
6. Relentlessly pursue perfection.
NZXT’s approach is to aim for excellence and provide thoughtful work down to the micro-detail.
“I visited the factory that was going to build our headsets,” said Brinkman. “They make headsets for other manufacturers, longer than [we’ve] been in business. They thought the quality [of our prototypes] was just fine. But we said, ‘Not for us. We’re not putting out a product that doesn't meet our standards.’ We have yet to launch that product because the quality is [still] not what we want.”
7. Validate hypotheses with objective data.
According to Brinkman, NZXT has 210 employees, and four are data scientists.
“A lot of other businesses make decisions based on gut; we use data,” said Brinkman.
8. Do what you say.
At NZXT, the culture emphasizes accountability.
“We can't talk about ‘relentless perfection’ and then not build with quality,” said Brinkman. “I constantly have customers ask, ‘Why don’t you build a [cheaper] case and get a bigger market share?’ We won't do it. You can’t just talk about values, you have to live them. We want to be authentic, we want to be real, and our customers will know if we’re not.”
The Crowell Distinguished Speaker Series brings a selection of accomplished business leaders to campus to share their varied professional and personal insights and provides the opportunity to network with fellow attendees including alumni, MBA mentors, faculty, and current and prospective MBA students. The event is always free and open to all. Future events can be found on the Crowell events calendar.