Andy Sernovitz Podcast Interview, CEO of GasPedal

Andy Sernoviz GasPedal CEO

Andy Sernovitz is absolutely a “what you see and hear is what you get” type of person – no hidden agendas and no bullshit. He’s passionate about the concept of ‘word of mouth’ marketing – in fact, he wrote the book on it. Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking is a New York Times Bestseller.

Andy is the CEO of GasPedal, a company dedicated to building communities. When you visit, you’ll notice that the entire site is oriented around the employment brand of the company, a topic we dive into quote a bit during this interview. We also talk about Gaspedal’s imaginary recruiter, Preston Firestone, and how Preston has helped Andy and his team avoid some massive hiring mistakes.

I had a great time chatting with Andy, and for those of you who care deeply about your company’s employment brand, and the importance of hiring the right people, this is one interview you’ll want to listen to more than once. Enjoy this stimulating conversation with Andy Sernovitz!

Show highlights:

  • 2:20 – Where does the rabid passion for word of mouth marketing come from?
  • 3:30 – Word of mouth as an economic engine
  • 5:00 – How Andy knew that word of mouth marketing was where it was at for him
  • 7:15 – Why love is taboo when it comes to leading teams and business cultures
  • 10:45 – How social media can turn into a giant mess
  • 12:30 – We’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but the relationships that we have are weaker
  • 13:25 – The two perspectives of receiving feedback
  • 15:15 – How GasPedal pre-communicates career opportunities to potential candidates
  • 16:00 – How GasPedal is like an Indian restaurant
  • 24:40 – Why cramming people into an open space warehouse to work is one of the biggest business scams of our generation
  • 25:50 – Why GasPedal bought a 20,000 square foot warehouse that will fit 50 people – who all get a private office
  • 27:15 – Why the things we hear about culture contradicts common sense
  • 29:50 – Who is Preston Firestone? And why he is a wonderful screen for liars and assholes?
  • 33:15 – Recruiting for culture
  • 33:45 – The one overwhelming thing that helps build culture
  • 35:21 – Definitions of culture
  • 36:40 – The importance of collaboration in the GasPedal culture
  • 39:15 – Why we undervalue the “how” in work styles
  • 41:20 – The candidates GasPedal looks to attract (and how they go about it)
  • 43:41 – Damn I Wish I Thought Of That
  • 45:45 – Where Andy draws inspiration for a blog that is older than his children
  • 47:30 – Which albums Andy would take on a deserted island

Show links:

Have you figured any secrets out at GasPedal in recruiting for culture?

Everything that we do is about recruiting for culture. Frankly, for any set of skills, you can find a bunch of people that have those skills. It’s hard because you have to go through the recruiting process, but there’s a lot of people who can do any given job.

Our entire recruiting philosophy is finding people who can be a true culture fit. What really drives culture is authenticity. For us, the one overwhelming thing that helps us build great culture is total transparency. That’s why our website is massive and talks about everything good and bad. The more we share, and the more we’re open, and the more we tell the story about, ‘Here’s who we are. Here’s what it’s like to work here. Here’s what we love. Here’s what we hate.” – the more we attract people who would thrive in that environment, and drive away the people who wouldn’t think it’s good.

Frankly, every time we hire someone who isn’t a culture fit and doesn’t work out, we go back and say, ‘What did we miss in our storytelling that made this person think they’d love it here?’ Or, how did we miss something in the conversation with them? What didn’t we ask? You should know what you’re getting into. I don’t know how weird we are on the weird company scale, but the more we can share, the more we can get that great fit.

That backs into our definition of culture. There’s a lot of crappy definitions about culture, like “We have core values! Don’t steal, don’t touch people inappropriately, and work hard!”

Those aren’t values. There’s a lot of fake culture out there. Real culture is two things. It’s an agreement on a destination. We are working to build ____________. For that half, you are looking for people who would love to build ___________. The second half of the culture definition is, here’s how we get there. Here’s how we like to work. Because if you like to work that way, you’ll love doing it.

Now you’re describing the two halves of the conversation. It’s a shared journey, and it’s the shared way you spend your time on that journey. That’s where someone is going to find the absolute love for their job every single day.

It isn’t a right or wrong set of choices. Like this is the wrong destination, or this is the right way of working. It’s about being super clear on how it’s going to be, and if you find your joy this way, or if you thrive in this environment, you’re going to have an amazing experience here. And if not, that’s totally okay.

It’s no different than choosing the friends you’re going to go on a roadtrip with. One of the examples of this that we use in the interview process is the idea of collaboration. Some people are deep thinker writers who love to go in a dark room, work on it, edit it, polish it and present something finished. Some people love to sit around and throw a draft in Google Docs. Everyone will comment, then you’ll have a brainstorming session, and then you’ll rewrite it on the fly, and we’ll all work together until it’s amazing.

Two equally valid ways of working. People love one or the other. But if you are a “sit and work by yourself and make it great” kind of person, you are going to hate the “sit around and pick at it until it’s great” kind of team.

We’re really clear. This is who we are. This is why we do what we do. And if you don’t like that, that’s okay. The more we can pre-communicate that ‘this is what we do and what we love – and this is what we don’t do.’

We talk a lot about comparing the company to an Indian restaurant. We are all working here and we are an amazing Indian restaurant and we cook the best food. Every day we think about how we can become the best Indian restaurant in the world.

But, some people don’t like Indian food. Some customers don’t like it, and some restaurant workers don’t like it. But we’re never going to start cooking hamburgers. We would make terrible hamburgers. We’d be a terrible Indian restaurant, and customers still wouldn’t be happy.

We’re really clear. We’re going to be the best Indian restaurant in the world. If that’s not your thing, that’s okay. Find your joy somewhere. We’d love to help you find your joy. And this is where we find our joy. If you’re one of those kind of people, come join us.

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