Brian and Rachel Goulet never planned on operating a full-fledged company.
So when their specialty fountain pen e-commerce business began to take off, the first employees worked out of the Goulets’ house and garage in Hanover County.
“We had to reach out to our personal networks. We basically had to hire a bunch of friends and people that we knew from Facebook,” said Brian Goulet, co-founder and CEO of The Goulet Pen Co., which was founded in 2007.
“We were having to figure out who in the heck would be willing to come work for us,” he said.
The Henrico County-based company, started as a hobby and love for luxury pens, has grown to more than 40 employees, including one employee who has been with the company for nearly seven years.
Building a leadership team from scratch and on the fly was a huge challenge, Brian Goulet said.
“For the first couple of years, we felt like we were behind. We were just 25 [years old] when we started the company. ... We had to figure things out really quickly,” he said
They didn’t have a lot of time for hand-holding as they brought on new employees, he said.
“We had ... to immediately train them and let them go [to work]. It’s been a wild ride,” he said.
The company, which sells luxury fountain pens, ink, paper and writing accessories, has had double-digit growth every year since it began, Goulet said.
His wife, Rachel Goulet, is chief operating officer, and both Goulets are co-presidents of the company.
Goulet said he expects to add two new employees in each of the next two years. One position they are recruiting for soon is that of marketing director.
To show employees that they are valued, the company has a “culture squad,” which is made up of a person from each of the business’ six operating teams. It meets every two weeks to plan some kind of company event.
“It could be a mac and cheese cook-off. We organized a family day at a local park,” he said.
“A lot of the appreciation stuff just comes from really more of an attitude than specific awards or anything like that. We have a company meeting every single week, and we will have shout-outs that we do at the beginning of that meeting. Team members recognize each other for the good work they’ve done throughout the week,” he said.
Company perks include the traditional benefits as well as subsidized gym memberships, and employees there at least a year get 40 paid hours to volunteer at a nonprofit organization.
“We tried to offer pet insurance and stuff like that, but we didn’t qualify. Adult orthodontics, we tried to get that. We didn’t qualify. It’s more like we have to incorporate [appreciation] more into our culture. We have to get a little more creative,” Goulet said.