MP spoke with John Jacob Salzarulo, the CEO and co-founder of Hoist, a software company that helps people build successful painting businesses. Salzarulo is a lifelong entrepreneur with mixed experience in blue and white-collar industries. He spent a few years running his family’s pest control business before diving into technology full-time.

John Jacob Salzarulo
John Jacob Salzarulo / Photo courtesy of
John Jacob Salzarulo

How can leaders cultivate a culture of inclusive leadership throughout their organizations, and why does such inclusivity matter?

Give Your Employees Authority

Department heads shouldn’t be the only leaders in your company. When you give each employee a sense of ownership in their work, they’ll go the extra mile to lead from their position.

Welcome Disagreement

Leaders in your company should regularly encounter pushback. 

Employees should, generally, be aligned with their boss's decisions. 

However, a limited amount of disagreement proves they feel comfortable enough to voice their opinion.

Give Your Team a Chance To Be Heard

Inclusivity is built on open communication. 

At Hoist, we don't solely rely on “brainstorming” meetings for making big decisions. 


Meetings limit participation and favor louder people. 

Instead, we often use written documents. 

With written feedback, more people have an equal opportunity to voice their opinion and make an impact.

Improving inclusivity with these steps will help you make more informed decisions and generate greater buy-in from your employees.

How important is recognizing employee achievements to developing a positive work culture, and why? 

Recognizing employee achievement is vital to a thriving culture. But, it needs to go farther than the regular “good job” or occasional raise. 

Employee recognition is about leaders understanding that their team is their most valuable asset. 

This may seem obvious, but the number of companies that take this to heart is smaller than you think. 

Leaders understand this improves every facet of their employees’ work life. 

Whether it's their passion for the job, their relationship with coworkers, or their general well-being.

What should celebrating employees’ milestones and achievements look like, and why?

Employees should be publicly recognized. 

A quick shoutout on Slack or email to the greater team goes a long way! 

Additionally, they should see the fruits of their labor. Maybe it's sharing user quotes with your engineering team about how a new product feature helped them. 

Perhaps it's connecting your sales team to clients they closed a few months ago.

Experiencing the impact of one’s work is a huge inspiration.

According to The American Institute of Stress, 83% of American workers suffer from work-related stress. What are three out-of-the-box ways leaders can help reduce their employees’ work-related stress and add to a positive work culture, and why these three?

Inspire and Empower, Don’t Pressure

Too many founders think pressuring their employees is the best way to create a hardworking culture. It might work in the short term, but this approach increases burnout and, as a result, churn. 

Instead, entrepreneurs should get the most from their team through inspiration and empowerment. 

Inspire them with your vision and encouragement. 

Empower them with autonomy and the resources they need to get things done. 

If you have the right people on board and treat them well, they’ll bust their asses for you.

Be Flexible With Your Employees

Some people are early risers. 

Some are night owls. 

Some take lunch. 

Some don’t. 

Letting your team work best for them will increase happiness and productivity.

Accept Feedback From Your Employees

Be welcoming of concern and criticism. The first step to alleviating employee stress is to give them a chance to bring it up.

66% of American workers suffer from sleep deprivation caused by work-related stress. How can leaders determine whether these issues are due to toxicities stemming from leadership or compartmentalized toxicities that happen without the leaders’ knowledge, and how can they be addressed?

Regular reviews from managers to employees help. More importantly, though, employee-to-manager reviews can help you identify toxic behavior among your team before it gets out of hand. 

You must also set the example in the culture of the right kinds of healthy pressure vs. what isn't healthy. 

There are many reasons why employees experience stress. 

Two big ones are the fear of failure and responsibility without control. These are both areas you can provide safety and alleviate stress as a leader. 

In regards to fear of failure, demonstrate that failure is required to find success. High-reward investments are usually associated with taking risks that might not pan out. It’s important to acknowledge failure and celebrate learning. 

Make a safe place. 

Regarding responsibility without control, delegating responsibility is often easy but still want to hold onto a lot of control. 

This leaves the report in a difficult position. 

They're on the hook for the responsibility but don't have the authority to control the inputs or approach. 

If you are going to delegate responsibility, you also have to delegate control. 

It’s a tough balance but essential to maintain a healthy team.

Not all environments need creators. However, what value can developing a creator work culture add to an organization, what might that culture look like, and how does one develop it from the ground up?

The best way to build a creator culture is to give employees a sense of ownership in their work. Most will only go the extra mile if they hold a sense of responsibility, autonomy, and meaning. 

Additionally, be sure to get a constant pulse on their feelings. 

Ask what part of their job they love and what they hate, and find ways to shift their focus accordingly. 

Understand creative work doesn’t thrive under strict deadlines, deliverables, or structure. 

You need to keep an open mind, find nine ways that aren’t right, and follow developments in the creative process. 

You have to give it a lot of time. 

Startups often require employees to do more for less and do so with smiles. How can leaders spot when employees are overworked, positively intervene, and what corrective actions should be taken, and why?

This is simple but often overlooked.

First, leaders must create a culture where employees feel safe when concerns surface. 

If you don’t do this, you won’t find out until it’s too late. 

Gauge this by asking yourself how often your employees discuss what they’re worried about or what’s weighing them down.

Secondly, take the time to listen. 


You may not fix all their problems, but feeling heard impacts them.

Third, constantly asses prioritization. 

Burnout often results from trying to do too much at once. If your team is overworked, they might be better off doing less but doing less better. 

Speak with them to discover what they’re juggling. If they’re working on projects that aren’t top priorities, simply put them on hold until the more important things are done.

Does offering benefits such as four-day work weeks, unlimited PTO, health insurance, and the ability to work from home make up for toxic workplace cultures? 


Good benefits are a fantastic addition to a healthy work environment. They will never solve deep-seated issues. 

Trying to fix a toxic workplace with better benefits is like putting a bandaid over a deep cut. It may help hide issues from the rest of the world, but it won’t solve the problem.

Many companies are turning to unlimited PTO to reduce employee burnout. Do you think this is a positive trend?

Employers typically offer unlimited PTO when they want to have their cake and eat it too. 

They want to attract top talent by being perceived as a company that invests in work-life balance. However, they also know that employees with unlimited PTO take less time off than those who don’t. 

If you want to address burnout, be generous with a specified amount of days off and encourage the team to use them. 

Plus, be sure leadership uses theirs too. 

If leadership does, employees will feel less guilt about using theirs.

Responses provided by John Jacob Salzarulo, the CEO and co-founder of Hoist.

Topic Contributors

Questions based in part on topics and comments provided by:

  1. Lorena Perez, Chief People Officer at Novakid
  2. Henry Penix, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Soaak Technologies
  3. Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek, Founder at HR Service Firm
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