‘Take Ownership,’ ‘Make Beautiful Things’ and More: Values Drive a Culture of Growth and Connection at The Black Tux

Learn how the tuxedo rental company empowers its employees to shape their careers while forging connections with others.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Aug. 03, 2023
‘Take Ownership,’ ‘Make Beautiful Things’ and More: Values Drive a Culture of Growth and Connection at The Black Tux
The Black Tux
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At The Black Tux, failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

According to VP of Talent and People Carolyn Kwon Montgomery, the company’s leaders encourage team members to feel comfortable taking risks while embracing everything that comes with it. 

“We believe that by empowering our team to fail, we can unlock innovation across the entire organization instead of relying on a top-down approach,” she said. 

Montgomery noted that “culture is owned by everyone” at the tuxedo rental company, meaning employees are critical to ensuring the success of the organization’s initiatives and practices. By helping create programs that foster growth and connection, she makes it possible for team members to create impactful experiences — for themselves and for others. 

This empowerment is rooted in the company’s core values: “be curious,” “take ownership,” “trust and lean on each other,” “make beautiful things” and “sense and respond.” By embracing these principles, employees have the chance to thrive, both personally and professionally. 

For Montgomery, the benefits of being a values-driven organization are obvious: It keeps employees engaged and excited to shape the future. 

“We’ve been able to prove that if you take care of your team, they’ll perform well and grow with you,” Montgomery said. 

Below, Montgomery describes how The Black Tux’s culture makes it possible for employees to embrace the company’s core values every day. 

 

ABOUT THE BLACK TUX

The Black Tux was launched in 2013 by two friends who were dissatisfied with the traditional tuxedo rental process. Consumers can either use the company’s platform to ship a tuxedo to their doorstep or stop by a brick-and-mortar store to find the right fit in person.

 

What structures or policies support The Black Tux’ values, culture and mission?

Carolyn Kwon Montgomery
VP of Talent and People  • The Black Tux

 

We follow a continuous feedback philosophy that seeks to encourage the exchange of feedback between employees regularly, which drives engagement and growth and facilitates stronger relationships. In practice, this means we have regular one-on-ones as well as biannual formal check-ins and 360 reviews. 

We follow a traditional objectives and key results structure when setting annual and quarterly goals. OKRs were first implemented at The Black Tux this year and have gone a long way in driving alignment and accountability. Every key result is owned by a member of the executive team, and progress is shared with the entire organization in our all-hands meetings. We set a mixture of committed and aspirational OKRs. By being clear about which metrics are necessary to the health of the organization and which are big bets that will propel us forward, we believe we can become the most loved formalwear brand in the industry.

 

Group photo of team members 
The Black Tux

 

What practices and programs are in place to build culture at The Black Tux?

Most meetings start with each team member sharing how they feel, ranging between negative three to three, and answering a fun question, such as, “What celebrity would you want to host for dinner?” Since most of the team is remote or hybrid, starting meetings this way helps us create personal connections that are sometimes lost when every interaction is over Google Hangouts. 

At the companywide level, we meet every six weeks to celebrate wins, discuss OKR progress and answer questions submitted by the team. During this time, we recognize team members for exceptional displays of our values and award one person a “The Black Tux Spotlight” award for remarkable performance and impact. While the employee experience team drives a monthly companywide culture calendar, we also empower each leader to build their own team cultures by providing a quarterly budget to host non-work-related events, such as classes about cocktails and cooking. We also host in-person events for employees who live in close proximity to each other. 

 

What programs are in place to ensure employees can continually grow?

The Black Tux has long relied on an internal “skills matrix” that helps employees understand how various skills related to culture and impact should evolve as they develop their careers. We recently rolled out department-specific career pathways that pair with our skills matrix to give employees a better idea of the potential growth opportunities that exist on their team. 

The senior leadership team follows a biannual talent assessment process that helps managers think strategically about how they’ll develop their team members. This HR-led process ensures that leaders are spending time planning for every team member’s growth, not just those asking for it. The HR team helps ensure that leaders are held accountable for following the growth plans identified during the talent assessment process. 

 

 Team members gather at Santa Monica Brew Works for a happy hour gathering.
The Black Tux

 

What role do team members play in building and celebrating The Black Tux’s mission and culture? 

Due to the various types of work required at The Black Tux — from our two fulfillment operations centers in Los Angeles and Scranton to our nationwide remote workers and retail teams — we have the unique challenge of ensuring that all of our policies and programs are both inclusive and tailored to each employee’s role and work location. 

Our internal recognition program, “Tux Bux,” allows us to celebrate each other. In our fulfillment centers, our team receives a physical Tux Bux for exceptional performance and displaying our values, while the rest of our team utilizes the Bonusly platform to recognize their peers. 

In June, we celebrated Pride Month at our fulfillment centers with a tie-dye event and our remote teams celebrated with a LGBTQIA+ cultural impact class. Additionally, we align our recruitment materials, training and philosophy with the values and culture of The Black Tux so our mission becomes a part of the hiring process and we onboard people who share our values and positively contribute to the culture.
 

“We align our recruitment materials, training and philosophy with the values and culture of The Black Tux so our mission becomes a part of the hiring process.” 

 

What impact does working at The Black Tux have on someone’s career?

Great companies shouldn’t be afraid of investing in their employees. As a leader, I love the idea of other organizations recruiting our people because of how well we develop talent. We realize we can’t retain everyone forever, so we try to help build up our employees’ resumes so that they have strong careers beyond The Black Tux. 

I try to ensure my team feels comfortable being open with me if they feel they’re hitting a ceiling so that I can help them get the internal experiences they need in order to reach the next step in their career. This kind of transparency also makes succession planning much easier and less dramatic. 

We’ve had people leave The Black Tux for incredible opportunities, and we’re always so proud to see these developments, despite how tough the loss might be for the company. We’ve also seen a lot of employees rejoin us, which is always a huge compliment. 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by The Black Tux.

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