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The Story of Candid Culture: You Can Have Whatever You’re Willing to Work For

Five years ago today, I left my secure, corporate job to start Candid Culture, an international training and consulting firm, bringing candor back to the workplace, making it safe to tell the truth at work. Leaving the security of a regular paycheck was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, so scary that I talked about it for 12 years before finally taking action. After talking with friends and family about starting this business for so long, that they cut me off, on May 14th, 2007 I quit my job and left for Singapore to speak at my first international conference.

I wasn’t ready. I had no prospects and no plan. I didn’t think I’d be successful. In fact, I was reasonably convinced I’d fail. I was consumed with fear. But for the first time, my desire had become greater than my fear.

candid cultureTwo things moved me out of vacillation and into action.

Catalyst #1:  For the first time in my career, I had a job I didn’t like. Before my last job, I would have done every career-related (a.k.a. real) job I’d had for free. In my last job I made a lot of money but was unhappy. I swore I’d never be someone who kept a job for the money.

Catalyst #2:  I didn’t want to look back at the end of my career and wonder, what if?  When I was in high school I was captivated by the Henry David Thoreau quote, “I want to live deep and suck the marrow out of life.” I made a decision then that I would not live my life controlled by fear.

So I quit.

My definition of success was low. All I wanted was to be able to pay my mortgage and not live under a bridge or with my parents. Given how low I set the bar, it’s amazing my first year in business with Candid Culture was as good as it was.

The past five years have been the most fun, rewarding time in my life. I’ve had the privilege to speak in seven countries and on three continents, in 23 states, and with organizations of all types and sizes.

Our work is different. It is edgy and direct and rarely what people are expecting.  I cherish the feedback from conference attendees and clients, “You are a breadth of fresh air.” I can’t imagine being told anything better. Fresh implies different. And different can be scary.

We help organizations shift from cultures of silence and fear to a climates of candor and trust. Creating a more candid culture takes courage.

Thank you for your courage and your trust, and for believing that your organization can be a place people want to work and where they do their best work. I look forward to the next five years.



Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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