John Iafrate started off as a senior designer at LendingTree LLC, an online lending marketplace with 331 employees at its Charlotte headquarters.
As a student and “fraternity guy” at UNC Charlotte, the art department was a “serious and buttoned up place” that quickly let him know his loud, jovial behavior didn’t have a place in a work environment. But he eventually found his way to LendingTree, which proved them wrong.
“The culture is something I absolutely love,” said Iafrate, now the creative director in LendingTree’s marketing department.
Iafrate – known as “Frate” to his co-workers – is sometimes afraid that people won’t take him seriously because he lives to laugh and lighten the mood. But at LendingTree, “We earn our stripes to get away with some of the things that we do,” he said.
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Some of those things include office pranks and a company recruitment video that features Iafrate appearing pantsless and later posing as CEO, authorizing the purchase of an alpaca. It’s a “work hard, play hard,” kind of place.
Claudette Parham, LendingTree’s chief people officer, said CEO Doug Lebda regularly reminds the team that he’s an employee too and invites everyone to swing by his desk and share what’s on their minds. He also welcomes questions.
“When the CEO behaves this way, the ability to be open quickly permeates through every level of the company,” she said.
Iafrate said LendingTree is an entrepreneurial environment that gives employees room to experiment and be creative, as well.
“With as many layers as LendingTree has, if I have an idea, I can implement that,” he said. “We get to do what we want to do here, and it’s furthered our careers much further than we ever thought.”
LendingTree believes in easing its demanding workloads with flexibility, perks like onsite personal training and dry cleaning, and indulging employees with offsite teambuilding.
An office in California makes way for trips to Napa Valley to sip wine with coworkers while taking in the sights and dining at upscale restaurants. The creative team from California has visited the Charlotte office, in turn, leading to a roundtrip bus ride to Asheville for visiting breweries. Charlotte team members have also bonded on outings at Carowinds, BB&T ballpark and the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
“It’s the company I always imagined working for,” Iafrate said.