If there are underlying forces that make our company succeed, it’s definitely because of our team members and our culture.
Back in our early days, when it was just me, Ryan and Tyler hitting the streets and trying to sell, we were always about supporting each other. A lot of that has changed (since we’re no longer working out of our basement), but one thing that has remained the same and is integral to how we operate our business, is our culture.
We’ve always been a work hard and play hard group.
Even in the early days, we worked long, full days but still found time to take a break to play foosball to blow off steam. As time goes on and we’ve added new people, I find we’ve still kept the same type of culture with our ever expanding team.
Company culture has become a more common, universal focus over the last few years, as big names like Google have built a reputation for being a great place to work due to their amazing products and atmosphere.
The pressure is on for all businesses to keep up with the trends of creating awesome cultures, but a lot of people don’t know how to establish a culture in their business.
Find your company’s personality
One of the first steps you need to figure out is what your business’s culture is.
Are you fun loving? Serious? Cutthroat?
For example, it’s not like there’s only one way to be a good spouse since everyone has different personalities, wants and needs. Your business is the same way, and not every company has to be a goofy place to work.
The main point is, figure out what best fits you and your industry. Our companies can dive into circles that can be stuffy and boring, so we break the mold by having a sense of humor and being goofy.
We, as owners, like to have fun and everyone in our company likes to have fun, too. Whether it be nerf gun fights, or playing VR in the conference room over lunch or at the end of a long week. But how we run our business doesn’t mean all businesses have to operate like we do.
You can find success at building different cultures and each company culture can also have its negatives. Knowing what kind of company you want to be is the first step. Once you have this defined, you can decide on what steps you need to take to make it a permanent fixture.
Know your culture and make sure that the people that you put on your team fit that culture.
Hire people who fit
Having the skills to perform specific job duty is necessary, but if a personality doesn’t fit our culture, we just don’t hire them.
I don’t think every company should have the exact same culture that we have. It’s unique to us and yours will be different. When we look for people to hire, we make sure we will enjoy working with them and they’ll enjoy working with us. They have to be a cultural fit. We’ve hired people in the past where it wasn’t right, and it turned out badly for both parties.
One example of a wrong fit comes from a friend of mine who owns a business. They have a culture similar to ours, and when they interviewed someone, they would pull out nerf guns and hand the interviewee another nerf gun to shoot back at them. One applicant was not a fan of this and annoyingly pushed the nerf gun to the side in irritation.
Now was someone in the wrong? No, but that applicant would not be happy working in a workplace that wanted to goof around with nerf guns, and that company would have a difficult time growing their culture if they had someone who hated to have fun at work.
This doesn’t mean you should only hire all introverts or all extroverts, either. Surprisingly, a large percent of our employees are introverts (unlike myself) and would not be pegged as people who love to laugh and have a bit of fun. But they do, they love engaging in the silly aspects of our company culture, and it makes them a great fit.
Culture comes from the top down
I can’t expect anyone who works here to live and breath our culture if I don’t live our values myself.
Leaders have to embody your ethics and business culture, if not, you can’t expect anyone else to.
Nothing is worse than setting a double standard for your staff on what their attitudes and how they interact with people should be. Two of our core values are happy and grateful. It would be wrong for me to demand an intern have a certain mindset if I don’t practice it myself.
Culture is an interesting thing as one person can wreck it all. I could quickly destroy our company culture if I changed the way I operated and managed our team. If I were a lot more demanding and angry it would instantly change where people would fear losing their job.
Creating that anxiety would ruin any positive feelings and trust our staff has with us and their managers, and it would effectively destroy our culture as a result.
Building trust with your employees
We work extra hard to make sure we have the funds we can use to blow off some stress.
As business owners, we’re not trying to just suck every penny out of this business for ourselves and our personal lives. We do a lot of stuff to take care of our people and to have fun.
But to maintain the culture, we need to build trust.
For example, we’re moving to unlimited paid time off (PTO) policy, where our staff does not have a set number of hours they can take off in a year, rather can take off days as needed to spend time with their family, go to the doctor, etc.
We couldn’t have done this without building a culture of integrity and trust, and without hiring the right team members.
We’ve built a culture where people don’t want to abuse the company. Our team would legitimately feel bad neglecting their job responsibilities by taking too much time off.
It’s going to be a balancing act, but our leaders will make sure people are not abusing the system. I trust our staff and want them to be able to spend time with their family. People come back refreshed and more productive after taking some time off.
Some might think this a terrible idea, and it wouldn’t work for every business. We figure if someone is taking off too much and ignoring their work then they’re clearly not going to fit in with our culture.
I feel strongly that our staff deserves this kind of trust. Over the past 10 years, our team members have worked some long hours and have done whatever was needed of them when we needed to buckle down and get projects done. They were willing to work extra to make our company excellent, and they deserve time off for all their hard work.
I feel that how we treat people is dependent on our culture. It’s important because as we grow, bringing on the right team members will be paramount to our customers’ success and ours as well.