Here is another insightful post for our company culture theme. Christian Habermann, Founder of Auctus Marketing takes a look at how companies express their culture and various trends within the space.
Christian Habermann is the founder of Auctus Marketing and is a leader and innovator in the online marketing & SEO world. He lives and works in Boston where he is very involved in the start up scene. He loves to help companies of all sizes, from big Fortune 1000 companies to start ups, embrace the online marketing world and help to grow their business. He is the author of "SEO for 2014" and holds and MBA in marketing from Vanderbilt.
Well, you definitely don’t hear that every day right? But since the weather is getting nice and it’s almost summer, hang with me.
A few years ago, I was running a local start up with two friends and our main product was auto insurance. Essentially, we were a very lean and mean marketing company that brought leads in efficiently and then sold auto policies for various insurance companies. Our game was very simple, nothing complex at all. It was all sales and marketing.
Our business grew very fast and hence, we were hiring all the time. We built a highly young and motivated sales team, trained them at lightning speed, and when they passed their insurance test, they were off and selling. We wasted no time in this process. Our employees were motivated and they made the best of this ramp up time, which made things work well.
Our company culture focused on providing our customers with the best service and deal in the market, as well as, offering a young and open environment where learning and ideas were free to flow. Earning trust and loyalty was our game.
Due to the impressive results that our young sales team produced, we wanted to reward them but in a different way (not just money). So we presented this idea to them: since our new office was rather bland, they would be responsible for decorating it with a fun new piece of furniture, if they meet their monthly targets. The decision was totally up to them and we gave them a modest budget. They chose a hammock.
As most young and old managers know, it is always somewhat of a learning balance between finding the right mix of incentives which keep your employees motivated throughout the year. In a start up, and especially in one where the culture is young, the promise and incentive to work hard & “make it big” exists. It’s an intangible incentive really and its value is hard to quantify (although I suppose one could by making estimates on the value of shares). This economic carrot was a great motivator at our company, but what also really drew the young talented employees was our relaxed, open and fast paced culture where jeans were the norm and lifelong friendships were made. It truly was a work hard, play hard environment.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” ~ Peter Drucker
We were somewhat blessed at this start up as our youngsters really stepped up to the challenges presented and delivered. We also grew quickly, so there was plenty of opportunity for these young hires to grow into more senior roles.
Now the hammock might seem kind of silly as a lot of start up furniture can be. For example, we have all heard about start-ups with pool tables, ping-pong and foosball, but this hammock symbolized more for this group. It was a wonderful example of the culture of our company and we did not hide it at all. Our office at this point was quite small, so if you came in, you saw the hammock. In fact, it was often the first question out of any job candidate's mouth when they visited to interview. Hence, the story was often repeated and it gave new potential hires a very clear and visible example of our company young, hard working and fun culture.
Providing employees with an opportunity to put their stamp into the office environment helps employees feel more vested into the company. It’s a simple way to help your employees feel a bit more at home by allowing them to express their personality. Hence, our employees real reward was the freedom for them to choose and to put an expression of their personality into the office. They chose it because their job was stressful and tiring at times. Thus, they wanted a place to unwind in the office, but clearly this simple piece of furniture represented much more.
Another great example of expressing one’s company culture that I have had the pleasure of witnessing was at a small IT managed services company, NENS.com. Their employee base is predominantly engineers, so their environment is quite technical in nature. When you walk into their office, you immediately see all of the various IT awards and various high level certifications (Microsoft, Lenovo, etc.) When you walk down the entrance hall past these items, there is a row of framed Simpsons characters on the wall. Each employee has their own Simpson character and this is more clearly displayed on their site under their career section.
These little examples (Simpsons characters & the hammock) are solid examples of how companies can express themselves and visibly show a taste of their culture. These expressive environments and company cultures are definitely becoming more of the norm today and it’s no wonder that this is where most young, bright graduates want to be. These young and relaxed cultures of course can still be ridiculed at times by the more reserved or formal cultures, but at the end of the day it’s all about results. These new cultures have proven to be effective and very successful as long as they are coupled with talented leaders that focus on achieving and managing their company’s goals effectively.