Keeping The Culture

We have all had those jobs where we would rather pull out our teeth than have to go into work. The bed always seems a little cozier. Hitting snooze a minimum of 5 times a morning is routine. You dread Mondays and celebrate Fridays. This can all be an effect of ill company culture.

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same”
~ Carlos Castaneda

The first thing I noticed and loved about Sequoia is our company culture. Everyone seems more like friends or family than coworkers. We are all here for a common purpose to become the most intuitive internet marketing solution in the world. We lift each other up to achieve this goal. The support, excitement, and common goal all keep us driving forward as an unstoppable force.

Once a month, we hold a “Town Hall” meeting in both of our offices. During our most recent Town Hall meeting in the Indy office, it was brought to everyone’s attention that we are a close-knit group and should not take these times for granted. I knew this was a good point, but all I could think was that I don’t want to just cherish the dynamic we have right now. I simply don’t want to ever give it up. This may seem like advantageous dreaming, but when you have something good, isn’t the goal to make it last as long as possible? I started wondering: as our numbers grow from 30 to 300, what can we do to ensure we don’t lose what so few have?

Tony Hsieh did not make Zappos.com an overnight success. He had to first “fail” with his first business LinkExchange. LinkExchange started out as an internet advertising cooperative. In November of 1996 the company consisted of only 10 people and by 1998 LinkExchange had acquired over 100 employees. Tony describes the company culture in the beginnings of the company as “all-for-one, one for all” that turned into a place all about “politics, positioning, and rumors”. In November of 1998 Microsoft bought LinkExchange for chump change: $265 million. Though this seems like a success to the outside eye, Tony felt he had failed because along the way their company culture turned into a nightmare. It became the place you would rather hit snooze 20 times before deciding to call in sick because your bed needed you more than your work. This “failure” had to happen before he started asking deep digging questions like:

  • What is success?
  • What is happiness?
  • What am I working towards?

We all at some point or another indirectly or subconsciously ask ourselves these questions throughout life, but don’t typically give these questions the thorough thought required to be effectual. My challenge for you is to ask yourself these questions for your personal and career life. Be honest and see what comes of it. I believe answering these questions will be a huge step towards improving and maintaining company culture.

Here are a few ideas gathered from and inspired by the book Delivering Happiness, the success story of Zappos.com.

  1. Recognize what you have. We have a young but knowledgeable team whose enthusiasm for creating intuitive solutions for our clients is only matched by our passion to constantly improve ourselves and the team’s knowledge as a whole.
  2. Have high standards for hiring. Like Tony said, hire people you would hang out with outside of work. This creates a fun atmosphere that may even encourage more people to hang out at work longer instead of counting down the minutes.
  3. All for one, one for all. This ties in to the previous. There should be a unity of support amongst which should come naturally with #2. Keeping this motto will keep the environment from being all about politics, positioning, and rumors.
  4. Work hard. Play Harder. It’s important to work hard, but it’s just as important to celebrate our victories. This does not mean we don’t recognize where we fail. It simply means take the good with the bad, but be sure to celebrate accordingly.
  5. Keep your passions at the forefront. Everyone has his or her strengths and passions just as everyone has their weaknesses and dislikes. It’s best to keep people in a position that keeps their passions at the forefront of their day. Not only will they be happier, they will be more productive and their work will be higher quality.
  6. Believe in your company. Everyone should know the overall vision of the company so they are able to set short term goals to achieve the long-term vision. Also, knowing the vision will help us all join ranks to fight for a single goal.

These are all factors to consider implementing on a group level, but keeping the culture also has to be an individual effort.

Creating amazing company culture is what will help us thrive as a business and as individuals. Being happy and even excited to go into work is how I hope we at Sequoia are and can continue to be. Sure we all face challenges on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis, but you can be happy and rest assured when you know you have 30 other people backing you. We all want to succeed and see our teammates succeed as well. We just need to keep our vision at the forefront and step out of our own way to success. As Beatrice Berry says:

“When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.”

Finally after answering the questions above, ask yourself one more question.

What can I do to help keep the culture?

For further interest or reading check out Delivering Happiness.