The following is a guest post from Demi Wetzel, Office Manager at Startup Weekend.
In order to be a company with transcending qualities, your core missions and goals must be well known. If every single employee or team member cannot recite the collective goals, something is missing. I am not implying that every person on your team should recite the manifesto word for word but they should be able to summarize it. Test it out in your office sometime. Randomly ask people what their company does. Who do they do it with? And most importantly, why do they do it?
At Startup Weekend, we truly value our “why” and our culture. Among the dozens of current buzzwords in startup vocabulary, culture is at the top of the list. We are all becoming obsessed with what runs our companies and for good reason. What kind of people makes it work and what kind of practices make it crumble? The answer to most questions and especially this question is to look inward.
We try and keep our office culture fluid and relaxed. However, as anyone managing a group of 20+ relaxed workers may know, things can get messy. We are still a young organization but one that is incredibly ambitious. We’ve been running so fast for our entire lives at Startup Weekend that many tasks can get lost. When massive growth smacks you in the face, you tend to lose a few things.
Startup Weekend Headquarters
Our space is filled with shades of green because that is the color of Startup Weekend. We also hang many personal touches such as childhood photos of team members and funny posters that keep us in check. To an outsider, our decor may seem random but 75% of our basic office decor serves a purpose. We are intentional about everything. For every cause there is a definite reaction. Our mission is a big, hairy, & extremely audacious goal and we use our culture to remind us of it.
Someone doesn’t make us spend x amount of time with each other on the weekends. We do it because we want to. While it would be easy to say we share the family dynamic, that would not be 100% correct. We do not have the typical matriarch and patriarch within our organization. We do have present leaders and those who have seniority but we also rely on problem solving as opposed to reprimanding.
The core of our organization and what drives us everyday are the stories and the people involved with us. We thrive off the generous support and volunteer spirit throughout the world. If it were not for them, we quite literally would not survive. Our team is a fantastic, productive team for many reasons. However, this did not develop over night. The culture of your team is a living, breathing monster. You must allow it to grow organically and see what happens. Then, you must be intentional about what steps you can take in order to remain successful.
In order to keep any culture thriving, it’s highly encouraged to stay uncomfortable. Urge the team to seek out discomfort and really step out of every safe zone they have. This can help departments cross party lines and open doors where they usually would not. There is also a great strength in being vulnerable. If team members feel like they can present risky ideas and projects, then you will also find a mutual bond within the group. Making people feel safe within your walls is important for future growth.
To encourage your people to live a fulfilling life, they must feel as if growth is expected. Allow side projects and help form them into the person and team member they wish to be. Not what you think they should be.
In the Startup Weekend office, you’ll find Nerf Guns, guitars, workout balls, and who knows what else. All of these silly items help people distress and let walls down. Like all startups, our team works insanely hard everyday of the week. Always provide your team with a little bit of fun. We hold quarterly and sometimes monthly team activities. Sometimes it is something educational like the Living Computer Museum or perhaps we spend the evening in a digital free zone just jamming together.
Your company culture is exactly what you make it. If you are unsatisfied with the state of it then orchestrate efforts into the direction you see it heading. The best thing about compiling a productive and thrilling culture is that anyone can do it. The task should not be left alone for one person. Make it a collaborative process and you’ll have more resumes coming at you than you know what to do with. But hopefully, your organization’s team will be stronger than ever.
To find out more about Startup Weekend’s culture, view the presentation on Slideshare.