But all of these changes at Dialexa have got me thinking a lot about our company culture lately. Having spent over a decade in the startup and technology world, I know first-hand that culture can make or break a company. When you are a startup, maintaining good team culture while growing fast takes careful planning and diligence. It’s easy to feel like a family when you are just starting out. When you're this small family fighting together to thrive and do something meaningful, a culture develops. If you’ve developed good culture, it can be quite fulfilling. Good, fun culture that makes you happy can also play a huge role in keeping the momentum. However once you start growing quickly, the close bond and family-like feeling can start to diminish if you’re not careful.
Since maintaining and scaling company culture requires so much thought and effort, and since I know blog posts with lists are super popular, I thought I’d make a list of seven simple things that have contributed to the Dialexa team's shared success. I truly believe these are all just as doable as they are important for every organization to consider when defining (or redefining) your company and team culture.
1. Take Time to Reflect, Rejoice and Recharge
When Brad joined our team, one of the first things he and Scott Harper, founder and CEO, wanted to do was have a formal all-company meeting to reflect on our past success, discuss the current status of the company and where we are headed and celebrate. So a few weeks ago, everyone gathered together for our first “state of the union” meeting. Scott kicked off the meeting talking about Dialexa's company history, why he and co-founder Mark Haidar started the company, what their vision for a great company was, and how we’ve been able to achieve the impossible in such a short amount of time. When an organization grows as fast as ours, I can't emphasize enough the importance of reflecting upon and reiterating its shared history. For us, it helped ground the many new team members in what we're all about and give a taste of the amount of dedication, passion and sheer grit that was involved in getting the company off the ground and to this point.
2. Take Ownership Together to Achieve Big Things Together
Encourage project teams to make aspirational goals, take risks and take ownership of the outcome - together. This plays a big part in accomplishing things the team wouldn’t accomplish if you're only setting goals the team knew could be achieved. This goes for both internal and client projects. However, when creating goals, you never want to overcommit and underdeliver to a client for risk of harming the client relationship and demoralizing the team in the process.
3. Give Real Feedback, For Real
Give constructive feedback. This is something I think gets mentioned a lot, even by companies and teams that don’t really give constructive feedback. This is the only way team members have the ability to take risks. A team member can’t feel good about taking a risk for no reward and then chance being figuratively crapped on. Don’t let your passionate feedback make you come off like a curmudgeon. Encourage each other to aim high and support them.
4. Give Credit When Credit is Due
A lot of people think “I don’t need a pat on the back for doing a good job” but being told you did a good job after having gone above and beyond can be very replenishing. This is just as important as discussing the things that need to be corrected or done better next time. Take time to say "thanks" in whatever way is most genuine for you.
5. Laugh -- A Lot and Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
One of my favorite stories is the one Mark tells about how he and Scott got the idea for Vinli while in the hot tub "taking a bath together." I almost lose it every time I hear that story. I love that the co-founders of our company are not afraid to make jokes at their own expense. It sets the tone for a work environment that acknowledges the importance of laughter - even in the face of big, complex projects and sometimes challenging deadlines.
6. Never Be Too Busy for One-on-One Time with Team Members
Everyone is busy all the time. Especially if you’re working in technology trying to turn great ideas into something not just functional, but special. Then you could probably stay busy 16 hours a day and eat, commute and sleep in the remaining eight hours. But that’s not sustainable on many levels. If you have a significant other and kids, you know they probably wouldn't be okay with that schedule, at least not for long. Your work family needs individual attention too. No matter what your role is, you should make time for your work family. Breakfast, lunch, happy hour… just schedule it on the calendar and treat it as an important event because it is. Don’t reschedule it because you're too busy with ‘work’.
7. Make Time for Fun and Bonding with Company Outings
In addition to one-on-one time with team members, company outings are very important. This is one of the best ways for team members to get to know each other and build a shared bond across the team. Split a little early after a successful milestone or delivery to praise your team. And a couple of times per year, the entire company should get away from the office to do something together. Activities are great, but if that isn’t financially feasible, go out for an early happy hour. And if that’s not possible, turn off all computers and have happy hour at the office.
Whatever You Do, Make Culture a Priority
Your company’s culture can help empower your team to achieve great things or cause the company to shut down. Think about culture, invest in it and make it a real priority. Even small things can make people happier...and happier team members kick more ass.
To learn more about how Dialexa approaches innovation for our customers, including our software development process, click the image below.