STARTUP

4 Ways to Create a Cool Company Culture

Want to attract the best talent? You'll need an awesome company culture. Here are a few quirky ideas on how to build one.
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The war for talent at start-ups is notoriously intense, so how can you lure the best and brightest brains to your team? Perks help, of course, but free food and massages in a dreary atmosphere clearly isn't going to get the job done.

What you really need is a great company culture, with a bonded team, a sense of purpose and a fun work environment. But how do you accomplish that?

That's what one questioner recently wanted to know on Quora, asking "What are the coolest startup culture hacks you've heard of?" Founders and veteran startup employees rushed to weigh in on what actually works to create the fabled "startup culture." Here are a few of their ideas:

The Team That Travels Together…

We've already reported on one CEO who recommends traveling with potential co-founders to ensure you really click, but how about traveling with your whole start-up team? That's what two responders suggested on Quora. Jonny Miller, founder of Maptia and a TechStars alum, reports that he actually moved his whole team to a beachside house in Morocco.

"Needing to make our runway last until we had launched the Beta for our product, we… found a cheap apartment only ten meters from the Atlantic ocean in the Moroccan surf town of Taghazout--now equipped with high speed broadband (thanks to Ken's technical genius) and enough space for all five of us currently on the team to live and work comfortably," he writes.

Meanwhile, Richard Banfield, CEO of web design firm Fresh Tilled Soil, suggests "workaction." He explains:

"We send our staff to exotic locations like Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The idea is for them to try working remotely from some unusual location. We pay for their air ticket, accommodation and food - as well as surfing lessons or something that gets them out if their comfort zone. They work a full eight hours a day but also get time to surf, do yoga, or whatever they want. This time is not vacation this is over and above their regular vacation time."

The Starter Kit

But don't worry if your pockets aren't deep enough to send your team to some seaside paradise--not all of the hacks suggested are so lavish. Take Commerce Sciences' starter kits, for example.

"We've got a tradition from day one for welcoming new employees to our startup - the last person to join the company is responsible to create a 'starter kit' for the next one to join. Each 'kit' is totally different and personalized (depending on how creative the last person is), ranging from funny jokes, interesting books to Nerf Guns and coffee capsules," explains engineer Oren Ellenbogen.

Or Airbnb has another possibe idea if you want to convey the company culture to new hires, recounted by a founder who visited their offices in 2011:

"The founders gave me (and a group of others) a tour of the original Airbnb apartment where they came up with the idea as a means to make their rent. Joe Gebbia in particular seemed really excited and impassioned while recounting the tale. Apparently they did this with all new hires. I don't know if they still do it but, I hope so, because I thought that was a pretty cool way to educate your people on the history of the company and also to connect with them personally and demonstrate the doggedness that I think is a large part of their origin story and culture."

This is only a very small sampling of the ideas on offer, which range from burger-flipping CEOs to grown up show-and-tell days and intentionally over-complicated espresso machines, so check out the interesting thread on Quora for many more ideas.

What "culture hack" are you most proud of at your company?

 

IMAGE: ernestoborges/Flickr
Last updated: Apr 26, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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