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COMPANY CULTURE

How to Create a “Weird” Company Culture

An offbeat culture and an obsession with product design helped turn Method into a $100 million company.
Keeping It Weird Eric Ryan once donned a raccoon costume to entertain a visiting retailer.
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An offbeat culture and an obsession with product design helped turn Method, a San Francisco-based soapmaker, into a $100 million company. In a new book, The Method Method, co-founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry lay out their approach to creating a company in which flash mobs and dance parties are routine occurrences. Inc. reporter Eric Markowitz spoke with Eric Ryan about the Method way.

In the book, you describe how job candidates are asked to demonstrate how they plan to keep Method "weird." What's your objective?
Back in 2004, when we were hiring a lot of people, I heard comments like, "We just need a warm body." After some bad hires, I thought we needed to find a better way to scrutinize the people coming in. With this question, you get a sense of who this person really is.

What was your favorite response?
One person who interviewed for a job in our London office asked everyone to leave the building for 10 minutes. And they're all standing in the street, like, "Is he robbing us?" When they came back, he had built an entire scavenger hunt for them around the values of Method. He's now the general manager there.

Does the interview process ever turn anyone off?
It's a rite of passage. It reminds everybody that, "Yeah, I'm working somewhere really special." San Francisco is a tough place to hire sometimes, because you have so much competition. And not a lot of people dream of working for a soap company. So we have to position Method as a leader to attract the great talent we need to grow.

You are also known to surprise your corporate visitors.
When retailers come visit us, we like to shock them a little, I guess. We'll have the entire company in the lobby to surprise them with different things. We'll have a dance party, or we'll light up the elevators in funky colors and "Eye of the Tiger" will be blasting on the speakers. It reminds them that this company works for them. Not many people get to be treated like a celebrity when they walk into an office.

After writing this book, are you afraid other companies might steal some of your ideas?
At Method, we're all about transparency and openness. Plus, if you give away your ideas, it forces you to go out and get new ones.

From the October 2011 issue of Inc. magazine




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