More Than Nerf Guns—Creating a Great Company Culture, Part 1: Core Values
“Culture” and “Core Values” are terms that get thrown around a lot in today’s version of corporate buzz word bingo—so much so that they run the risk of losing all meaning. But, just like an old adage that became ubiquitous because it was true, underneath these buzzwords can be found the success of companies that “get it.” Google, Zappos and 3M are some of the most oft-mentioned examples of getting “company culture” right—with a creative spark that underscores their core values and results in a better company, an enviable workplace (attracting the best people) and better core products and services.
But no matter your business model, even if you think of your business as “boring,” maintaining a good company culture is a great way to reinforce your company image, elevate workplace morale and even increase profits. Let’s look at a couple of close-to-home examples of company culture, starting with our own experience here at Vital.
The Vital Culture
We hear it all the time: “You guys look like you are having so much fun at work!” or “Do you ever actually get any work done?” Both of these questions are usually followed by: “Are you hiring?” At Vital, we have worked hard to build a culture that is both fun and collaborative. Sure, we have our employee birthday celebrations like many workplaces, but it’s the underlying values (and a super social-media-integrated team) that result in such a consistently positive reputation.
Here are some of our core values, and how we execute them into our company behaviors, resulting in this overall Vital Culture.
- Core Value: Be a Team of Experts
At Vital, every person is an expert in a specific area. We allow individual career empowerment, knowing that experts that have freedom to grow their own roles, expand their knowledge and skills and hone their area of personal interest end up making the entire team stronger. We don’t micromanage. Each expert is given empowerment and responsibility to own their contributions, to perfect their participation in each aspect of our process. This means we’re all doing the thing we love to do, and are challenged to continually make it that much more awesome.
- Core Value: Collaboration Breeds a Better Work Ethic
You may have noticed from our Facebook and Twitter photos (and the header photo of this blog post) that we have an open office layout. We’ve got half-walls and glass walls and partial walls, but keeping everyone on the same level and within close proximity breeds collaboration and general tomfoolery. Sure, we plug into our headphones when concentration is needed, but being accessible to others working on the same project saves piles of emails, hours lost to miscommunication… and yes, the occasional Nerf gun fight.
- Core Value: Enjoy Working —and Playing—Hard Together
It’s the number one rule for building a great company: hire wisely. When we’re looking to add more talent to our team, we run applicants through a rigorous series of interviews, including a post-work beer hangout with the whole team. You can pass all the technical requirements with flying colors, but if we don’t enjoy hanging out and having a meal or beverage with you, those occasional long work nights aren’t going to be any fun, either. We DO work, and we work hard. Mutual respect for each other’s expertise is complimented by the cohesion of easygoing personalities.
- Core Value: Make and Market the Best Websites Found on the Internet
We’re proud of our work, and have built and marketed some really cool websites. These things don’t make themselves, though, and launching a well-designed, responsive, engaging website takes priority over other things… like, say, timely holiday parties. We noticed our busiest season happened to fall right around the end of the year, giving us the opportunity for another way to be different—Christmas in the Spring! We generally have our big annual holiday party in March or April. It actually works out great, breaking up an otherwise boring (or cold, windy, muddy season—AHEM, 2014) with some holiday cheer.
- Core Value: Be a Social Company
No doubt about it—we’re a very social-media-friendly company. We’re ALL on Twitter, most are pretty active on Facebook and Instagram, and a few of us social media nuts are on 12-15 other social media channels on a daily or weekly basis. This isn’t just because it’s fun—although that helps. It also ensures that we have our finger on the pulse of everything happening in our industry, that we’re always staying current. A big bonus of this is that we’re also always sharing cool and fun things that happen in and around the office, so it goes to further reinforce the culture even to people who’ve never visited us in person.
These are just a few of the ways that our core values help to shape our company culture. Now let’s look at another New Hampshire company that is killing it with their awesome culture (pun intended): Stonyfield! (Get it? Yogurt…Culture…)