8 Ways to Build Great Company Culture
August 16, 2017
Running a digital agency can be fun. But like all business, it’s the people that make it fun… or not. I have clients and colleagues consistently commenting on Ballistic Arts’ inclusive and youthful culture. And yes, we are a creative bunch, so there are daily video game battles and weekly yoga at our office.
Even if your business isn’t filled with millennials, you can still build unique and memorable company culture. Also, building great company culture doesn’t mean that you, as the owner or manager, have to do everything. I’ve found that if done right, your team members will take more ownership than you at times.
Here are a few ways that my company, Ballistic Arts, builds company culture. Note: we stole some of these ideas from books, other companies, and friends. So feel free to do some R&D (Rip-off and Duplicate)!
1. Live and Breathe by your Core Values.
Ballistic Arts’ 5 core values are the foundation of everything we do – from hiring staff, engaging with clients and suppliers, to supporting community initiatives. And no, our core values aren’t the superficial ones that you see on the walls of Corporate America, framed in black and gold, with “Excellence” and an Eagle flying over a mountaintop.
Coming up with our core values was our answer to the age-old saying “good help is hard to find”. We certainly thought so when we first started the company. As time passed, a mentor suggested Tak and I spend time figuring out what our core values and mission statements are.
This mentor suggested to use our core values as a filtering mechanism to see if staff members were a fit or not for the company. Sure, anyone with technical knowledge can perform tasks on a job description, but we’ve found that our core values are our framework to see if a new prospective staff person will be a fit or not to our existing team.
2. Regular Family Meetings
Every quarter or so, Ballistic Arts will hold a Family Meeting. Some companies call it quarterly meetings, or company meetings. We chose to call ours a Family Meeting because we want to hear from everyone in the company (from project managers, directors to the intern or co-op student).
As business owners or managers, we tend to live in a bit of a bubble. Most staff just aren’t going criticize what you do. So, we wanted a forum where all staff members felt they can give their insights from the standpoint of being in a family – we’re in this together!
And as the boss, I try really hard (albeit unsuccessfully at times) not to crush other people’s ideas – even if I’ve already thought about the particular solution they’re presenting and why it won’t work. I’ve found that by listening to them first, the other person feels heard, their idea is validated, and a lot of the times, their train of thought leads down to a solution I didn’t quite see.
Family Meetings need to have an agenda, and some measurable goals as to what the company wants to accomplish in the next few months. Keep it short and sweet though. No half day sessions with 90 slides. You start seeing yawns… Ours are typically 90 – 120 minutes, and involves interaction and feedback from the team.
If your team buys-in into whatever is created at the Family Meeting, you simply have to ask the group who wants to own a particular task, and someone will invariably champion it.
3. Buddy Meetings
We have weekly buddy meetings where team members pair up and go over one work related goal and one personal related goal. Pairs are assigned and we typically try to match up people from different departments. That way they can share with someone they don’t usually interact with. This creates belonging, sharing, and a sense of “hey, this person has my back!”
Pairs typically rotate after every Family Meeting at Ballistic Arts. The idea is that new goals can be set, and fresh ideas from new partners can be created.
4. Have Regular Social Events
One of the items that came up at one of our Family Meetings was to strike a social committee. We noticed that our team really liked hanging out with each other (due to our core values). But because Tak and I are so busy, you know, running the biz, planning events is always very low on the priority list.
We asked the team who might be interested in taking charge of a social committee and half a dozen hands shot up!
The group meets weekly and comes up with ideas. We assign them a budget, some basic parameters on what’s appropriate or not for a company event, and off they go!
Since it’s our 15th anniversary, we’ve created an events calendar with a goal of having 15 events this year. Some events are internal only (movie night, RibFest, hot pot at the office, pumpkin carving, paint night), and some are fun with clients (BBQ at Spanish Banks, Archery Tag, Food Bank Drive, Board Game day – we’re going Pitch and Putt and Karaoke next).
While Tak and I are a creative pair, we would’ve never had the time to put these on, nor think of doing most of these things.
Now if pumpkin carving or Archery Tag are not your jam, that’s fine. Find out what’s fun for your team and do that!
5. Do Good Events
We make sure that at least one or two of our events are what we’ve dubbed “Do Good” events. Yes, Taco Night with Beer Pong is lots of fun, but our team members also want to give back to the community. This year, Ballistic Arts has attended or put on events like Walk a Mile for gender equality, cleaned up Como Creek by our office, and rode for mental health awareness.
These are fun, easy to put together (especially if you’re simply attending a community event), and reminds everyone just how lucky we are as a company.
6. Morning Scrum at 9:18
This is a concept we completely ripped off from Brian Scudamore at 1-800-Got-Junk. Thanks buddy! We attended one of their office tours years ago, and have implemented some form of this ever since. We’ve created our own version of it to suit what’s important for us.
The entire company meets every morning at 9:18. Not 9:00, not 9:30. 9:18. If you’re there at 9:19, you know you’re late.
We go over company metrics, any good news, Family Meeting metrics, upcoming events, give cards out for birthdays and anniversaries, and do a word of the day cheer. It’s 7 mins, gets people engaged (for the most part), reminds us of our internal tasks, and is a great way to start the day!
7. Have Leadership Opportunities
While working for a smaller company comes with perks (see above mentioned events, etc.), we recognize that there isn’t a corporate ladder to climb that will get you from the mailroom to the VP desk.
So we’ve created other opportunities at work. We now have regular P2P (Peer to Peer) sessions, where a member of a particular department will provide a 20-30 minute info session on a specific topic. It’s a great way for departmental cross training, and is a great way for people to have some public speaking training in a safe environment.
We have inter-departmental coaching, online training opportunities, and some staff take seminars that we reimburse depending on the grade they get from the course.
8. Create a Fun-ish Work Environment
Some days I feel like I work in a bit of a dorm or a sorority/frat house. People get to decorate their stations, set up guitars, have mats for their dogs, etc.
We buy a lot of snacks (or Tak does), have multiple gaming stations, etc.
However, it still needs to be a functional work environment where clients can come meet you in a professional setting.
We’ve found that the open concept office space is great and allows people to cozy on up to each other.
I’ve been to offices where they have trophies, foosball tables, pinatas, etc.
These are just some things that we’ve done to cognizantly and consistently enhance company culture. I hope that you can incorporate some of these ideas into your company too. What ideas about company culture do you have to share?
Until next time,