A VC: The Office Matters

Another JLM gold nugget from a comment on avc

All of the little things are important when you can afford them and even more important when you can’t.

The building of a company culture is a fundamental exercise in creating a team and influencing the morale of a team — in a start up a fledling team, perhaps.  I have seen this many times because I love turnarounds and have done a few of them.

I once sat in a conference room and asked seven territory managers what was wrong with “this” company and about 9 hours later they were half done.   I know something about toxic company cultures and turning them around.The wellspring of any company culture is the quality of the leadership and the quality of the leadership’s vision for the company.  On the first day of employment, every new employee should be greeted by the CEO. If you do nothing else, do this.I do this all the time and I spend about 90 minutes briefing the FNG about my background, the values of the company and the strategic plan. All of this is in writing. I put the values in a little big index card sized booklet, spiral bound and looking just a bit homemade — because it is. I want them to see my fingerprints on the murder weapon.

Most of my folks travel and I let them buy a used $25K SUV (want them to win all accidents) I tell them that “this company only has good people, people like you”.

I make sure their AmEx card is ready, business cards are done, phone is working when they arrive.   Cell phone, laptop, digital camera — top of the line for all — ready to go.   Cubicle w/ their name plate in place and fully stocked w/ office supplies.  I provide comprehensive health insurance health, dental, vision, life and a wellness program.

I try to pay 25% more than the competition and I pay performance bonuses on top of that — when they are earned. [Note: today, everybody is just happy to have a job and a secure payroll.]

I allow anybody in the company to know everybody else in the company’s compensation. I reward success with unannounced awards, rewards and gifts.  I buy my CFO some Cubans when I go to Florida and leave them on his desk. I am pretty sure he knows where they come from.

I have a company meeting at least once a month and I allow the folks to ask me anything and I won’ let them leave until they have asked at least 3 tough questions.

I tell you this not to be smug.  Believe me I have been doing this stuff so long, my assistant actually does all the work and it is just a habit. I deserve no credit beyond the second iteration. I tell you this because I see a big difference between the superficial and the significant.  Feeding folks thrice per week — OK w/ me.

Paying folks more than the market — very, very, very important to me. I would caution you to build sustainable well grounded companies rather than following the latest fad — hey, some of those fads will become the culture of well grounded companies, I am not finding fault — because a moment will come when you may wish you had spent a bit more time on the strategic plan or a little more time w/ your bankers.  A catered meal for the employees will not substitute for sound business management and visionary leadership. Resist the temptation to be everybody’s buddy and to relate on a superficial “Taco Tuesday” level.  I worship tacos, mind you.  No fad or frill can compensate for plain old fashioned leadership and management competence.

Just a little different slant.

via A VC: The Office Matters.

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