Company culture can be a lucrative point of difference for a modern business.
While ping pong tables, free lunches and social clubs have become the new norm, the tone set by a company’s founders Is the difference between when it comes to attracting the best talent and the risk of losing It to rivals.
Speaking at the Sydney premier of The New Hustle, a feature-length documentary that follows the personal journey of three of Australia’s most successful startups, co-founder of Vinomofo Andre Eikmeier recalled the moment he and co-founder Justin Dry took on their first employee and realized thru had to think about the culture they wanted to create.
While he said “it was always a thought”, the reality of having others depend on you and your company was a huge pressure initially.
“I remember when we had the first person who was a developer, Ollie, and he was our first employee,” Eikmeier recalled.
“It had been Justin and I for four years in my garage, and then my lounge room and then Justin working from his own lounge room because he was a bit sick of being in my lounge room and my kids… It was a whole lot of, oh my God, we need an office! We can’t have this guy coming into our lounge room with our kids. And oh my God, he’s just had a baby, so holy shit, we’re responsible for his life and his livelihood. And oh my God, we need a culture, and he’s a really nice guy and we need to give [back].
“You go: we need to figure how to make this really enjoyable for him, and that he can grow and develop and have this a great job. How do we make a great job? We need a culture.
“We searched and searched and searched… Surely somebody’s got a great culture handbook and nobody did.
“All the companies, and I would speak to friends of mine who were like, you know, senior at Westpac, or even friends of ours who were big in HR with Google, and it all seemed to be awful.
“So we were searching for this methodology… and found this book called, “First Break All The Rules” by the guys from the Gallup Institute in the US. It was the first time I had read about somebody not just being like, ‘Well, we’re employing you. F*** your lucky, you better work hard’.
“It’s our responsibility to create this environment that brings out the best in you, and then we can say, ‘So f*** you, you better work hard’.
“That became the cornerstone in our culture.
“You think you’re the only ones doing stuff if you’re locked in your own little world when you got a startup. The more we sort of reached out and as we grew and got to know other companies, we realised everyone’s got the same stuff they have to do and everybody’s in the same boat so will figure it out in their own way, the same way.
“That was really cool,” he said, suddenly being responsible for the livelihood of others.
“It was a big responsibility. It was kind of cool, but kind of terrifying.”
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