A space that features foosball tables, karaoke machines, beer kegs, and free snacks sounds more like a rec room for adults than a workplace.
But those are just a few of the enviable perks Yelp offers its 900 New York-based employees.
Founded in 2004 and headquartered in San Francisco, Yelp is a nearly $US3 billion company that allows consumers to locate and review businesses on its mobile app and website now. It now has seven offices around the US and Europe, including one in the heart of Manhattan that Business Insider visited.
We went inside the Madison Avenue office to get a clearer picture of what the Yelp culture is really like. Here’s what we saw and learned:
Upon arriving at Yelp's New York office on a Wednesday afternoon in August, we were greeted by Paul Reich, vice president of local sales, who would be our tour guide. Our first stop: the Yelp Café.
Reich said this is where Yelp's New York employees -- most of whom work in sales -- can enjoy a caffeine break Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
The entire time we were there, loud, upbeat music was playing throughout the office. Reich told us that the playlists tend to be pretty eclectic: 'We don't know whether we'll be hearing Brazilian or samba or even some heavy metal.' When we arrived at the office, 'Rock Lobster' by the B-52s was playing.
Reich said music is a major part of the New York office's culture. Case in point -- the New York office recently added a karaoke machine. Once in a while, the Yelp team will head out to Koreatown to sing their hearts out at karaoke bars.
Other employees have formed a capella groups, rock bands, and hip hop squads, he told us. Once in a while, they will perform in this common area built to resemble New York's High Line.
The New York office is split across two floors. Each floor has four sales teams. Each team is named after a different area in New York City. For example, the first 'neighbourhood' we visited was Astoria.
As we strolled through Astoria, we heard something unusual: the ringing of a gong. We learned each neighbourhood has its own gong, and Yelp salespeople hit it whenever they close a deal.
Once the gong rings, everyone gathers around to cheer and high five the salesperson who made the deal.
The office features a very open layout. Reich said Yelp doesn't believe in going behind closed doors for most small group meetings, so it offers employees plenty of open spaces where people can sit down and talk.
This is one spot where Yelp employees can find quiet, away from the hubbub and noise of the neighbourhoods. 'We need to provide space that's peaceful and serene,' Reich said. 'This is just a peaceful, safe zone where we don't play music.'
When all 900 people get together for an office-wide meeting, they typically gather in this spot outside the café.
'One of the wonderful things about running a sales organisation is the writing's on the wall,' Reich said. 'Everything is so transparent. Everyone can see how everyone is doing.'
Stepping away from the sales floor, we came across a miniature Stonehenge-esque meeting spot, where small groups of employees can gather together to exchange ideas.
... and table hockey. However, Reich said people tend to avoid playing games during the workday: 'This is an interesting thing about our culture -- we have all this fun stuff, but generally people grind during office hours. The only come in here unless they're at lunch or it's before or after hours. It's very disciplined.'
Yelp opened its first Manhattan location in 2008. Reich said the original office had exposed wires and no running water: 'It was so low-budget.' They have moved twice since then. The current location is the third iteration of Yelp's New York office.
As Yelp grows, Reich has noticed some differences. However, he said the overall company culture hasn't changed too much. Yelp's core values are still authenticity, honesty, tenacity, being different, and playing well with others, he said.
Since most employees in this office work in sales, the vibe can be stressful at times. 'It's a difficult job, being an evangelist,' Reich said. 'You're calling people who often don't want to talk to you. How do you counter that? With music, with love, with energy, and with support.'
Yelp recognises its stand-out employees in its Hall of Fame, which features customised portraits of those who have exemplified Yelp's core value of tenacity.
We also spotted a bunch of photos of this dog throughout the office. Reich told us that Darwin, a Vizsla, is the company's 'spiritual mascot.' If you've ever seen Yelp crash, you've probably seen him too (a picture of Darwin in a cage pops up when service goes down). He belonged to CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. Unfortunately, Darwin died last year at the age of 10.
Our last stop on our tour was the office bar. Yelp employees don't have to go very far for happy hour.
The office's 'kegerator' bar featured a selection of craft beer. Reich said that people do stop by almost every day after hours.
Reich noted that while the office has many fun perks, work is always prioritised. 'Although we want to have fun, we put the premium on winning and being excellent in our roles,' he says. 'Winning comes before fun, not fun before winning.'
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