6 Secrets to Building a Great Company Culture

This year, the employees of SpareFoot (we call them SpareFeet) gave the company one of the biggest compliments an employer could ever receive.

In confidential surveys for the Austin Business Journal’s Best Places to Work program, the people of SpareFoot gave the company high enough praise that we were named our region’s 2013 Best Place to Work among midsize employers. This honor was no accident. Every day, SpareFoot strives hard to make the company a place where people truly want to work and truly feel valued—and where they really want to stay.

What’s particularly noteworthy about this recognition is that SpareFoot has managed to foster and maintain an awesome company culture while growing from just two employees five years ago to about 90 today.

Here are six tips on how to cultivate a phenomenal company culture like the one we have at SpareFoot.

1. Put Culture First

Whoever’s running the company must embrace the concept that building an awesome culture is one of the most important parts of his or her job—spend plenty of time focusing on it and adapting it as you grow. Culture is like your product; what works for 10 employees won’t necessarily work for 100 employees, so you must adjust accordingly.

2. Treat Your People Like You’d Want to be Treated

This seems simple, but it’s amazing how most companies somehow treat their employees differently from how they would want to be treated. A big part of that is not getting emotional and not taking things personally. Everybody at SpareFoot is working toward the common goal of building a big, valuable company, so we don’t have the time or resources to get caught up in silly emotional drama.

3. Avoid Hierarchy and Politics

At SpareFoot, no one is special, and no one’s opinion matters more than anyone else’s. We use data to make decisions; we don’t rely on feelings, opinions or power. And we don’t use titles internally, as those tend to lead to internal hierarchy.

4. Be Transparent

Share everything—financials, operating results, big company news, how and why major decisions are being made, and so forth. At SpareFoot, we post financial information for everyone to see, and we pass along all sorts of data at weekly all-hands meetings. If someone asks a question about our company’s performance, we don’t shy away from answering it.

5. Work Hard and Play Hard

In a startup environment where everyone must work harder than they would at a normal job, you must reward your team for working their asses off by hosting lots of fun social events, such as happy hours and boating trips. These can be expensive, but they’re invaluable from a team-building perspective.

6. Focus on Hiring the Best People

Don’t settle for mediocrity, even if your need to fill a role is absurdly time-sensitive. Be extremely hard-core about your hiring process, and get everyone on the team to treat hiring with the utmost importance.

Author: Chuck Gordon, 26, is co-founder, CEO and culture leader of SpareFoot, an Austin, Texas-based startup that runs the country’s largest online marketplace for self-storage.

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