2011 has been our busiest year yet. Busy in terms of sales, but also busy in terms of work load for everyone. In February I posted about how and why we’re starting to think more about our company culture. We’re working to become more cognizant of our culture: what we’re doing currently, how that impacts the future, and whether or not we should adjust what we’re doing right now so that it aligns better with our desired future culture.
This year we’ve made it a point to have regular team outings. About once per month we’ll do something together as a team (and by “team” I mean my partners and I, along with our warehouse manager Charlie, and sometimes our part-timer’s). We’ve increasingly made these outings simple to ensure that they actually happen. We’ve found that planning elaborate nights out, while fun, inevitably become difficult to co-ordinate with everyone’s schedule and therefore don’t happen as often as intended. Aside from our yearly Holiday party, I think we’ll be dialing back on those.
Instead, we’ve been grabbing a bite after work on Monday’s, the one day when we’re all at the warehouse together. We’ll do that about once per month. About once per quarter, we’ve been scheduling weekend outings. For example, in the winter we went to lunch and a college basketball game, and each of us brought along their significant other. A few weeks back we went to Dinosaur BBQ and a minor league baseball game. We’re hoping to do a hike in the fall.
The busier we are, the more important these outings become. We tend to obsess about what we need to improve upon, what we need to do even better than we’re currently doing it. And while that’s one of the things that has helped us succeed, it’s also generally focused on what we’re doing wrong and not on what we’re doing right. The reality is that we do a lot more stuff right than we do wrong. These outings help us take a step back and say “wow, look at what our hard work has led to”.
It’s also critical to us that these outings became regular now, while we’re still small. In the next 6 – 8 months we will be hiring at least two people, and as many as five. There will be at least one full-timer in that group, as well as some part-timers and contractors. As we introduce these new people into our company, we want these outings to be a solid part of the culture. By having fun together in a relaxed setting, outside of a fast-paced work environment, we all develop better relationships with each other…which ultimately results in a more enjoyable and productive job.
I do find it interesting how being a business owner has evolved over time. In the beginning, we were just trying to make enough to live. Then, the focus became growth and efficiency. And while we’re still trying to grow and be efficient, we’ve now entered a phase where hiring, teamwork, and culture will become integral components in whether we do or don’t succeed in 2012 and beyond.