On the Floor
Last year Meg talked about the importance of play when it comes to productivity. As a growing business it's even more important that we forge personal relationships with our colleagues and clients. It's important because there is always more work than available hours and we need to develop the trust that we are all pulling in the same general direction and can lean on each other when common goals need to be met. There isn't some other IT, HR, Marketing, or Sales department where we can shuffle off our responsibilities.
One of my first jobs was at a technology start-up that had lofty goals and experienced some initial rapid growth. We also experienced many of the growing pains that start-ups often do such as financial challenges and the need to be flexible in our roles. We wouldn't have made it as far as we did without the personal bonds that we formed during those hectic days. This was done by doing the things that people have always done to form relationships: eating, drinking, and playing together. We took turns hosting company dinners in our own homes and got to know everyone personally and not just professionally. Because of this we were able to achieve much more than we would have otherwise.
Sometimes day-to-day work can be so demanding that thinking about culture (never mind actively working on it) can take a back seat. This can seem like a good trade-off for a while, but it will eventually begin to have an effect on a whole host of business areas like productivity, employee retention, and sales. Finding yourself in a position where you can't spare some time to work on culture is an indicator that you are in danger of heading down this path.
Our company garden is just one of the ways we cultivate culture at factor[e]. We have a couple of plots at the nearby Hill Street Community Garden Most afternoons a few of us will take a 15-20 minute break and walk down to the garden to plant, water, weed, and chat. We snack on whatever is ready and enjoy a few minutes of each others' company outside of project deadlines.
I think there's a fear of getting personal in modern business, but, to borrow a cartoon I've used before:
As a small business owner are you spending enough time cultivating your personal relationships with employees and clients? If you do so you may realize not only increased happiness and satisfaction but also more resiliency in your business and your clients' businesses!