Don't Look Like a Business That Works, Be One
There is a sense in startups, especially in the tech space, that a successful business has a certain look and feel to it. Something hip and flashy that fits every stereotype like a glove. Catered meals, walls that you can write on, etc. But as we know, it can’t be all flash, and no substance. Your first priority should always be building a business that works for you and your team, not just a pretty picture of what that could look like.
For many businesses, these two realities might be one in the same. Maybe all the trappings of the Hollywood version of what a business should look like fit you and your culture perfectly. If that’s the case, go all in on the flash, because ultimately, this is all about creating a space where people want to work, and maybe that’s exactly what you need to achieve that.
But the truth is that this is just one of the many ways that you can construct a place that people are happy to come to everyday. The key is not to be that perfect picture, but to build a space that “serves a function that represents your company and your values,” as Marty Fukuda of Entrepreneur puts it.
If your values align with all those images that have become staples of what many people expect out of startups then you should absolutely push in that direction. But in reality, it’s rare that this “one-size-fits-all” strategy really works. Every business in different and the space that they work should be tailored to fit the people working there.
What this ultimately boils down to is creating a space that fits your culture and your story, not a paint-by-numbers version of what people feel it should be. While it’s true that those perks and stylish front faces may be attractive to potential employees, it’s not what’s going to get them to stick around.
As Marty says, the people you want on your side are those that “believe in the company, what it stands for and the direction is headed.” Your space should reflect who you are, not who you want to be. In many cases, all that extra stuff just turns out to be distractions anyway, and it doesn’t speak to those core values that are really going to get people committed.
There can be a real cost to putting so much weight on “keeping up appearances,” in more ways than one. If the true substance of your company doesn’t live up to the thing you’re promising, it can destroy your credibility and your long-term retention.
Ideally, you want people that are willing to take the time to invest themselves in your mission, not the people that are just in it for all the pretty front-facing parts. Constantly re-hiring sucks for everyone involved, and employees that stick around are probably doing the best work for your continued success anyway.
And it can quite literally be incredibly expensive to construct that perfect office space. The truth is that you don’t need to break the bank to create place where people want to work. If you can make them really believe that they are valued, that they are part of something bigger than themselves that’s worth doing — that they are a part of a story worth telling — then you have everything you need.
That’s the kind of substance that’s really going to count for something in the long run.