Money wont Fix your Shitty Company Culture

I truly believe that one can work at McDonalds mopping the floors or cleaning the bathrooms and still be happy. For me, I was shelving videos at a cult video rental store at 16 for minimum wage. My co-workers were all close to my age and we shared a love for cheesy horror films. There was a bond between employees and managers that made the job difficult to quit because one didn’t want to miss out on the social elements associated with the role. It was the worst paycheck I have ever gotten but the best job I have ever had.

Starting your company will have its road bumps. It comes with the territory. Some days or months will be better than others which means your company’s energy will shift from positive to negative at some point. If you find your culture in a bad spot, spending money to fix it (in my experience) will not work out.

I’ll give this one particular example. Repost had gone through a rocky patch in which myself and my technical co-founder were working long hours under a great deal of pressure. We were stressed, needed to perform, and as a result we weren’t as considerate of our co-worker’s happiness as we should have been. The company culture had gotten bad and as a result employees were simply not performing with the excitement or drive that they had when they had started. To combat the issue we decided to take the whole team to Disneyland after we found out someone on the team had never been. Why not create a fun company-wide experience to lighten the mood and get everyone back on a positive track, right? Wrong.

We spent over $1,000 in one day between entrance fees, travel, food, drinks etc. Less than a month later one of the employees essentially quit, and the other’s attitude declined so rapidly he was eventually let go. I consider this one of the worst ROI’s in the history of Repost. Yes it was a fun day, but it created no long lasting value for the company other than I can say I got drunk at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney and gave up $1k of company runway to do so.

I have found that throwing money to better culture almost always ends up being a complete waste of time and resources. I believe it is actually a scape-goat move when companies invest in large office spaces or throw big flashy parties to improve their company culture. It says that the company actually doesn’t want to deal with what is really important…Getting employees to buy into your company’s values so they can be happy about the work and mission itself. Spending money on experiences takes away time, runway, and usually dislocates you and your co-workers physically from the office. It’s just not productive to building the business, not cost effective, and I see no proof that a raging kegger has ever changed negative employee sentiment towards a manager or boss.

The take-away is if you want employees to be happy AND productive you need to do three things without question when your company is less than 10 people. Notice they all cost 0 dollars.

1. Make sure all employees have at least near-friendship based relationships with one another. Encourage employees to spend time with one another outside the office and come up with creative ways to do so.
2. Make sure everyone learns something new every day. Pro Tip: Getting them to admit to this out loud can be a very powerful technique.
3. Give all co-workers a longterm project that is theirs to fuck up. Ownership allows for a stronger sense of purpose and creates trust

Money wont fix your shitty company culture. If employee happyness is suffering you either need to fix your management style, or find a reason to give that problematic person(s) the axe. If you don’t fix it, it will affect your and everyone else’s productivity. Generally if someone is resentful or spiteful, you’re not going to be very successful at changing their mind because they wont be willing to open up to you.

Money isn’t the answer to building a good company culture. It’s the interpersonal relationships between hires tethered to their buy in to the company’s mission. THAT is what makes a person happy and motivated, and THAT is something you simply cannot buy.

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