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5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

Here are five of our secrets to a fun culture that builds camaraderie.

Will Housh

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As big name companies have illustrated, it’s possible to run a successful business while still having fun. Google, for example, is the poster child of a unique company culture, with its nap pods and free food for employees.

While the company invests millions of dollars a year into offices and culture, it’s possible for smaller companies to create a unique company culture as well. At my company, HVAC.com, we do our best to create a fun office culture without spending a fortune.

Related: How to Intentionally Build Your Company Culture (Rather Than Leave It to Chance)

1. Create fun office challengesGoogle-Internship-Qudditch

Anyone who’s seen the movie The Internship knows Google uses office competitions to motivate its employees. Not only can small companies do this as well, they can also incorporate other office challenges to create a fun workplace culture.

Our office does a lot of fun challenges that get team members involved and provide a break from the workday. We have an annual chili cook-off competition, ping pong matches, foosball tournaments and kickball in the parking lot. We also participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

These ideas are mostly free and fun to do. Organisations can also offer a small reward for the winners, such as a gift card to a local restaurant. Personalise it to the office and the staff and get everyone involved.

2. Get moving

More than half of workers feel like they’re overweight, according to CareerBuilder. Google offers gyms and swimming pools, and while most companies may not have the resources to do that, they can definitely incorporate fitness into the workplace.

At HVAC.com, we recently had a push-up challenge. It was a personal challenge to gradually improve everyone’s personal best where we encouraged each other to do better.

Over the course of 30 days, we gradually worked our way up to doing 50 push ups. It was a fun, friendly way to incorporate fitness into the day and it got the whole office involved. In fact, it worked so well that we did a sit-up challenge next!

Related: How Crabby Bosses Ruin Company Culture

Fitness activities can be a fun way to break up the day and get employees moving. Think about incorporating a “Biggest Loser”-style competition, or consider utilising walking meetings to be both productive and active. It doesn’t have to cost a dime – get creative and have fun with it!

3. Celebrate special occasions in unique waysGoogle-Android-and-doughnut

Google recently gave one employee a week off for his birthday after his young daughter wrote a letter to the company requesting it. Smaller companies can do things to celebrate special occasions, too. Making employees feel appreciated goes a long ways toward creating a positive company culture.

We once celebrated an employee’s birthday by making sushi rolls for lunch. We carved pumpkins for an autumn celebration. We toasted with champagne to celebrate a key milestone.

Think about making a calendar with everyone’s birthday or having a monthly celebration. Or give everyone an afternoon off to just say thank you.

4. Make time for fun

Google has proven success doesn’t have to be all work and no play. The company has a slide, a billiards room, and other fun things employees can take advantage of when they need a break. While every office doesn’t necessarily need a slide, making time for fun is an easy and free way to create a great company culture.

HVAC.com employees once filled my office with balloons for my birthday. Our team also took a morning to have an ugly sweater day photo shoot.

It doesn’t have to cost money or take a lot of time, but it’s important to set aside a little time for fun. Employees will relax and the office will have a good atmosphere. Just remember to keep it light and harmless to avoid losing too much time and productivity.

5. (Occasionally) get out of the officeGoogle-office

Google employees take ski trips and go on summer picnics, and while these aren’t things a company can do every week, getting out of the office is good to give employees a break and help keep motivation levels up.

Our employees go on international mission trips and spend time volunteering with local charities every year. We hosted a summer cookout and invited the local fire and police department to show our appreciation. We took a marketing field trip to a sign museum.

Getting out of the office every so often can help employees feel refreshed and excited about work. It provides a small break so they can come back with increased focus and productivity.

The culture of an organisation is increasingly important. Creating this unique culture doesn’t have to cost thousands, and can affect how team members interact with each other, build stronger relationships and, ideally, increase productivity.

Related: The Powerful Influence of Negative Speech on Company Culture

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Will Housh is the founder and CEO of HVAC.com, one of the fastest growing privately held businesses in America three years in a row.

Increase Profitability

Leon Meyer GM At Westin Cape Town Shares 4 Experience-Driven Tips On How To Keep Your Team Productive

Productivity is a fundamental requirement for an organisation – it’s the seed that builds a business and contributes to higher profit margins.

Leon Meyer

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Productivity is a fundamental requirement for an organisation – it’s the seed that builds a business and contributes to higher profit margins. But what’s the best way to ensure employees remain productive, and happy in their day job?

The answer is simple and highly effective and I choose to sum it up with three short phrases – respect, trust and teamwork.

In partnership with my management team, which consists of about eight staffers across various disciplines, we strive to tick these boxes.

Related: 5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

In total we’re ultimately responsible for managing roughly 500 employees.

Five hundred employees across several departments is a mighty job. But with teamwork, good listening skills and the right attitude from the top to filter down, any business can run like a well-oiled machine.

I’d like share with you the essentials for building and maintaining a productive workforce, and these apply to all industries, not just the hospitality sector:

1. What’s your definition of a productive team and how do you achieve that?

We need to keep in mind that productivity is a result, one that CEOs and managing directors strive for with their teams. But what happens beforehand in order to achieve that result determines whether it will be achieved at all, and is equally important. I suggest the following to ensure a productive team:

Define roles and responsibilitiesDirection is incredibly important; everyone needs to know exactly where they’re going and how they need to get there, so KPIs are essential.

Often when roles and responsibilities are unclear, things go pear-shaped. I am an advocate for setting clear KPIs, it’s a good way to steer us in the right direction, and in turn helps to grow the business and the individual in his/her role.

Be flexible: Rigid environments are the worst kind, allow your employees some flexibility and the opportunity to be themselves in the workplace. We spend so much of our time at work, we need to be ourselves there.

Celebrate the team: When there are achievements, celebrate them, single out individuals who are excelling and living the company values. This builds morale and is indicative of appreciation, which is fundamental when running and building a business.

2. What has and continues to be your philosophy since managing a large team?

Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your team’s and leverage off that. Be prepared to learn from others, no one can operate in isolation, regardless of the level on which you operate. Accept criticism and don’t bulldoze someone’s ideas, that’s how you build trust.

3. What in your view are the top characteristics the team look for in a leader?

  • Be consistent – inconsistency screams bad leader
  • Provide guidance – this is key, don’t turn a blind eye, give input and council
  • Listen – always listen intently
  • Be impartial – always be fair
  • Give credit – it builds morale and shows you recognise good work
  • Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and remember not everyone thinks the same as you do

4. What’s your view on an open door policy and how does it assist with managing a team and ensuring everyone remains productive?

I believe in an open door policy. It’s essential to build and develop trust. I’m the first to admit that it takes a while to build that trust, but once the team (on all levels in all departments) know your door is always open, and that they can trust you implicitly, half the battle has been won.

I host a GM’s roundtable every two months, just to establish how everyone is feeling and where everyone is at. It gives staff the opportunity to bring their challenges to the table, and I deal with them the best I can.

It’s 100 percent confidential and line managers are not allowed to attend. During this meeting we try reach common ground, and I commit to addressing and ultimately solving the problem(s).

Related: 10 Ways To Make Your Employees 10x More Productive

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Increase Profitability

Why Purpose Drives Profits

If you want to succeed, it’s time to start engaging where it matters.

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Over the past two years, many clients have been extending brand positioning exercises into purpose-driven expressions.

When we look at it, it makes sense given the country’s demographics. With many of our fellow countrymen struggling to make ends meet, brands have stepped in to provide them with a picture of a future worth striving for.

Global customer-centricity study, Insights 2020, led by research firm Kantar Millward Brown, has attempted to understand how brands could drive customer-centric growth as well as the factors that really make a difference. The research surveyed 10 495 individuals in 60 countries, and there are some significant efforts worth investing in if brands want to engage where it matters most, in consumers’ hearts.

The research uncovered that for market-leading companies and brands, traditional value drivers such as quality, packaging, or distribution are necessary, but no longer provide a competitive advantage; most brands are capable of providing these drivers. What is important, are a few critical approaches.

1. Purpose-led brands

The study found that when companies or brands linked to a purpose, 80% of them outperformed the market. Only 32% of non-purpose led brands managed to perform better than the market. 

Related: How To Calculate Gross Profit

2. On the ground

It’s important to engage with consumers in their space and on their terms. Through the use of memorable campaigns, experiential events and activations it is critical to engage with consumers on their turf.

3. Be truthful and authentic

Consumers can smell something inauthentic a mile away, especially when it’s coming from a brand. This forces brands to strive for authenticity in everything they do, especially when it comes to marketing. Building values and principle-based attributes into your brand as a guiding tool is essential.

4. Helping consumers commit

By allowing individuals to attach themselves to a brand with a purpose, it helps consumers personally commit to a cause that they consider important. When a consumer is personally invested, the link between the brand and product or service deepens.

Related: Profit Share for Increased Performance

5. Balancing heritage and modern relevance

There is a continuous tussle in balancing the traditional market, transitional market and the new consumers brands are trying to attract. Keeping the heritage and roots of the brand true to itself, while creating relevance for the new market, is a battle marketers are still fighting.

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Need To Trim The Fat To Boost Profitability? Listen To Your Clients First

Jeff Bezos believed that once you win the client over by doing this, everything else will follow – not least profitability.

Marc Wachsberger

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Finding the balance between offering the extras that set you apart from your competitors and keeping things ‘lean and mean’ to minimise wastage and maximise return on investment is a tricky balancing act.

I’ve noticed that many businesses try to attract or retain customers by offering what they think their customers want, rather than finding out what they really need, and then delivering that. That’s an expensive mistake to make – and it’s not going to achieve the business results you need.

I’ve also observed that now is the age of the new entrepreneur – the game changers who disrupt the status quo long set by big bureaucratic competitors who think that their customers will just accept an inflationary (or slightly larger) increase every year, just because they always have.

While Amazon has been around for a while now, there’s also an important lesson to be learned from its launch goal, which was to bring the price to the client. Jeff Bezos believed that once you win the client over by doing this, everything else will follow – not least profitability.

How have I applied these lessons in my business?

Firstly, we design our hotels backwards – we focus on the needs of our clients, very aware that what hotel guests wanted years ago is not what they want now. That’s why we don’t offer thing like a turn-down service with chocolates on the pillow. Nobody eats the chocolates, and nobody uses the toiletries – so why should we include the costs of these unwanted extras (and the cost of the staff required to implement them) in the final bill to our clients?

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

We do, however, offer free WiFi internet connectivity, free parking in our buildings, free laundry services and either bed-and-breakfast options or self-catering rooms.

Simply put, we’ve cut the fat that nobody wants anyway, and added the value that our guests have said they expect.

Our clients have said that they expect the whole hotel to be a workstation, and not just the business centre in a dark, unwanted corner. So, we’ve put a workstation in every room, with always-on access to the internet. Our hotels are designed with beautiful work spaces that cater for nomadic entrepreneurs and double up as comfortable meeting spaces, again – gone are days of boardroom only meetings, our spaces are primed for work and play in one integrated space.

Our clients have pointed out that they’re already paying for their room – so why should they pay for parking?

Many of our clients stay with us for days or weeks at a time, and have said it would be helpful if we did their laundry. So, we do that for them – and we don’t charge them for it.

Related: Good Customer Service Is About Relating At The Same Level

It’s true that many of our old-school competitors offer a broader range of products and services than we do, but we’ve built a successful business on adding the value that our clients need, removing the costs and extras that annoy them, and keeping costs (theirs as well as ours) under control by cutting out unnecessary frills.

It’s an approach that’s worked for The Capital Hotels and Apartments as a disruptor in the hotel and long-stay accommodation industry, and I’m confident that its principles would apply to any other industry that’s ripe for disruption.

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