How do you create a company culture - the million dollar question for many (and it should be all) entrepreneurs. Truth is, I have no idea. It just has to come from the inside. And here is why I think so.
If you are the slightest bit interested in what is going on in the world, how we interact with each other; if you are interested in what is right and what is wrong, seriously, if you are a living, breathing, human being and are running a company in 2017 - why wouldn’t you be interested in creating a good atmosphere that people enjoy. A place that people like coming to? A home away from home if you will, with all its intrigues, laughters, jokes, tears, meals (we do have a lot of those), and celebrations (we have a lot of those too). Simply put - a home? Well, I’ll tell ya’, if that is what creates a culture, then that is what we have here at Akervall Technologies Inc. (makers of SISU)
People tell me that I have a different style of running a company, something that is unusual here in the USA (I’m an immigrant from Sweden). I just truly believe in creating a bond between all our staff and our company. I believe that each and everyone of us is important to what we are trying to achieve. And I also think it is important to let everyone you work with know this. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple shout out when meeting in the hallway, or a Google ping to let someone know what an awesome person he or she is. And everyone knows that I’m always available for a chat or a text. Anytime.
Last month, we had an all time record in sales. Naturally, that couldn’t happen without a celebration. So we catered in food from one of the Mexican places a lot of the team loves which really was a hit. There is always fresh fruit, in several places in the office. The coffee makers are brewing, and the Keurig machine is working hard. And we even have a secret stash of chocolate which just happens to be the worst kept secret in the company. But it’s there for everyone to enjoy. I’m really grateful for that one, to be honest.
The culture of a company can depend on many things, but ultimately it’s a mix of understanding where we are going, how to get there and of every single team member pulling in the same direction, secret chocolate drawers or not. In fact, when the team believes in the direction of the company and its products, that is when the magic happens.
When we first started up in 2009, “mouthguards” wasn’t the sexiest business to be in. In fact, at times I almost found it a little embarrassing. It was just me, trying to make a mark on the world (oh, those innocent early days.. ;-). But as we grew, got a great team together and found our voice (and changed our name from Protech Dent to SISU) it was obvious that we were in it for the long haul. And here we are, 8 years later with a team of 29 fantastic team members and, yes, we really are making a mark on the industry standard of mouthguards.
I could never have done this on my own. I could never have done this regardless of how ever many helping hands from outsiders who freely gave advice without knowing us, our culture, our thinking and our direction. The only reason we are where we are and on our way to something great, is because of the team. And for those of you who enjoy football (especially Michigan), I’d like to think we are living by the advice of the great former Wolverine coach Bo Schembechler: The Team. The Team. The Team.