The first time I started a company I spent the early days working on what are commonly accepted as the important parts of any business: the product, the market, the business model, funding etc. And those were all good things to focus on but I learned along the way (6+ years building YouSendIt) that little things, the things that define the soul of a company, are as important to building a sustainable business as the operations.
Often times these little things that make up the culture of a company can be neglected as you get caught up in the excitement of paid customers and the forever changing market. So in the early days when you’re figuring out how to start your company spend the time you have on the little things that will eventually define the vibe in the office and make a rewarding environment for everyone. My co-founder Mehdi and I were very specific about what would be important to us day to day when we started PunchTab. Here just a few little things we put in place very early on:
Music is an important part of both of our lives so wherever we holed up we’d set up an Apple Airport for streaming tunes and a turntable to discover gems from the past. My stereo from college (featuring built in phono ports, gotta have ‘em) is pretty much the first thing you see when you walk in the door of PunchTab HQ. A year and a half later the office also is home to a couple of guitars and the gang knows that there will always be a soundtrack to our adventures together.
Sports and fitness are near and dear to our hearts and we’ve always had a couple of skateboards in the office to practice our ollies while whiteboarding. Company outings frequently involve the batting cage, tickets to basketball / hockey / baseball games and a trip to the curling rink is also being put together. So it’s no surprise that bicycles, golf clubs and an inversion table moved in with folks who joined the family.
Other things we put in place to make our company more real more quickly were rules about meetings (heavily discouraged, the organizer has to pay to rent the meeting room by the minute), our customer support policy (everyone does support), and we named our conference rooms before we even had an office or any employees!
I will never forget the first day in our own office: I sat at my desk and the sunlight hit my face through the floor to ceiling window while a crackly record played on the turntable, our rent-by-the-minute conference room was vacant, and all the sports gear was stowed neatly in our play room. It was exactly how I’d imagined it twelve months earlier. I believe the desire to make this moment a reality was as important to the birth of PunchTab as the countless hours we spent hiring the right people, building awesome products, and getting them into the hands of the right customers. In the early days it was the only thing motivating us to pursue our vision because it was all we had: a picture in our minds, down to the little things, of what we could build.