Ben Carcio, CEO and co-founder of brand-to-local retailer marketing company Promoboxx, said that it dawned on him one day that his employees would probably enjoy perks of the job more if they all truly felt like they deserved them.
“We had a team event, a bar crawl that took a while to plan, and in the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘What have we earned as a company that we deserve this?’” Carcio said. “I had that moment when I thought, ‘Let’s tie everything to an incentive so nobody is wondering, why are we here?’”
He realized that building team incentives around achievements could unify employees around common goals, helping them reach them faster and bringing them closer.
“You hear about how kids nowadays, they can get a trophy just for participating in something,” Carcio said. “It’s better to get one that means something.”
The idea to link incentives with achievements came just a few months ago, Carcio said. One of the most recent incentives that the Promoboxx team earned was half day Fridays for the summer after hitting a revenue goal during the first week of June.
“Then we had another one where we hit another target, and everyone got a company-branded Timbuk2 backpack,” Carcio said.
The Boston-based Promoboxx, founded in 2010, currently has about 35 employees and is hiring for five positions. The company culture-based initiatives include the standard fun things that many startups are known for, such as free gear, food, a stocked office bar and team outings. But the foundation for this company’s positive culture is based on the day-to-day work, and the company goals for success. Carcio said that one thing he was surprised to see happen recently ended up being so important that the company shut down the office to accommodate it.
“We have this conference called the Aligned Conference,” he said. “All of our customers and prospective customers come to that, and I was surprised that our entire company, all our employees, wanted to go to it. A lot of the time with, for example, a development team, the tech people really want to avoid contact with customers. I think it really speaks to the culture and how everyone wants to learn and get better. We shut the office down for a few days while the conference happened, and we all got together with the customers and users.”
Finding and keeping those engaged employees can be difficult, but Carcio said his tactic when hiring is to look for humble people.
“You can’t have anybody who comes in and thinks they’re better than anybody else, and that goes from the top down, from the CEO to interns,” he said. “It can become extremely problematic, especially in a small company. We’re trying to do a better job of ensuring that the people we’re hiring have those values, that they’re self-aware, they’re confident but not someone who’s going to try to take all the credit; take all the limelight. That’s the key to any hire that we make. If I look back to anyone who’s not here anymore, I’d say it’s usually because we missed that.”
Carcio previously worked with larger companies, and said that many employees spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how they fit within the company. Some people call that “office politics,” and then the work becomes about the politics of the organization. In startups, there is often too much to do to have time for that, and employees spend more time thinking about company goals and how to achieve them. Those trends spill over to the culture.
“Good culture starts with good work,” he said. “If people don’t enjoy the work, all the fringe benefits don’t matter. I think the work [at Promoboxx] is good because they’re able to see strong benefits in the community and to our end users. That’s what drives people. Everything else would be icing on that cake.”
April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.