Company Culture in Austin (and at BP3)
Two recent posts by entrepreneurs in Austin got my attention with respect to culture.
First, Mass Relevance’s move to Downtown. I have to admit, Sam Decker is the last guy I thought would move his company downtown. But after seeing their space at an open house, it is obvious it fits their company to a T. They have great customized space, and it is just not laid out the way a typical class A building would be laid out, or the way a typical big company would do it. There’s a lot more emphasis on common spaces and community spaces (including the kitchen, which reminds me somewhat of pictures of the foursquare kitchen in NYC).
Sam ticks off the supporting reasons pretty quickly:
First, the majority of our young employee base wanted to be downtown, even though this is not the centerpoint of commuting. I’m not suggesting the decision was a democracy, but for the business, being downtown is believed to help with retention of our team and recruitment of future young talent.[…]
Third, we could make the place our own. It was a shell and we were able to customize the decor. That was a unique opportunity.
Those are the two most compelling reasons, to my thinking, though space to expand doesn’t hurt.
I also appreciate that Sam lays out the cons – PARKING! – and a balanced view on whether being downtown is critical for success – it isn’t. As he says, it is a polarizing discussion amongst those who haven’t been in Austin as long as some of us have. But until recently, ALL the successful tech companies in Austin grew up outside of downtown. It is only in the last 10 years that you see successful tech companies thriving downtown at scale. Moreover, over the last 5 years, startups have emerged downtown more than I can remember. So there’s an energy and vibe of revival downtown that goes well with the ethos of startups. And it isn’t sterile, by any means.
But if you’re not downtown, you can build an amazing company, at scale – and with culture. Just ask Bazaarvoice. Or Calxeda (who are taking all the parking spaces in our parking garage!). For BP3, this is a compelling reason why we’re not downtown:
Meetings with Austin folks outside of the company are more convenient. But as I tell my team, (for B2B) the money and the focus should be outside of Austin. Our clients are ‘out there’, as most B2B companies here have to travel to build client relationships based in major cities.
Our relationships and customers are largely outside of Austin as well. Downtown is nice, but not where our customers are, for the most part. Maybe that will change in the future.
Finally, how does he feel about Austin?
Things will continue to go well for Austin. In all my travels, when I tell people I’m from Austin, they hear only good things or are outright jealous. I get calls, LinkedIn emails and referrals from people wanting to move here. People are escaping the weather of the East and the state taxes in the West. As things continue to go well for Austin, the city needs to figure out parking, bike accessibility, and better mass transit! Post haste!
Pretty good, I’d say.
Turning to the other post, Jason Cohen writes about creating a company culture that thrills customers. This is the kind of article that catches my eye. Because I want BP3’s culture to thrill customers as well.
The importance of culture is summed up in a phrase you can find everywhere and therefore is hard to attribute: Every company has a culture. The only question is whether or not you decide what it is.
The mistake some people make is thinking that “deciding” is writing it down on paper or in a Powerpoint presentation. Deciding your culture means hiring, rewarding, and terminating employee relationships based on your culture. If you don’t do that, it isn’t your culture. You can reinforce that culture in many ways, but you have to make the tough decisions based on culture.
Culture isn’t the ping pong table, the open kitchens, or the cool office space (though none of those hurt). Culture is how you take care of customers, and each other. Culture is whether you pull together when times are tough or look out for who to blame. Culture is whether you believe in developing people or only hiring people that are already experts. Culture is whether you invest in recruiting and hiring or just hope someone will do it for you.
Luckily we don’t have any opinions about culture at BP3…
The reason is this: You can train someone how DNS works, but you can’t train someone to naturally have empathy for a customer. You can train someone with specific ways to interact with an irate customer, but you can’t train someone to genuinely care about helping that irate customer. At some point along the way, we’ll make a mistake, and it’s our responsibility to handle it with humility.
This is equally true for BPM. You can know everything there is to know about Websphere and modeling processes – but if you don’t relate to the customer’s business pain, how can you help them prioritize process improvements? If you don’t think business should be driving in BPM, how can you take direction from your business stakeholders instead of IT architects?
Read Jason’s post in its entirety – it is the best way to understand BP3’s BP Labs offering – which is all about thrilling the BPM customer with service. It is all about making BPM easier for our customers, more accessible for our customers. And we trust that the revenue associated with BP Labs will grow as we continue to focus on customer success.