We're a champion of our own culture. It's a huge part of who we are, and although it's changed over the years, we're very protective of what we've got going on at SparkFun day to day. Whether it's a new tattoo, puppy, project, or job opening, there's a constant state of flux. The only way to protect the culture is to try to define it, and it's a rascally one.
Two years ago I sent out an email inviting folks who wanted to talk about our culture to a meeting in the classroom (the main meeting room at SparkFun). I didn't expect so many people to come! From that meeting came some amazing insights. I just stood at the white board and scribbled while people talked. I thought I knew what made SparkFun SparkFun but I was blown away by how much I had to learn.
I did not realize how much passion people have about being open, trusting, etc! It's obvious in retrospect, but it was great for me to hear what makes this company particular. This allows me and everyone else to kind of know how to react to situations and make decisions.
We recently had another meeting to see what had changed. The following is our latest attempt at defining what's most important to us:
Here's what the board looked like after the 2nd meeting. You can get a sense of how bad my handwriting is and some of the other ideas and bits of our world that needed attention. It's not pretty, but it is who we are.
It's these ideas that clarify what our priorities should be. Dogs, skateboards, loud music, chaos - all in a day's work. Most companies shy away from risk. It's amazing what you can actually have at a company if you make it a priority. We had someone fall off a skateboard at work and break their leg. Do we then get rid of skateboards? No. It's important enough to figure out how to keep them here. After a mass of emails, paperwork and phone calls, we figured out how to re-write our worker's compensation insurance policy to allow for skateboards. We still have them.
We've managed to scale above the 100 employee mark - I'm excited to see where we head next. What do you think we're doing right and what might we be watching out for?