The Office Matters

Eatsy at Etsy
Originally uploaded by Etsy Labs.

Our portflio company Etsy has a person who is focused on the office, company culture, and making the work space as comfortable as possible. They have a chef come in and cook a healthy lunch for everyone three times a week. They called that program Eatsy.

Etsy launched in June 2005 and is over five years old. The company has well over 100 employees and is growing fast. They can afford to invest in things like the office and feeding their employees healthy lunches.

Every time I visit Etsy, I am reminded how important the "vibe of the office" matters. You walk in the door and you are hit with the company culture right in the face. You feel warm, cozy, happy, and comfortable at Etsy. And that feeling lasts well beyond the first steps inside the office.

When I was at Etsy earlier this week, I saw that they have been covering the air conditioning ducts with knitted covers. I took a photo and posted it to my tumblog.

Etsy ducts

You may laugh and say this stuff is frivilous and a waste of time. But I can assure you that is not true. Etsy is a recruiting machine. They are getting the best talent in NYC to come to their company now. It is not just the vibe for sure. They have big and interesting engineering challenges. They are doing cutting edge things in marketing and customer service. But little things like socks on the ducts and fresh and healthy food for lunch three times a week also makes a big difference.

When you are less than ten people, it is hard to invest in stuff like this. All you can do is focus on getting your product right and launching it. You will work out of any space that is warm and hopefully quiet.

But as your company grows, you need to pay attention to the office and the culture. It matters.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Akihiko Komada

    Great.A Kyoto-based Japanese tech startup called “Hatena” has the same healthy lunch three times a week.Here’s the company’s lunch blog.

  2. Cliff Ingonish

    Fred: you could have made this post shorter and more honest by saying: “portfolio company etsy is needs more smart people. They have a good company culture and interesting work. By the way, they are smart to invest in their culture – one companies get to a certain size they should all do that.”

    1. fredwilson

      cliff – this was not some backhanded way to help Etsy recruitthat wasn’t my intention at allthey are doing just fine without my helpi wish you wouldn’t try to ascribe behavior to me that isn’t accurate

      1. Tereza

        Anyway if you did — and I don’t think you did — I would not be bothered in the slightest.You are not a journalist or an editor.You are an investor in companies that are doing interesting things. You have a vested interest, which provides you window into things that we do not. It’s what makes this blog interesting.And so what if it benefits your company. In fact that’s a good thing.One of your key roles is to celebrate the companies you back, and you should keep doing that.

        1. fredwilson

          i do that all the timebut not this timei was using etsy as an example

    2. Erin Newkirk

      For the record, I was THRILLED to catch an inside peek at Etsy. We are huge, HUGE fans of Etsy at RedStamp and though we do different things, I think creative cultures are kindred spirits. Love how their knitted duct covers dimensional-ize their company promise of handmade.Also, I think it’s super interesting to see how Etsy’s decor and their employee programs resonated with Fred as an investor. Our investor loves to come to our offices and have meetings because of the creative energy our culture brings to his business ventures as well as ours. Can’t wait until Joanne visits.This post was inspiring and rewarding. Etsy was the perfect example. Thanks, Fred.

      1. FormerEtsySeller

        Unfortunately, EVERYONE got an inside peek into Etsy yesterday, when full names were posted in the Treasury rather than the shop names. A complete breach of privacy, and what does Etsy do? Leave it right there for everyone to see while they try and fix things. Because why take it down, right? And then we get a ‘oh well, we screwed up but it’s all fixed now’ message from Admin. NOT good enough by far.Full names yesterday, credit card details tomorrow? Thanks Etsy for now making it very clear for everyone to see that you can’t be trusted and that you don’t care.

  3. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Love it. So true.Sadly, so many office spaces are utterly charmless spaces.It’s even more crucial when one frequently works from a home-office. Trying to get the balance right between one’s office area being business-like yet still a family room is a tricky one – unless one has an abundance of rooms in which case that can be addressed more easily.The vacuum cleaner by the side of my book case is my reminder for the work-life balance, when working from home 😉

    1. awaldstein

      Carl…you and I both have our cats as work mates in our home offices as well!

  4. San Kim

    We should come up with Lean Culture Hacks – little things 1-10 person startups can do to improve company culture for cheap or free – either at coworking spaces or their own offices.One that comes to mind from reading Benioff’s book: community service.

    1. fredwilson

      what a great idea”culture hacks”that’s a winner

      1. balloonatic

        Except without the word ‘hacks’. 2008 called…

    2. Tereza

      Add to that “family culture hacks”.

      1. ShanaC

        we’re short those

  5. Tereza

    I’m interested in doing something similar but opposite.I want to be the destination for A+ talent for whom having flexibility makes a huge difference in their lives.We want to have a home base that people love and want to be at. My partner and I at managing local and virtual teams and combinations thereof, and it’s all about defining needs and tasks correctly and managing them in an agile way. We are really good at that.Here’s an example. One of my people is a divorced mom of two who has a Rolodex like you’ve never seen. She lives 2 hours from NYC. She can do magic with her phone, wherever she is. She is short on cash, long on killer relationships, and if she doesn’t have to pay her sitter it makes a big difference to her bottom line. I am cool with her banging out phone calls from home. She is creating off-the-charts results. Is it cheaper? Possibly. Am I getting better results? OMG, definitely.We had a staff meeting — 6 of us (5 women) — and among us we have 11 kids. (Two developers weren’t there…two guys…no kids…and they’re great, too)So the culture I want is: when we’re together, we are laser-focused on doing excellent work, efficiently. Clear parameters around when we’re together, and focus on tasks that are integration points between us. When we’re not, I don’t care if you do your work in a treehouse, on a ski slope or a preschool pickup line, or in the waiting room of a hospital near your ailing parent. As long as the results are excellent, on time, we communicate early and often on issues/concerns.I joke that it’s “momsourcing” (they’re underpriced and speak great English!). But I don’t care what their gender, age, color, size, sexual orientation, you name it. It’s the spirit and the focus that matters.

  6. johnmccarthy

    Building culture doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. I remember the Etsy Waffle Meetings back in the old office when there were around 40 people;.basically an all-hands meeting held once a week where someone would make waffles, unless someone forgot to buy the mix. Nothing fancy or expensive and not all that healthy. But it was the act of everyone getting together on a regular basis that became a part of the culture and a regular way of communicating. And with the creative people that Etsy recruits in all functions it is practically impossible to avoid knitting on the pipes! It just seems to happens automagically.

    1. fredwilson

      i think Rob reinstated waffle meetingsat least i hope he did

      1. Hemang Gadhia

        Fred, there might be another great post lurking in here given how close you are to Etsy. Namely the importance of the founder(s) defining the principles and culture that a startup will live by. From everything I’ve read about Rob @ Etsy, it sounds like he has done a truly remarkable job of shaping Etsy’s culture based on his vision and working hard to keep that vision intact as the company has gotten larger and more successful.

        1. Rob Kalin

          I’m so thankful that Etsy’s investors share these values. Of course, being behind the scenes, there’s still so much I want to do, that we haven’t done yet. We’re short on space itself at the moment.Another idea for a blog post how to spread this culture across different office locations. We recently opened up an office in Berlin. Two of Etsy’s earliest employees are heading it up, so I’m confident the vibe will be good there.I’ll also point out that vibe isn’t something you can set & forget. You have to live it, otherwise it seems like a token gesture.

          1. fredwilson

            that last point is so key Robthanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts

  7. awaldstein

    Companies in the office space, companies on their blogs, business people in general need to find the human poise and let it come through in a real way…in order for communications to happen freely.Client of mine in the discount space, has embraced its company passion, that is, animal rescue and raising money for that cause. They have a dog friendly office, made adoption a principal part of their social communications and fundraising activities. Net of it is that they’ve created an environment around their business culture that is genuine and humane.Making things comfortable and dedicated to a more healthy environment…food or focus, dogs or cool environments…all spur more fun and more creative work.

    1. Dan Sweet

      I agree space is hugely important. I work for P&G and our business unit recently moved from a dingy depressing office park type space to a great new space. Huge campus, running paths, bank, gym, nice lakeside cafeteria, etc. I work in the Pet Care division and we have a pet friendly workplace. Every single desk has a carabiner on the end of the desk to attach your dog’s lead to. It was ridiculous seeing the lengths they had to go to make having pets in the workplace possible at such a huge campus where there is also lot of QA work and labs in the environment as well. So many of our employees are so nuts for their pets though and that passion goes a long way. Having the office be a place where it is easy to bring that passion to work and share it with others is something that I really enjoy being a part of.

      1. Evan

        if that were me, i think i’d buy a dog just to fit in. gotta take advantage of the perks!

      2. awaldstein

        Great story…thanks for sharing.The point behind the pet example (which is very real) was that all companies need to connect with a personality that is truly theirs.If you are a surfboard manufacturer on the beach in California, it’s easier as you surf during lunch and that is the passion of the customer community. If you have an online business selling whatever, some personality, a cause or not, connects to your employees and your customers…beyond the product.This harks back to the local hardware stores supporting little league team. Your parents need to buy nails for their house, they choose to shop at a place where the company supports the local kids. Especially important as companies, ecommerce ones, start to build community into their traffic funnels and ask…how do I do this?

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Arnold — Haven’t thought it out enough (or don’t know enough) to know whether this is always feasible, but I love when a company’s culture is intertwined with its brand (or marketing/identity in general) — where there is integrity between what happens externally and internally. On one occasion at least, I’ve seen this happen seamlessly and it was beautiful.What you’re describing seems even more organic and authentic — not just about marketing. Great example!

      1. awaldstein

        Hi DonnaCulture. Brand. Identity. All heady topics. I tend to think of them in absolute terms, but reality often is more tempered.Been spending a lot of time lately with companies who are working to provide community platforms for their enthusiasts and customers, so this is top of mind for me now.Thanks again.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          “Been spending a lot of time lately with companies who are working to provide community platforms for their enthusiasts and customers, so this is top of mind for me now.”Well, I hope you will be blogging about this. 🙂

          1. awaldstein

            Time management has been an issue but getting under control. Too many activities in too many directions.

  8. Dan Blank

    Interesting post. One tiny edit though – add the word “edge” after the word “cutting” in the 5th paragraph. On the topic itself, I do wonder how the moment is represented in physical and non-physical ways. etsy is in an exciting moment for all the reasons you state – is this more a story about physical office space, or about experiencing a moment of the growth and success?Thanks Fred!-Dan

  9. Geoffrey Clapp

    I’ve had it both ways, and clearly the open, community, warm space wins out hands down, every time. You spend more time in the office than any other place – your car, home – maybe your bed comes close – but if that’s true, you’re not at a startup :->One thing to add, though, is also the seating layout, and the desks/cube setup. High walls (or any walls) simply takes away the sense of community from the team and introduces hierarchy. It’s an instant killer. When I was at Apple, that’s one thing I really lamented – far too many offices.At my startup, although I may be a corporate officer, there is no better place for me than on the floor. If I need to take a call, I can find a place for that. I’m also a big fan of the Steelcase ‘rolling’ furniture. Nobody has a window for too long; no meaningless hierarchy games. Focus on the goal I know Fred is making the point that this is something for startups to consider, but I would further that by saying, if you do this as part of the startup process, you are building your long-term culture that is phase independent. It will also help you a lot in an M&A activity, where your corporate culture may be challenged.A good example of how to keep this feeling with growth is IDEO; they are by no means a startup anymore, but have kept the faith to this principal of employee-driven, innovative space. I remember when they opened an addition in Palo Alto, and Peter Skillman proudly showed off their new airplane wing they had scavenged, polished up, and mounted. It was amazing stuff, and as a client, it got us off on the right foot and immediately told me all I needed to know about their culture. This is true for employees, but also clients and investors.

    1. Hemang Gadhia

      This post and this whole thread reminds me of something us bootstrapping startups forget all the time: In the grand scheme of things, space is cheap. People are not. Don’t allow yourself to forget that.

      1. fredwilson

        “space is cheap, people are not”wow, that is excellent

      2. Geoffrey Clapp

        By far, this has been the most important thing I’ve learned also in *selling* our startup, and how infusing culture, and knowing what is important to you (ethically, your values) is one of your key responsibilities.It’s part of the “building a team”, but far to often, people think that’s just hiring – when hiring is actually the easiest part (and by no means easy :->)This is probably a good opportunity to mention Tony’s “Delivering Happiness” book – he deals with two examples of M&A and culture – his first, that did not go well, and his second (the legendary Amazon deal) that did. I can certainly echo in my own humble way (I’m no Tony) that experience and the importance of defining the culture and values early, and enforcing it often.

  10. Tereza

    I want a culture where if there’s one of those random no-school days or your nanny calls in sick, you can bring your kid in and put them to work. Maybe sketching what a web page could look like, doing some site QA, or alphabetizing invoices.I want to know my colleagues’ kids names, ages and interests and I want them to know mine.I want to give and get clever parenting tips.If we have a new mother in our midst, I want to subsidize a breast pump (if she wants it) and give her access to a lactation consultant who specializes in breastfeeding while working. It is cheap to do, few people actually need it, and it says, “We support you.”Where a new mom can peel off and pump her breastmilk without asking permission, in a clean place that’s not a bathroom. Or, a caregiver can bring your baby at lunchtime so you can squeeze in a quick snuggle and a feed.If we’re on an off-hours phone call we won’t give you a demerit if your kids are screaming in the background.All-hands staff meetings are held regularly, are sacrosanct, have a standing agenda, are effective, and start and end on time. It needs to be a meeting no one can afford to miss.Thanks for this post because it’s prompting me to write down some things I’d been meaning to.

    1. Mike

      Are there any businesses that have onsite daycare or an after school program? This seems like it would be an unbelievable perk for working parents.Sort of like Dave Eggers “826 Valencia” concept but for techie and finance types as opposed to writers.

      1. Tereza

        These exist more in the suburbs than in NYC. Mastercard has been known for a great one, on-site. I presume it’s still there. The person I know who was a power-user was laid off.People get *fiercely* loyal based on these kind of things. They also generate really good word of mouth.They are generally sub-contracted services, not “owned” by the company.At PwC we were provided access to a ‘backup day care’ for those sick days. We used Bright Horizons in the NY-Metro area; basically they contracted with all the best daycares in a geo area. You sign up for it and you get maybe 14 days/year of access. There are a lot of weird days when there’s a “teachers training day” or things like that where you need coverage.A turnkey “corporate lactation program” is administered by a company that I think is called MCH. I can’t tell you how much people rave about this program. It was offered just to the women and then a few years ago there was an uprising by the men who wanted it for their wives. Why not? So they extended it to the men. We got a pump for $75 (retails for $300) and could talk to the consultant by phone each week. They gave us tips for integrating pumping into our work schedule…very helpful. And then if you have to travel, tricks like did you know at a hotel you can request dry ice, and freeze and then FedEx your milk home? Who knew? Few people wind up doing it but knowing you can makes a difference for a lot of people.I’ve seen concierge services (subcontracted) so you can get piddly things done (e.g. have someone wait at your house/apt for the cable guy).People love on-site gyms too, or discounts to a gym local to the office. It’s a great place where people of different levels and functions interact. In the ‘burbs since it’s hard to leave the office they try to give you everything you need there.A lot of times people don’t even use the stuff but since it’s subcontracted it doesn’t matter. And then when someone does they rave about it and that builds goodwill.It’s worth noting that your childcare needs are not static. A lot of schools have after-school and before-school on-side extended hours that you can pay for. So the most intense years are when you have kids younger than 5. Later, the challenge is more around being able to duck out of the office to chaperone a class trip, or be otherwise visible and available to your kids for the touchpoints that matter.Also generally speaking the smart working moms I know contribute early in the ways they can to the school community to create goodwill so that when you’re in a bind you have friendships to call on to help. For example I ‘own’ the tech display for the big fundraiser at the preschool. It fits into my sched and patterns, helps them raise lots of $$ and gives me cred to ask others to help, ie last-minute pickups, playdates, etc. A culture which teaches moms these hacks would probably be very useful.It would be very cool to see VCs offer up a chinese menu of outsourced programs and WMHs (working mom hacks) and WMH mentors.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Keep writing those ideas down, Tereza. This is fantastic!

  11. Harry DeMott

    The last two places I’ve been at use Seamless Web ( to order lunch.In typical and cynical Wall Street think – this is not a ploy to get you together as a team – but rather a way to keep you focused on your screen. Lunch comes to you. No waiting for elevators – no chit chat over a salad – just the necessary nutrients to keep you going for another 6 or 7 hours.As they say – no such thing as a free lunch.Contrast that to one of my visits to the Google campus out in CA.Couldn’t be more different. There, I think I got a free lunch.

  12. baba12

    These feel good at work ethos is all great but it is contradictory as you are made to feel “at home” but do you truly believe at any point you are at home. When you are at home you have the freedom to surf the net and do what you want to do and still be responsible and execute what you are required to do.I think it is best to keep a work environment professional and respectful of that environment.When you tend to gray the areas of what is work and what is not a work space, then we get into all sorts of problems.I wonder when ETSY has to fire someone who is not fitting into the group or is not performing as expected do they provide a better way to let go fo someone or do they operate like every corporation does, have you pack up and have a security personnel escort you out now that you are deemed persona non grata.So yes it is all good and nice to create a nice working environment but when you also have policies that treat a person who has worked a while and now suddenly they are a different animal is interesting in my observations.I witnessed two colleagues get fired at IBM and were treated with disdain in my view. But yes we are a family…I would rather have black and white instead of shades of gray, I know where the line is and dont want to cross it, mixed signals can create lots of issues in my view.

  13. Hemang Gadhia

    Fred, I think you’re spot on that culture is often an overlooked aspect for a startup company. As you mentioned, a lot of nascent stage startups feel like they can’t afford to create an office culture in some of the ways you described above. But before you even get your first office space or worry about what sort of snacks/food you can provide, I think there is tremendous value in putting thought into what type of culture you want to have and how that reflects the core values of both the founders and the company. Before we launched our company, we spent a lot of time thinking about this and writing down some core principles that we believed in strongly (be FAST, be honest, strive for transparency, make this a family, etc). Once we did that, it became a lot easier to have our physical and cultural environment embody those principles. And like all things in the entrepreneurial realm, it was tremendously helpful for us to glean advice from people who’ve done it before and learn from their successes and failures. In fact, one of the best pieces I read (and I can’t remember where — maybe Mark Suster) talked about the importance of creating an environment where everyone feels that this is a family, and that we’re all working hard together, and hopefully succeeding together. One bit of wisdom that we immediately applied from that piece was to recognize the importance of engaging not just your employees, but also their significant others, and bringing them into your culture as legitimate partners/contributors. The idea being that doing a startup is really difficult, and it’s not just hard on your employees, but on their spouses and significant others as well. Your startup is not just indebted to the dedication of the employees, but also the the support and sustenance provided by their husbands/wives/boyfriend/girlfriend/kids/etc. So what we vowed from day one was to make sure that all of those people were included in the company in a meaningful way. Once a month we make sure we get together with all of us working on the business and all of the significant people who are in our lives every day. We take the time to explain to everyone what the latest is with the business and how we’re moving it forward. It might not make the long hours we spend in the office away from our families any easier, but they sure do understand it a lot better and they feel like they too are a core part of our company. As we grow beyond the small circle we have now, we are very determined to continue this sort of environment. And it’s things like this that I think will have a huge impact on what our office space culture is.

    1. Geoffrey Clapp

      Hemang – Great idea – does this tie at all to a Friends and Family round you’ve done, or anyone with direct/indirect impact of the startup? Great idea, love the transparency of it.

      1. Hemang Gadhia

        Geoff, I really wish I could find the original article that inspired this one particular idea, because I’m not doing justice to the original author’s very insightful post. To address your question though, we look at this particular aspect of our culture in two distinct ways. One is to certainly keep friends, family, advisors and partners in the loop on what we’re doing with the company and how things are progressing. The idea here is to bring those people closer to what’s happening and to make them feel like they are a part of our extended team in some capacity.The other aspect is the one that’s been more important for us, and that’s to recognize the contributions that our significant others and families make on a daily basis that allows us to do this. When my co-founders were on the verge of quitting their six figure salary jobs to come do the startup full time (hence forgoing a nice paycheck and incurring some significant expenses in the process), not all of their wives were fully on-board with this notion that they were about to start whittling away their savings in order to pursue this. When we finished our core technology and got the process of fund raising under way, we brought everyone (for us, that meant all of our wives and kids, and in some cases parents and friends) together on a Saturday afternoon to celebrate passing some important milestones. We did a demo of our technology and talked about what the vision for the company was. And most importantly, we acknowledged to everyone that we can’t do this without them and that they are as much a part of our company as we are. Our success is dependent on them being patient and supportive when we’re in the office ’til midnight six days a week. My wife brings our two toddlers to the office some evenings so that we can eat a meal together — easy to see why she’s my unsung hero. Since that first time, we’ve continued doing things like this on a regular basis and I can tell you that EVERYONE in our lives is enthusiastic and excited about what we’re doing. And with our families socializing with each other in the process, they’ve become a little support circle for each other as well. All in all, it’s really cemented this notion that this startup is a big family and we try our best to allow this notion to permeate how we approach things.I hope I haven’t veered off from Fred’s original post here, but my point is simply that there’s so much value in articulating what your core principles are and then allowing those principles to imbue both your physical space and your overall culture.

        1. Isaac Oates

          I agree, I think that involving friends and family is really important. I spent a long time in the National Guard, and as a commander I made a point to always involve family as much as possible. At the end of the day, they’re providing most of the emotional support that allows your unit to fulfill its mission.As a startup co-founder, we tried to make sure that our girlfriends/fiancees/wives were as involved as possible, and arranged as many events with all of us as possible. I think it really helped; having my fiancee’s support was a key part of making it through the experience successfully.All of us are now at the company that acquired us, but we all still make a point of having our significant others come to the office every so often. In fact, we’re all having dinner tonight.This is all to say that I think you hit a critical point here.

          1. Hemang Gadhia

            Isaac, maybe your focus on company culture was part of why you were such a good fit for Etsy. Congrats on the acquisition! If Crunchbase is to be believed, 10 months from funding to exit is very impressive. And I’m so heartened to hear how important it was for your early stage startup to make significant others a core part of your company.

        2. Dave

          Hemang–Very interesting post. I love the idea of appreciating everyone. Personally, as I’ve gotten a little older I’ve found the balancing act a little harder. Appreciating people, but making sure that behind the scenes people do not feel “obligated” to participate or take away from scarce family/persona time is harder than it looks.Beers with the boss were fun at 25, now I might rather go home to my family. I try to gauge my team, and just as often am inclined to send people home at opportune times in addition to balancing the team. Something simple like making sure people go home early before a holiday weekend, rather than sticking around because I’m sticking around, seems to also be very appreciated and makes sure that people know their boundaries do not need to be the same as mine.

          1. Hemang Gadhia

            Dave, I think the salient part is that values/principles you have as a company are essentially the same as what I’m talking about. At various stages of the companies lifecycle, no doubt that the ways in which those principles manifest themselves will change. My experience right now is with an early stage startup where the co-founders/early employees put nearly every waking hour into the business. But totally agree with you all around in that the focus on family is hugely important and I think you are right to stress that in different ways depending on where you are w/ your business.

          2. Dave

            Hemang–I agree with you. The key part to me seems to be transparency, saying what you mean and sticking to it. Different people weigh things differently and it is important to both ask and listen.

  14. fnazeeri

    Great point about how culture needs to be stage-appropriate. How and when to shift is another discussion.

  15. RichardF

    what’s with the healthy food…beer and pizza usually goes down best.

    1. Evan

      i’d rather be happy than healthy. 🙂

    2. ShanaC

      you clearly have not has an amazing healthy meal. You walk away with your hair feeling like lightening and that you can do anything in the world

      1. RichardF

        it was my attempt at humour Shana, most of the research scientists and developers that I have ever worked with have usually responded well to a plentiful supply of pizza and beer.

  16. Joe Siewert

    Great post, couldn’t agree more. I’m currently working in the basement at my company. It’s supposed to only last six months; we’ll see. Tiny, hot room with five people crammed into it and no windows. Your environment totally impacts your mood and productivity at work. 🙁

  17. Rocky Agrawal

    I went through an office transition that vividly illustrated this for me.I worked for a startup that was initially in open quarters. In the initial space, pretty much everyone had similar work spaces, including the CEO and CTO. The two offices were for the CFO and HR. (Made sense given the confidential nature of their work.) Despite the fact that most of the employees came from large companies, it felt like a startup.At some point, we grew and needed to expand our office space. We sublet a place from a large company. Now the CEO, CTO, CFO and all the VPs had offices. As if by magic, the culture of the company transformed and big company ways came in.

  18. JLM

    You know the coolest thing about your offices?All the people were WORKING! LOL

    1. David Noël

      I’m guessing this was a reply to my comment?True: none of the photos are staged, they came in during the day and snuck around us for a few minutes.

  19. Britastic

    The food thing is so central to a person’s sense of well-being (you can credit that to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). I remember years ago working on an independent film in the sticks of Pennsylvannia. The producers sprung for an extra-good caterer who would occasionally serve such treats as surf n turf. It was a killer job, 16+ hour days, but this really affected morale for the better!

  20. JLM

    As usual an interesting and thought provoking subject.All of the little things are important when you can afford them and even more important when you can’t. The building of a company culture is a fundamental exercise in creating a team and influencing the morale of a team — in a start up a fledling team, perhaps.I have seen this many times because I love turnarounds and have done a few of them. I once sat in a conference room and asked seven territory managers what was wrong with “this” company and about 9 hours later they were half done. I know something about toxic company cultures and turning them around.The wellspring of any company culture is the quality of the leadership and the quality of the leadership’s vision for the company.On the first day of employment, every new employee should be greeted by the CEO. If you do nothing else, do this.I do this all the time and I spend about 90 minutes briefing the FNG about my background, the values of the company and the strategic plan. All of this is in writing. I put the values in a little big index card sized booklet, spiral bound and looking just a bit homemade — because it is. I want them to see my fingerprints on the murder weapon.Most of my folks travel and I let them buy a used $25K SUV (want them to ‘win’ all accidents)I tell them that “this company only has good people, people like you”.I make sure their AmEx card is ready, business cards are done, phone is working when they arrive. Cell phone, laptop, digital camera — top of the line for all — ready to go. Cubicle w/ their name plate in place and fully stocked w/ office supplies.I provide comprehensive health insurance (health, dental, vision, life) and a wellness program.I try to pay 25% more than the competition and I pay performance bonuses on top of that — when they are earned. [Note: today, everybody is just happy to have a job and a secure payroll.] I allow anybody in the company to know everybody else in the company’s compensation.I reward success with unannounced awards, rewards and gifts. I buy my CFO some Cubans when I go to Florida and leave them on his desk. I am pretty sure he knows where they come from.I have a company meeting at least once a month and I allow the folks to ask me anything and I won’t let them leave until they have asked at least 3 tough questions.I tell you this not to be smug. Believe me I have been doing this stuff so long, my assistant actually does all the work and it is just a habit. I deserve no credit beyond the second iteration.I tell you this because I see a big difference between the superficial and the significant. Feeding folks thrice per week — OK w/ me. Paying folks more than the market — very, very, very important to me.I would caution you to build sustainable well grounded companies rather than following the latest fad — hey, some of those fads will become the culture of well grounded companies, I am not finding fault — because a moment will come when you may wish you had spent a bit more time on the strategic plan or a little more time w/ your bankers. A catered meal for the employees will not substitute for sound business management and visionary leadership.Resist the temptation to be everybody’s buddy and to relate on a superficial “Taco Tuesday” level. I worship tacos, mind you.No fad or frill can compensate for plain old fashioned leadership and management competence.Just a little different slant.

    1. RichardF

      yet another JLM nugget that I’m going to have to just straight reblog for reference.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I may just have to start reblogging your reblogs. More efficient and you’ve got a good eye.

        1. RichardF

          maybe we should take it in turns!The most efficient thing would be for JLM to have his own blog.

          1. Donna Brewington White


          2. RichardF

            you keep late hours Donna!

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Yep.After looking at those photos of David Noel’s offices, I got a second wind! 😉

          4. RichardF


          5. Peter Beddows

            Fred’s blog becomes an “aggregator” of many essential mores, including the bon mots of JLM! Much though I like the idea of a JLM blog, and much though I really enjoy, and even look for, JLM’s very interesting and invariably insightful and informative responses here, if JLM started his own blog, I have to wonder where would we then find enough time to take in all of the comments here on Fred’s prolific blog and then deal with the inevitable flood of comments in response to JLM’s observations on his own blog that would arise on that blog?Perhaps what we need is an app that distills the nuggets and thus educates us while saving us time?

          6. Donna Brewington White

            Yeah, I would sure miss JLM here if he started his own blog. Besides he and Fred strike such a nice balance — just enough tension and just enough agreement.

          7. JLM

            You have hit on an interesting point — I am a consumer of capital and Fred is a provider of capital. This opportunity to see things from a different perspective is quite useful to me.I am also essentially an operator and would make a horrible VC because I would be unable to resist the temptation to dig into the bowels of an operation and set it right. I am easily amused but frightfully demanding — even to the verge of my own sanity sometimes, I fear.Funny thing is I don’t think I am really motivated to make money but rather to “fix” a problem. It just seems like when you get all the problems fixed the only thing left to do is to monetize and go look for another problem.

          8. Peter Beddows

            I can relate perfectly to the concept of “find a problem and fix it”: That’s why my metaphor is: “I’m a Business Physician!”. Applies equally to dealing with start-ups and struggling SMBs. Still remember when you mentioned buying defunct or decaying California businesses and resuscitating them in Texas.

          9. RichardF

            I think your right on all counts Peter and I’d be surprised if JLM actually wanted to run his own blog. A repository is really what is required. Personally, I would like to see a website that contained the best of JLM’s comments that was indexed and searchable out there because his comments are pure management gold for young (and old!) entrepreneurs. It doesn’t have to any commenting ability as far as I’m concerned.That’s why I’ve started to reblog them, for my own reference, so I know where I can find them and refer to them. Problem is I don’t think I have the time to go back through the older AVC threads and pull out the earlier stuff. Perhaps Disqus can help me, I might ask Daniel.

          10. Donna Brewington White

            I’m thinking of a recent college grad who is about as smart as they come. Is a regular at AVC. It would be a great job for her. She also has great fashion sense but that’s beside the point. Just trying to give another clue.

          11. Peter Beddows

            As one who’s Grandmother was an extremely successful Milliner and Retailer of Women’s clothing, I heartily concur that “having a great fashion sense” is a terrific asset! {grin}

          12. Peter Beddows

            Thank you Richard, I agree and so, until that repository is created, we also will reblog JLM’s comments and trackback as appropriate. However, as you may know, one of the really useful aspects of DISQUS as it now stands is that you can browse back through anyone’s DISQUS comments by first clicking on their Avatar here and then choosing the “Activity” option: May be a tad tedious to scroll back to find what you are looking for but at least it is another option. There may even be an easier method if one logs into DISQUS directly but I have not checked that idea yet.BTW: I did just that, using DISQUS, to find JLM’s comments on the “What A CEO Does” AVC blog of 3 weeks ago that Donna mentioned that she had already re-blogged at

    2. Tereza

      I worked for a leader who made sure — and communicated — that we were the best paid in the Firm (of 1000s of people) and that we were the special forces unit.We knew it and everybody knew it. We felt “chosen” and worked like we did. What I mean be that is, set a different and much higher standard.We were the ones parachuted in, in the most critical of circumstances. We could figure our way out of problems that no one else could. (The secret is that we probably did it because we felt it was our role to). Each person knew what their superhero powers were. (if you’re nice to me I can tell you what my superpowers are)Once on one of these I was walking in with two colleagues and literally heard someone say “The A Team’s here”. It felt damn good.It’s not a model for every company but it worked incredibly well in that particular environment.

      1. JLM

        Having served in elite Army units I have always been intrigued by what a little real difference there is between the best and the rest. It is all just a state of mind.I remember with great clarity how well drilled such units were and how I just fell into them and did whatever everybody else did and became a “believer” and then actually began to believe.Even when you were skeptical, you played like you were not and the outcomes were usually pretty damn good.It is all just frame of mind and training.

        1. Tereza

          I think part of it is thinking, if I can’t do it then no one can, and it has to be done, so I damn well better do it.

        2. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Perspective also, JLM.In such an environment you are frequently accustomed to matters of life and death and understand the importance of looking after your buddies – not just one’s self.Sadly in the ‘civilian’ world there is all too frequently a ‘meme’ imperative. If only more people had some other-world perspective and could see the benefits in collaboration and win-win…

          1. JLM

            The big thing about the military which I have felt personally is the cost of making a mistake — which simply cannot be avoided try as one might.I have a hole in my soul of inconsolable sorrow as to the lives I have cost others because of my errors.This is real “going postal” kind of sorrow that visits one about once a year and requires you to wrestle with those demons knowing that they cannot be vanquished — ever. The facts simply cannot be changed.It is even worse with the passage of years when you know what you have cost that person. It ingrains a seriousness in your perspective and appreciation for life that is one of the only adult functions which I will freely admit exists in my otherwise perfectlly adolescent and enjoyable existence.I look at my children and know I have cost someone else the life of their child only because at that instant in time I was simply not good enough. Not equal to the task or even worse the footnote to an otherwise successful operation.I ran into a guy recently who had been in a unit of mine at Sam’s, of all places. I remembered him as a young man and could still see a bit of that young man in him 38 years later. We had a great chat and he was thankful for things I do not really recall having done so there is some little solace. But I truly struggle to find it.We all have to wrestle with our own demons. Sorry to be so morose but it’s raining here in Austin today.

          2. Carl Rahn Griffith

            I hear you.

          3. Peter Beddows

            JLM: May I express my sincerest compassion for you in the aftermath of the trauma you’ve described and experienced while in the Military doing exactly what was expected of you to the best of your human abilities in defending our country and our freedom on behalf of all of us that have not been in active duty.No one who has not been through the experiences you’ve outlined here could ever fully understand your pain, your stress, your disappointments out of what you have been through nor the extraordinarily high standard of excellence to which you have attempted to hold yourself.I had a very good friend who, as a Marine Officer, came back from Vietnam with many of the same misgivings and pain that you have expressed here and for a very long time he was inconsolable over the men in his company who were lost while under his leadership. It took a great deal of effort for him to finally come to any sense of peace with reality. It is coming across people like the one you mentioned that can be most helpful to bringing things back into perspective.No doubt by now you have heard many times by now that none of us has the Awesome ability to foresee every eventuality and that it is unrealistic to not expect to have situations that we look back upon as “errors” that may have had tragic results. You have much to be proud of from what I have learned by following your posts and much to offer to all of us that choose to hold onto the words of experience that you generously share with us here. I am very grateful to have come to know something of you and about you through your posts here. Thank you.

    3. Tereza

      BTW i’m literally paging through your booklet this afternoon and retrofitting it for my co. Nice and concise. With an edge. Just how I like it.Thanks, JLM!

      1. JLM

        Please send me a copy when you are done. I would love to see it. Thanks.

    4. fredwilson

      i’m going to publish a book by taking all of your comments like this, put them together, and call it “JLM’s words of wisdom”

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I really hope you do this.Of course, I’d love to see someone do something similar for you. But, you’ve voiced your thoughts on that idea.

      2. Aviah Laor

        I have a better name: “The Pay Window”

        1. fredwilson

          yes, way better name

        2. JLM

          I love it!

    5. Donna Brewington White

      JLM — Reading this is like food to my soul. Thank you.Like Richard, I am also reblogging this. Come to think of it, the last post on my blog was a JLM quote.Also, how might I get hold of that little book I’ve heard you and others mention?

      1. JLM

        Snail mail address to Marisol 512-476-5141.

      2. JLM

        You have not called.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Have been working nonstop. Clients are clamoring. Thanks for noticing!

          1. JLM

            Marisol has reported that you called, so you are out of the dog house now. Let me know what you think.

    6. Carl Rahn Griffith

      If I ever went back to working for somebody, it would only be for someone like you, JLM.Inspirational stuff.

      1. JLM

        Carl, see here’s my biggest secret. Nobody ever really works FOR me. I work for them and with them. My job is to get the best performance from every instrument in the orchestra.I always tell folks — if I can make you a millionaire and I own say 40% of the deal, I am gonna do OK.Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid to give orders and I will not tolerate a slackard but I find myself saying more and more — “Ya know this might just work; or, Ya know I’ve seen that done this way before and it worked.”When something works well, I write it down and communicate it to everybody else in the company who is doing the same thing and say — “I just have to tell you what old Joe did last week because he hit a damn good lick.” This is my subtle way of saying — do it like Joe did it.This is one of the reasons why I like multi-unit, multi-state operating businesses because the scalability — the ability to make a pisspot of money — is all about doing one thing very, very well and then doing it a bunch of times.I take the greatest pride in the number of folks who have worked for me who are now running their own shows and when they tell me some apoctyphal tale which I only faintly remember. I never really knew I had made such an impact on them. It makes me more careful about what I do and say.When something works, I give everybody else the credit. When something goes wrong, I take all the blame. This may sound quaintly noble, but it purely pragmatic. So damn much energy gets wasted in assessing blame that you waste as much time bayoneting the wounded as cleaning up the mess. Plus they can’t fire me. I also know that I do screw up frequently and therefore there is no virginity being sacrificed on my side.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          I suspected as much when I used the expression ‘working for’ 🙂

          1. Peter Beddows

            I think it is particularly interesting to realize that most likely many of us might have unwittingly used the same phraseology as you did here Carl but I also intuitively sensed, from having read your other posts, that “working for a boss” would not actually be your normal thought-based response: You seem much more likely to be a “working with” type person than a “working for” type. It is not surprising that JLM’s philosophy would be one of “the CEO works for them, with them and they are working with him and with the rest of the team”. One of my recollections from a Peter Drucker lecture was hearing him saying that “A managers responsibility is simply to facilitate the work of those who report to him/her” as he was explaining his view that no one really understood “motivation”.I was prompted to add my thoughts here because I believe that what separates the entrepreneurial types from regular “worker bees” is that the entrepreneurial types work “for” accomplishment of a vision “with” other team players towards a common objective. In my view, it is the very essence of the “working with” mentality and related emotional quotient that really sets up the business start-up or even the thriving SMB business for agility to pivot and meet market changes and business development challenges that sustain the potential of the business for success because the players are all in the game together for the potential rewards that they all can appreciate winning by committing to play that game together whereas the “working for” worker-bee mentality is typically based upon no more than collecting a pay check and “is it Friday yet”. Reminds me of a time when I had everything to gain by personally identifying “with” the business and its objectives and by encouraging my staff to feel as I did, approaching every day, including many weekends, with that attitude of “together, yes we can!” while my staff of around 200 who where members of 5 (yes five) different unions whose primary objective was to work within the rules and be paid royally for any extra effort required of them. They were all technically good workers but their focus was all about the individual, not about the success of the business.Perhaps needless to say, I was a lot younger then but that was such a stark contrast with the enthusiasm that permeates a place staffed by those who are fully committed to “working with”. I was not the CEO but surely establishing a relationship with ones staff, and between the staff and the business, of “working with” – as I attempted to do in that example – is actually an important element of CEO responsibility: As the saying goes “things always go the way the boss wants them to” … which also goes to the subject of an AVC blog about “What Does A CEO Do” of about 3 weeks back now.

        2. N. G. Zax

          “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant”

    7. Hobo

      “Most of my folks travel and I let them buy a used $25K SUV (want them to ‘win’ all accidents)”That’s really thoughtful – nice insight on your character there.

      1. JLM

        Funny, true story —I was in the Rio Grande Valley — just like any other part of Mexico — and it was 85F and sunny. Nice February day.I wanted to ride down there and back w/ a young manager (brilliant guy really) and have a chance to talk for what turned out to be 10 hours of travel. I often like to do that because I have their undivided attention for so long.We leave the Valley and head home winding our way through McAllen, Alice, San Antonio, New Braunfels and then San Marcos.By the time we hit San Antone, it is 15F and the road is getting icy. I tell him to go slow and to stay in the right hand lane.Coming over an overpass in San Marcos in the left lane, he loses control because the overpass has iced over, we spin and hit the median at about 55 MPH — car totalled. Hit that concrete median like a concrete mixer. What a thump!We both walk away because we are in a big SUV.I even recover my bags of grapefruit and oranges — hey, you can’t go to the Valley without picking up some bags of juice oranges and Ruby Reds — it just wouldn’t be right.Since then, in the company lure, that is referred to as the “hit” on the CEO.

        1. Hobo

          Actually, SUVs are more likely to flip and spin out of control. they have very poor braking ability, and are top heavy.So, just as likely, he lost control because he was driving one of those large POS.

  21. JLM

    Complaint: all my “reply” posts are showing up as original posts. Something must be wrong w/ Disqus or me.

  22. charlessmith

    I had the incredible experience of building out those offices originally and I do think there are some things you can do when you’re 10 (or 50 or 500) people to follow Etsy’s example here: Everyone in the company had multiple opportunities to contribute to all aspects of the new space- starting with the location and extending to having teams from all over the company tour prospective spaces. We did the same with the design and with the buildout itself. More importantly, once the space was occupied, Etsy started to make changes to the space to fit the updated needs of the teams and I’m sure that will keep happening constantly. I think it is a really important culture lesson- create an environment which compels folks to challenge how things are being done and give them an outlet to communicate their thoughts (communication over waffles always helps). Then do whatever you can to make them comfortable and productive. Great post Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for stopping by and sharing that experience charles

  23. JLM

    The low hanging fruit in this weird employment market we are in today is to allow employees to work in a manner they find most productive.Hiring Moms is like hiring ex-military types, they will show up for work and they will work because they have birthed and raised kids.When I owned thousands of apartments, my favorite apartment managers were good looking, college educated, divorced, single moms. I used to give them the largest apartment at the property for free (well part of their compensation).They were perfectly reliable. No longer gullible. Did not bat their eyes at every good looking guy who came by. Loved and appreciated the lifestyle implications of the big apartment and were always available. It alleviated just a bit of the unfairness of their personal lot in life.I used to feel a bit predatory but I also paid them well.I guess I was “momsourcing” in a certain way.SEE WHAT I MEAN, THIS WAS POSTED IN REPLY TO TEREZA’S COMMENT

  24. JLM

    @ David Noel —Better yet. You obviously have a great team. Congrats!

    1. David Noël

      Thanks JLM! Wow not being able to properly reply to comments must be frustrating.Just read your other nugget. If I ever make it to Texas, I’m going to chase you down, Tacos on me 🙂

  25. Hobo

    Sounds good. When do you think they can afford to invest in some professional marketing instead of just trying to get their members to do it all? What is the ‘cutting’ going on in marketing – cutting edge, not cutting, right – they couldn’t cut it down any farther.Do you support efforts like that humor video they posted as a recruitment video? What sort of people is Etsy trying to attract? All the people I showed that to said it made them think Etsy was a bunch of amateur kids, not a place to go and build a stable career.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Related to the marketing question, I wonder if Regretsy generates business for Etsy — not in the specific items Regretsy features, of course, but in the sense that all publicity is good publicity.

    2. fredwilson

      i guess it depends on what you think “professional marketing” is

      1. Hobo

        I meant perhaps Etsy setting their own image, rather than letting sites like Regretsy be the first time many people hear of Etsy. So that’s the impression they get – Etsy is a site with a bunch of loser amateurs selling such total crap, that there is an entire site made just to bitterly mock the goods available on Etsy.When they have actually placed ads, they are in such poorly chosen magazines or websites that they might as well be standing on the street with sandwich boards outside some hipster bar. No, WAIT – that would actually be better.Then, Etsy congratulates themselves on getting their sellers to do all the work. ‘Spread the word! It does us a whole lot more good than it will ever do you!’ This company makes me feel taken advantage of.So, guess you don’t like the recruitment video?

  26. JLM

    @ David Noel —Come on down. The next 10 months are why I live in Texas. And when tacos are involved, well, I am pretty damn easy to catch. For that matter, move to Texas. I’ll sponsor you.

    1. David Noël

      Ha! That’s a long long way from Berlin, but: chances are that I’ll be in Austin for next SXSW so at least I’ll be in the state.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        …actually, you’ll be in his TOWN! (or city as the case may be)

        1. JLM

          Alas, it is no longer just a town. It is a big, big, big deal w/ over 1.5MM people and the Capitol and the University of Texas, etc. We are big time and I miss that little town.I miss Las Manitas.

  27. panterosa,

    What the work place/office most often misses is the fun.Make work fun, your space fun, hire fun people, and you will have fun.Fun does not compete with professionalism, it simply adds value.The value shows up in the work, and translates into revenue or benefit.

  28. JLM

    @ David Noel —I live in Austin, Texas and remember when SXSW was a movie fest that was held at a single theater — the Paramount. If you or anyone else needs help getting tickets, I can help you get the Mick Jagger backstage variety but you have to pay for them. If enough folks can come, I’ll put on a SXSW party.

    1. David Noël

      Perfect. It’s a date! We will iron out the details once planning is starting to get serious. That’ll be awesome.

    2. Mark Essel

      My wife is interested in SXSW now, she was excited by the Mick Jagger backstage variety of tickets. I added gratuitous voice intonation to make it sound even more amazing. My email messel at gmail dot com (you may still have it). Marking my calendar March 11-(15th or 20th?) for next year. If there’s not enough for a party, let’s grab a meal together.If David can fly from Germany, I can check in to Austin from NY.

      1. David Noël

        I’ve marked my calendar too. Wow, one more reason to make it happen.

    3. fredwilson

      i will be in Austin in a few weeks for Austin City Limitsi’ll have my whole family and a bunch of friendsso it may be hard to find a way to get togetherbut i will try to make it happen

  29. Danielle Morrill

    I think even when you’re startup is really small you can still do this. When Twilio was just 5 people we started our company dinner on Wednesdays, where we would order pizza and open a cheap bottle of wine and talk about all sorts of things. That was over a year ago, and now its a weekly tradition.

  30. rich caccappolo

    totally agree that the space can really drive a more positive, effective culture. Clever, well thought out design is important, but one topic I have not seen in the thread is the benefit of being on one floor vs split across multiple floors. In the late 90s, many startups took small spaces and as they expanded, they often took other floors in the same building in order to expand. In other cases, they had to take space in a building across the street or next door. I found those setups to be really detrimental – breaking up communications and slowing progress. It is much more effective to have everyone on one floor “plate”.

    1. fredwilson

      one floor is key if you can do it

  31. Pete

    Etsy only needs a recruiting tool because it asks its engineers to work in ridiculous PHP. If it weren’t using such backwards technology (and standardizing on it), it wouldn’t need to work so hard to bring on engineers.

    1. fredwilson

      my partner Albert still chooses to work in PHPhe could work in ruby, scala, erlang, or something elsebut he believes PHP is still the best choice for him

    2. Dan McKinley

      I work at Etsy, and believe me, all things being equal I despise PHP (“-1” == true, anybody?). But it makes absolutely no difference. The culture is awesome, everyone is happy at work, app is super fun, and we feel like we’re making a difference in people’s lives. Despite being a language nerd the programming language is the last thing I care about.

    3. Erik F. Kastner

      I love ruby dearly. I’ve spoken at ruby conferences, contributed to OSS ruby projects (including rails) and taught ruby classes. It’s the language I think in. When I decided to make a move to a new company, I talked to a few and ended up with two I was very excited about. A high-profile ruby / rails / scala shop and Etsy. I won’t lie, Etsy being PHP was a strike against it.In the end, I went with Etsy for a lot of reasons, PHP not one of them ;)The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past nearly year and a half at Etsy is that you can write good code in any language (even PHP)… and really, really bad code in any language (even my beloved ruby).It turns out the things I really value aren’t the words I type in my editor, the framework I use or even the awesome food of Eatsy. I value things like being able to deploy code insanely fast (!/chaddickerson/status/22925650081), working with people who are excited and wicked smart (see recruiting above) and making a difference in the world (, any engineer who scoffs at those things because of the language we’re using isn’t someone with enough smarts (or humility) to hang with our team.

    4. kellan

      Actually PHP isn’t something we ended up with for historical reason, or backwards thinking, it’s an active bet on the future.Once you’re working beyond non-trivial scales complexity is your greatest threat. It significantly raises your operational costs, and impedes your ability to change quickly.Everything we’re doing at Etsy right now is focused on optimizing rapid execution, this includes: * standardizing hardware, and moving away from functional partitioning * branching in codes * very very frequent small pushes (every 10 minutes or so) * choosing today’s solutions today * building with well known tools with proven scaling track records.In particular we’re rapidly converting over to a variation on the architecture that powers both Facebook and Flickr.And like Dan and Erik said, when day to day you’re busy with building something great at scale, the purity of the language is largely a non-issue. (and if you are obsessing about the purity of your underlying tech that might mean it’s time to find a project you’re more passionate about!)

  32. SD

    I agree – space is SOOOO important. I work in a big company which has a couple of locations around town.people are going always back and forth very often. What is interesting is that in one location, everyone has their own office, and I tell you, the place is SILENT…. people literally do conference calls with the person in the office just next door and another person 2 doors down.In the other location, there are more people than spaces … there is always a tussle for space. But ultimately, it fosters such a better sense of community – you really get to know what projects people are working on, and the ideas really get going all the time.These ‘little things’ make a massive difference – getting to know the people around you as human beings really fosters a better environment.

  33. Cowboy Coder

    Having a workplace that is kid friendly?Maybe. I’ve worked at places where kids are welcome. So we’d have a baby crying in one lady’s cubicle and a couple kids running up and down the aisle outside my office screaming and playing tag. Sometimes they’d come into my office, ask questions, knock things over.Couldn’t get a damn thing done.I suppose if your objective is to reduce productivity as much as possible, being open to many people bringing young children to work is a good approach.But really if you want to spend time with your kids, quit your job and be a stay at home parent. Don’t assume you have an entitlement to distract the rest of us from work.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I’m laughing, but I think you are serious. I’m a mom — I love Tereza’s ideas about a child-friendly workplace, but I do believe there are times when it is inappropriate for kids to be around — as much as I LOVE my kids — and other people’s.And I think that this is relative — people are a lot more patient with other people’s kids when their own are part of the ruckus.

  34. JLM

    @fred —You may have to look for this because of my Disqus reply problem — it doesn’t let me reply for some reason and puts everything in as an original post. I am replyng to your comment in regard to ACL.I think ACL is 8-10 Oct.Don’t sweat it but if you can carve out a breakfast I will buy you the Burnet Road Burritto — and that’s no small thing, my friend. If you eat two of them, you are not allowed to emigrate from Texas until you have had a bowel movement. Not allowed to take that much Texas with you. So they say. Cause all Texans are full of ……………Let me know if you need anything.A real fun thing to do is to rent one of those electric boats at the old Hyatt at the foot of Town Lake and cruise the river one night. You can literally park opposite Zilker Park where the ACL festival is held.

    1. fredwilson

      i will email you directly to coordinate JLMand i will let disqus know about your reply problems

      1. JLM

        Remember, you are coming to Texas, so think big. I’d love to give you a tour of my company. Looking forward to it.

    2. obscurelyfamous

      sorry JLM, this was a bug yesterday and we fixed it. it was affecting IE users only.thanks!

      1. JLM

        I filed a help ticket and was taken care of by “Ryan”. I thought the customer service reply and rapid response was excellent. I felt like I was being talked in by an experienced Air Traffic Controller. Very professional and reassuring. It makes me like your product even more proving the concept that problem resolution is a sales opportunity in disguise. Your help desk made an admirer of me. Thanks.

        1. fredwilson

          Made my day!!!

  35. JLM

    @ Charlie —Bring it. You are not getting any younger, my friend, and the BBQ is just getting better.

  36. JLM


  37. zburt

    “When you are less than ten people, it is hard to invest in stuff like this. All you can do is focus on getting your product right and launching it”would somebody please elaborate on this because i don’t understand. do firms like usv routinely invest in companies/teams that don’t yet have a product built? it seems they all want to see traction, which to me implies a “launched” product

    1. baba12

      and etsy has a product. USV and every other VC firm is not going to invest in companies with product and traction, or else they will invest in a track record. Both those choices are par for the course.

  38. ShanaC

    A) How could you not dislike a company that takes along a multicolored, tie-died octopus for recruitment purposes (I love that octopus and if it wasn’t at this public event I swear I would have hugged it, it was so cute)B)If you are small, really easy things to do to create culture:1) get a teapot and loose tea- have teatime with your new teapot and loose tea. will allow you to make proprietary blends of tea. So could have a company blend of tea for cheap.2) Use only a specific color/shape of post it notes. Only write with specific colored pens. Make sure to write a daily cheesy note with said specific equipment.3) Have a potluck4) get a plant, name your plant, preferable with a very generic name like Bob. Make sure to include the plant in all office activities and thank you notes. (so that you have an ongoing joke.)5) Decorate based off a tv show, a cultural icon, a city, or a continent.Add your own(Oh some things friends of mine came up with in dorms…very similar sorts of environments)

  39. Donna Brewington White

    What’s really cool is when the office space not only truly reflects the culture but is designed to actually promote the intended culture. One of my favorite office spaces to this day was for a game company. It’s not so much that their office space was incredibly clever — designed to resemble their flagship product, which meant the layout looked like a game board (very fun) — but that there were places throughout the office that invited people to cluster. Innovative thinking was a key value and with this, the ideas that were generated by a group of bright people thinking out loud together and even having fun together. Believe it or not, they were actually quite productive from what I could tell. Award-winning games each year for about four years straight. What impresses me most is when a company places as much intention in creating its culture as it does in creating its brand. (Granted that the company is intent on building a winning brand.)I am currently working on an executive search for a service company that attributes much of its success to creating an outstanding customer experience. It gives me great pleasure to share with prospective candidates that this company understands that the experience created for its customers is highly influenced by the experience created for its employees and is equally attentive to both.

  40. Donna Brewington White

    “When you are less than ten people, it is hard to invest in stuff like this. All you can do is focus on getting your product right and launching it… But as your company grows, you need to pay attention to the office and the culture.”Sometimes the challenge as the company grows is to continue the culture that was created within that initial small cohesive group — when the culture was the result of relationships and shared values, passion and vision — maybe even from a bit of mutual suffering and of “all being in this thing together.” As the team expands, the challenge then becomes scaling that culture and that’s when the careful planning and the accoutrements come in. I have actually met people who miss the “good, old days” when the company was small and poor, but the experience felt more rich. So perhaps we can add another term along with the brilliant “hacking culture” offered earlier — “scaling culture.”

    1. RichardF

      that is spot on Donna, mirrors my own experiences.

  41. William Mougayar

    Whatever the culture/rituals/perks are, they have to be original and authentic. You can’t copy someone else’s culture, programs or quilts and expect them to stick the same way. Culture is something that is home grown and it has a unique personality which is germaine to the company itself and how the company evolved and what the people made it to be.

    1. fredwilson

      totally agree

  42. Donna Brewington White

    Fred — I love this topic. It’s sort of where I live as someone who “sells” job opportunities. I wish I could pound into CEOs’ heads (don’t get me wrong — I have a very soft spot in my heart for CEOS — especially entrepreneurs) the vital importance of culture to their ability to attract and retain top talent. It does not surprise me that people are beating down the door to work for Etsy. Culture is king these days.I think of a previous consumer tech client that experienced exponential growth as a startup and had a hugely successful IPO. The company’s CEO was horrible at creating culture (and to work for period) and their offices were also terrible, but because they were pre-IPO, were phenomenally successful and had outstanding products and market acceptance (when the economy was still ravaged by the dot-com bust) they were able to attract great people. Unless you reported directly to the CEO, the great group of people at the company created some padding for each other. I was honest with candidates about the culture and the only reason I took the company on as a client is that I LOVED their products, respected many of the VPs and I knew that a couple years with this company would provide outstanding experience for anyone who joined the company, not to mention stock options that actually meant something.Anyway, after the company’s IPO and a couple of good quarters the company began to unravel. There were market factors involved of course, but I suspect that the culture had a lot to do with it. A lot of the execs left once they had the freedom to do so with their shares intact. With the “pre-IPO carrot” no longer in place, the company lost their ability to attract the same caliber of employee and they had churned and burned so many that the word was out on the street. I also stopped recruiting for them shortly after that because the culture just became too unbearable — with the post-IPO Wall Street pressure the CEO became even worse (and was eventually replaced but by then it was too late).I don’t want to oversimplify this, but I am convinced that with better people management (e.g., appreciation) and attention to culture, this company would not have suffered so severe a fallout. Just saying…

    1. JLM

      On a very serious note, I see a great business opportunity exactly along the lines of what you have suggested — The Best Practices of Creating and Nurturing a Company Culture.The fact that you can see the direct impact of this blind spot on a damn good company suggests its importance. I wonder if that CEO told of this issue in a calm manner would understand and respond. I think he might.I think this is a natural adjunct to the concept of continual performance coaching.I am always reminded that even the very best athletes retain coaches for continuous improvement. Just part of the job.

      1. Peter Beddows

        Agreed on all counts.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Given the absolute significance of the company’s culture it floors me that more CEOs don’t focus on this.I want to be careful. CEOs are among my heroes — even the bad ones are doing something that most people can’t do — and I have never been one so I want to be careful with my observations — especially those that border on criticism.I have great powers of observation and keen insight, but unfortunately not the credentials or experience to be taken seriously as a “coach” — however a couple of times I’ve been honored to have my insights taken seriously by someone who knows a whole lot more about leadership and running companies than I do…and it’s been gratifying to see my advice make a difference.If great leaders win, we all win.

        1. JLM

          I would note that many great football coaches never even played college ball. But they became great coaches because they could observe, assess, plan and execute.Think how many guys have huge bald spots. When you can’t see the back of your own head any assistance is welcome. We all have blind spots.In the land of the blind, the one eyed Jack is King.Sent from my iPad

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Food for thought. Thanks.

  43. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    Office culture does matter. I really liked JLM’s comment because you do have to interject some realism, especially in a growing (not yet cash flow positive/profitable company) as we’ve seen many companies go out of business after hearing about their big annual trip to Hawaii.But when you can’t pay market and are asking employees to bet with you on the upside, recognition, pats on the back, healthy meals, flexibility to do your job on a schedule that works for you/your family can go a long way!By the way, I originally tried to post this on IE and although I was logged in to Disqus, it wouldn’t let me type anything into the text box. This isn’t the first time that’s happened so I’m posting this on FF.

    1. JLM

      In today’s job market, nobody needs to take folks to Hawaii to make them appreciate having a job. I wish I could “short” every company that takes a trip to Hawaii.Anobody not paying market should be cracking open the company’s equity kitty and passing around some stock cause fair is fair.There is nothing wrong with making a “bet” just make damn sure there is a pay window when your number comes up.

  44. Alexmmr

    In what way is Etsy providing cutting edge customer service? They don’t even have a customer service phone number. The only way to contact anyone is to send an email and after 5 or 6 days you’ll be lucky if you get back a form letter that has nothing to do with your problem.Seriously. Where is this customer service you speak of?

    1. fredwilson

      That last part is not true.And you will see a lot of great things from them in the next year on thecustomer service frontRemember that etsy only gets 3.5pcnt of every transaction so they have to bethoughtful of how to provide great customer service

      1. Alexmmr

        I disagree. Artfire has only a few employees and yet I’m able to contact them any time I need to through a variety of methods. On the rare occasion that I have an issue there, it is solved darned near immediately. And the money they are working with is a fraction of what Etsy has in the tills. Etsy has 200(?) employees and yet I can’t figure out how to get one of them on the phone when something goes disastrously wrong. There are entire blogs dedicated to how poorly and slowly (if ever) a problem gets fixed on Etsy.But if there is something coming on the customer service horizon now that they are entering their 6th year, by all means, let us know what’s coming. I’m just trying to figure out what you were referring to when you specifically mentioned “cutting edge customer service” when from the customers point of view, they don’t even have the most basic of customer service available.

        1. fredwilson

          it is not my role to announce future offerings coming from Etsystay tunedyou’ll be pleased

  45. Chris Waldron

    Too many founders look at their team and their culture as commodities. As an early employee and responsible for a large % of the team I remind myself that my #1 customer is my staff. I appreciate seeing you post on this Fred. As a non-coder I like to think the culture I create is comparable to writing good code. Creating layers on top of junk only creates a lot of scaling problems.This year we have grown from 9 to over 200. I am trying to find great people to follow on Twitter, blogs or companies other than Etsy and Zappos that understand the power of investing in your people. Any suggestions from the AVC community is appreciated.

  46. FormerEtsySeller

    While I understand what’s behind the writing of this post — keep the people who work for/with you happy and they will love working for/with you — this article is a complete slap in the face of Etsy sellers.There are so many, extremely basic, tools needed on Etsy, yet Admin seems to be too busy closing forum threads that didn’t need closing in the first place, writing pointless blog posts, Tweeting, putting their favourites forward in said blog posts again and again and again…. The search is still a joke, there is no customer service to speak of, incredibly important changes to the site are not checked before emplementing and need to be recalled after a huge outcry in the forums (sales tax anyone??), the list of f*ckups is endless.But hey, at least they get 3 catered meals a week and they have a plushy phonebooth for private calls, right?

    1. fredwilson

      maybe you should come back to selling on etsyit is getting a lot betterthose meals feed 3x more engineers than they had at the start of the yearand a similar increase in customer servicewe are making a huge investment in making etsy even bettergive it a try

  47. Bala

    Our portfolio company does simple things:they are still in the bootstrap phase and I dont’ think given their culture they will ever get out of that mind set (thank God!)1. Everyone goes out for Ice cream when a major milestone is achieved2. Every friday they have a experiment where everyone participates, it is as simple as something in physics to something everyone has not thought about… think of myth busters3. Breakfast thursdays, one of the team member prepares breakfast for the rest of the team… they get quite creative and it is usually a lot of fun. Of course all of us are trying to beat one of the team members who bakes a killer bread! Warm, soft and to die for with Pesto!4. They have a bird(s) they take care of… I am mean the entire teamI think you get the point, the key is TEAM… it does not matter what you do as long as you do with the team that you are working with. It builds a bond, makes everyone pull for the others in the team and basically makes everyone wanting the team to WIN. That makes a winning culture.I think chef prepared lunch is nice… but I would never ask my team to trade what they have for lunch or nicer office or whatever.

  48. Robogeisha

    My company, Grows Up, is sitting squarely in the Mom space. This presents many interesting challenges – when it comes to hiring and also around the office. First off, most people think of startups as 20-something males that are working crazy long hours to get things accomplished. This isn’t far from the truth out here in Silicon Valley. But for me, startups are part of my DNA. I’ve been doing them for the past 14 years and I have no intention of slowing down or taking a corporate job. As I’ve gotten older, having a life is also important to me. And add in the pressure of being a female and wanting to have a family…it simply isn’t conducive to the typical startup life.That is why I started my own company and the culture that we are fostering is every bit as hardworking as the “kids”, but we choose to do it in a different way. We are all mature adults around here, but we have just as good a time as I did when I was 20. The only difference is that in our office we have babies and toddlers, instead of ping pong and video games. We have a lactation room instead of weekly burrito days. It is my firm belief that there are many amazingly talented people in their 30s that are startup junkies like the rest of us that are trapped at boring jobs because they don’t think that startup life can accomodate their families.We at Grows Up are here to try change that.Some more on our family-friendly policies that are helping to shape the culture of our company:

  49. paramendra

    In-house lunch and child care and workout ought be mandatory, no? They are such obvious productivity issues.

  50. lizgebhardt

    Pixar’s office space in Emeryville CA is another great example of space designed for people vs a “cube farm.” The first floor of the building is an enormous multistory atrium and to get to mail boxes, cafeteria, casual meeting places and bathrooms — all employees must walk through this space. So there is an enormous opportunity for the serendipitous encounter – and cross-group problem solving that results. Photo here:

  51. concerned

    Maybe Etsy’s office environment is a bit too relaxed, if coders are mistaking “user” for “full” and violating the security of ~200,000 Etsy sellers:

    1. fredwilson

      has that bug been fixed?

      1. concerned

        Yes. Within an hour. But they still left names exposed while the bug was being fixed, instead of disabling that part of the site. It bothers me that, for site that claims to care so much about its community, Etsy didn’t notify the entire community about what happened, just the people affected, or the people who happen to wander into their forums. Says a lot about their corporate culture.

  52. daryn

    Even at less than 10 people, the office does matter. It can be hard to spend the effort on it, especially the first couple of years, but like it helps to reminds everyone that people are the most important asset of the company.Even through our toughest times, we’ve tried to keep that in mind. Each week, a different employee gets $50 to buy snacks for the company. It’s no catered lunch, but it’s in the right spirit. We don’t have duct-cozies, but we did buy paint and all spend the day brightening up the office together. And we have a team lunch whenever we cross certain milestones — which is increasingly often these days!By the way, this post prompted us to go buy a Sonos and a TV for the office tonight. We’re still on a budget though, so the Xbox is coming in from home 🙂

  53. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Ironically, a piece in this week’s Economist on Fun and The Office environment:

  54. EtsyBitch

    how are they ding cutting edge things in custoer service when they don’t DO ANY???? Maybe you need to do a survey of some of etsy’s customers, and not the ones that make etsy tons of money and have kalin on speed dial, just the regulars ones hat only have $10-40 mnthly bills and see what they say. I bet they say it’s non-existant and laughable at best.

  55. Dan

    another key office element–leadership. if just can’t happen long-distance. you can’t lead from the front if you’re not even in the room.

  56. Julien

    I totally agree with this.Now, here is my problem: I work in a 30-people company that works like a network of independents. We have a corporate culture even though we have a hard time putting names on it.How can you convey this “corporate facility” spirit when we only meet face-to-face twice a year?Corporate desktop?Looking for ideas ….

  57. fredwilson

    totally agreeand doing it yourself is also keyrob kalin, founder of etys and the current ceo, is known for his habit of knocking down walls by himself

  58. David Noël

    We have a lot of glass walls separating rooms in our office that get used as white boards for the different scrum teams with notes and post-its. It looks amazing: also do a weekly Masterclass where every Thursday for lunch, we order in pizza for everyone and one team member speaks about something they’re really good at (past examples: Being funny, how to produce electronic music, Android, Google Analytics crash course, etc), I love these.

  59. Jason M. Klug

    Sounds like a great space to transition! A client of mine has been working to restore an old feed mill to use as her studio space. She’s a painter, and the setting is the perfect muse for her art… very well suited for her subject matter.I just moved my tiny web design shop into a classy old building (1910 Chicago-style architecture), but my suite had been covered up with decades of what I like to call “generic dated office”. I personally ripped out all the layers of carpet & vinyl, removed some cheap built-in shelving, restored the hardwood floors, and I’m in the process of painting the walls, finding some original doors with the frosted glass (“1920’s private detective” style), and milling base and window trim to match what was originally in the building.Enough cannot be said about the pride of doing the work myself and the process of restoring a once-genericized (?) space to its original authentic luster. It just feels genuine, in a way that 99% of business spaces don’t. The office itself is becoming a point of pride (if you hadn’t noticed), and I’m physically and emotionally charged up every time I come into work… which makes it well worth the investment, in my book.

  60. JLM

    Having spent more than a bit of time in Winston-Salem when the tobacco was curing in those big old warehouses, I would pretty much invest in any company which was located in an old tobacco warehouse.I remember driving into town in a convertible and smelling that sweet tobacco and it just making my spirits soar.I would love to live in W-S (where my wife is from) and renovate a floor in a tobacco warehouse and live there.Whiteboards — you can never have enough whiteboards.Vile product, BTW.

  61. fredwilson

    whoasoundcloud has sweet officesgreat blog post

  62. Tereza

    Really awesome.And Berlin is so damn cool, BTW.

  63. Donna Brewington White

    Truly, truly amazing.I am reading this after a long, exhausting day and I actually feel energized after looking at those photos.

  64. David Noël

    Yeah we got lucky with these pics. The team behind the blog asked us if they can come and take pictures for their “The Office” series. Didn’t expect them to turn out that great.

  65. Erin Newkirk

    So passionate about the DIY approach! Really cool, Charlie.As a start-up of 10ish people, we finally just decided to redo our conference room after being in our space for about 2 years. It was a wonderful opportunity for everyone at our company to be creative, but it was definitely spearheaded by our amazing ops manager, Laura.If interested, before/after pictures and some ideas on how you could do a similar project on a start-up budget here ::…September is the perfect time of year to transform.

  66. Senith @ MBA tutor

    Having plants is key. It also benefits the oxygen supply! 🙂

  67. Tereza

    LOVE!BTW Erin I was thinking about you because JLM was talking about how he writes personal notes when he meets investors.I’m dealing with some high-level people and want to do the same. Want it to reflect our brand.Also thinking ahead to holiday cards to key partners.Can Red Stamp help me with that? 🙂

  68. Erin Newkirk

    Definitely! We work with lots of start-ups. All the design, none of the graphic designer costs.Let’s chat when we meet up. Can’t wait!

  69. JLM

    The note writing should become automatic. Do it in your quiet moments.I just make my own on or use Elance for $50 to design them. Costs next to nothing.Make them very heavyweight paper.I send out holiday cards in the summer or the fall — never at Christmas. It makes a much bigger impact.Of course, everybody thinks your are nuts and starts looking for the lobotome scars.

  70. Evan

    yeah, my wife is about to have our first child here in Argentina. So Iguess la salud will rise on the priority list.

  71. Donna Brewington White

    …and there is just something about feeding people well that makes them feel cared for. It just does.

  72. JLM

    For several decades I have had a very early morning Tuesday “Check In, Go Around” meeting and conference call. A religous experience and a “no excuses” attendance policy.Three minutes — not one second more — per person from every office in the country. The big three things everybody is working on the next week and any problems.Quick staff meeting thereafter to deal w/ anything coming from the field.Have cards made up for this express purpose and everybody has to bring their old cards to the conference. If out of town, you dial in 5 minutes before and you are on the speaker phone.I used to hold these meetings standing up but I have relented. The things I learn allow me to run things from anywhere in the world or to go to the critical location which can benefit from my help.I make every person working for me carry a Moleskine notebook. If you have never used Moleskine notebooks, then you owe it to yourself to go buy some in every size. No conversation, meeting, phone call or set of notes ever fails to be entered into those notebooks.Using a Moleskine notebook for a year and looking back and seeing what you did is as close to perfection — making love to Catharine Deneuve in her prime kind of perfection (where did that come from?) — as you can get.Once or twice a year, read that notebook and laugh and laugh at what had your attention at that instant in time. It is a hoot.If you doubt me, I will buy you a set.

  73. David Noël

    Oh yes it is. Sorry we missed one another when you were over.

  74. David Noël

    Thanks, Donna! We’re really lucky with the space.

  75. RichardF

    congrats and good luck, your world is about to change forever. Keep us posted.Feed yourself plenty of Argentinian beef, that’ll keep you going!

  76. Donna Brewington White

    Evan — so happy to know this about you. Congratulations!I must say that pregnancy and child-rearing — especially reading books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “What to Expect the First Year” — revolutionized my thinking on nutrition and eating. But that aside, you are in for a wonderful adventure! Thrilled for you!

  77. JLM

    If you come to SXSW, I am looking forward to visiting about Berlin.I was friendly with and enjoyed the friendship of a certain Col Johns (VMI grad and former Commandant at VMI) who was the commander of the American armored column which re-opened Berlin during the Russian blockade. I am sure a bit before your time.I sat in wrapt attention listening to him telling the story of moving his tanks down the Autobahn on the verge of what he thought to be the beginning of WWIII.I think that Berlin holds the distinction of being the only foreign city that America was prepared to go to war to ensure its freedom. It was a very close call.

  78. Tereza

    I usually carry some with me, cheapos from TJ Maxx on my person, during downtime, while it’s fresh. But I want to extend the brand.I’ve been told that our holiday cards are “the ones to beat”. I am very competitive about this.I want to extend this and leverage our brand.Heavyweight paper is a must, I agree.Summer or fall is kooky, in a good way. Valentine’s Day is lame because it screams “I couldn’t get my act together in time”.Now your writing this has my brain hopping with fun ideas.

  79. Albert Wenger

    Exactly like comfort food. Also extremely fast to have something simple up and running because templating is basically built into the language (although you wouldn’t know that from a lot of PHP code).Plus I find that I can only learn so many new things in one go. For Preditter it was MongoDB (for obvious reasons). For a new project I might look at Scala since several of our portfolio companies are using it.

  80. Ron Rasmussen

    Agile (Scrum) processes of daily standups, with 3-5 minutes on what did you do, what do you plan to do, and any blockers can apply across every department in a company and not just engineering.

  81. Doug Covey

    Great words JLM, the method reminds me of agile management or SCRUM as I’m learning more about the approach. Trim the fat and make it count. The Moleskine is a godsend and recently helped map a series of events creating a trend line allowing us to make adjustments on a long term project. I’ll look forward to the book Fred creates to learn and develop, in the meantime, this is a worthwhile “bar” to listen, learn and contribute.

  82. karen_e

    Who attends the the three-minutes check in meeting? Senior level only?

  83. Peter Beddows

    I wonder if anyone else here has noticed how, even in this age of advanced tools and options, the good old fashioned “Notebook”, whether in Moleskin disguise or just plain jacketed, is still as indispensable as a business management tool today as it ever has been?Using the notebook method has been particularly helpful for me for gathering valuable “minutes” of meetings albeit that, if it is my own meeting, I tend to have a trusted sidekick take the notes so that I can concentrate on the tenor of the discussion and body language of participants.Over time, I’ve tried various options such as Microsoft’s OneNote, Micro-Recorders and Laptop options, even tried using my BB recording feature but I still come back to making notes directly into my journal and I have often found this to be a perfectly invaluable resource for looking back for relevant event history as and whenever necessary: Contemporaneously written documentation beats memory every time.As to Catharine Deneuve well, I came from just 25 miles up the valley from Catherine Zeta-Jones but when I said to my friends how “perfectly beautiful” she was I was rebuked with “there’s nothing in Wales as perfectly beautiful as a Rugby Football Player in action!” Nuff said.

  84. JLM

    I do them once a week.I think that if I have not set clear enough long term goals and my folks are not clever enough to see what they have to do for the next month — well, shame on me.I was inspired by reading John Wooden’s writings about how he prepared UCLA for a game. He set out the plan well before the game, sat down and let the team execute. If he had missed something or detected something wrong during the game, he made a half time adjustment.Watch films of him and you will see that he is almost always sitting on the bench in a calm and attentive manner — not jumping up and down.As the CEO, I should be planning on what we are going to do over the next couple of years.It has been hard to get to that place as I am a high energy micro managing fool when I am not on my meds but it really works.

  85. David Noël

    I love stories like this. My grand parents passed when I was a kid so Inever really had anyone to tell me about these times (back in Belgium,btw).This city is full of history. Only today I stumbled across these “BerlinUnderground” tours:http://berliner-unterwelten…If you come to Berlin, we’ll do the Bunker/Cold War tour together.

  86. JLM

    I have a fairly flat organization w/ a CFO, Controller, high level analyst/#s wizard, three state GMs, 4 portfolio managers and an acquisition guy w/ an assistant. Almost every one of these guys has an MBA, a CPA or is a WS trained professional.I have a weird view on organizational structure — a well thought out theory but a little long to state here. I believe that everybody should know about everybody else’s job and be able to understand the intellectual basis for why we do everything. And should be able to perform on a 360 degree front — management, operations, finance, marketing, etc. That is why I prefer hiring MBAs — not Harvard guys but Tx A & M, Northwestern, etc.All of these folks get their 3 minutes. We had one this AM and it was on my mind because I had made this recent comment. It went swimmingly.I am a charming chap IMHO but I am really an efficient SOB when it comes to communications. I am a total communist with no sense of compartmentalism and willing to share completely. It is really laziness on my part as I do not have to remember who knows what.I guess I have been doing this so long, I have an ironclad discipline. I start at 8:00 to the instant and nobody dares to be late. I have the outliers on the screen and by phone. The only exception is acquisition related info about which we have signed a NDA.I just go brutally around the room and never tell anyone who is going to have to go first or last. This keeps everyone on their toes.After each such meeting I will typically spend 30 mintues with some area — finance guys, acquisitions or one of the state operations. No more than 30 minutes.That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.