Why You Should Stop Copying Google’s Employee Perks

Not only is Google rated the #1 place to work year after year, but it’s one of most valuable companies on earth. And that’s by no coincidence. To get there, Google spent years perfecting their employee perks to create a positive and highly-productive environment.

Google Campus Dublin - Gasworks - Microkitchen - Floor Identity: Waterworld - Foto Peter Wurmli - © Camenzind Evolution

Google Campus Dublin – Gasworks – Microkitchen – Floor Identity: Waterworld – Foto Peter Wurmli – © Camenzind Evolution

But Google has only been able to grow into a $360 billion company by trying bold new things and constantly iterating their systems—not by blindly applying the successful models of other companies.

To succeed as a startup, you also have to be careful not to just adopt trendy fads, but rather find what works best for you through constant iteration. In fact, there are tons of companies that do the opposite of what Google does and thrive as a result.

Here are some examples of super successful startups that refrained from Googlifying their environment.

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Museum Hack’s Productivity Case Study

We developed IDoneThis to help teams become more productive, and to eliminate the need for time-consuming meetings. But some of our customers have found more creative ways to use us than we even imagined! Here’s how one of our clients, Museum Hack, uses IDoneThis to stay on task.

CEO Nick Gray used to hate museums. But just one incredible museum experience, totally turned him. Before he knew it, he was a museum junkie spewing fun facts about ancient artifacts to all his friends.

He had such a knack for bringing the art to life that the popularity of his unofficial tours took off and became the impetus for his unique startup: interactive museum tours.

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When Nick founded his museums-made-easy company, productivity tools were the last thing on his mind. But three years later, as Museum Hack had grown multi-fold, and its guides began to work in locations across three major cities, they were in serious need of a catch-all productivity tool that would keep them connected and on schedule. They found just that in IDoneThis.

We spoke with Michael, the Head of Marketing of Museum Hack, to get an idea of the problems they faced as they expanded, and how they used IDoneThis features to address them.

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How to Manage the Distinct Personalities of your Remote Team

So you think it’s time for your company to take the plunge and go remote. While you and your team begin to hammer out the details, new concerns bubble up—what if your staff burn out or fall through the cracks? Managing a team with such diverse personalities is tricky enough when you’re under one roof—you can only imagine how it’s going to be once everyone disperses.

Of course, some personalities are better suited for remote work than others. Some members of your remote team will punch the air and run home when you announce that you’re going remote. Others might glance hopelessly around at their office friends, at their favorite desk, at the cozy couch, and not know how to deal.

You can’t 100% predict who will love working remotely and who’ll flounder, but if you’re prepared, you can meet each member of your team halfway to set them up for success.

Here’s a breakdown of the different characters you might have on your team, and how to help them through the transition so they’ll thrive in your (newly) remote business.

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The Definitive Guide to Daily Standups

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When the business world seeks new productivity tools, it often turns its gaze to Silicon Valley, an industry famous for its ability to eliminate the cruft of the workday. But there’s one productivity tool that has its roots not in open-plan offices, but in military strategy boardrooms: the daily standup meeting.

The daily standup has its instructions in the title. It’s a daily meeting where participants stand. That’s it.

Ideally, the lack of chairs promotes a quick and effective meeting. If the conversation prompts a deeper discussion about a specific topic, it’s tabled for after the daily standup.

It’s a technique that American General William Pagonis used during the First Gulf War, where he served as director of Logistics. Each morning, he had 40 officers meet together in a conference room without a table or chairs. It minimized the need for pleasantries and unnecessary comments. Even military officers, it turns out, have a tendency to digress. Pagonis found that the format maximized productivity crucial to military success. Norman Schwarzkopf, in fact, salutes Pagonis as the “logistical wizard” of the Gulf War.

After hanging up is uniform, Pagonis brought this military precision to his corporate job as a Sears executive. He brought workers into a conference room sans chairs and had a quick run-down of the day. Under his leadership, Sears streamlined its business model, cutting delivery times in half. The standup, Pagonis says, was crucial to Sears’ success. When asked why the daily standup was so effective, he said, “When you sit down, a meeting goes for over an hour or an hour and a half, and you lose everybody. When people are standing, they talk faster or they say I don’t have anything to add.” It’s that simple.

The daily stand-up takes a lot of forms. Some offices do it once a week—others, twice a day. Some use chairs, some do it electronically. Some, as it turns out, are more successful than others. This guide looks at how and why daily standups are so effective, and the best way to implement one into your workday.

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The One Thing Virtusize Does Every Day to Provide the Perfect Fit

Anyone who’s ever had to return ill-fitting clothes bought online knows how disappointing and annoying the whole process is. The two-year-old Swedish startup, Virtusize, solves that problem with a sizing application placed on product pages of online stores such as the British retailer ASOS.

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Inspired by seeing how top sellers on eBay provided detailed specifications, the founders of Virtusize realized they could help shoppers buy clothes on the web with the right size and fit by comparing measurements to garments they already own. This simple yet handy service, currently used by customers in over 100 countries, is reducing fit-related returns by up to as much as fifty percent.

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How ShopLocket Maximizes its Progress By Celebrating Wins

When ShopLocket cofounder and CEO Katherine Hague once wanted to sell some ninja T-shirts, she found herself stuck, feeling that the cost and process of building a whole storefront to do so didn’t make any sense. Seeing a gap in e-commerce options between all the bells and whistles of building a virtual store and throwing a posting up on Craigslist, Katherine and cofounder Andrew Louis started ShopLocket to provide a microshop tool to embed products into whatever platform you’re already using, from Facebook pages, blogging sites, and beyond.

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Creating A Happy Workplace at ShopLocket

Having gone through a Toronto accelerator, raised a seed round of $1 million in funding, and expanded to a team of seven since 2011, ShopLocket is now focused on understanding their sales funnel and growing their product team. Throughout this progression, Katherine’s been careful to ensure that ShopLocket’s company culture remains strong and employees happy by cultivating a workplace where people actually like to be.

In starting ShopLocket, Katherine explains, “We wanted to create a place where we wanted to work. A lot of that creating a happy place comes from the Zappos mentality but we’d heard a lot of stories of people who woke up one day to realize that they’ve created a company where they don’t even want to go.”

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How Annie’s Weaves Its Publishing Web for Crafters

From its start as a small, mail-order needlecraft company, Annie’s has grown into a craft media empire. Based in Berne, Indiana, the family-owned business produces magazines, catalogs, kits, books, newsletters, and even its own TV show, PBS’s Knit and Crochet Now!

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Annie’s web development team handles everything web-related for the company’s wide range of products, which means constant content updates, new sites, and creative projects such as online classes with experts who teach everything from Bavarian crochet and quilting to jewelry-making and knitting magic socks.

Since the web department’s formation in 1998, it’s had to adapt right along with the web revolutions of publishing and retail. Project manager Michelle Lawrence describes the team’s busy role in the transformation that’s had to take place at Annie’s to keep up with the times and the business’s exponential growth: “In addition to performing our technical support duties, we also help guide others when dealing with anything that goes on the internet. It’s not necessarily a part of everyone’s background and explaining what we need and what we do in order for things to run smoothly is not always factored into the time we allot for various tasks!”

With so many parts involved in producing the various media channels, Annie’s web dev team has to make sure those parts keep moving. Michelle notes, “The most challenging thing about all those moving parts is communication, to make sure everyone relevant to a conversation is in the loop.”

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How Love With Food Found its Working Rhythm

Love With Food is a subscription service that delivers a specially curated box of organic and all-natural snacks every month. For every box that’s sent, the company donates a meal to feed a hungry child.

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Founder Aihui Ong embarked on Love With Food after seeing a friend forced to shutter her stir-fry sauce business because she was unable to secure wider distribution. Aihui (pronounced “I-we”) not only saw the need for alternative channels of distribution and marketing connecting food entrepreneurs to consumers but also an opportunity to help the one in five children in America at risk of hunger.

From a company of one in late 2011, Love With Food has grown to twelve employees. While growing any startup is challenging, Aihui notes that LWF’s mission helps her hire:  “In the last eighteen months, we’ve donated more than 100,000 meals, and that also draws the right talent to our company. People who want to join us really value that we’re giving back and doing something innovative to disrupt the food industry.”

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How WooThemes Makes Distributed Team Culture Succeed

The multi-million dollar company WooThemes started with a single email, as a small side project of Magnus Jepson in Stavanger, Norway, Adii Pienaar in Cape Town and Mark Forrester, then in London.

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From that one email sprouted a bootstrapped company that produces a rich catalog of WordPress themes and plugins, serving 450,000 users. And this impressive success emerges from a distributed team of only thirty people, spanning seven countries.

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How Buffer Works Smarter, Not Harder

Buffer stands out among startups not just for its success in building a great social media sharing tool but in fashioning a company culture focused on making work fulfilling, impactful, and enjoyable. What’s fascinating is that they do this as a completely distributed team, spread across multiple countries and time-zones.

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Treat People in the Best Way

Co-founders Joel Gasciogne and Leo Widrich set the foundation for Buffer’s culture according to the tenets of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carolyn Kopprasch, Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer translates what that means for Buffer’s modus operandi: “We want to treat people in the absolute best way we can, and that includes co-workers, vendors, and customers.”

It also includes how the Buffer employees treat themselves. With a unique self-improvement program, they share their progress on anything from time management to healthy eating with their teammates, spurring conversations about different lifehacks and routines. Michelle Sun, Buffer’s growth and analytics expert, tracks fitness routines and getting up early while Leo has been making strides with learning how to code.

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Co-workers become a collective accountability partner for future plans like blogging or exercising, and more importantly, they become an incredible support system. Instead of looking askance when you’re doing work to do something to take care of yourself, you receive encouragement. “If you’re trying to work on your health or your fitness or your happiness level, that affects work a lot too,” Carolyn explains.

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