Bang Your Gong

Posted: March 16, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

BobGilbreathAhaAnyone who works at a startup company quickly learns that culture is everything. Culture is the unspoken sync that keeps people rowing in the same direction. It is the glue that keeps people operating when it is way too early for job descriptions. Culture becomes the “smell of the place” when clients, partners and job prospects walk through the door. But you cannot have a real culture until you pick your way of celebrating the wins.

When you are working at an entrepreneurial company sometimes things move so fast that you forget to celebrate. That business prospect that says “yes” triggers a wave of new work assignments. The reporter who wants to cover your company forces you to nail down your talking points.

I personally have a bit of anxiety about celebrating. After all, the best way to run a business is to have the confidence that you will succeed, as well as some “productive paranoia” to worry more about what negatives could happen rather than high-fiving all the time. Why celebrate a first down when you are in it to win the SuperBowl? But little celebrations are an important way for all of us to stop, take a breath, and realize that business success is really a game of winning inch-by-inch.

With many of us cranking with headphones or conference calling in a closet converted into a phone booth, it is surprisingly hard to get everyone’s attention at once. So shortly after we launched our company we purchased a full-sized Wuhan-brand gong to celebrate our big and little successes. The person with news to share—say, a signed contract, squashed software bugs, or public speaking invite—simply walks up, selects a mallet, and swings away.

The result certainly gets everyone’s attention, and you cannot help but smile when the mallet-wielder shares the good news. It is a great way for us to stop and share the wins that keep you going through too much work and not enough time in the day. The only thing we need now is a way for a Wuhan gong in our Cincinnati headquarters to simultaneously gong in our New York City and Los Angeles offices (and vice versa). But I’m sure our tech team will come up with something soon.

Last week we flew in two job applicants from San Francisco to spend a few days at our office to kick each others’ tires. Within hours of their arrival I got to bang the going to celebrate a client that decided to re-sign with us for another year. One of the new hire prospects, who was employed at one of the sexiest companies in Silicon Valley, told us, “You guys work harder and play harder than any company I’ve seen.”

As an entrepreneur you must come up with your own way of celebrating the wins. Maybe you will decide to buy a round of beers or come up with a company chant. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits the company culture you desire. And make sure that the pressures of building a business from scratch don’t stop you from looking around every once in a while and appreciating the ride.

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