The Case for Culture

By Michael Falco


Ping pong tables, cold brew on tap, bagel Monday’s, company picnics, team happy hours, company-wide Yankee games, unlimited sick time and PTO, generous paternity/maternity leave, beer on tap, I could go on. So...

“What’s the deal? There has to be a catch right? Companies don’t just provide these luxuries for nothing, right?” Me, a skeptic Mike, coming from a small insurance office I owned and operated.

Don’t get me wrong, I did my best to provide as enjoyable a work environment in my previous role. A Keurig, a water cooler, lax PTO policies, etc. But to be honest, my office was a junior varsity team in terms of perks and amenities. Back to my original question: Why?

My initial guess had something to do with reducing churn. When running a small business, I quickly learned that the costs affiliated with hiring a new employee are daunting. Plus: Happy employees = long-tenured employees. Lower turnover rate = more time to develop product/industry knowledge. Low churn = less new employee training/ramping. Makes sense, right?

I’ll admit that this train of thought seems cynical. It views employees as a means to an end. But hey, ultimately, companies are in the business of satisfying investors and turning in a profit.

My time at Smartling has made me embarrassed for joining the company with this mindset. The perks companies like Smartling provide are a byproduct of an overarching goal; to make sure employees are happy coming to work every day. It is that simple. Employees are not only more productive when happy at work (up to 37% more productive for salespeople like myself and 20% overall), but companies with highly engaged employees are 147% more profitable in Earnings Per Share than their peers. Happy Employees = Happy Customers.

Smartling goes a few steps beyond these numbers, though. The friendships I've made here are lifelong, a collaborative work environment is a characteristic that will be mandatory when/if I'm on the job market in the future, and as cheesy as it sounds, going to work doesn't feel like going to work. Coming to Smartling, I expected a "Lone Wolf" mentality as a salesperson. Today, I do not face a single challenge that I don't get advice from colleagues on.

A mentor once told me as I was graduating from Villanova and entering the working world, most of your time awake is going to be spent doing work; better make sure you’re happy while doing it. Smartling has gone above and beyond in making this mantra I hold a reality.

The "perks" associated with working at a startup can seem trivial to the skeptic, but working in an environment that fosters teamwork, professional development, and perhaps most importantly, fun, has allowed me to grow as a person first, salesperson second.