Your employees are your bread and butter. You may have a great idea, a great product and a great location, but if your employees are unhappy, they'll be unproductive. Which will lead to dissent, which leads to job hunting, which leads to the end of the world as you know it.
OK, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but remember that finding good help is hard-and keeping it is even harder. We went to Michael J. Beresford, the founder and CEO of NetScope Inc., a Web site development company in Irvine, California, to get the skinny on how he creates a happy home life for his 20 employees. NetScope bylaws include free dress, pet visiting hours and video game wars. Beresford shared his secrets to running a successful business while building strong employee loyalty.
- Get the troops involved. You may think segmenting your crew into specific areas is productive, but Beresford finds it's better to fill his employees in on all company business. "Whether it's letting them know we've got a big contract or letting them know what problems [we're facing, it's best to] make everybody feel a part of it," he says. "We make sure they don't feel like they're just worker bees, but that what they do directly affects the outcome of the product."
- Get together. Beresford and his NetScope squad have biweekly get-togethers, where equal amounts of time are spent discussing business and having fun. Whether they're barbecuing out back or watching a basketball game, their camaraderie encourages a free flow of ideas that translates back to the office. "Some people may have this image that they can't hang out with the boss," says Beresford. "It kind of helps them erase that invisible line. They feel a little more comfortable, and if they have an opinion on how things should work, they feel free to speak up and don't feel intimidated."
- Do unto others . . . Think back to the days when you called someone else "boss." How were you treated? What was the environment like? Emulate the good stuff, and eliminate the bad. Says Beresford, "I'm pulling on my past experiences. I've worked at quite a few large organizations that I didn't really like because there was just so much red tape and committees to get anything done. [I figured] this is how I would like to work, so let's create a structure like this."
- Play together. Don't underestimate the power of a good game-playing adrenaline rush. Playing in the office can give you and your crew the creative energy you need to complete that next project. Beresford and his employees usually start the morning off with a rousing game of Quake (a virtual game they've set up on their office servers and play against each other). "It's kind of like electronic espresso. [We play] instead of having coffee. It gets your blood flowing."
- Remember why you're there. It's all well and good to play games, but Beresford is ever mindful that he has to present a good face to his clients. While he normally wears shorts and flip-flops, he knows to keep that spiffy three-piece on hand for business meetings. "Even though we're kind of rugged internally, I've got to be the one who goes out there and wears a tie to these corporate meetings," says Beresford. "The key is to remember who your clients are. You've got to just gear your personality--and maybe your dress--[toward them] that day."
Beresford is proud of the structure he's created within his company, but he notes that it's their work that makes them thrive in their fun environment. "I have to remember that I'm the guy who signs their paychecks," he says, "so I have to keep the structure, and I remind people that we're a company--that we do have a lot of fun, but we also have to do a lot of work."
Netscope Inc., www.net-scope.com.