Company Culture

Why I Bought 100 Pairs of Sneakers for My Team

Why I Bought 100 Pairs of Sneakers for My Team
Image credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images
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Over the last four-plus years, I have had the privilege of meeting, working with and building true friendships with more than 100 of the most incredible people, at Appboy. These are people I never would have met had my co-founders and I not started the company in 2011.

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Especially these days, the stories of how we humans cross paths and connect varies widely. For better or for worse, the generation we live in today has the privilege of being instantly connected through social media and smartphones. That has made our small world even smaller. Yet, what always amazes me is how each individual employee's own personal journey to where he or she is standing now may be completely different from that of someone who joined the team right before, or right after.

These people's company connection may have come about through a "friend of a friend" hearing about a job opportunity, or former colleagues pulling in their friends from other jobs or people meeting randomly at a happy hour.

However they happen, these experiences invariably lead to something special. I’ve been amazed by the people I’ve met through my professional life at work. I met my co-founders, Jon Hyman and Bill Magnuson, for example, through good friend and advisor Bipul Sinha. Bipul was on a street corner waiting for the light to change, and standing next to Bill and Jon. A conversation started up about Techcrunch Disrupt. And, from that street corner meeting, Bipul introduced Bill and Jon to me; the rest is history.

At our company, we build long-term relationships between brands and their customers. To do this, we need to understand the customer journey, and be there for the brand every step of the way. Each customer of our clients is different in his or her own way, and took a certain step to connect with the brand.

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Because the process of building that relationship is what we’re about, I wanted to bring that home to our employees with a special gift and to live out the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

We all took a leap of faith in joining this startup, from being among the first 10 employees at the company's founding to now being among 100 employees. Regardless of what was at stake, we all took a risk. How we each got here is a different story.

So, back to my story: When the holidays arrived, I wanted to give everyone something meaningful, something that would correlate to how we all met and how much we believe in building relationships. I wanted it to have a bit of the personal touch. I landed on the idea of NIKE ID sneakers.

Shoes gifted to staff by Appboy CEO

Then I added that personal touch I mentioned.

At the time I gave the sneakers, we were scratching 100 full-time employees, and at startups, the employee hire-order number often means something. So, having the ability to add this to each sneaker was important.

On one heel, I had the word “Team” stitched on; and, on the other, “AB #01,” the last bit representing the employee number. My founders and I have #01 on our shoes, and our board members and every employee of “Team Appboy” all have their respective numbers.

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These sneakers represent the journeys that brought us all together and the meaningful work that unites us. They'll continue to remind us how amazing it is that we all met -- even as we all look great in our sneakers, of course.

-- Mark / Team AB#01