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Ready For Anything

Normal CEO: Culture Isn't Defined by How Much Green Juice You Stock

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
6 min read

Being able to turn your staff into a team that’s on board with your mission is a critical skill for any business leader. It’s an art that starts with the hiring process and extends all the way through to how you, as a founder or CEO, manage your own responsibilities and stress.

When Nikki Kaufman hires for her 3-D printed earbud startup, Normal, she looks for people whom she can learn from and who are excited about the product. “If it’s just a job, or someplace to go to work, then it’s probably not the right environment for you,” she says.

Kaufman came up with the idea for Normal a little over a year ago while working at consumer-products invention company Quirky, where she was in charge of onboarding employees and managing company culture. Shortly thereafter, she left her job to her venture off the ground. But her experience at Quirky gave her a leg up when she needed to build her own team.

“I think the concept of culture and building culture can’t be forced,” she says. “I also think that culture can’t be defined by the green juices in the fridge or the Chobanis in the fridge, or whatever it is. Culture is defined by the people and the way you approach your work and your business.

In particular, she tells herself and her employees to keep their personal lives a priority, even when work becomes intense and busy. “The most important thing is family -- and whatever family means to you. If that’s your husband, your boyfriend, your dog, your mom -- that has to be working for you in order for you to be happy at work.”

Kaufman, once a competitive swimmer, also has a daily, morning yoga practice that focuses and calms her. To keep the office moving efficiently, she keeps meetings to a minimum. When meetings are necessary, they are conducted standing up to keep them short and to the point.

Watch this video to learn how 28-year-old Kaufman keeps her team -- and herself -- calm, cool and ultra productive. “I try hard not to think about my age or the fact that I am a CEO. I think the biggest thing for me is to try every day to build things and to try to be proud of our work product each day.”


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