It was not an auspicious beginning. The Nimrods, Nimble Storage’s softball team, started the season with a 0 – 3 record, with one of those games forced to end by the “mercy rule”, invoked when a team is losing by more than ten runs.
But then, something changed: the Nimrods won a game. And then another game. And then all the other games after that, until it all came down to the championship game. Final inning. Two out; Bo Nielson, from Nimble’s inside sales team, walks up to the plate. A ball. A strike. And then – crack – a hard shot off the wall, Bo furiously rounding the bases, a throw to home, Bo diving for the plate, Bo just beating the tag, and the Nimrods win it all!
This moment – and the lunch-hour cricket games in the back parking lot, the Friday night beer bashes and poker games – this is what a company’s culture is all about. The elusive “work-life balance” that every Silicon Valley start-up strives to provide has never been something that the HR department, or the even the leadership team, can manufacture – it’s something that must grow organically from the start.
It helps to have the company’s founders articulate a clear vision of core values; at Nimble Storage this starts with the on-boarding process and new hire training. Better still, at Nimble each employee answers a survey every 90 days, focusing on company culture and how we’re performing against those core values. As Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh says, “We believe if we get the culture right, we’ll get everything else right.”
Ultimately, it all comes down to hiring. It takes great people to build a great company. The kind of people who integrate flash and disk from the ground up, with a proprietary file system, rather than just bolting them together. The kind of people who can stare down a 0 – 3 record, start winning games, and keep winning all the way to a championship. Sure, it’s just the Twin Creeks industrial league in Sunnyvale, CA, but it’s still a championship.