One of the biggest things overlooked when talking about how companies build great cultures is a key ingredient that helps make it happen. In good company cultures, 10 times out of 10 there is an employee at the company that people want to work for or with. And it usually starts with the CEO.
I got to hang out with my buddy Kenny Herman last week and he was giving me the background on the recent Singleplatform acquisition. Kenny kept talking about what an awesome guy Wiley is and how he and other employees would move hell and high water for him. Wiley is the type of CEO that everyone wants to work for. He hires awesome people, he asks you for your best, and he helps you get there. On top of that, he is one of the most generous guys I have ever met (in personal encounters and from stories of his generosity).
Singleplatform is just one company that bred a great team. Think about Apple and Facebook. Eventhough Steve Jobs was not the nicest guy in the world, people wanted to work for him. They were inspired by him. He pushed them to do their best. If you talk to anyone at Facebook you will immediately see what big fanboys they are about Mark. With Mark at the helm, Facebook hires great people because they want to be in his presence and accomplish great things.
Another great example is Dwolla’s CEO Ben Milne. Spend 10 minutes with the guy and you will highly consider dropping everything and moving to Iowa! His passion and enthusiasm is contagious. He makes you want to step up your game every day. It’s not a surprise that Dwolla is getting the best f’ing talent in all of Iowa :)
CEOs are not the only people in a company that can cause great people to want to join. It can also be other key employees, like a badass CTO, a VP of engineering BOSS, a product legend, a marketing and BD deity, etc.
The GroupMe guys did this. They basically hired every awesome person everyone wanted to work with (technical and non-technical) and crammed them into one company. I don’t know if this is true (and maybe Pat will jump in the comments and confirm it either way), but someone told me that Pat Nakajima was choosing between Square and GroupMe when he left Pivotal Labs. He choose Groupme. This was in the early days of Square, mind you. If true, that just shows the power of people in building a great team. Jared and Steve are awesome and Pat wanted to work with them.
Bottom line: If you want to build a great team, you need to be the one, or have someone on your team who people want to work with and learn from. Finding talent becomes a lot easier when you have a guy or girl on your team who everyone wants to work for.