Offer benefits that make you stand out
Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. August's topic is employee benefits.
On the company's "party porch," Hudl team members play against another company in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
When we started Hudl in May 2006, we felt strongly that having the right benefits in place was going to be key for helping us build the right workplace environment and making Hudl a place our employees would brag about to their friends and family. Even though my two cofounders and I didn't pay ourselves any salary that year, the day we hired our first intern we started stocking pop and snacks and offering company-sponsored lunches once a week.
As soon as we hired our first full-time employee in March 2007, we started offering what we considered to be the core benefits: fully-paid health insurance for any employee, discounted health insurance for their family, and discounted dental and vision insurance. We aim high with our hiring, and as a software startup we knew we'd be competing with Google, Microsoft, and other top companies for engineering talent.
Beyond just competing at the core, we wanted benefits that stood out. We wanted our employees talking up Hudl when they were out with their friends, and other people to be jealous of the great environment and perks Hudl offered (and, hopefully, want to join our team). Here are some things we implemented:
- After spending my college career working with football coaches, I became very accustomed to workplace attire of athletic shorts and t-shirts. Since we were working with football coaches at Hudl (and since I had grown to dread wearing collars), we kept that dress code. I think I own about 25-30 pairs of athletic shorts from our various teams and it is rare you'll visit our office and find me wearing something else, regardless of the season.
- I was vacationing with my family in Hawaii when the Reed Hastings' presentation on Netflix's culture went viral. I thought the reasoning behind their unlimited vacation policy fit Hudl perfectly (from Hastings: "We don't track hours worked per day or per week, so why should we track days of vacation per year? We should focus on what people get done, not on how many days worked. Just as we don't have a 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. workday policy, we don't need a vacation policy."). We announced the change in policy to unlimited vacation shortly after I got back, and we have loved it. Reed made the analogy that the Netflix team is like a pro sports team, and that really resonated with me and continues to drive a lot of our thinking.
- One of the first core values we established in 2009 was "No customers, only partners." We constantly tweak our core values (including a major overhaul after a trip to Zappos in 2010, but winning with our teams has always been a key part (we now term it "Your success is ours"). We're excited to offer all of our employees a free game ticket and flight to visit one of our Division I or NFL partners. This fall, we have 39 Hudlies headed out to see one of our teams in action.
- A couple years ago at our annual offsite retreat (which for the last three years have been in Vegas), we announced three new programs. Hudl Works Smarter: $1,500/year for each employee to attend the conference or training event of their choice. Hudl Helps: $250/year for each employee to donate to the charity of their choice. Hudl Sabbatical: A $4,000 budget for each employee to take a two-week international trip of their choosing on their five-year anniversary with Hudl.
The key for us was to get beyond the basics and find unique benefits that fit our culture and provided real value for our team. We want to be a place where employees truly love coming to work every day, and for us that meant having an office, culture and benefits that emphasize fun. A measure of success for us is when our employees are coming by the office on their days off just to swing in and hang out or to give a tour to friends or family who are in town. Right now, we're seeing that happen, and we're loving it.
Credits: Photos courtesy of David Graff.
About the author: David Graff is the CEO of Lincoln-based Hudl, a company Graff co-founded in 2006 that makes online video analysis and coaching tools for sports and is dedicated to helping coaches at all levels win.
Find Graff on Twitter, @DGHudl.
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Thanks to our Founder Friday series sponsor, Heartland Technology Alliance, a nonprofit working as an advocate for innovation and competition in technology and communications across much of the Silicon Prairie and throughout the Upper Midwest.