Dear startups, what are you banging on about?

As a company the things you choose to celebrate ring volumes

Office slides, ping pong tables, free beer, unlimited holidays. Cool companies – particularly tech startups – are always on the lookout for new ways to engage their employees with perks and workplace quirks in order to attract and retain the best staff.

Now apparently, every startup needs a gong.

It’s not enough to be chasing the dream, we now need to be banging a gong to let everyone know when it happens.

But this isn’t just another gimmick to stand out from the crowd and build your ‘employer brand’. It’s actually a way to build team spirit and celebrate small successes, and enjoy the journey.

As Anand Sanwal from CB Insights points out in this post:

“Our old view was that we’d continue to just be a heads down group building great stuff and making customers happy and when we hit the “arrival point”, we’d celebrate in a big way. That was a naïve and entirely too austere a view. Arriving is a journey made up of series of smaller meaningful accomplishments. And celebrating those is important – very important. And now among other things, we have our gong to celebrate these successes.”

So while it’s great for team morale, what you choose to celebrate says a lot about your company culture.

In his book The Purpose Economy, Aaron Hurst tells the tale of two gongs:

Zaarly and Yelp are both in roughly the same business, connecting consumers to the services and products in their vicinity. They also share a key cultural practice, they both bang gongs to celebrate wins. What is telling, however, is the occasion for striking the gong. At Yelp, it is hit to celebrate when the company closes an advertising deal. At Zaarly, it is when one of their sellers has been able to quit their day job because of the business generated by their Zaarly storefront.
Zaarly is a purpose-driven organisation that celebrates the success of its community, which in turn builds deep loyalty and a community of employees and customers who are equally committed to Zaarly’s success.

So think about it.

Whether you’ve got a gong or not, are you solely focused on hitting sales targets? What other measures of success could you celebrate?

How about:

At our recent Summercamp we decided to measure the success of the event by the number of hugs from attendees. After all, there’s no better indicator of human emotion*. And a particularly high bar when you consider very few of those attending knew each other at the start of the weekend.

As one attendee said:

“Exchanging business cards and emails was somehow less of a priority than hugging goodbye”

There were even group hugs…

OK, this was a compassion workshop, but you get the gist

OK, this was a compassion workshop, but you get the gist

The most powerful source of purpose, and happiness, comes when we feel like we’ve worked on something that matters and made some positive impact not just to others, but to society as a whole.

But it also makes business sense.

Focus on making the lives of your employees and customers better and the rest will take care of itself.


If you’re a little sceptical and would prefer a more formal measure of ‘customer satisfaction’, we also achieved a Net Promoter Score of 95 for the Summercamp weekend – crazy.