When you join a company that your friend has started, people will most likely come up to you, look sadly into your eyes and say something along the lines of, “Hey buddy, good luck. If you need anything…I’m here for you.”
I guess it’s understandable. Many businesses founded on friendship tend to fail when the foundation weathers away under the stress of a competitive business environment.
But, that’s what makes us unique at Retrica: We found a way to make it work.
Two of our software engineers, Sam Yang and James Jeong, have been friends with Sangwon Park (CEO of Retrica) for seven years and were among the first ones to take the plunge and join the team.
Here are some insights into how they managed to make it work.
1. Throw hierarchy out the window, but decide who makes the final decision
Creating a non-hierarchical (or “flat”) organization is extremely important. It creates an environment where everyone can co-exist, unfettered by titles and obligations.
Sam said, “Previously, we all worked for larger firms and we disliked how hierarchical they were. I felt like I didn’t matter to the company. We did not want this for Retrica because I read that workplace equality can stimulate great communication, so we strived to create a flat organization. We tried it and it was a huge success! Everyone became more comfortable sharing ideas, and giving constructive criticism.”
However, Sam went on to explain the importance of establishing who makes the final decision for the company, saying, “By the time we joined the team, Sangwon had created the app and developed a significant user base. So, we understood from the start that he was the main visionary behind the product and Retrica as a company would be most successful by finding effective ways to support his endeavors. We believed in his insight, so we never had to quarrel over who was the boss.”
2. Positive experiences build company culture
Each and every experience you share with the team helps develop a culture tailor-made for your team.
For Retrica, it was a trip to ‘Korea’s Hawaii’, Jeju Island, that set the groundwork for our current company culture.
James said, “We went to Jeju Island to escape the co-working space. The space was too crowded for us to focus in. We could literally hear other startups brainstorming. So, we decided to escape for two weeks. Lo and behold, the experience was amazing. We would code all day and talk (and drink) all night. I believe this outing helped develop stronger team chemistry. We weren’t ‘working’; we were just having fun trying to achieve our dream. At the end of two weeks, we had created the first version of the GIF feature you see on Retrica today.”
Sam added, “That trip really shaped our mentality towards work. We truly believe that people produce the best results when they have the freedom to think creatively and have fun while doing it. In Retrica, there are absolutely no limits on the kind of impact you can make on the team. One of our core values is to see that no resources are wasted when it comes to work. We love proactive people who are always looking out to not only better themselves but also the company’s well-being. If a person has a great idea, they have the freedom to pursue it and we will support them all the way.”
3. Sharing a goal and a vision for the company
Once you know what you want to ultimately achieve together, it makes everything else easier.
Sam said, “All the members on the team work so that Retrica will develop into a community in which the users can thrive by expressing their individual identities. We do not want to be known as just a selfie app. Ultimately, I think we want to leverage our fame to achieve greater things. We hope that one day we can give something back to the community that helped us become what we are.”
At Retrica, we couldn’t have achieved so much success without our shared dream and company culture. We’re actually looking for more people to join us on our journey.