As a co-founder of a startup that’s all about company culture, Liam Stanton has spent a lot of time thinking about what makes teams tick. In his mind, one particular form of team building stands above all the rest.
“My absolute favorite perk is improv classes,” Stanton said. “It can help you think on your feet, act collaboratively and think as a group much, much better.”
Stanton’s company, Buoy, works with companies to select perks and organize team-building exercises and social outings for employees. To him, one thing a lot of great perks have in common is that they get people out of their usual work cliques to interact with one another in new settings. Think in-office meditation classes, trivia nights and mentorship programs.
“It’s important to us to make sure that relationship building and trust building is part of everything we offer,” Stanton said.
His eyes were opened to the importance of perks back when he worked in the logistics industry. Ahead of the curve in the perks game, his bosses would put on things like team-based company olympics, trivia nights and other fun company-wide competitions. Stanton said these events helped him and his co-workers bond and build trust.
“I just thought it was a really cool thing, but it’s also a tough thing to do — especially with high-growth organizations, where a company is growing from 10 employees to 100,” Stanton said. “They often have one HR person, and they want to be able to invest in their employees and give them awesome things, but it takes a lot of time.”
To make it easier for companies to up their perk games, Buoy built an online marketplace that streamlines selection, ordering and scheduling.
After signing up for the service, a company can choose the kinds of perks they want and when they want them delivered, and let Buoy take care of vetting, planning, logistics and billing. Companies also can let Buoy create a custom perks package for them, based on a set budget or a conversation about company culture.
Stanton said cheap perks are often better than expensive ones. For instance, starting a trivia night at the office at 4:30 p.m. can reduce barriers to participation for employees, compared to a night outside of the office.
To Stanton, some of the best perks originate with requests from the customer.
“The other day, someone asked us if we could bring puppies to the office,” Stanton said. “If you can bring four puppies together and that gets Greg from accounting and Trisha from sales together in the same room and talking, that’s awesome. That’s exactly what you want.”
Founded in January, Buoy already has more than 100 vendors on the platform and a number of active clients as well. Stanton said the business model is a perfect fit for people like improv teachers, who typically work nights and welcome the opportunity to get a supplemental income in the daytime.
Stanton and co-founder Chris Dobbins are the company’s only two full-time employees so far, but the pair expects to bring on two more team members in operations in the upcoming months. For now, the company is focusing on the Chicago market, but Stanton said the plan is to eventually look to other cities as well.
Images via Buoy.