‘Be human’: Why Bento for Business built its culture around personal relationships

As Bento for Business continues to scale, we spoke with four team members about what exactly it means to “be human” at Bento, and how the company’s values shape its culture.

Written by Courtney Ryan
Published on Aug. 29, 2018
‘Be human’: Why Bento for Business built its culture around personal relationships
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Inside Bento for Business’ office, the company’s motto is proudly on display: “Be human — with each other, with customers and with partners.”

The company, whose technology helps small businesses manage their expenses, chose this slogan in order remain focused on the people and relationships required to build great technology. Now that the company is beginning to scale, we spoke with four team members about what exactly it means to “be human” at Bento, and how the company’s values shape its culture.


Bento motto
A desk at the Bento office with a conch shell.
Bento conference room
PHotography by Chris Murphy



EMPLOYEES: 20 (12 local).

WHAT THEY DO: Bento for Business is making expense management easier for small businesses. Bento’s smart employee debit cards integrate seamlessly with its software, giving business owners full control over, and visibility into, employee spending.


ON THE HOUSE: Every employee receives a company-paid Bento card to buy lunch with every day.

OTHER PERKS: Unlimited PTO and a flat organizational structure are just a few perks that help Bento keep its startup vibe.


Ryan writes on a white board.
photography by Chris Murphy
Ryan Yocum portrait
photography by Chris Murphy


Ryan Yocum, Business Analytics Manager

Ryan Yocum generates data reports and translates them into actionable insights, to be used in making decisions about everything from marketing to operations.

BEYOND WORK: Ryan rides his motorcycle to work every morning and also enjoys cigars, whiskey and playing league kickball.


How does your CEO and the Bento leadership team support you and your colleagues?

For me personally, several members of the leadership team are both professional and personal mentors. The experience and stories they are willing to share are shaping, and will continue to shape, me not just as an employee, but also as a human being. And it isn’t just me who can have this relationship with them, it is every team member of Bento.


How has your analytics experience helped you make an impact at Bento?

I made my mark by optimizing and automating a few operations and reporting processes to save us time and money — especially as we head into a period of expansive customer growth. When I first started with Bento, there was limited data reporting and most of our data was difficult to acquire. Now, Bento’s data is available to any team member who needs it, and translated into insights that lead to success in their projects.


If we remember to treat others ... as we’d like to be treated, life tends to go more smoothly.”


Which of Bento’s values are especially important to you?

Our motto: “Be human.” This value is on the board in both our Chicago and San Francisco offices, and is of vital importance to me. If we remember to treat others — coworkers, customers and partners — as we’d like to be treated, life tends to go more smoothly. This value jives with me not just on a professional level, but a personal one as well. It is a company value I have rarely seen elsewhere in my career. Our CEO, Farhan, often challenges us to pay attention to every aspect of the product and customer communication. It’s not always about racing to the top, but also about providing a practical solution for our customers and winning their trust.


Shuyi Shang enjoys lunch with coworkers
photography by Chris Murphy
Shuyi Shang portrait
photography by Chris Murphy


Shuyi Shang, Marketing Manager

Shuyi Shang works to improve Bento’s customer acquisition and retention strategies in creative and strategic ways. She coordinates marketing content creation, customer communication on all channels, marketing campaigns, and online and offline marketing events.

BEYOND WORK: Shuyi has been known to make custom scented candles for coworkers.


How does Bento’s leadership support your professional development?

The open-door attitude at Bento is real — not just something leadership says or puts on a wall. Being able to work directly and chat freely with people with years and years of industry experience is important for my professional growth, and I have had that since day one.

For example, when I was new and feeling timid about speaking to our CEO, Farhan, he encouraged me to have regular one-on-one meetings with him. Now, he sits down with me every two weeks and we talk about everything from my performance to my personal challenges. He also encouraged me to schedule similar meetings with other people in the company. These helped me open up and speak up, and eased my transition into a fast-paced, and sometimes high-stress, startup environment.


What’s your favorite element of your company’s culture?

I love that everyone goes to lunch together, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s always covered by Bento. It sounds simple, but now I can’t imagine working at a company where people don’t go out to grab food together, then sit down at the lunch table and just chat. This happens almost every day, and it really brings the team together. Also, the people at Bento are diverse, open-minded, kind and just generally nice human beings. I believe you can gauge how harmonious a team is by seeing how well they interact outside of work responsibilities, and Bento scores pretty high in my book.


You can gauge how harmonious a team is by seeing how well they interact outside of work responsibilities.”


If you look at your to-do list, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Broadly speaking, it’s the fact that there is always something new marketing can do, or something we can fix. We may not know what the best “something” is, but we’re always on a mission to find out. It’s the possibility that gets me out of bed in the morning. I enjoy planning, creating and monitoring marketing campaigns that are inspired by a piece of data about our prospective or current customers. I strongly believe in the value of data analytics in marketing, and it’s fun to translate numbers into creative content, then see how much measurable impact it made.


John Turner laughs with coworkers
photography by Chris Murphy
John Turner portrait
photography by Chris Murphy


John Turner, Full-stack Engineer

John Turner builds features and solves problems throughout the Bento system.

BEYOND WORK: John bakes artisanal sourdough bread from scratch about two or three times a month.


What advice would you give to an employee starting their first day at Bento?

Be willing to ask questions. Though we move at a fast pace, and it might seem that we don’t have time to sit and explain things, every employee at Bento loves sharing, helping and lifting others. We want you to succeed, and we’re willing to do all that we can to help. So, feel free to stop us, ask us questions or get further clarification on anything you’re not sure about.


Every employee at Bento loves sharing, helping and lifting others.”


Does your office design support your culture?

None of us have offices; we all sit in an open-seating arrangement at long, shared desks. We don’t divide based on titles or hierarchy, so our CEO sits in the same room as our most junior developer. We choose where we’d like to sit, usually based on where our team is, and then we get to work. Being all together fosters easy collaboration, great work and, occasionally, some pranks.


What’s a time when you saw Bento truly put its values into action?

I was shocked during my first all-hands meeting when our CEO opened the floor for questions and one of the engineers gave very opinionated suggestions about what we could be doing better. Although I was stunned at the passionate back-and-forth that was going on between Farhan and this employee, the thing that stood out to me most was that when it ended, Farhan thanked the employee, and all of us, for our questions, comments and suggestions. He then said that we should always keep them coming. It made me feel like a truly valued employee and that the leadership team actually cared about how we see Bento growing and succeeding.


Tashma Scott listens to a coworker
photography by Chris Murphy
Tashma Scott portrait
photography by Chris Murphy


Tashma Scott, Program Operations Analyst

Tashma Scott works behind the scenes to ensure that Bento’s operations run smoothly, from card printing and expediting to payments, card processing, compliance, and the  company’s help center.

BEYOND WORK: Tashma can binge a show she’s seen a million times over.


What about Bento is inspiring to you?

What inspires me is the encouragement I get from the company to follow dreams that aren’t work-related. This inspires me to not only do well at work, but also in the business I conduct outside of work. I have an idea for my own small business and the amount of encouragement I’m getting at Bento to develop that idea inspires me to believe in myself.


What initially attracted you to Bento?

Our COO, Sean, reached out to me after I applied — not a recruiter. There’s nothing wrong with recruiters, but the COO of a company reaching out to me to see if I was still interested was very motivating, and it showed that they care about who they hire.


We work very hard, and we unwind even harder.”


How powerful is the culture at Bento? How does this impact the team’s day-to-day?

Bento culture is one of the best parts about working here. We work very hard, and we unwind even harder. We all participate in designing Bento mugs and t-shirts, so it’s a nice perk to have company swag that I helped design. We share life stories, invite each other to events outside of work and support each other in rough times, whether professionally or personally.


Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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