It's no secret that building a company is hard work. While entrepreneurial ventures can be full of excitement and energizing in many respects, they are still work and run the risk that the strain could burn out employees. Well known (and well funded!) startups will experiment with various perks like ping pong tables, catered lunches and flexible work hours in an attempt to keep employees happy while providing attachments above and beyond a paycheck. Happy teams lead to happy customers!
At Square 1, we have been intentional and fortunate in creating a superb culture over our eight year history. Our sleek, modern headquarters in the burgeoning Durham, NC American Tobacco Campus feels much more like a high tech firm's digs than a stuffy bank branch. A variety of intracompany events and sharp Square 1 gear has helped everyone feel part of a special team that is building a great company. Yet, we're always looking for new and different ways to build deeper bonds and a stronger team.
Recently we stumbled upon a new activity which has reaped great dividends as it relates to team building. What's most interesting is that we didn't start out looking to do team building, but instead were hoping to meet a need in our community.
Last year we learned that the Urban Ministries of Durham operates a daily community kitchen only a mile from our headquarters. Every day, this non-profit serves meals to hundreds of homeless and indigent Durham residents. With more than 125 employees (also known as Squares) in downtown Durham, we felt a responsibility as a corporate citizen and community steward to step up and serve some of those around us who are less fortunate.
On the fourth Tuesday of each month, we send a team of Squares to the Urban Ministries kitchen at 7:00am to roll up their sleeves, don hairnets and make breakfast for hundreds of our neighbors. While cracking eggs and plating pastries with our comrades from other departments, we're able to connect on a different and deeper level than can ever be achieved at the proverbial water cooler. This type of interaction is almost impossible to create at a formalized offsite meeting and is multiplied in effectiveness by the fact that it's achieved by serving others.
For the 20+ Square 1 team members who have volunteered thus far, it's been an interesting paradox to find that that by waking up earlier and doing hard work, we are more energized and mentally prepared to tackle the duties of our day to day. In this case, it truly has been better to give than to receive.
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