Derek Haynes

@dlite

Are you even startup-ing if you don’t have a foosball table?

Like an invading army, the popular kids at my middle school would spread across the halls in the morning wearing Starter jackets like this:

Things changed in high school when Ted from Oregon arrived. He was so exotic to us midwestern kids: rather than an expensive jacket, he wore faded t-shirts. He wore flip flops vs. expensive Nike Airs. Sometimes his hair was a mess. Ted became popular because he was a nice, smart, fun guy — not for expensive clothes.

Foosball tables, scooters, and kegerators: you can’t buy your way to cool

It’s intimidating to start a self-funded business, show up at a cool startup office for a meetup, and think: “My God, they have a Sub-Zero fridge full of La Croix. How can I compete with that?”

What follows are some suggestions for perks based on what works at Scout. Anyone can implement these: they don’t cost any money. They are soft on the surface, but universally embraced. I like to think Ted from Oregon might like these.

Three $0 Perks

  1. Autonomy: smart, motivated folks like to know they will rise or fall based on their own merits. Let your employees answer the following question: “what’s your vision for your work over the next 3 months?”. You’ll love knowing your employees are thinking about their time at a macro level, just like you.
  2. Unlimited PTO: the word is out — unlimited vacation time is a scam — but the freedom for doctor appointments, picking up kids from school, etc. makes a huge difference in the day-to-day life of our employees.
  3. Internal Meetups: On Friday afternoons, we have our own company-wide meetup (aka Social Coding). Most of our employees have young kids, and it’s difficult for them to find time to attend meetups in the evenings. The golden rule of Social Coding: no work references. It’s about learning new things.

Now, more than ever

The superficial startup perks offered today are a bit like showing up with a Starter jacket 5 years late: everyone, even the company offering them, knows they are following the crowd. Don’t be afraid to be authentic: great folks will appreciate it.

What are your favorite cheap perks?

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