As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Who says startup offices have to be quiet? Bring on da noise.

Yesterday at Grommet:  Annaliese Godderz, Ray Hallare, me, Jesse Buckley. Jesse said, “Aww, it’s my first thank you note at Grommet.”

I’ve always been struck that many technology startups are very, very quiet offices.  No “Mad Man-esque” phones ringing or typewriters clacking and office chitchat.  Not a lot of visitors in and out. Startups usually have open plans and banks of people hunched over computers, silently absorbed in a private headphone stream.  People have told me that open plans can kill conversation…since nothing is private and everything is potentially intrusive to your co-workers.  Beyond that, startup customers don’t often call, and most digital businesses actually work hard to prevent that difficult phone service expense in the first place.  Automation and self-serve are the mantras.  We’re not like that at Grommet.  It’s the loudest startup I’ve ever experienced.

We are constantly on the phone talking to Grommet creators, customers, and business partners.  We’re slinging boxes of incoming Grommet samples and sending out packages.  UPS, Fedex and the USPS trucks show up many times a day.  We have three buildings so the whole team is moving a lot.  We’re shooting video and narrating stories.  We’re openly debating the merits of various Grommet submissions and sharing the results of our tests.

We do have plenty of quiet moments (to JAM JAM JAM our heavy daily deliverables)  but for the most part the noise quotient is a lot higher than you’d normally find in a startup.

We can be excitable and emotional too.  NOT in an abstract or personal way.  We get hyped up because we have a lot of daily pressure to get a great Grommet out.  It’s hard and stuff goes crazy sometimes.  We mainly get enthused and noisy and emotional about success.  And since success, for us, is helping 1,000 (so far) other businesses and products thrive, we have 1,000 possible things to celebrate each day.

Yesterday’s little celebration was a bit more internal.  Four of us got a handwritten thank you note from a Grommet partner we launched on Tuesday, the Knirps umbrella company.  (It’s a brand that is barely known in the US but Knirps is called the “BMW of umbrellas” in Europe.  Their founder Hans Haupt actually invented the whole idea of a compact travel umbrella.  We are working to help them make their mark in North America.)

Getting those notes meant a lot to us.  We rounded up the four note recipients and took a picture.  We’ll tell our Knirps partner Mark how much we appreciated his taking the effort to write.  It’s one more reason we think Knirps is a special company and another reason to show up with a smile every morning.   We love to make noise for people like Mark.

Thank you notes from our contact at Knirps USA, Mark Clifford

Here’s a Post Script email from Mark, after Annaliese forwarded him a link to this blog post:

Dear Annaliese,
It was the LEAST I could do!
FYI – we have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the video from Knirps-Germany and from our rep network. A home run!

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