And “I hate it, but I love it.”

(writing in retrospect)

Two of my favorite quotes, mostly because they are true, but also because they are short, to the point, and are easy to remember.

The first quote I heard years ago during an episode of Run’s House, and immediately found it so cheesy that it was impossible to resist. Today, it has become a regular affirmation to guide me on a daily basis. It helps to remind me that my co-workers should be more than people I make a daily wage with. They are my compatriots, partners, friends, and serve a number of roles other than individuals I need to tolerate from 9–5 Monday through Friday.

And damn that’s a good feeling to have. I can go to the office and be fully transparent about how I’m thinking and feeling about work and life. This difference makes me and others more productive, proactive, and interested in what we’re doing and where we’re going.

This aspect of teamwork and work environment has been covered quite a bit recently in noteworthy publications so I wanted to briefly acknowledge what an amazing team we have at Funderbeam and how I envision that growing for the future.

Company culture, especially in the fragile ecosystem that is a startup is paramount to fast and scalable growth. Poor culture leads to individuals putting their own interests (wages, promotions, corporate politics, etc.) ultimately before the customer’s. Obviously, a great culture doesn’t wholly protect an organization from people partaking in these practices but a great culture and hiring policy definitely mitigates against this risk. Wells Fargo is a bright beacon of what an awful effect a company’s culture can have internally and externally (customers + public).

At Funderbeam, we recently went on our “Summer Days” retreat where we had yet another opportunity to spend time together, bond, share experiences, and collaborate on a number of activities. For me, coming into a new company as well as country culture, these events are particularly useful for me to learn more about my co-workers as well as Estonia in addition to Denmark, Malta, and Russia (we have employees from all those countries). But why is this important?

Well, for a number of reasons. On a personal level, you learn about their history, customs, language, etc. And when you’re able to connect on a personal level, your communication and collaboration will be that much better professionally. For example, (this is going to be long winded) for the first time in my life I’m hearing my name pronounced as it was intended… in multiple languages.

Bjorn (English, Dutch), Björn (Swedish, Icelandic, Dutch and German), and Bjørn (Faroese, Norwegian, and Danish).

For the longest time I’ve been content to be called “buh-jorn”, “bee-jorn”, or other variations because it’s just not a common name in the US. But now I’m hearing “Bee-yurn” and “Bee-yon” which is definitely a trip… Even the coffee shops know how to spell my name without me spelling it out for them.

But this correlates in the opposite way, I like to be respectful of other people’s customs and cultures so if I have the ability, I’d like to pronounce and refer to various things as my friends are accustom to. For example, my cohort in marketing and out CMO is from Denmark. They have some funky stuff going on with names which I’m completely foreign to. Anyway, the point is, he mentioned once that he liked it when the other Danish guy in the office called him “Mads Emil” (Maas-eh-meel) because that is technically his first name and it’s what people in Denmark would call him. So, that’s what I try to call him. My pronunciation is likely not perfect but it is an attempt to connect culturally and be respectful.

This is one example of the things our team does for one another and it helps to build a bond as well as a level of respect and transparency so we can get things done effectively and efficiently. But since we’re a team of 17 this is much more easily accomplished than in other companies. So, the challenge for the future is how do we create this feeling of togetherness, collaboration, respect, and transparency when we’re a team of 50 or even 100? This is something I’ve had on my mind a lot. How does one scale what can really only be built and nourished though personal experiences?

I for one can’t wait to try and tackle this opportunity and so far I’ve been gathering a lot of inspiration from Google’s Chade-Meng Tan.

Check him out. He’s got a great perspective and it’s obvious why Google is so successful when they encourage their employees to dive into their passions. Hopefully, I can apply and share some of his lessons with Funderbeam and beyond. Culture is definitely becoming a growing interest of mine.

In addition, we also celebrated the birth of our Co-founder, Urmas! In celebration we all came to work dressed up to match his everyday appearance (see below for the team photo). Unfortunately, we we’re also treated with all the most evilly delicious snacks. An obvious tactic on his part to keep us from catching up to him in the fitness department.

But where my resolve was not strong in resisting sugary temptation, I was more than capable of sticking (loosely) to my training regimen in order to properly prepare for the upcoming Tallinn Marathon. Which is where the quote, “I hate it, but I love it” comes in… Thanks Tony Horton for the fuel to push.

See the photos below for some added visual context:

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