Cater2.me has grown from its home base in San Francisco to an operation spread across the country, with employees in 11 markets. As we’ve grown, we’ve spent ample time ensuring that our sales and marketing messages, operational procedures and technical infrastructure are consistent across the geographic divide. In addition to these external measures, we’ve focused on ensuring that we have a strong, consistent internal culture so that all employees, whether our first employee in SF or our newest hires in Miami and Atlanta, feel part of the same team.

Culture, like any key part of a growing business, needs structure and process to remain consistent as it scales. But unlike other aspects, culture truly flourishes when allowed to develop organically.

Here’s our recipe for building a strong culture across the country:

Consensus Hiring:

Our hiring process is the most important component of establishing and perpetuating our culture. When we set out to hire new employees, we look for a certain set of characteristics (intellectual curiosity, passion for food, creativity and positivity) that we believe will result not only in top-notch work, but also allow the new person to mesh well with our existing staff. Anyone who has gone through our hiring process knows that we have each candidate talk to a wide selection of the staff before getting hired. By including a large variety of people in the hiring process, from different departments, different seniority levels and across different cities, we can rest assured that any new employee will be a great cultural fit.

Clear Communication:

Clear and open communication, both from the top down and the bottom up, is essential to establishing and maintaining any corporate culture. Our primary method of communicating company happenings is through bi-weekly all hands team syncs. We get all of the offices together on a video conference and share updates from across the company. We welcome new hires to the fold and recognize accomplishments, successes and areas for continued improvement. One key to the syncs is combining an update from the founders with updates from different team members of all levels. Rather than just hearing from leadership, we hear updates about each of our cities and departments from the employees carrying out the work on a daily basis.

Fostering Relationships:

For our teams to work effectively together across departments and across the country, having a personal connection to their distant coworkers is hugely beneficial. We start the process of building cross-team relationships early, especially with employees of smaller and newer cities, by having them do their new employee training in one of our larger markets. This gives them the opportunity to meet a large part of the team early on. We also set aside a budget for fun team events in each market and for team dinners when the founders travel to each of our offices. In addition to these structural ways to encourage relationships, a more organic form has arisen over the past few years. At the end of each week, we share a list of “props” or shout-outs that members of the team have given to their coworkers to thank or recognize them for something great they’ve done recently. This has quickly expanded into a forum where the entire company can see how others are building and fostering great relationships.

Common Interest:

A big part of our pitch to our clients is that a good team meal is fundamental in bringing people together to build culture around a common table. Cater2.me is a company built and based around food. We’re constantly thinking about food, talking about food and, yes, eating food. From our weekly lunches to new vendor tastings, we’re constantly drawn together by great meals. If there’s one common thread that runs through every person in the company, it’s a love of good food, and we foster that commonality as a way to bring the team together.

No matter where you go across the company, you always feel at home because we’ve stuck to this recipe. Whether you’re part of a five person team in one office or a 5,000 person team spread across the globe, remember that creating a strong, consistent culture is a bit like cooking: put the right ingredients together, add your own special touch to spice it up and you’ll make something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

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