The bass boom speakers kept pushing my pants legs like wind on a hill. I was standing in the front row of the stage down in the basement club here in Seoul, watching an amazing startup celebrate the launch of their first product. Light show, performances by skilled male and female dance teams and disk jockeys, all creatively lifting the roof and spirits of a company that had just done the impossible.
As I retreated to preserve what remained of my hearing and dignity (I am from the stone age), I reflected on what I had experienced.
It reminded me of how important it is for CEOs and their core teams to know how to celebrate, and why.
Celebrations fuel joy.
Joy is that spiritual uplift that moves us humans above the grind of our the mundane tasks in our daily lives. It is the perfume of flowers in bloom, a declaration that life has just emerged for all to look upon in awe. It is part of our soul.
Startups must be adventures. (Try searching my blog for "adventure" and you'll see how important I think that is for startups).
Adventures have four components:
When the fun leaves, all you have left is work. Work is a four letter (bad) word. Then it is time to pack your bags and find something else worth doing.
Celebrations are evidence that fun is alive in your startup.
Companies that celebrate are adventures worth joining. Adventures that will challenge, terrify and produce intrinsic rewards that include spiritual growth, increase in courage, thrill of taking calculated risks and emerging victorious.
Timing of celebrations is important. Soon after a significant accomplishment is important. But not so soon as to interrupt critical moments (like keeping the web site up and running the day of the launch). And not so late that the emotional moment has passed.
Frequency of celebrations is important: Too many and they become ordinary. Too few and they become awkward moments.
Type of celebration is important: Serial entrepreneurs know the best type celebration is a simple place for all employees to go to, grab some finger food, a beverage (alcohol is not mandatory), and then start mingling. Time to talk with friends you haven't shared with in a while, as well as meet that someone you've wanted to meet. Giant, costly events are rarely required until the IPO ("Take them all to Hawaii").
BOTTOM LINE: Serial entrepreneurs use celebrations as integral parts of their company cultures. Often spontaneous, mixed with frivolity, they are moments where creative humans experience joy in communion with colleagues. People thrive on joy. They talk about it for weeks, to friends and family. Word spreads via email and text messaging. Buzz grows. More resumes find their way to your company. Envy spreads among lesser organizations. That's why it is important to know when to celebrate and why. When you can do that in your startup, you'll have added a very special element to your unfair advantage.