By Scott Latham

Making your office a welcoming place to stimulate innovative ideas and valuable opportunities for collaboration.            

We all know what it’s like to taste cookies at grandma’s house: you expect something generic, something out of a box, but then you remember it’s Gram – she’s made these cookies “from scratch.” Gram’s kindness and hospitality, made personal with her own brand of chocolatey, gooey, chocolate chip cookies, always make you feel at home.

Old world lessons

In the world of startup companies, we all need to be a little more like Gram, cultivating an environment where we act in ways that cultivate comfort with one another, both inside the startup community and within our own companies. It is within this warm and accepting environment that innovative ideas percolate.

Fear is a foreign concept when sitting on Gram’s porch because her hospitality comes so naturally. This comfort level, and lack of fear, is what allows us to do our best work. We who work as entrepreneurs do it precisely because we have passion, enthusiasm and a notable lack of fear – key characteristics for creating a hospitable environment for our employees, investors and customers. At Colabination, we make this environment of comfort one of our first priorities. We believe true collaboration can change the existing parameters of the average business model. Collaboration starts with finding common ground, but to do that, people must feel incredibly comfortable. Sometimes that takes chocolate chip cookies, but often it is a warm handshake, genuine smile, eye contact and the simple act of listening.

Who 

Learn from everyone with whom you come in contact. Finding creativity or any other skill may not mean finding it in the first place you look. If you are open to the people you meet everywhere – the train, the hoagie shop, boardrooms and the sidewalk – you may find surprising synergies. At Colabination, we got to talking to a Philadelphia PR agency at a typical networking venue, realized they were truly nice people, and found out that they were interested in expanding their portfolio of startup clients. At a highly reduced rate, we struck a deal and now have a Walnut Street PR firm working with us, all as a result of friendly people saying hello.

What

Be yourself. Remember that people respond well to people, not well-oiled machines clearly trying to make a sale. Get to know the people with whom you work. Show them that you’re interested not only in bettering your own startup, but that you have their best interests in mind, too. As Colabination aims to provide a space for new fashion designers, we worked to find an easy way to tell our story: helping talented fashion designers develop a strong online presence and sustainable business.

Find a way to tell your story in the same way you share the latest adventure or vacation story with family and friends, or to Gram.

When and Where

Encourage your employees to use creative strategies and take the risks necessary to reach the goals you’ve set. By giving them a space in which they feel comfortable, they’ll be more likely to think outside the box. And, use the startup community as a place to practice hospitality. Philadelphia has a uniquely hospitable one; we’re a city on the move, and everyone’s chipping in. In our early days, University Science Center gave us a home, a place where we could get on our feet and get our company started. Rick Nucci, founder and president of Philadelphia Startup Leaders (PSL) was one of the first to welcome us with open arms, and helped point us in the right direction. It helps knowing he’s a phone call away. Similarly, the guys at RJMetrics, both Rob and Jake, agreed to meet with me and helped me out as well.

Why

Just as Gram’s cookies gave you comfort, people do their best work when they feel most comfortable. We have a core belief at Colabination,  borrowed from Simon Sinek: It’s not what you do. It’s why you do it.

Giving people a space to do what they love brings out their passion, the root of great ideas. The building blocks of a startup are creative, new ideas, and these will be generated when people feel at home.

How

Show people you value their opinions. Bounce them off one another and encourage other’s great ideas. Stay true to your mission, vision and values, and simultaneously use an open mind to your advantage. At Colabination, just as we work together with our coworkers, we hope to help other startups succeed through collaboration because we feel we’re all working towards a common goal.

Open up your doors, make yourself inviting, maybe bake a batch of cookies from scratch and prepare to collaborate!

 

Scott Latham is founder and CEO of Colabination, as well as a fashion designer and startup mentor. Follow Scott @_ScottLatham.

- See more at: http://philadelphia.regionsbusiness.com/diary-of-a-startup-cultivating-an-environment-of-comfort/#sthash.mrgJlz3F.dpuf

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