Company Culture

Here’s what 3 CEOs had to say about what makes their team dynamics unique

We talked with local startup leaders about how their teams are different and how they keep their employees happy.

How do you improve your team dynamics?

(Photo by Pixabay user StartupStockPhotos, used under a Creative Commons license)

Empowering, loyal and dedicated.

These are the words that three Washington, D.C.-area CEOs chose when I asked them to describe their teams in one word. As startups grow, it’s important to consider their team dynamics as well, whether that means adding more benefits like medical coverage or even special perks like bonuses.

Here’s some insight about how the teams operate at SEED SPOT, Aperiomics and Goodworld.

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“We have a truly amazing team that supports each other day in and day out,” C’pher Gresham, SEED SPOT’s CEO who described his team as empowering, told Technical.ly. “Our biggest perk is our team members — seriously. We do fun things together outside of the office, but it’s really the time we get to spend together on team retreats and explor[ing] new cities as a team that keeps us so cohesive and motivated.”

Gresham transitioned into the CEO role last month after five years working at the social impact incubator in multiple capacities, including chief strategy and operations officer. Since SEED SPOT is in multiple markets, including D.C., Phoenix, Santa Barbra, Seattle and Philadelphia, he has gotten to witness how the hybrid team of in-person and remote workers collaborate throughout the U.S.

SEED SPOT’s CEO, C’pher Gresham. (Courtesy photo)

Gresham said the team stays away from conference calls, and instead uses Zoom for all meetings. SEED SPOT also uses Slack daily for quick messages (featuring mostly giphys, he says), Basecamp to manage all projects, Salesforce for its CRM and phone calls after normal working hours.

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SEED SPOT also hosts quarterly team retreats, two being bicoastal and two with the full team in person. At its last retreat, the org created a new card game called “Just Pitch Me” — think of it as a cross between Taboo and a startup pitch.

One of SEED SPOT’s best perks is a week off during the holiday season “for the team to recharge, reset and rest,” according to Gresham. The team is meant to use this time to reflect, stress-free.

Overall, SEED SPOT is taking charge on consistently enhancing its team dynamics through various activities.

“We try to mix up our daily routines. In a few weeks, the D.C.-based team is planning on going to a meditation session together at the Eaton House DC,” he said. “A few weeks ago, our Phoenix-based team volunteered at a food bank. Together, we hold each other accountable, we empower one another, and we have a blast while doing it.”

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Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, CEO of Goodworld, described her team as loyal to the business and its mission.

Goodworld is a startup that facilitates charity donations via hashtags with offices in the District and in New Zealand. The startup’s D.C. operation is set up in a small office inside of the WeWork K Street location. Goodworld also has a hybrid team with remote engineers in New Zealand.

“We are focused, rock-solid, humble, humorous, fierce and quintessentially good,” Pfeifer said.

The Goodworld team working out of their space in the WeWork K Street location. (Photo by Michelai Graham)

The Goodworld team mainly communicates on Slack, Google Meet and in person when possible.

As the leader of a growing startup, Pfeifer said she tries to nurture her team through consistently talking about the mission, having one-on-one meetings and seeking feedback for improvements to the team’s dynamics.

Some cool perks Goodworld offers are flexible work hours, free donations, growth opportunities, chocolate, humor and “the opportunity to make the world a better place each day by coming to work,” said the CEO.

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Dr. Crystal Icenhour, cofounder and CEO of Aperiomics, describes her dedicated startup as having a strong intra-office culture, with a mission-driven, cohesive team that is focused on benefiting humanity through its work.

“Whether it’s having lunch together, playing pool in our breakroom, or attending local networking events in Loudoun County, our staff of genomic sequencing experts, clinical researchers, and business management professionals have been effective at connecting together, motivated by a common goal to help the medical community improve its understanding of infectious disease,” Icenhour said.

Dr. Crystal Icenhour, cofounder and CEO of Aperiomics. (Courtesy photo)

The internal and external Aperiomics team members communicate through in-person staff meetings and daily Slack interactions.

“Effective communication is critical for team growth and development,” Icenhour said. “Aperiomics encourages employees to know one another as people first. Through constant team bonding and social interaction, we have developed a strong, supportive network that emboldens employees to put their best foot forward.”

As far as perks and benefits, Aperiomics offers its employees industry-leading healthcare and insurance benefits, unlimited PTO, opportunities for professional development, and free educational and training resources. The startup also has a family-friendly office environment for employees who occasionally need to bring their children to work.

The Sterling, Virginia-based biotech startup recently closed on a $1.8 million Series A round, and Icenhour said she plans to expand the team with a software engineer and an operations staffer by the year’s end.

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