In 2005, Aaron Levie and three co-founders started Box.
A handful of employees aimed to build the software to make it easy to work, share and collaborate on data from anywhere. Today, Box is an enterprise cloud content management platform with more than 64 million users and 92,000 customers—including 70 percent of the Fortune 500. The company has offices across the U.S. and around the globe with more than 2,000 employees.
Box is widely considered a quintessential startup success story.
Like all successful startups turned global enterprises, maintaining company culture at scale is high on the priority list. According to a conversation with First Round Capital, CEO and first-time founder Levie believes that “the 100th person hired at the company needs to understand the culture as well as the fifth person did… Everything needs to constantly communicate the company’s culture and actions need to mirror those words on a daily basis, up and down the organization.”
How does Box deliberately maintain culture on a daily basis as the company scales across multiple offices?
Meet Madison Pope.
Madison is the Workplace Services Manager at Box in Austin, Texas. In 2017, she and another employee were given the rotating, year-long role as Chief Fun Officer (which we’ll talk about shortly). Today, she leads facilities management while the company scales rapidly, maintains vendor relationships, ensures the office functions effectively and looks good, organizes events and cultural activities and manages the office’s food program. As you can tell, her role is multifaceted, which means that she’s very busy and no two days are ever the same.
Foodee supports the portion of her role that manages the office food program—making sure that meal planning doesn’t take up more time than her jam-packed schedule allows.
We had a conversation with Madison to learn more about:
- The steps Box leaders and employees take to maintain company culture
- How Foodee’s office catering works at Box in Austin, Texas
- The growing role that food plays in nourishing culture—especially at tech companies
Here’s what we found out.
The steps Box leaders and employees take to maintain company culture
Levie and First Round Capital discussed the challenges of maintaining company culture during rapid growth. Apparently, even when the company was 30 people, he realized the need to be deliberate in preserving the culture as new employees joined the team.
According to Madison, that intention still holds strong and true. “Employee happiness and company culture are essential to our leadership team and that seeps into everything we do,” she told us.
When she worked as the annual Chief Fun Officer for Box Austin, she was responsible for developing and executing on a global culture plan for 2017 based on overall company goals and metrics. She planned events, looked for innovative ways to improve culture, employee engagement, and well-being and kept a pulse on how growth and maturity impacted culture.
Today, that role has shifted to other team members, but some of the daily tasks have been absorbed into her current role. Helping to maintain and build a strong sense of community is one of them—of which food plays an important role.
How Foodee’s office catering works at Box, Austin, Texas
“Food brings people together,” Madison explains to us. “Everyone has to eat, but by providing free food, Box is facilitating real connections and building up our culture every single day.”
Managing the daily meal plans falls on Madison’s plate at the Austin office. In the past, she used to order individual meals for employees, but as their office grew, the scale and volume was too hard to manage. “I used to spend way too much time managing the office catering,” she told us.
But now, Madison uses Foodee for full-service office catering. Together she and her Foodee Meal Planner choose a local Austin restaurant and plan the menu ahead-of-time. “I don’t have to do any of the meal planning management and if I don’t have time to review our order, I know that we’re covered.”
“In-house catering is a great benefit, but everyone looks forward to eating with Foodee. We always choose a different local restaurant and it’s a welcome change to our food routine,” she explains. “Some of the restaurants are brand new and hard to get into—but Foodee delivers their meals right to our office.”
One morning, Madison realized they didn’t have catering coming in. “I emailed Foodee at 8 am and they found a restaurant with delicious local food for 230 employees. It arrived right at noon, looked great, tasted even better and best of all, saved my butt. That’s the thing. Find a vendor that partners with you to get a job done so know you’re covered and can move on to other tasks.”
“That’s what I love about Foodee. The service is great and they’re always trying to find ways to make my work-life better, easier and more productive. We’ve built a trusting relationship. I know I can rely on them and get help when I need it. Plus, everyone at Box gets excited about the selection of restaurants—they’re the most popular, local joints in town and we get to try them.”
The growing role that food plays in nourishing culture—especially at tech companies
According to Madison, Box Austin offers free lunch every day in the office lunchroom. She says this simple act encourages employees to take a break, rejuvenate and connect and meet new people.
“Feeding our teams is just something we do here at Box,” she explains. “It’s built into our company’s core.” Box’s headquarters in Redwood City has an in-house kitchen that feeds local employees and every office offers something similar. “We feed our office of over 200 people every day at lunch and provide food and drinks at special events, happy hours, networking events and team meetings. People sit together, chat, connect and eat great food. They love it.”
While the technology industry was at the forefront of providing free meals at work, it’s become a standard in the industry and is taking hold cross-industries. “Any tech company that doesn’t feed their team is at a disadvantage,” she says. “Taking care of your employees is one of the biggest things you can do for your company culture and employee engagement. Offering office meals is a big part of that.”
Not only does it help with workplace happiness and wellness, but it supports productivity and flow as well. No one has to break their workday to rush out in search of food. It’s highly convenient and saves employees on eating out.
It sounds to us like Madison is doing her part in fulfilling Box CEO Levie’s objective that “everything needs to constantly communicate the company’s culture and actions need to mirror those words on a daily basis, up and down the organization.” Even a simple gesture like feeding your team free lunch goes a long way.