Ben Peterson (left) and Ryan Sanders have become the poster entrepreneurs for great work environments. BambooHR has ranked on many national “best company to work for” lists, and they’ve been featured by publications like Inc. and Forbes to share their whys, hows and wows.
But the attention, while appreciated, seems silly to them.
“Great culture is a strategy — it just is,” Peterson says. “People keep looking at us like we’re these revolutionaries. And we keep looking at them saying, ‘The data has already been proven! Great cultures lead to great results — and it makes you a better person in the process. What in the world are you waiting for?’”
If you’re done waiting, Sanders advises making culture a priority and treating it like a commodity.
“Imagine your company is your most important product. What bugs would you fix? Which features would you add? How would you make it better?” he says. “And look at your communication systems — those are everything.”
(Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UVBizQ)

[pullquote]Employees: 280 employees
Founded: 2008
City: Lindon, Utah[/pullquote]BambooHR is in the people business — literally, figuratively, happily.

“We founded this company, no joke, for the purpose of creating a great place to work,” co-founder Ben Peterson says. “Both Ryan (Sanders) and I felt strongly that work life should support the personal life — not vice versa. Happiness comes from striking the right balance between the two. Ultimately, how you feel at work affects who you are at home.”

So for the “Bambooligans,” family comes first, flexibility is celebrated, values are embraced and communication is key. Moreover, they push back on the notion that workaholics make the company go round.

“We work hard here — don’t misunderstand,” Peterson says. “Smart people want tough challenges. They want to contribute to projects that matter. They want opportunities to grow, learn and shine. But we work hard, and then we go home.”

“We’re not looking to get out of work,” Sanders adds. “It’s toxic cultures we’re after. Those have got to go.”

Peterson and Sanders say company cultures are living, breathing ecosystems that are always evolving.

“It’s like software,” Peterson says. “You’re never finished working on it.”

And you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.

“We are not perfect — and we know that we’re not perfect,” Sanders says. “But here’s what we do well: We own our mistakes. There’s no sweeping something under the rug here. We acknowledge what’s wrong. We learn from it. And then we fix it. Fast.”

“We founded this company, no joke, for the purpose of creating a great place to work.” — Ben Peterson, BambooHR co-founder

But back to what they’re doing right. From fancy vacation vouchers (every year employees get up to $2,000 to go anywhere in the world) to simple pleasures like getting your birthday off, BambooHR puts its humans where its resources are. And their families are noticing.         

“My favorite thing in the world is hearing an employee tell me he’s a better dad because he works at BambooHR,” Sanders says. “For me? That’s a huge win.”

“Or when people tell us that their spouse won’t ever let them work anywhere else,” Peterson says. “This is the reason we created this company! And it’s been better than we ever could have imagined.”

Perks that werk

On brand

BambooHR values their values. The company has a “Brand Book,” and employees know the values, live by them and work better together because of them.

They are as follows:
1. Enjoy quality of life.
2. Grow from good to great.
3. Be open.
4. Assume the best.
5. Do the right thing.
6. Lead from where you are.
7. Make it count.

World-class vacations

BambooHR has a program called Paid, Paid Vacation. And it’s way, way cool. Every calendar year, eligible employees  can receive up to $2,000 for a vacation expense reimbursement. (Part-time employees receive $1,000.) Employees are eligible after six months, and eligible expenses include travel fares, hotels, meals, and entertainment. Employees have gone to places like Greece, Africa, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Chicago, Alaska and Disneyland. “Employees come back refreshed and happy,” Peterson says. “And we love hearing their incredible travel stories and experiences.”

Birthday wishes

Hey, shorty! It’s your birthday. And at BambooHR, you’re going to party like it’s your birthday. Namely, NO WORK! “I don’t care how old you are, getting your birthday off just feels right — it turns it back into a magical day,” Sanders says. “I always feel like I’m playing hooky.”

Money talks

The company encourages its employees to seek financial education. First off, they have a financial consultant who employees can meet with to discuss their 401k investments, strategies and goals. Second, if employees attend Financial Peace University, BambooHR pays the class fee and gives employees a $100 bonus.

The hours

“Do great work, then go home.” Employees live by that popular company mantra. When you’re at work, you work hard. But BambooHR doesn’t want employees sacrificing their personal lives for their jobs. “Your work life is supposed to support your family life — not the other way around,” Peterson says. Additionally, employees receive an impressive 27 days of paid vacation annually (after one year of employment).  And they also enjoy liberal flexibility in their schedules. Some team members work from home on a set schedule, while others do so simply when the need arises.

Good meets

Twice a year, BambooHR holds “All-Hands Meetings” at a remote location for a full day of celebration, inspiration and rejuvenation. What’s more, they give back with service. In the past, BambooHR has worked with organizations like Feed My Starving Children to create 100,000 meals to feed impoverished kids all over the world.

Leading with heart

BambooHR’s culture attracts top-notch Bambooligans. “We have incredible people with incredible capacity,” Peterson says. “There is greatness in everyone here, and when you have a culture that engenders that, everyone can lead.” In turn, that ups the company’s game. “People love being a part of something that makes a difference, and our culture allows us to do that every day,” Sanders says. “We elevate each other.”

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