Things are a bit chaotic this Monday morning at Catalyst Marketing in Seattle. The company’s 23 employees just moved into a brand new work space and the bright new office – overlooking a river that feeds into Puget Sound – is bustling with activity. Some employees are milling through boxes while others are fixated on the scene outside, where police are conducting search-and-rescue drills in the river as college crew teams row by. While some workers may be a bit harried amidst such a chaotic scene, employees at Catalyst, which counts companies like T-Mobile and Starbucks as clients, are laughing and happily going about their business.
There’s a reason for that: The company, founded 14 years ago by Tom Havens, specifically hires happy people, according to HR Manager Cathy Sapiro. “We take our work very seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously at all,” she says. “That’s why all of our job postings say that having a ‘sense of humor’ is very important here.”
Apparently the company has found no shortage of happy applicants. The Catalyst’s director of finance, Jason Freilinger, regularly sings at his desk (today he’s belting out the Temptations’ ‘My Girl’) and has a jar out for tips. Another employee is busily dressing an armoured Knight set up in the foyer in Catalyst logoed gear. And a top sales rep takes time out of his day to have a pillow fight with one of our editors on one of the company’s new plush couches.
According to Sapiro, Havens fosters this playful spirit by taking employees on group outings. On one recent day, the crew took an off-site cooking class, preparing pesto-stuffed chicken and enchiladas for a youth shelter. “These kinds of things get people to break out of their teams and talk to people they wouldn’t otherwise talk to,” Sapiro says.
As a result, she says, employees at the company might find themselves staying late to help someone on a project, “even if they’re not on their team. “We’re not one of those companies where people are in competition with one another,” she says. “People just help each other out, period.”