Cold Showers: Better Habits, Fewer Sick Days

We at Culture Builders are a big fan of improving our mind and body. That's why we have been a big fan of taking cold showers. Well, to be honest, cold showers suck BUT we are a big fan of the benefits. It helps you build a habit of tough decisions and improves your health.

A Habit of tough decisions
Let's start with the benefit that caused us to start taking cold showers in the first place: developing mental toughness. When you slowly get out of your warm and cozy bed in the morning, and walk towards the bathroom, one of things you absolutely DON'T want to do is take a cold shower. You know that once you jump under that icy stream of water it's going to be really uncomfortable. Right before you turn on the ice cold water you hear a voice say: "Screw all those benefits, I am going to do this tomorrow."

And then you decide to do it anyway.

By making that choice, you are building a habit of making tough decisions. You decide to do something because you said you would, even though you know it is going to be uncomfortable. Making tough decisions is essential in changing habits. Setting that right mindset by taking a cold shower in the morning will help you during the rest of your day making decisions at work, in relationships and life in general. 

Fewer Sick Days
But it's not only improving your mindset. Dutch researchers have just completed a study that shows cold showers improving your health as well.

Geert A. Buijze and his colleagues asked 3,000 volunteers in the Netherlands to finish their morning showers with a 30-, 60-, or 90-second blast of cold water, or to shower as they usually did, for 30 consecutive days. Then the researchers looked at the work attendance records of the same people over that period. On average, in all the groups that doused themselves with cold water, people were absent 29% fewer days than people in the control group. The researchers’ conclusion: Cold showers lead to fewer sick days.

There you go: cold showers improve your mindset and health. Still, tomorrow morning at 7am you'll say "Screw all those benefits!" and hopefully do it anyway.

Best Dressed Entrepreneur 2018

Not related to culture but fun to share: founder Jorg Ruis won the award of Best Dressed Entrepreneur of 2018. He was chosen by a jury of the Dutch media; Sprout, Quote, LINDA and The Next Web. The prize is an initiative from House of Einstein

We'll be talking at TNW Conference next week!

That's right! We're super excited to be talking culture at TNW Conference 2017 in Amsterdam next week. Both days are jam-packed with some great speakers like Chief Strategy of Snapchat, the founder and CEO of Tumblr, founder of 9GAG, the COO of Etsy and other good people from Hubspot, Trello, Hyper Island and many others.

On day 1 of the conference, our founder Jorg will do a roundtable session on the topic 'How to create a high-performing culture'. Apparently more people were looking forward to it as our session was the first one to get fully booked. All within 45 minutes.

Jorg will also be walking around on both conference days and he always loves to share his thoughts on company culture. So if you can't join the session, just hit him up when you see him around. Till next week!


Here's more on the content of our session:
Company culture is a hot topic nowadays as more and more companies understand the power of it to attract talent, turn customers into ambassadors, and to achieve profitable growth. But how do you create such a high-performing culture?

Some try to copy values of inspiring companies like Netflix, Etsy or Google. Others think it's all about the perks; offering bean bags, free breakfast and a ping-pong table. Unfortunately, simply copy/pasting values doesn't guarantee that the desired culture will arise nor does having a Playstation in the lobby (although it's definitely fun when I need to wait for a meeting :D).

In this roundtable I'll walk you through the 7 phases you do need to go through to create a culture that can help you become an industry leader.

Culture Talk | Willem Wijnans over het juiste talent naar binnen halen

Willem heeft over de hele wereld gereisd om start/scale-ups te helpen met hun 'hiring' goals. Zo wist hij tientallen talenten weg te halen bij Google en Facebook voor één en dezelfde startup en heeft hij ooit via Airbnb talent 'gesourced'. Zijn kennis over interviewen, tools en het sourcen van talent zorgt ervoor dat hij vaak hierover spreekt op internationale HR/Tech events.

Check hier de video met een aantal sourcing en hiring tips:

Zijn posts over sourcing kan je vinden op Sourcing Monk en Medium.

Samen met Willem geef ik op 10 maart de workshop 'Hiring on Culture Fit' waarbij we een volle dag besteden aan hoe je talent naar binnen haalt die blijven en je bedrijf harder laten groeien. Er is nog 1 ticket over - so claim your seat!

Workshop: How to Hire on Culture Fit

Booom! Next to working with customers to create purpose-driven cultures, we are starting with high-energy workshops around culture and happiness at work. Our first one is coming up in Amsterdam in March, and it teaches you how to hire people on culture fit.

The importance of hiring on culture has become a hot topic in recent years. People that have a good culture fit with a company will flourish in their new roles, are more likely to stay, and drive long-term growth and success. A bad culture fit can cost a company between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary due to turnover, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

That is why leading companies like Uber, Netflix and Google are assessing talent on culture fit throughout their recruiting process. Our upcoming workshop is specifically designed to teach you exactly that: how to hire people that share the same values, similar attitudes, or expectations around work as your current team.

Who should take part? HR, hiring managers or anyone that's interested in tools to assess the future performance and culture fit of a candidate. Are you ready to look beyond skills to assess a candidate? Then this workshop is for you. Sign up here

Screw that Monday morning feeling

Every Monday — just like this first Monday of 2017 — there are people getting up thinking “Ugh, it’s Monday again. I hate going to work...” I see people sharing the Monday blues on Snapchat or Instagram (#tag included). A few weeks ago I even heard a guy at a coffee place complaining out loud that he had to go to prison again…

It made me look up from my croissant (OK, it was a muffin but this sounds more chique) because I thought the guy actually was on his way to jail. Where guards make you squat and cough twice. A place from which you cannot escape. But no, it turned out the man was actually referring to his workplace.

Focus on the Monday blues if you wish, spread it if you must, but understand that this is all an attitude. And not a very helpful one. Instead, you should dig deeper. Why do you feel this way?

Does it have anything to do with the tequila-soaked NYE party or is there something more going on? Is it because your job doesn’t fit your skills or passion? Because your boss doesn’t help you grow? Because the company culture is toxic?

Whatever it is, figure it out and take action. We spend most of our waking hours at work, so you better find a place you love going to. You owe that to your (maybe still undiscovered) skills and passion.

I wish you a healthy and loving 2017 — may you spend it at a workplace that brings out the best in you. Go get it!

How YOU can make your company culture better


We all want to be proud of the company we work for. We all want to be part of a great culture, that makes us feel valued and brings out our best work. Although we all hear and read about those inspiring companies, not everyone is lucky enough to work at them. So, what can you do to make yours better?

Although a complete culture change is not something you can do on your own, you are still part of it, and therefore have the power to influence it for the better. Here’s how to get the ball rolling:

Do not allow anyone to talk your company down
It’s oh so easy to complain about all the things that are going wrong within your company. And there’s always some colleague at a coffee or cigarette break doing exactly that. When people do nothing but complain, take issue with them. Ask them politely to shut up. Tell them every time they complain a cute puppy dies. If they keep it up: get management involved. There’s nothing more disastrous for a high-spirit culture than toxic people.

Start talking your company up
Act like a winner — as if you’re part of the best company on Earth. Focus on the things that are going well. Share this regularly with others in- and outside the company. Your company’s reputation is built on a few people. Be one of them.

Take action on things you can control
Focusing on the things you can’t control is a great way to get frustrated and a good first step towards burning out. Instead, take a look at the things that you can control, and ask yourself how you can improve them. Even better: ask your favourite colleagues to join you in a quick brainstorm over coffee or a beer. It will speed up your efforts.

Give credit where it's due
When you recognise people for their efforts, their individual success and team contributions improve significantly (about 14%). Recognition from a direct colleague is often even more valued than recognition from senior leadership. Make a habit of recognising others for their great work. Think someone you work with is adding value to the team or company? Tell them. Be specific and do it openly. It’s the best way to win their heart (and commitment).

Keep a positive attitude
Assuming you are not working with Vogons, remember that things aren’t all that bad. All problems are just unanswered questions. Looking at it like this will give you more energy to stay positive and keep improving your own company culture.

Don’t ask for permission
You don’t need permission from anyone to improve your culture. Take responsibility. Start on your own and keep going. Before you know it, you’ll inspire others with your positive attitude and your focus on action.


CULTURE [kuhl-cher] n.

1. The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.

2. A way of thinking, behaving or working that exists in a place or organisation (such as a business).

When I was 14, I eagerly started one of my first summer jobs at the assembly line of a pickle factory. It was my job to remove rotten pickles by hand. Unfortunately, I didn’t last long because I carved little faces in good pickles when the conveyor belt stood still. They didn’t like that. 

The summers after that, I worked at a sawdust factory, several car garages and many, many greenhouses. After all, I do live in the land of tulips haha (Yes, and weed).

At these summer jobs, I met a lot of energising, proud people who absolutely loved their work and seemed to be great at it. In other workplaces, I encountered real frustration, negative energy, and a lot of complaining. What, exactly, made one company (culture) inspiring and the other suck?

It was a mystery to me. The only thing I knew then was that I wanted to find a company I would love to work at every day, that would bring out the best in me.

Culture is the word

It was only after I was seven years into my online marketing career, when I joined The Next Web as Chief Marketing Officer, that I started learning more about the concept of an inspiring company culture and what makes it thrive or deteriorate.
At the time, The Next Web was a small energetic place filled with highly skilled lunatics. Everyone who joined was eager to try out new ideas to help the brand become bigger, better and grow faster. Together we built The Next Web into one of the top ten most influential blogs, organised tech conferences on three continents, founded several successful startups like and, and created a lot of other cool projects that ended up failing remarkably.

The culture of The Next Web is primarily based on the notion that is still present there today: you don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility. Own it.

While at The Next Web, I also visited numerous other startups and big tech companies like Square, Twitter, Evernote, Google, and Facebook. I got to experience their specific culture, how they tried to make it flourish and how their culture helped them reach their goals. This inspired me to always actively shape the culture at The Next Web. It was clear to me that taking control over your culture would get you where you wanted to be so much faster.

What an awesome culture can do

While I got to shape the culture at The Next Web, I got to build it at MessageBird when I joined two years ago. To a fast-growing messaging company with world domination on the agenda, a strong, foundational culture is crucial.

I believe there are 6 key factors that establish the environment for an awesome company culture: purpose, values, hiring, rewarding, leadership and communication. We started defining our values and making changes, both big and small, in all the other areas. Here’s where it’s gotten us so far:

  1. Increased engagement
    Matching our tone of voice with our values increased our level of engagement with customers. One of many examples is that we replaced the overused ‘Dear’ and ‘Kind regards’ with ‘Hi’ and ‘Best from Amsterdam’. We still get genuine ‘Best from Athens, Berlin, Bangkok, Moscow etc.’ from customers in return.
  2. Loyal customers
    Being part of MessageBird feels like being part of a family where everyone truly cares for each other. We built on this, so the way we treat each other is also the way we treat our vendors, our customers, and the guy that stops by to repair the coffee machine. 
    This caring energy, together with a focus on remarkable support, got our quarterly Net Promotor Score (NPS) to grow from 20 to 35 in less than two years. To give you some context: Apple currently has an NPS of 63 (we’re closing in haha) and KPN, one of the biggest Dutch telecom companies, has an NPS of 11.
  3. Happier employees
    Every two weeks we ask every employee for feedback by sending out an anonymous survey with a single question. “What is an opportunity we’re missing” or “What’s one thing that we’re not doing but should start doing in order to be more successful?” Every 6 weeks that same survey will have the question “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work?”
    While we know we can still improve a lot, we currently have an internal happiness score ranging between 7.6 and 8.3 on a 0–10 scale, which is above the industry average. It’s not only more energising and fun to have happier colleagues, research also shows that happier employees are 12% more productive.
  4. Talented hires
    One of the many areas where our culture proves its worth lies in attracting the right people. Each of our ten developers, two of them being former CTO’s, joined our adventure without us ever needing a recruiter. To me, that’s a very powerful example. Especially considering we live in a time where developers truly are the new rock stars, and companies go above and beyond to hire them.
  5. Enabled ambassadors
    I have always loved the swaaagg I got from startups when at The Next Web. There was only one problem: I wouldn’t wear a heavily branded Twitter t-shirt outside of the gym. So we started creating good quality company gear — with our values on it — that people actually wanted to wear. To work, to a festival or wherever. Funny thing is that after creating these, a whole bunch of people from other companies wanted to get their hands on a MessageBird shirt or sweater as well. Pretty cool to have people from Google, Vice and other companies proudly wearing our gear.
  6. Exponential growth
    These and many other outcomes of our culture — like being one of the Best Employers of The Netherlands — are the major drivers behind our explosive growth. We currently have 11,000 customers who make 300 million API calls each month and we expect to pull in $35 million in revenue this year with a positive $3 million EBITA. 
    On top of that, we just launched our awesome Chat API and most recently joined the infamous accelerator Y Combinator to tackle the US market. All this with ‘only’ 3o amazing people that power this company.

So why the hell are you leaving then?

Since we spend most of our waking hours at work, I genuinely wish for everyone to find a great workplace they love going to. After 12 years it turns out it’s not only my wish, but it’s my dream. I love to help companies create an outstanding culture that enables people to do their best work.

I am convinced that in the end culture is all you got. Yes, you need to have a great product, a wonderful website, and a good price — but all of that can easily be copied by your competitor. What really makes the difference is your culture. It’s how employees behave when the CEO isn’t there and it is the biggest driving force behind your brand. Best of all: culture is not easily copied. So you better make it awesome.

That’s why I am leaving MessageBird, to start another. Which is my own.