NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As investors, you want employees who embody the values of a company and bring it to the forefront whenever decisions are made. Some companies, such as Twitter (TWTR), Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn (LNKD) are able to retain a start-up like culture, or create a culture that conforms to a set of values that were created in the very early stages of the start-up.
Start-up mentality, what exactly is it? Does it even apply when companies reach the scale of Google (GOOG)? If so, why does it matter and which companies seem to possess the most of it?
Companies that are able to grow big, yet stay small within the organization are extremely rare. Many mention that it is in the early stages of a start-up that the most important bonds are formed. From an outside perspective, it's hard to imagine a person wanting to rewind a period in their life in which extreme scarcity of financial resources forced a person to eat ramen, work in an office with hardly any air conditioning and have elevated levels of stress.
After a start-up matures into an established company, some of the original founders have difficulty identifying with the company's mission. A good example of this is the scene where Steve Wozniak argues with Steve Jobs, in the movie titled "Jobs." Wozniak doesn't see the Steve Jobs that he first started Apple (AAPL) with. He just sees a ranting raving lunatic trying to protect Apple from the board of directors. Wozniak tells Jobs that he's resigning, because he just doesn't find it that fun anymore.
Soon after, Steve Jobs is fired from the company he built from scratch.
With both founders gone, the company flounders under the leadership of an "experienced" business leader. The culture is dead and none of the original founders are around to fix the sinking ship. Of course, we can pick-up from where Steve Jobs comes back .... but all it confirms is the importance of visionaries and culture.
Great culture can take on many different forms, however one company that sticks out in particular is Alibaba. For example, Alibaba tries to embrace a more horizontal bureaucratic culture which is similar to western technology companies.
Furthermore, the company hosts an annual event, which is referred to as "Alifest." At Alifest, the company packs a stadium with 10,000 employees, along with friends and family of employees. In that stadium the employees dance, sing, and just have a ton of fun. Jack Ma, the CEO and founder of Alibaba, sports an oversized Mohawk and white wig to match the rambunctious occasion.
After the company filed for IPO, Ma attended the company's ninth corporate mass wedding, in which he blessed 102 couples who performed a wedding ritual that conformed to Chinese tradition. Weddings cost a lot of money, especially the more traditional kind. These added perks remind me of Google's laundry service, and free food. Even so, I've never heard of Google paying for the wedding ceremony of all its employees.
Alibaba's cultural values (termed the Six Vein Spirit Sword) are focused on customers, teamwork, change, integrity, commitment and passion. Through a healthy culture and values Alibaba is able to retain a happy workforce which translates into added productivity. Alibaba is expected to have a valuation in excess of $200 billion on the day of IPO.
Aside from Alibaba's success story, there are other standouts that don't receive nearly enough credit. When I look over Glassdoor's top 50 places to work for, some names pop up higher on the list than others. For example, Twitter is ranked No. 2 for best company to work for. LinkedIn is ranked No. 3 and Facebook is ranked No. 5. These three companies have non-intrinsic factors that seem to be worth more than what the balance sheet or income statement can say about them. Google, by the way, is No. 8.
Maybe investors should take a closer look at what Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the other companies that are loved by their workers are getting right.
At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.