When you hear the word “Aloha,” what pops into your head? Hula girls, tiki torches, maybe a Mai Tai (or three)?
At salesforce.com, Aloha stands for a whole lot more than a luau. It represents who we are, what we stand for, and how we create our culture. You see, Aloha doesn’t just mean “hello” and “good-bye." It’s a spirit of being genuine, inclusive, caring, and compassionate, enjoying a healthy dose of fun and treating those around you like family (or, as they say in Hawaii, “Ohana”). It’s an outlook that emphasizes the importance of interacting kindly and honestly with those around us. This spirit of Aloha has existed for generations in Hawaii...but how, exactly, did it come to salesforce.com?
It all started many years ago, before the company was founded, before “software as a service” was even a thing (I know it’s hard to think about those dark times, but bear with me). Marc Benioff, salesforce.com CEO and Chairman, had achieved incredible success early on in his career in the software industry. After nearly a decade at Oracle, he took a sabbatical, rented a beach hut on the Big Island of Hawaii, swam with dolphins, and embraced the spirit of Aloha (sounds pretty great, right?).
And that wasn’t all—Marc traveled to India, met the Dalai Lama, explored the Arabian Sea in rice boats, and met "the hugging saint," Mata Amritanandamayi. "It was she who introduced me to the idea…of giving back to the world while pursuing my career ambitions,” Marc wrote in Behind the Cloud. “I realized that I didn't have to make a choice between doing business and doing good."
And Marc didn’t just talk the talk—he came back to California and walked the walk. He ended up setting out on his own, founding salesforce.com in 1999 with developers Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez. While providing business software on the web was the core mission, so was establishing an institutional philanthropic philosophy.
Marc wanted philanthropy to be part of the corporate DNA, and pioneered the 1/1/1 model: salesforce.com donates 1% of its software, equity, and employees’ time to help communities around the world. Generosity, compassion, Aloha...whatever you want to call it, that passion for giving is a huge part of our company culture. Always has been, always will be.
Our Aloha roots continue to shine through in many different ways. In the early days, the small San Francisco team wore Hawaiian shirts. Today, offices around the world pop with bright colors and prints featuring tropical foliage (close your eyes and you can almost smell the suntan lotion). Conference rooms have names like Maka Launa and Hala Kahiki, glass years of service surfboard awards grace many desks, and employees who have been with the company over 10 years are inducted into our Koa Club and treated to an upscale Aloha chic appreciation dinner. But most of all, Aloha comes to life through the way our employees genuinely connect with each other and our customers and bring their whole, authentic selves to work--and give new meaning to the term #dreamjob. Just take it from them:
“Aloha spirit starts with Marc and permeates all of salesforce.com. It starts with our people and drives our culture. Aloha spirit surrounds us—Fridays are Aloha Shirt Days, and our offices are full of orchids, bright colors, Hawaiian woods, and other references to Hawaiian culture. Celebrations have included Hula dancers and Hawaiian drummers; Dreamforce has been opened with the sounding of the conch shell; and sales club and executive offsites are often held in Hawaii. Aloha spirit is salesforce.com's way of life—it is our energy, our way of resolving issues, our way of achieving goals. Aloha spirit underlies our 1/1/1 foundation model of giving back to our communities. It's part of everything we do and everything we are.” —Jim C., SVP, Office of the Chairman
“By wearing our Hawaiian shirts on Fridays and spreading the Aloha Spirit, we're keeping us ‘us.’ We're remembering the early days of salesforce.com when the company was just a few people and a bunch of servers in an apartment. We're reminding our teammates that even today, it's possible to work hard and have fun at the same time. At the end of the day, they're just shirts--but the shirts represent a history that I'm proud to support. That's why I wear mine every Friday, and I'm guessing that's why Marc also wears his. Mahalo!” —Sam B., Business Development Representative
"The Aloha Spirit is a well-known reference to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. However, it also refers to a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any goal, and to achieve any state of mind or body that you desire.” —Rob L., Sales Productivity Director, Enterprise Sales
Craving a culture of Aloha, but not a salesforce.com employee? It’s actually easier than you’d think to instill an Aloha culture at your company (don’t worry, no office pig roasts are required). Whether you’re an exec or entry level, try to emphasize authenticity and human connection in every interaction. Take the time to ask about your coworker’s kids, or your customer’s weekend. Invite a colleague out for fro-yo to touch base on a big project (sure beats a conference room, right?). Rally your team around a cause you believe in, and take a day to volunteer together (find out how to get started here).
And above all else, make sure to have fun at work! It’s not always easy (quarter-end, anyone?), but taking time to goof around with your coworkers is a sure-fire way keep the Aloha spirit alive and well, wherever you are. And if that involves a few umbrella drinks and a grass skirt, well, so much the better.
Above: Aloha pride in San Francisco, December 2013
Above: View from the Koa Club dinner, March 2014
Above: Co-Founder Parker Harris rocking his Hawaiian shirt back in the day and at the company’s 15th birthday party this year!
Ready to find your #dreamjob at salesforce.com? Visit salesforce.com/careers.