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Our Think Big Go Local team was so excited to have had the opportunity to visit Google’s Chicago office last week! We spent five hours touring, chatting, having lunch, and learning…and it was AWESOME!

When we got on the train to come back home, we did a little debriefing and came up with four things that stood out as our favorite takeaways. These are all lessons that will not only make our business better, but that can have the same effect for your small business too!

1. The “Trust by Default” Culture

I think everyone has heard about the cool and hip culture Google has created in each of their offices. But few people really consider how Google is able to do it and still get so much work done!

It really starts with their hiring process. To get a job at Google you go through a rigorous interview process. With the 700,000+ applications they get each year, they only hire the best and are selective about who can work and thrive in the environment they’ve created.

So even though Google has flexible work schedules and work-from-home policies, game rooms, a rooftop hangout, a music room, a yoga studio, workout room, a BYO bar and more, they know the individuals they hire can handle the freedom. They encourage their employees to find a balance between work, personal, and volunteer time, and operate under the philosophy that once hired, they fully trust their employees by default.


They also follow a no-blame policy, meaning when something goes wrong, the primary concern is not to reprimand or blame. Google is far more focused on finding out how the mistake was able to be made, how they can prevent it in the future, and where they have vulnerabilities. Those experiences are then used to educate and inform the rest of their employees and they move on.


It’s already starting to sound like a pretty cool place to work doesn’t it? When we asked our “Googler” what his favorite part of working there was, he responded with “the people.” These are lessons we can all work into our businesses and should be! Culture is a big deal and attracting the right employees depends a great deal on the environment they will be working in and the type of people that environment attracts.

2. Modern Day Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is obviously a really big deal for us, our clients, and YOU! We were thrilled to be able to ask SEO questions directly to Google and get feedback to help our audience make sure they are doing the right things to show up in search.

SEO is one of those things that has frustrated marketers and small business owners for years! We all want to show up on page 1 when someone searches for our products or services. Ready for the #1 recommendation Google has for small businesses to make that move? Set up, optimize, and manage your Google My Business profile! (Side note, if you don’t know how or haven’t done it yet, we have an excellent class coming up that shows you the step-by-step!)

We also specifically asked about social signals and directory listings and were told that both are relevant because they keep your company visible and encourage others to talk about you. The more you are mentioned online, the better it is for your ranking.

And finally, we asked about companies that are still claiming to be SEO companies with strategies, tools, or processes that promise to get your business on page 1 or somewhere close. Although no surprise to us, Google said that those old school tactics not only don’t work, but Google is literally spending 24/7 identifying those types of strategies and shutting them down. It may not happen on day one of your SEO Campaign, but it will happen. They want to push organizations to the top of search that have organic SEO value like great websites, positive reviews, online mentions, and frequent and valuable content.

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3. Online Collaboration Tools

I have to admit, I used Google Hangouts for a while and got frustrated with what was often an unstable platform and left for a better solution. So I was pretty excited to learn that Google has spent a massive amount of resources over the past year drastically improving that platform and other tools in their “G Suite.” So yes, I’ll be back to check it out because it’s such a powerful (and free) tool for online collaboration.

We also got to play on a new Google product, the Jam Board. It’s basically a digital white board that can be shared and worked on with any virtual team. Of course we wanted to buy one, but they’re a bit pricey but so worth going to check out!

And finally, we talked a lot about the Google Calendar and how valuable it can be when you share your calendar with your team to make it easier for anyone you work with to see when you are and aren’t available. Sounds so simple, yet so many of us just don’t take the time to set up our tools so we’re working as effectively as possible.

4. Focus on Health

I’m not going to throw a bunch of stats at you (because then I have to go look them up! Lol.) But we all know that sick, burnt out, or struggling employees decrease productivity and cost our businesses money!

At Google they take this very seriously and hit it head on through a number of initiatives. As a matter of fact, I would say that their focus on health (mental and physical) is evident in every square foot of their office.

From a work environment standpoint, everyone works in teams and each of their desks moves up and down to allow people to stand or sit. They also have treadmill work spaces people can utilize and dozens of secluded areas where employees can leave the team environment for some quiet time. You can even walk away and go play video games for a bit, foosball, ping-pong, work with the yoga instructor, workout, you name it! Whatever it takes to find your work-life balance.

While Google is very progressive, they aren’t one of those companies that offer unlimited vacation time. And the reason was really interesting! Their research shows that when people are given unlimited days off, they tend to follow what their managers do. And often managers aren’t taking their time off because they have so much on their plate or think they’re setting a positive example of loyalty to the company. So ultimately everyone takes less time off then they would with a structured vacation pay program and the result is employee burn out!

That said, Google does offer unlimited sick time. Because the last thing Google wants is a sick employee coming to the office and spreading it around. Because they take their employee’s health so seriously, if you’re sick, you get to stay home and get better!

And finally, and this was probably the most mind blowing part of their culture, is their focus on healthy eating. Google has a massive cafeteria (where we ate lunch) that offers primarily healthy food choices in a couple of “hot” food areas, salad bar, fresh juice bar, tea robot, barista, deli and plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. And guess what? Breakfast and lunch are free to all Google employees and guests!! This helps to make sure their teams are taking a break for lunch and fueling their bodies for the day ahead. And it didn’t stop there. Every floor has it’s own kitchenette stocked with healthy cereals, yogurts, juices, water and fruit. All offered at no charge. The refrigerators were all clear, except the lower portion, which had frosted glass. Behind that frosted glass are the “unhealthy” choices like cola, etc. I thought it was brilliant how they discouraged their consumption!

I also noticed that you rarely see any paper or plastic products. Each kitchen and the cafeteria uses real dishes that get picked up, washed and put away at the end of the day. Love it!

If you have an office where your team works, these strategies can really make a positive impact on your bottom line. Healthier employees means less lost time, happier clients, lower insurance premiums and more. Maybe the traditional “candy dish” isn’t the way to go anymore?

At the end of the day, we were thrilled with our visit and all the knowledge we came back with. I didn’t go there expecting that a small business could implement the types of strategies that makes Google such a cool place to work, but I was wrong! We can all put more focus on hiring the right people and creating a culture that make them want to come to work. We can all learn to use the right tools to collaborate with our team and our clients. We can all learn to leverage the power of Google My Business. And we can all find ways to encourage healthier employees and a healthier work environment.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask in the comments below and we will get back to you!  We’d love to connect with you on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn so we can follow along and see what you’re doing too!

And finally, if you are a small business owner struggling to stay on top of the latest changes, strategies, tips and tools in online marketing and social media, we’d like to personally invite you to join our private Facebook Group, Bobbi B’s Social Media Clambake, where we share all that information for free!

Bobbi Baehne

Bobbi Baehne

President, Think Big Go Local, Inc.

My mission at Think Big Go Local is to create a “buzz” around our client’s businesses online and in social media platforms so their message reaches their desired audience.  We know that relationships are built and maintained online each and every day and work to make sure our clients are building credibility, authority and attracting new followers and clients .  We don’t work in a cookie cutter environment, each of our clients is unique and their accounts are fully managed using their voice, talking to their specific audience and sharing value that keeps them coming back.

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