Ilma from MailerLite

Ilma4 min readBehind the ScenesAugust 19, 2015

Why companies should spend money on experiences, not things

Why companies should spend money on experiences, not things


Do you remember the article ‘The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things’? The main idea of the article was that spending money on experiences — travel, outdoor activities, concerts, classes, movies — brings us more joy than buying material things.

I think the same idea applies to building a team.

A few years ago I worked in the financial sector. I earned a good salary, bonuses for hitting or exceeding the goals, a brand new car and social security. But nobody ever asked me how I felt and what I wanted. When I informed them about quitting my job, my boss was surprised: ‘You are doing so well, why leave?’ I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. I felt no connection with the company.

Yes, money matters. Up to a point. Studies show that after our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t make us that much happier. However, the way we spend any extra income does influence our happiness.

Here is what we do at MailerLite:

#1. Invest in memories, not things

Many huge corporations brag about their nice offices and the toys they have. Sure, it’s fun. But I believe that shared experiences connect us to each other much more than any shared consumption does. We feel way more connected with someone who also travelled to India than with people who have the same iPhone.

This is why instead of free beer and pizzas every Thursday, we go to art exhibitions, learn new things or do outdoor activities.

Last month we did some team building. It was a walk together. A 25 km walk. In the sun. Up and down the hills. It wasn’t easy. But after the walk the free cold beer was really appreciated.

The funny thing is that if people have an experience which they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience turns positive. This is why even a hard walk becomes a great memory and a funny story. You forget about sunburn and aching feet, but remember how fun it was to walk together.

#2. Talk to people

How are you?
I’m good.
How are you?
Great.

That’s a typical conversation between team members. But do you really know how they feel?

We use 15Five to help feel the pulse of the company. Every Friday all team members answer three simple questions:

  • What’s going well? What are you proud of this week?
  • What challenges are you facing? Where are you stuck?
  • How are you feeling? What’s the morale you see around you?

We get so many insights about the atmosphere. Someone is sick. Someone feels stuck on a project. Someone is proud of a blog post. Small details that matter and help the management make better decisions.

#3. One dream – one team

The research by Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, shows that we get the biggest benefit when we purchase an experience far in advance. Savouring future consumption for days, weeks, years only makes the experience more valuable.

Like all companies, we have annual goals. For example, to have 100,000 customers. Great goal, but not that exciting.

This year we tried a different approach. At the beginning of the year we announced that next winter the whole MailerLite team is moving to Bali, Indonesia. People thought it was a joke. They laughed. But it wasn’t. We are actually moving to Bali. And this big thing bonds our team.

We are choosing the houses we will be living in. Sharing posts about Bali and Indonesia. Planning other things to visit in Asia. We are dreaming together. And this is what makes a team, right?

P. S.

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