Creating a Culture of Joy with Richard Sheridan

By Amanda Lewan on May 19th, 2014 / Comments

When Richard Sheridan was 13 years old he knew he wanted to be a programmer. It was 1971 and the very first year his high school offered a coding class.

Fast forward to today, and Richard  is going on his 13th year of success with Menlo Innovations, a software company in Ann Arbor. Along the way Richard has had ups and downs, but he always focused on doing what he loved: creating great work for the world.

Although he admits he was lucky to find a passion early on, it wasn’t always easy. After getting a couple degrees from the University of Michigan and working in the software industry, he quickly became disillusioned.

“I realized we had a lot of problems in our industry,” said Richard. “You didn’t get the chance to build great software. People were often unhappy with the results.”

He turned towards studying organizational culture and processes, searching for a way to break these unhappy patterns in the industry. Then, another downfall took hold with the internet bust and Richard found himself jobless for the first time. In 2001, he decided to start  Menlo Innovations, a company dedicated to creating great software that makes an impact on the world.

“Joy as an external focus”

“I fundamentally believe that people want to work on something that’s bigger than themselves,” said Richard. “When we’re working on a big idea that we have to work with others to accomplish this.”

A culture focused on joy is at the core of Menlo Innovations today. Sheridan says it’s not just internally focused joy, though that matters too, it’s more about focusing on the external effect their software can have on the world.

“There’s a deep intrisnic motivation to do really good work. For us, that kind of end of the day tired joy. Man I worked hard today, but boy did we do good work. That’s what really drives motivation for the team,” said Sheridan.

Menlo Innovations has become known worldwide for their culture, attracting daily visitors for tours of their workspace. Sheridan felt it was time to share this culture publishing the recent book Joy, Inc. He’ll also be at the next Fifty Founders event in Detroit Thursday May, 29th to talk about this topic.

His advice for those growing a company today? Richard points out that if you don’t think about culture, you’ll never really focus and develop it. Companies that do this instead have a “default” culture that can only get them so far. He urges entrepreneurs today to put culture first.

“Think about the company you want to build. Imagine it,” said Richard. “Think about the relationships you want to see between team members, customers, and the world. Be intentional about it.”

“For us, we chose joy. The joy of inventing great software is what drives us.”

Join Richard at Fifty Founders May 29th. 

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.