SAN FRANCISCO — Visitors to real estate company Trulia’s headquarters, in a brick building on Utah Street, are greeted by a lot of green.
There are plants everywhere, on almost each and every desk and windowsill. Lime-green couches and chairs — which borrow from the palette of the company’s logo — brighten up the welcome desk.
In the corner suite, windows cover two sides of the space and the company’s signature color plasters a back wall. The environment, despite the loud colors, is inviting and unexpectedly calming. A dog trots around, and later settles on the floor in a conference room where a meeting is being held.
An intern dons the Trulia "Markerman" costume — the company’s mascot is styled after a map pointer icon displayed at the Trulia.com site. A well-known character at real estate events, the lime-green Markerman character is portrayed on this day by Trulia intern and University of California, Los Angeles, sophomore and computer science major Alan Terranova. He volunteered for the role in addition to his regular intern duties. In his more serious role, he assists a program team in the creation of an application for the Facebook social networking site.
Terranova had just returned from a jaunt on the streets of San Francisco with another intern, he explains as he awkwardly attempted to type on a laptop computer while wearing large white gloves.
There are three black beanbags against a wall in a large open space that serve as seating during weekly "all hands" meetings. At 11 a.m. on Mondays, the staff gathers in this room to share information and updates. Each department reveals the latest on what’s going on for the upcoming week. Employees at the company’s East Coast office in Manhattan join in the conference via video.
"It’s a way for us to start the week on the same page," says Daniel Morris, the company’s staffing director.
The job can be very fast-paced. "We move really fast, and we’re not working on the same thing for a long period of time," said Erica Frandsen, software engineer. "One thing I think is different — all levels of people have input here."
Frandsen, a real estate licensee, said she got interested in real estate after she bought a house in Oakland.
In the three years since launching, the company has grown from 10 people to about 70, with 10 in the Manhattan office. And the company has considered whether to lease out another floor in the same building.
Names of countries and cities line the tops of conference rooms on the left and more along the back green wall. The rooms are named after different countries, with a total of seven conference rooms representing 20 countries. The information technology/operations group is situated near the company’s server room. Above them, a motto is posted on the wall: "We’re focused on building a community where buyers, brokers, sellers and locals can make their voice heard."
"Product is one thing, but community and culture are important too," says Morris.
An employee is on the phone in one of the two phone booths, and past a life-sized Michael Jordan cutout and a secluded couch another makes a call from the hammocks. This area offers privacy in an otherwise exposed environment. This space is also used for writing, editing and quick meetings.
The engineering department occupies rooms along the green wall, and in the far left corner is Trulia’s design group.
Another dog runs across the hardwood floor and an employee scoops the dog up into his arms. Beside his desk is a little bed for the pup.
"Customer service and sales is to the side of the rest of the bunch because they are, well, loud," says Morris.
Pete Flint, co-founder and CEO, occupies a desk next to the design department and in the opposite corner is Sami Inkinen, co-founder, COO and triathlon athlete. The room design allows people to communicate quickly. The plants help to buffer some of the noise in the open space — a sort of competition has emerged in the office to see which project team can keep their plants thriving.
Prior to her 18 months working as a Web developer for Trulia, Laurence Girard worked for Wells Fargo. She said she enjoys her flexible work schedule and the international group of co-workers.
Girard said she usually comes into the office at about 11 a.m. and the work day can vary from five hours to 12 hours.
Breakfast is provided by the company, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for all: "Everyone complains that they’ve gained weight when they start working here. Usually I choose healthy food but when I first started I realized my jeans don’t fit."
Flint and Inkinen have enlisted an acronym to describe their company philosophy: BOFFI.
The "B" is for "best design wins." From all-hands meetings to one-on-one conversations, the company encourages employees to speak up.
The "O" is for output: Company officials say it doesn’t matter who is the first one at their desk in the morning or who stays the latest at night.
"People work whenever they want," says Morris. "Engineering gets here from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. maybe. Most people are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. When there are product releases people put in extra hours. Even then, it’s very manageable."
"Here we are all adults," says Shuman. "Everyone knows what they have to do. We tend to treat each other like brothers and sisters."
The first "F" is for fun: On this day, employees participate in an ice cream social event. The company organizes picnic and rock-climbing events for its employees, too. And the staff is invited to wind down on Fridays with a "beer o’clock" event on the company’s roof or at local pub Il Pirata (Italian for "The Pirate").
The other "F" is for feedback and the "I" is for integrity. "If you’ve got a good idea, voice it," says Morris.
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