In the software industry we live and die by the happiness of our work force. Given the fierce competition for talented folks in our industry (or any industry for that matter) building an environment that retains and fosters the happiness of your employees is a high priority.
Of course you also have to do the basics: pay well, provide for professional challenges and opportunities for career growth. But you also have to provide a unique company culture--the employee benefit that keeps on giving.
At webappmate, this happens in a number of areas, but the best example is our development process. Higher management take an active role in the high level development direction but beyond that the actual software developers have wide discretion on how projects are actually developed, including functionality, user interface, etc. We actually have no project managers in our organization, relying instead on having developers who can also make business decisions. When employees drive the project direction and culture, they feel more vested in it and loyal to the project they help create.
At webappmate we avoid meetings as much as possible. Instead of formal sit down meetings we encourage more ad hoc discussions. Our office space is wide open with very few offices, no cubicles and few walls. Desks are laid out on open floor plans encouraging two or three developers to roll their chairs together to discuss a specific feature they are working on.
The best "meetings" we have usually happen on the spur of the moment and only involve those that directly work on a project. These type of ad hoc gatherings promote quicker decisions and allow for more time to get actual work done.
Given the sheer number of hours we all put in at work, the actual physical work space is a critical element of everyone's happiness. The location and the feel of our office space are too important to our culture.
As a company we host many monthly activities purely to allow our employees to have fun.
While we work hard, it is important to have places and times to let off some steam and just have some fun. Not unlike those term papers you wrote in college or high school, nobody writes the entire paper in one sitting. We all need to take a break. It improves your focus and makes the entire development process more productive.
You've found the right space and built the right culture. Maintaining it means keeping your standards high when bringing new talent into the fold. We interview about 15 people for each person we hire, and much of that final decision will be based on cultural fit. Is this someone we would enjoy working with?
We all agree that one bad apple in the environment will rot everything. The hiring process therefore involves a lot of staff input. Anyone involved in the interview process can pull the plug on a candidate if they feel something's off.
Empowering employees with important decisions only works if you have bright, self-motivated folks on your staff.