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Leadership & Strategy


We codified our culture to successfully expand to new locations

Steve Cownie, co-founder of Chance & Counters, wanted to codify the culture before expanding
Steve Cownie (centre) started by defining what it meant to be an employee of Chance & Counters

Name: Chance & Counters
Location: Bristol
Employees: 50
Founded in: 2016
Tip: Culture can take time to develop at new sites, so be patient.

The problem

When board game café Chance & Counters opened in 2016, creating the culture had been easy. The three founders were at the café almost every day for the first two years, so they could see what was going on and make the changes needed. But, when it came to opening a café in Cardiff in 2018, the team realised they needed to codify the culture before they could replicate it.

The solution

The founders started by defining what it meant to be an employee of Chance & Counters. “We follow three Ps: playful, passionate and personable,” said co-founder Steve Cownie. “We chucked it in an investor deck originally, but we started using it more and more to explain to new people what we were all about.”

‘Playful’ ties directly into their profession. It’s important that employees resist the urge to make board games feel intellectual. The team love what they do, but they don’t want anyone to take it too seriously. ‘Passionate’ makes sure staff are genuinely passionate about their subject, not just interested because it’s a fad. 

‘Personable’ is a critical part of the culture. They want to build a fun and welcoming atmosphere, so it’s important to hire people who can have conversations outside of board games. As Steve explains, this has been a challenge for the business. “We’d speak to someone who knew everything about board games, but probably couldn’t sit in a pub and talk about other things. It’s an important filtering point.”

Chance & Counters ran a pop-up for a number of weeks to meet potential staff and get a sense of cultural fit outside of a formal interview process. They hired three people through the pop-up, including their new general manager. 

The results

After successfully launching in Cardiff, Chance & Counters is planning on opening two more sites this year. The aim is to get to 10 sites in the next five years. Taking a step back and defining their secret sauce helped them translate the culture from their first site to other locations.

“Once you’ve kitted out a building, the thing that keeps people coming back is the staff. Our culture’s very much defined by people who can make board games feel relatable to anyone.”

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