As seen on StarNewsOnline.com by StarNews staff:

WILMINGTON — Marty Fukuda is very serious when he says that he wants every employee N2 Publishing hires to retire there.

“If we want them here for 30 years,” Fukuda, N2’s COO, said, “we need to make sure that it’s a fun environment, it’s an environment where they like to come to work, it’s more than just a paycheck and they enjoy working with their coworkers.”

If accolades are anything to go by, Wilmington-based N2, which publishes community newsletters around the country, is moving toward that goal. In November, the company was named to Outside Magazine’s 100 best places to work — shortly after being named to Entrepreneur’s Top Company Cultures list and Fortune’s 100 Best Workplaces for Women.

Outside pointed to two weeks off employees receive toward the end of the year in its blurb about N2.

“Our team is focused on creating communities across the country,” Duane Hixon, N2’s CEO, said in a release celebrating the Outside recognition. “To make that happen, we make it a priority to treat our workplace as a community.”

Balancing work and play

Thursday morning evidence of what N2 has built could be seen throughout the company’s headquarters on New Centre Drive.

In a lounge area on the second floor, a few leftover cookies rest on a table and there’s talk of a pingpong tournament that is reaching its final stages. Down the hall, what was originally intended to be a conference room has a running ladder taped onto the floor because the space is now used for N2’s workout classes in addition to meetings.

Still, higher-ups are clear that there is a balance between the company’s work and its 180 employees’ play.

“Sometimes, I feel a company’s culture gets portrayed and the pingpong stuff gets played up too much, and that’s not the heart and soul of who we are,” Fukuda said. “Our team can have fun and blow off some steam in whichever way they want.”

Some of the other ways employees accomplish that are by playing laser tag, routine office hour Nerf gun battles, and by participating in area rec sports league. Employees, Fukuda added, are not required to participate in these activities, with the company instead allowing them to develop organically.

“If you try to force fun, it becomes awkward,” he said. “It feels like work because let’s face it, not everyone’s into pingpong, not everyone’s into baking cookies, not everyone’s into laser tag.”

‘Can work anywhere’

Asked whether he believes a culture such as N2’s could work in another kind of company — perhaps one without a group of creative minds like N2’s roughly 70 graphic designers, Fukuda points to the fact that N2 does have an IT team, press operators and other more traditional business roles.

“It’s certainly easier for a company of our size, under 200 people, than if you had a very staid company of 10,000 employees,” he said. “It might be a very difficult transition (for a larger company), but I do think it can work. It can work anywhere.”

Contact Adam Wagner at 910-343-2389 or at Adam.Wagner@StarNewsOnline.com.

Outside Magazine’s top places to work

Wilmington-based newsletter publisher N2 landed a spot on Outside Magazine’s “Top 100 Places to Work” list. Other businesses on that list included:

1. GroundFloor Media (Denver)

2. Drake Cooper (Boise)

3. Ergodyn (Saint Paul)

4. Spawn Ideas (Anchorage)

5. CauseLabs (Denver)

35. New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins)

39. Geocaching (Seattle)

67. N2 (Wilmington)