I spend a lot of thinking about our culture and how to maintain it as the company grows. It has to be written out and shared with stories and core values.
Despite what a lot of companies seem to think, culture isn’t beer taps at the office or everyone wearing company branded swag. It’s giving your team a framework for decision making. Should we hire this person who’s really talented but kind of seems like a jerk? Should we ship work we aren’t happy with because the client has a tight deadline? Should we let people work remotely?
When you build a framework of values for your company, most questions that come up are answerable without your involvement.
Here’s a list of values that we share with everyone who joins our team:
A job that doesn’t feel like a job: We want to give our team the freedom and autonomy to work when and how they please. We hire smart people, give them great work, and treat them like adults — even if they want to start work at 4PM, work from a cafe, or from a beach in beautiful Nha Trang, Dannang or Phu Quoc.
A focus on craftsmanship: We take a breath before we ship and ask “Is this the best we can do? Are we proud of this?” If the answer is no, we go back to the drawing board. We don’t ship work we aren’t proud of, even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation.
No jargon or buzzwords: We think jargon destroys companies. It’s designed to make one person feel superior, while the other feels less than and nods along. We use simple terms that everyone understands, and we do the same with our clients. Our work speaks for itself, there’s no need to dress it up.
No assholes allowed: This one is pretty self-explanatory. No political climbers, bullies, yellers, or machiavellian BS. We operate in a climate of mutual respect, and when one bad egg crosses the line, they need to go before they sour the whole bunch, regardless of how talented they are. This goes not only for our team, but for our clients too.
People over profits: We’d rather break even than run a company that isn’t enjoyable to work at. Profits are important — they keep the lights on and give us long term security — but we will not compromise the quality of our work or make ourselves miserable in pursuit of financial gain.
Be honest, not perfect: We all make mistakes and have flaws, and we should be comfortable owning our mistakes and knowing it’s ok to mess up once in awhile. This isn’t about being kumbaya, but accepting the gap between where you are and where you want to be. We think the gap makes us do better work, especially when we’re honest about it.
Most important questions can easily be answered by going back to these core values. Sure, stuff comes up from time to time that needs my direction, but for the most part I leave it to my team.