What do we mean when we talk about company culture? For us, company culture is a set of values, which we try to live by and act according to.
So what are our core beliefs? Or by putting it into business terms, what are the KPIs we are looking at. There are only two: Employee happiness and profitability. We can’t imagine a better goal than a long-lasting, sustainable business with happy employees.
Companies should generate value for all stakeholders. Not just for shareholders. So it’s crucial to enable employees to have a happy and comfortable life. Nobody should stress about work or its fruits. Work should be a beneficial and pleasant part of life.
There is not a whole lot to say about profitability. Somebody has to pay for the party. At the same time, there is no reason to compromise on happiness for ever-growing profits.
A company should always be easy to use for its employees. And therefore it’s crucial to keep improving the company. The company should be a company’s best product.
So how do we try to create a work environment that provides such comfort?
Expectations have to be in line with possibilities. Not having to achieve the impossible is one burden less and the only viable way of doing business.
That’s why we have short internal feedback loops. Trying to use opportunities that pop up along the way is one of the benefits of being a small company. We want to be able to change our minds regularly. So what we don’t have is a tedious long term plan.
Another policy of ours are “quality hours”. That’s what we call the time slots from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. and from 2:00 p.m. till 5 p.m. . This is when library rules apply in the office. The great thing is, everyone implicitly knows how to behave in a library. By enforcing those slots of almost no conversation and disturbance, we create lengthy continuous occasions for focused work. Gone is the need for constant refocusing and rehashing where you stopped. It provides a chance to follow one coherent train of thought. The seminal conviction rooting all of this is mutual respect for personal time and attention budgets.
Working from home isn’t worse than working in an office. When working remotely, defined “office hours” indicate when you are willing to engage in real-time communication. It’s not up to us to organize work scenarios outside the office. All that matters is work done well.
During your free hours, days, and vacations work affairs should be completely off-topic. We will respect personal freedom. After all, things can wait.
Exciting ideas need to be sketched out to be compelling to others. Days of reaction time are necessary to harvest considered feedback. So presenting out-of-person in written form makes a ton of sense. Nothing important should ever be discussed in chat. Or a casual conversation.
Discuss. Decide. Explain. Go.
For us, it’s essential to listen to all arguments in a dialogue. But often, there isn’t a “correct” decision, just a “best” solution. It’s our conviction that following one reasonable path is the best modus operandi in most cases. We consistently aim to be transparent. Understanding is the foundation of united efforts.
To be mindful and manage not only projects but also people, we set time budgets first. Those budgets consist of blocks of “quality hours” and are definite. Adding workload is not an option. Time dictates the solution. Projects can only get smaller. Looking at actual expectations reveals what is good enough. Most improvements are small incremental steps. So we try to do one small step after another. We are sticking with our project until it’s finished to honor our considerations made in the planning phase. Additionally, completing work gives contentment. Then we launch and learn.
Hiring is about potential, not degrees or CVs. We don’t care what university you attended or what job experience you already gathered. All those things translate very poorly into individual work scenarios. So what is important to us? We prefer applications that engage specifically with our company. Also, we like sample-code and GitHub or GitLab references to get an idea of an applicant’s qualifications. We don’t believe riddles are good proxies for real work, so we want to see potential employees working with us. That’s why we do small paid test projects.
We set those values by considering our experiences but followed the lead of “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” by @dhh and @jasonfried.