The importance of values
Back when I was a seed investor I encouraged the entrepreneurs I backed to just focus on the bare essentials. My favourite line was was telling people that we don’t even have a company yet. We have a project that will become a product and if the market likes it, then we will build a company around it.
Far too often you see seed stage folks running around with fancy titles, plotting complex long term strategies and doing a bunch of other things that are totally irrelevant at that early stage.
However, as soon as you start thinking about building a lasting company you need to bring in a lot of new elements to that company-building process. One of the most important is the values that you stand for as an organization.
Think of the role that values play for us as individuals They help us sort through all the input and stimulus we get every day. They help us make consistent decisions. They help us sleep at night. If they are that important for an individual, think about how important they are for a group of people who are acting together to achieve common goals.
In the absence of clearly articulated values one of two things happens: either every decision has to be dictated from on high; or you have chaos – everyone running around making decisions that lack a common framework for making them. Neither situation is good.
Values are closely related to culture. They’re not the same. But like culture, they start to form early. So, as soon as you know you have something with potential (basically – as soon as you enter the company-building phase), you need to invest the time to articulate, communicate and live your values.
We are about 125 people at FreshBooks now. We spend a lot of time on values. As a result they have a big impact on our company. The biggest impact is that they drive who we hire. We don’t just hire people who have the right skills. They need to also align with, and add to, our values. As a result, we invest a lot of time and effort in hiring.
That investment pays off in a bunch of ways. For one, we build teams that are better able to work together. As a result those teams want more people like them. So, referrals from existing team members are one of the primary ways that we grow our team.
If you’re interested, here are our values. You’ll see them throughout our offices. They impact our entire company in big and small ways every day.
PORCHFEST – Passion, Ownership, Results, Change, Honesty,Fun, Empathy, Strive, Trust,
P: We love what we do, and we are constantly learning about our craft. If we weren’t doing it here, we’d be doing it somewhere else. In a word, we call this PASSION.
O: We are creative. We get things done, and we own what we do. In a word, we call this OWNERSHIP.
R: We get it done – for our customers and for each other. We focus on results, not activities. We ask for help and work together to do what’s right. In a word, we call this RESULTS.
C: We believe that change brings growth, learning and progress – both for ourselves and for FreshBooks. We live for the opportunities change brings and wouldn’t want it any other way. In a word, we call this CHANGE.
H: We are straight forward, and we communicate directly with each other. In a word, we call this HONESTY.
F: We are playful and make time to have fun with each other. In a word, we call this FUN.
E: We listen, we care and we support each other. We are a team who solves problems together. In a word, we call this EMPATHY.
S: We are leaders and we don’t settle. Because good enough is not good enough, we find creative ways to go further.
This starts with the people we hire, and extends to how we execute our projects.In a word, we call this STRIVE.
T:We give trust, to earn trust. We trust each other to get the job done, and when in doubt, have faith that others have our best intentions in mind. In a word, we call this TRUST.