Last month, we attended Twin Cities Startup Week, a weeklong festival celebrating Minnesota startups and innovation. The schedule was organized around five tracks, one of which was the culture track. I was both surprised and happy to see this. I’m a firm believer that paying attention to the type of culture you’re creating can set you up for success or failure. That’s why I encouraged our team at Cloud Court to debate, define, and write down our company values. We drafted and revised our core values through several iterations over a period of months. When you keep them in front of you as you make decisions, company values define your culture. Having these visible as we grow both our customers and our employees will help us attract people who share our values, people who believe what we believe. Our people. Our tribe.
We have six core values that define Cloud Court:
Customer first: Always put the needs of the customer first. We value all people: customers, employees, partners, advisors, champions, and anyone else in our sphere. To help our team prioritize should they ever find themselves in a situation where needs of two or more of those people are competing, our guidance is to put the customer first. Defining what this means in practice took us the longest because we feel it’s important. It’s not just a pithy sign behind the counter. Of course, we’d like to be prosperous and our employees to be happy, but never to a customer’s detriment.
Be bold: Our small team is made up of people who are not shy to point out the unpopular, yet important opinion. We question the status quo. Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t stop us from trying a new way of doing something if we see value in the new way. We want to attract other bold thinkers to join our team.
Value differences: All of us at Cloud Court are atypical in some way. We value that in each other and in others. Just because someone’s viewpoint is different from our own, doesn’t make it wrong or invalid. In fact, we deliberately seek out views beyond our own to see things in a broader, fuller perspective. We don’t tolerate bullying and we celebrate everyone’s unique quirks.
Simplify: I must admit, I brought this one forth, because I’ve seen far too many technology products become unwieldy by having too much of a good thing. This was inspired by Steve Jobs’ “simple stick,” a concept he used to encourage teams at Apple to distill an idea to its essence. Simplicity is not always the easiest. It forces you to go deeper and think about the essential element of what you’re building. The effect is a much better user experience for everyone.
Relentless candor: Shortly after I joined the team, we made a pact that we would be brutally honest with each other, to move forward in the best way possible. When something doesn’t sit right with one of us, we invoke this value and will literally say “in the spirit of relentless candor, I think…” We hear each other out and we move forward without delays or hard feelings.
Evolve deliberately: Living the startup life means we are breaking a new trail, not following a well-worn path. We are doing things that haven’t been done before. And we’re human, so we realize we won’t always get it right. We embrace the fact that we need to continually learn and change, so that we keep growing. We deliberately allow ourselves to evolve, knowing that sometimes it’s futile to fight the winds of change. Sometimes we just need to go where the river takes us.