Building a great company isn’t about following some book or blueprint, there is no such thing. If it was that easy then everyone would have a great company as they would just follow this simple blueprint.
Over the years of running multiple companies, I have been asked countless times how we are so successful as if there is some simple silver bullet. I’ve always said, “I can tell you exactly what we are doing and you still couldn’t replicate it.” The reason being, knowing “what” to do is a lot harder than actually doing it.
For example, you can’t copy our culture and values. I can tell you to put customers first and to do that you put employees first. Respected employees provide the greatest service. That’s easy to say but that is tough to truly understand and also to execute. Most companies aren’t going to be willing to devote so much time and resources to training, nor set aside dedicated time for engineering teams to learn. Understanding that you have to put people first is way different than understanding how to achieve it, and it isn’t a one size fits all.
Hiring is probably the most important factor in having a successful company. That means you are hiring for skills but also for cultural fit. The best skilled person will not be successful if they don’t fit in and drive for the same values. And once you have someone hired, you need to treat them like a free agent. This means that you accept and know that they can leave at any time and they aren’t obligated to work for you. Knowing they are free agents means that you are constantly at risk of losing them should you treat them wrong or not provide them the career growth they need.
The real trick is that you need a level of entrepreneurship in your business. Everyone must be able to build their team and their processes as if it was their own business. Top down never works in business. The more freedom an employee has, the more valued they feel. The goal of management is to set targets and not how to get there. Obviously not everyone on the team can be the entrepreneur, but each department should feel the ability to build their processes their way, and the leader of that department should work in a bottom up approach to get the feedback of their employees.
All of this is only achieved when you apply just the right amount of tension. People should be slightly uncomfortable so that they want to be better. But too much tension starts to cause unraveling so you must maintain a balance. You must remember, there is no finish line and goals need to be achievable or else they are detrimental.
There is so much more to building out great companies but these are really the highlights of how we have made Searchspring a great place to work along with a product loved by our customers.