Data is Feedback

The value of data will vary depending on stage of the business. Regardless of ones season of business, the numbers matter. They will likely be different, but tracking key information is no less important. Most often, it’s a few numbers that impact an organization’s performance.
 
For young businesses, it’s hard to know what matters since change is constant. There is a bent to focus on things that are easy tracked, such as Google Analytics, revenue, or expenses. However, there is more pointed information that can have a greater impact on the business.
 
At a high level, the data of the business fits into four buckets:
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Financial
  • Product/Service Data

Sales

Sales is the front door of the business and focuses on prospects and new business. A few numbers can determine the health of ones sales pipeline. Also, the right numbers can provide insight into the future business success.
 
Common metrics include:
  • conversion rate
  • close rate
  • new customers

Tools

PersistIQ. An outreach automation tool, PersistIQ simplifies followup emails. It can be time consumng to stay in touch with unresponsive individuals. Persist helps followup at various intervals without pulling attention from more eager prospects.

Financials

These are the basics of any business, regardless of size. Common metrics include:
  • Revenue
  • Expenses
  • Profit
  • Gross Margins
An important note, expenses within some businesses are much more important than others. At Polar Notion, we spent some time in early 2018 looking at cutting expenses. As a lean service company, we realized our time wasn’t well spent. Without inventory sitting on a shelf or high overhead costs, we stood to gain pennies. Time spent increasing efficiency however, yielded significant returns.
 
In ‘Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!’, author Greg Crabtree discusses key financial numbers. His has identified ‘Return on Invested Capital’ as any businesses greatest success metric.

Tools

Xero. We’ve used this for years as cloud accounting software. It provides simple reporting and access to our information wherever we need it.

Operations

Operational data and metrics speak to the work of the business. This isn’t the data that’s part of the core service, rather it’s information about performance around the product or service.
  • customer satisfaction
  • customers services
  • churn
  • customer retention
Net Promoter Score is a example of Operational Data. ‘How likely are you to recommend to a friend’. It illuminates how well the business is delivering on what the customer is buying. A simple 5 star rating can also go a long way in understanding what matters most to consumers. At New Story, an international housing nonprofit, we track funds received. Atop this common financial metric, we also track how fast we can deploy those funds received. At Sharpp, a SAAS product for franchise management, we look at daily active users.

Tools

Promoter. A tool for tracking your Net Promoter Score, Promoter makes analysis straight forward. The net promoter score is a little more complicated than most realize. This tool handles the collection and calculations, which saves time and energy.
 
Google Reviews. Their simple 5-star systems keeps the barrier for feedback quite low. Assuming the reviews are positive, it can also bolster a brands online presence. If people are searching for your business, chances are they’re using google. Why not show market validation when they find you.

Product/Service Data

Data that pertains to the product or service has become popularized in recent years. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science depend on this type of data.
  • Bounce Rate
  • Pages per Visit
  • Session Duration
  • Popular Search Terms
  • Most engagement content
  • Usage times
Google relies on information like number of times ‘fluffy cat video’ is searched. This drives the quality and price of their advertising service.
 
Lyft and their ability to match drivers and riders comes from service records. The more they know, the better they anticipate and provide value to customers.
 
Facebook is best example (though likely the worst if tracking benefit to humanity). Their ability to collect and take action on user data has led them to a half-trillion dollar company. Customer satisfaction is plummeting, but their knowledge of our behaviors is unaffected.

Tools

Google analytics, Full Story, and Customer.io are great tools for tracking user activity. Armed with this knowledge, you can make more informed decisions.

In closing

In the end, everyones key metrics will be different. What matters most is consistency and simplicity. Three numbers tracked daily will prevail over dozens of numbers rarely engaged. Start by identifying 1-2 numbers before group. Online how often you’ll track them and where you get that information. When possible, include others in the process. Consider making those numbers more visible within the organization.
 
That which gets measured, gets improved.

Making Big Decisions

The discipline of big decision making

As we’re presented with important decisions, it’s easy to procrastinate or become immobilized. Over time, the stakes get higher and our decisions affect more people. To withstand the pressure of major decisions and keep moving forward, I’ve outlined habits I revert back to when big decisions arise.

Rest

Before leaving corporate life to raise our kids, my wife was wrestling with a decision for months. At the time, she was not sleeping well. The workload was causing her to neglect her health too. Recognizing the need for a change though feeling too overwhelmed to decide, we scheduled a day or so away at the spa. No work, agenda, or responsibilities she was free to rest up, relax, and recover. Before returning home less than 48 hours later, she knew what she had to do.

Don’t make big decisions when you’re off your game. Being clear headed and calm is invaluable. Sleep, food, and exercise all play a part in our mental capacity. Their presence or absence continually impact our lives.

Reflection

Think back on past experience. While our victories can be enlightening, our failures are often more useful instructors. Those unwilling to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. For me, writing is part of my reflection process. I’m constantly evaluating past situations based on my current understanding.

Over the years, I’ve found it enlightening to revisit the same experiences regularly. As we learn and grow, it’s likely our own history will reveal new insights. There are a few anchor moments that serve as a baseline time and time again. Those this can be somewhat painful at times, our past experiences continue to shape us.

Weigh Tradeoffs

Imagine you’re juggling 6 balls. Some are rubber, some are steel, and others glass. Rubber will bounce back quickly if dropped. Steel won’t bounce, but it likely won’t be damaged. Glass, unfortunately, won’t take a hit. You can’t choose how fragile the balls are but if you’re deliberate, you can let the right ones fall.

At any time there are dozens are competing priorities. Time, cost, quality, and satisfaction are just the tip of the iceberg and they rarely work in unison. It’s important to spell out what’s most important and be willing to compromise on the rest. We’ll never be perfect, but we can choose where to double our efforts and what we should let slide.

It’s also helpful to assess the consequences. Some choices have limited consequences while others may be painful to recover from. Decisions with a large upside and limited downside are usually a great place to start.

As leaders, common tradeoffs include:

• Timelines

• Budget

• Morale

• Quality

• Speed

• Value

Due to so many tradeoffs, there is rarely a ‘right choice’. Optimize for the most important factors and let the rubber bounce.

Gain Perspective

In 2017, our team at Polar Notion was pulled into a law suit. The experience shared by fellow business owners and entreprenuers proved priceless. Not only did their perspective help reframe my expectations, we went into the situation more informed and level headed.

Ask others who have made similar decisions and whose insight you trust. Leveraging their expertise and insight, filter your situation through their perspective. Beyond settling for ‘what would you do’, inquire about a time when they were in a similar position. ‘What did you do’ will lead away from speculation and toward real world experience. You path will be different but the exercise can reveal new insight.

Commit

In 2014, separate from our existing business, we tried to launch a software company. The market seemed solid and the technology worked well… the issue was our commitment to the idea. Allowing ourselves to be distracted by other projects, the failure can be attributed to our level of commitment.

The final and most important step is taking dedicated action. More often than not, failure can be traced back to weak commitment, not the quality of our decision. When you take action, commit fully. A mediocre decision, fully execute beats a great decision with half-hearted effort.

If you have take the time to rest, reflect, weigh tradeoffs, and gain perspective you should trust your conclusion enough to move forward confidently.

Weekly Rituals

Over the years, I’ve developed a series of daily, weekly, and monthly rituals designed to keep me focused and moving forward. Rather than allowing each day to dictate my priorities, these rituals provide a cadence of thoughtful progress.

In recent conversations with entreprenuers and business leaders, some of my weekly rituals have been of particular interest.

Pre-week

Before the momentum of a week, the following actions help things stay within my control.

Cancel

Priorities are constantly evolving. Coincidentally, some meetings are scheduled weeks and months in advance. Before blindly attending, evaluate it’s relevance and have the courage to cancel if it’s no longer necessary. Not only does this free up precious time, but it also respects the time of other attendees as well.

A business meetings without written agendas should be prime candidates.

“Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it, and spend it rather than invest it.”  – Jim Rohn

Reschedule

If you have a full schedule, doing a bit of restructuring can free up whitespace. For example, meetings across the city can be grouped to reduce travel time. Our office is on the west side of town, so I want to make the most of an eastbound trip.

It also helps to look another week out. Meetings late one week can often be pushed into the next, especially when it adds focus and attentiveness.

Plan

Nothing will waste more time than arriving at an appointment without your details in order. Even if just a few bullet points can help keep the conversation on track.

As I’ve become more intentional about adding value to others, I’ll look over their social profiles and see what they’ve been up to. This can frame a social interaction and illuminate where I can be more helpful.

“If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

Post-week

If we are not careful, one week will easily bleed into the next. A post-week ritual can reduce the mental load heading into the weekend. Knowing you’ve closed a week well can be the catalyst for great rest and relaxation.

Gratitude

Before following up with people I met with throughout the week, I take time to reflect on who introduced me to the other people involved. Whether personal or professional, I’ll reach out to the person who made the introduction, express gratitude and when appropriate, share about the meeting I had as a result of their generosity.

This includes recent and age-old relationships. Even after catching up with an old friend, I’ll send a quick note to the person who introduced us long ago. In a recent interaction, the friendship was over 10 years old.

“How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.” -Truett Cathy

Followup

Once I’ve expressed gratitude, I’ll followup with the actual attendees from each meeting. Whether we exchanged a quick call or a monolithic meeting, I touch base. Obviously touching on any commitments made in the meeting and passing along any addition words.

When appropriate, I suggest next steps with clearly defined options so they don’t have too struggle through a similar response. Yes, by end of week some people have waited a 3-4 days for a followup. I’ve actually found this delay helpful to actually process our conversation. Also, it sets healthy and sustainable expectations for the future.

Generosity

After the followup, I’ll push myself to make introductions on the attendees behalf. Rather than asking for something, I end the ritual with a deliberate attempt to add value.

If the meeting was with a code school student, I’ll intro them to fellow graduates in the community or potential employers.

If it’s a potential client, I’ll connect them to other professionals within their industry or people who they would like appreciate getting to know.

This habit creates a great sense of accountability during our time together. As they talk, I’m actively listen for ways to amplify their interests.

“If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” – Zig Ziglar


If you haven’t noticed, each of these habits pertain to time. At the beginning of the week I set out to protect it. After the week is over, I want to make sure it was as valuable as possible. Time is our most valuable asset. Our behaviors should reflect that.

Better Before Bigger

Pretend for a moment you are the proud owner of a coffee company. The lifeblood of most organizations today, your selling productivity and joy one pound at a time.

Your company sells bags of coffee for $10.

It costs you $9.00 to produce, leaving $1.00 in profit.

To summarize, that’s $1 of profit for every bag you sell. If you wanted to make $2, sell two bags. For $3, three bags. Obvious, right?

Simple Answers vs Simple Solutions

For most managers and business owners, the answer feels simple. To increase cash flow, increase sales. To generate more money, sell more of a product or service. This is a widely accepted practice and it can work.

Imagine however, you took a different approach. Instead of seeing sales as the first step to growth, what if you opted for efficiency. Increase the value of the revenue you already have. Rather of trying to sell twice as much, what would happen if you simply got 10% better?

A 11% improvement on $9.00 in expenses would result in 99 cents increase in profit per bag.

Increase efficiency by 11% or increase sales by 100%, the result is the same.

Real Growth

Continuing the exercise, imagine start selling your product to a local grocery store chain. Then, you sign a deal with a series of farmers markets. Now, you’re selling 10,000 bags per month. You’re business has annual sales of over one million dollars. Impressive.

As you look to the future, you’re faced with a gripping reality: Unless something changes, increasing available cash flow means continuing to apply more effort. Selling more coffee means more inventory on hand, more staff, more warehouse space, more customers, and more distribution channels.

Better Before Bigger

Before trying to get bigger, what if you focused the same effort on getting better. Better before bigger. Without doubling sales, you focus attention on streamlining efficiency, cutting costs, and delivering the same product with less effort. Increasing value while decreasing costs. It doesn’t have to be massive effort with systemic change, but incremental improvements.

For this coffee business, setting your team’s attention on just 1% improvement each month would yield double the profit in just 8 months. Within less than a year, you would experience increase cashflow and increased capacity without any additional revenue.

What’s right for you

Every business is different. There are those who sell products, others sell services, and others still who sell software. The numbers may be different but the correlation between sales and efficiency remains the same. You can always push to get bigger, or you can start with getting better.

If you commit to the process, the latter often yields greater results with much less effort.

Spilling Secrets

Over the years I’ve found myself defaulting to complete transparency. It’s helped me develop a feeling of authenticity and a deeper sense of generosity. If I have a perspective, experience, or behavior someone else might benefit, it feels selfish to stay quiet.

This openness and vulnerability intensified around the 5 year mark in our business. Following a near catastrophic financial issue for the business, I found myself scrambling. It was a desperate attempt at survival that led me to reach out to mentors, friends, and even strangers. The support and encouragement was humbling and invaluable. In turn, I’ve sought to do likewise. Rather than limiting it to those bold enough to ask, I began writing more and sharing it with those who might not feel comfortable reaching out.

Throughout this season, I also felt a prompt to express gratitude to those who had helped us along the way. Our business has been built on the support and generosity of friends, families, and clients. At first, it was about giving me something positive to focus my attention but evolved into being more about the recipient and cheering them on in their journey. Either way, it aided me through the troubling time.

What about competition?

Naturally, this sparks conversations about trade secrets and giving away our competitive advantage. I’ve heard dozens of solid arguments that keep me questioning the merits of my approach. To date, I am undecided. Until I receive compelling evidence to the contrary, I’ll continue default to unbridled transparency. We have become more articulate with our clients, move to transparent salaries internally for team members, and even began passing along helpful strategies to competition.

Aren’t you worried about companies copying you?
What if you share too much?
Could someone beat you at your own game?

Bring it on. Personally, I love the accountability that surrounds transparency. It forces us to have our own house in order and continually improve. As we invite peers and competitors to compete at our level, high tide raises all ships. Plus, if you’re the overly competitive type, it’s actually advantageous to put yourself in a position where competitors are following you. Copying you means they are focused on you, while you’re free to focus on serving your customers or clients. You have them right where you want them.

It’s also worth noting that what works for me and my businesses will not work for everyone. For instance, transparency without accompanying integrity will end poorly. Also, following our process without the deep conviction in it’s value will result in unsavory outcomes. Doing the same thing, with different intentions, will not produce the same results.

No Secret Sauces

Think about your favorite dining experience. It’s unlikely the restaurant only has good food. They need more than great atmosphere. Attentive serving staff is not enough. My favorite restaurant has a great vibe, knowledgeable waitstaff, impeccable hospitality, delectable food, and delivers that experience every time. It’s the full experience. There is no special ingredient or a secret sauce, it’s about the full package.

In the same manner, I want to be a person where unrelenting generosity and unending gratitude are my differentiators. Not as a secret, but to be enjoyed by all.

Keeping it Practical

There is also a level of practicality to the process. Given the dozens of meetings I have each week, it’s exhausting to decide who I’m willing to share information with. Is there a conflict? Will they steal the idea? Can I trust them? No one knows. Rather than fixating on which version of the narrative to preserve, I’m freed up to share openly.

In parting, I’ll pass along a quote from Zig Ziglar what echos in my mind, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Living this way, I’m amazed by how fulfilling the work becomes when I stop making it about myself. Instead, choosing to focus more on adding value to others.

Continuous Design

A few months into the both pregnancies, one thing was certain: we’re having ramen for dinner. I could suggest other options but unless it involved noodles and a broth, any debate was futile. Through past experiences, I understand my wife’s tastes, preferences, and willingness to deviate from the norm.

Now, imagine you and I are meeting for dinner. It’ll be our first in person interaction and we have only sent a few emails back and forth. Generously, you allow me to pick the restaurant. Working off limited knowledge, I try to account for service, taste, environment, accessibility, and dietary restrictions. I’ll find something acceptable but it’s unlikely to perfectly match your expectations.

When comparing my wife’s ramen and the latter one-off dinner, there is no question whose expectations will be best met. Learning the nuance of expectation takes time. It involves developing understanding, credibility, and trust.

From Dinner to Design

A similar tension plays out every day when designing for clients.

I’ve heard it a hundred times in various ways, “We’ve had a bad experience with designers in the past. Our team was working on a project and the end result was not what we were hoping for.” In some cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if our clients felt the same. Time, energy, money, and emotional labor spent but the results still missing the mark.

We need to think differently about the process. Rather than an transaction, it’s best viewed as a relationship. Relationships begin with the understanding that things will improve over time. The first interaction isn’t the pinnacle, it’s the preface. The best days are ahead.

A Step Toward Continuous Design

To realign our thinking, we have been piloting design retainers. These retainers are small, monthly commitments. They allow empathy to increase and a deeper learning to develop. It creates continual investments in the brand and in the relationship that fuels truly great work. Better than relying on one-off projects, consistently exploring design concepts allows for designer and client to get more comfortable working together. It begins as a slow roll but the investments begin to compound over time.

As we’ve invited clients into this process, the results are delightful. There is less pressure on any one moment. Ideas have room to expand and evolve. Now as individual projects are introduced, the team is poised with deeper understanding as well as a backlog of inspiration.

Design is not an event. It is a process.

Let’s Grab Dinner

If the idea of continuous design feels appropriate for your brand or business, let’s chat. It won’t start perfectly, but it’ll get better along the way.

Clarifying Company Values at Polar Notion

As a company grows and evolves, values become indispensable in guiding decisions. I’ve found few things to be more impactful in facilitating a healthy culture. Values govern how we operate. They summarize what matters most.

Sometimes however, it’s helpful to dive a bit deeper into defining what they actually mean to us. While values like ‘passion’ and ‘innovation’ can be telling, they fall on deaf ears without context, explanation, and examples.


We pursue excellence, not perfection.

Rather than pushing for perfection, which is illusive, we pursue excellence. For us, excellence is exemplified in 4 ways.

We produce quality products.

Is the work we’re doing quality in the eyes of our clients and our peers? Not everyone has to ‘get it’, but our attention to detail and thoughtfulness should be evident. Standards change over time but we want to set the bar ever higher.

A great example is our Client Handbook. It’s quirky and playful, yet obviously deliberate.

We learn from our mistakes.

First, it’s important to note that we should be making mistakes. Mistakes should not be a result of sloppy execution rather attempting to achieve greater heights. If we accomplish everything we set our minds to, it’s likely we are not challenging ourselves enough.

Secondly, are we learning. We shouldn’t be making the same mistakes over and over. Reflection and improvement are key.

In late 2015, an app got rejected from app store approval due to misuse of GPS functionality on the device. Rather than merely fixing it and moving on, we explored the reason behind the problem and ensured that every product since complies appropriately.

We improve continually.

Are we getting better? Whether we are learning from our mistakes or anticipating challenges ahead, we value improvement. A refusal to change leads to arrogance and complacency, which is death of the creative and craftsmen. Our minds are constantly open to trying new things.

During 2017 and 2018, our processes have evolved to be almost indiscernible from previous years. By applying feedback from our team and clients, we’ve tightened feedback loops, improved transparency, and distilled the process into a clearly defined system. We’re able to deliver industry leading precision… and the work is not done.

We seek customer validation over untested theory.

Does the idea survive outside of the board room? We push ourselves and our clients to release something into the wild and be ready to iterate. Designing in a vacuum causes things to take longer than necessary and removes empathy from the process. Things move fast and we want to be people who lead the way.

We time box Strategy Sprints. By caping the amount of time we have to plan, it prevents us from over-engineering or dwelling too long on details that just need to be tested. There is only one way of knowing what the customer actually wants: show it to them.


We create remarkable experiences.

In service based work, merely delivering what’s expected will prompt a race to the bottom that we’re not interested in winning. Experiences are what separate the boutique from the commodity.

For our team, we focus on each level of the exchange; team members, clients, and their customers. Human-centered interactions share value at each step.

The most beautiful element of commerce is that two people can come together in an exchange and each party walk away feeling like they’ve won something. We strive to exemplify that within each transaction.

Remarkable experiences for our team members.

Does our team enjoy the work? The decision to list our team members is deliberate. A healthy work environment is the life blood of a creative agency and ensures everything else is in proper balance. Neglecting team members in pursuit of pleasing clients will lead to an atmosphere where neither truly win.

If you’re a client, we trust you’ll appreciate the passion and joy our team brings to our work together.

Remarkable experiences for our clients.

Do our clients enjoy the process and product? In an industry filled with jargon and miscommunication, we lead with clearly defined expectations. Continually reevaluating our level of communication, we take ownership of educating our clients and removing confusion.

We make this easily measurable. After each sprint, we ask for feedback and they’re given a chance to rank our performance. We shoot for 5 stars.

The work and attention to detail within our Client Handbook is just the first step in delivering a 5 star experience. We’re proud that our business continues to grow rapidly while driven by referrals. Each new project stems from a previously delighted client.

Their customers.

Do our clients’ customers stay engaged? We’re trusted to represent our clients’ brands well. When our clients win in the eyes of their customers, everyone comes out on top. We never want to loose site of who we ultimately serve.

Great design involves empathy for the end user.


We are effectively human.

Perhaps our most loaded value, being effectively human captures the marriage of technology and humanity. In the world of software, hardware, AI, and technology it’s easy to get lost in a sea of cold, lifeless machines. We want to capture the efficiency of cutting edge technology without loosing our humanity in the process.

We lead with a human centered perspective.

Who are we optimizing for? Keeping the main thing front of mind, people are the greatest prize and what we optimize for. Revolting against the industrialization of humanity, we see people as unique contributors in an ever evolving story.

We engineer thoughtful, simple solutions.

Deliberate and simple pursuits are a mindset we impress upon those we work with. We use words like engineer and strategy because they evoke an attitude of thoughtfulness. More than a title to be claimed, it’s a mindset that we expect at every level of our organization.

We engage in thoughtful debate.

We disagree often. Championing the notion of ‘strong beliefs held loosely’, few conversations are off limits. We reject the idea that we have to agree to interact respectfully. Diversity and unique perspectives drive us towards the best outcomes.

Respect and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.

We seek empathy before efficiency.

People over process. As we grow, efficiency and humanity continually square off. Rather than building a sterilized environment without blemish, we celebrate the tension and hold individually as a basic human right.

Our greatest work has come from being open to unpredictability.


We go boldly forward.

Our fourth and final value, Go Boldly Forward is our battle cry as much as a directive.

What do we do next? Go! Refusing to stay still, we are moving.

How will we go? Boldly. With courage and confidence, we take risks.

Where will we go boldly? Forward. We live in pursuit of the future, not the past.

We default to action.

Rather than waiting for permission, we prefer deliberate action over indecision. If you care or have an opinion, speak up and go get it.

We openly share our systems and processes because it’s action, not knowledge, that makes all the difference.

We make decisions.

Fighting against endless debate, we step out from the crowd and make a choice. Perhaps our most aspirational element, we challenge each other and ourselves to decide. Pick something!

A good decision now beats a great decision later.

We nurture a humble curiosity.

Try things. Explore. Venture out. Whether the services we provide or the clients we entertain, we love life outside the box. We don’t have the all answers, no one does. That’s not going to stop us from trying to find them.

We take risks.

Try things that might not work. Balancing a healthy dose of experimentation, we like new challenge rather than rinse and repeat. Humans are adaptable and few things exemplify that more than risk taking.


In Closing

While these values play out daily around the office, we hope they’re embodied to touch all areas of life. Excellence, delightful experiences, human centeredness, and courage allow us to confront the choices on all levels. Healthy values should build a better business and a better world.

When our values come alive throughout the organization, it’s obvious ‘how we do things here’ and it is something worth protecting.

We pursue excellence, not perfection.

We create remarkable experiences.

We are effectively human.

We go boldly forward.

We are Polar Notion.

Valuing What Matters

In 2017, we bag pushing harder to remove the barriers that prevent our team from doing great work. We are creating a transparent work environment from project management, to educating clients, and beyond. The goal is to do remarkable work and inspire others to live remarkable lives.

As part of this push, team member compensation races to the forefront. Compensation is an area riddled with confusion and chaos. To combat the tension, we introduced transparent salaries. With that, we’ve been working through clearly defined expectations for each level and per role. After much deliberation and great advise, we identified 8 key areas.

Each role without our business has requirements around Culture, Evangelism, Values, Experience, Leadership, Client Interactions, Industry Involvement, and Domain Knowledge.

Culture

Our team comes first. We spend most of our lives at work, so building a place we all enjoy is of primary importance. Contributing to the culture is everyones job.

In the book The One Thing, author Gary Keller introduces the value in finding ‘the one thing, such by doing everything else is either easier or not necessary’. For our business, culture is that thing. When the team enjoys the work and those they do it with, everything else improves.

Evangelism

Without going as far as saying sales is everyone’s job, our brand in the marketplace should be on everyone’s mind. It’s through consistent interactions that ideas spread.

Our leadership team is continually striving to facility an environment worth of sharing with others.

Values

Company values belong deep within the heart and mind of the organization. Rather than allowing them to live and die on posters around the office, we should all be growing in and championing what makes us unique.

We pursue excellence, not perfection.

We create remarkable experiences.

We are effectively human.

We go boldly forward.

Experience

Real world experience is vital. As we cross train our team members to be well rounded, personal growth still takes time. Tenure is often overstated but it has a place among professionals. Rather than measuring time, it’s helpful to think in terms of experiences.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure the time spent is value-filled. For young engineers in particular, it’s normal to keep handing them low-hanging bugs and features. Unless they’re given the opportunity to practice higher level skills however, we shouldn’t be surprised when they burn out or look elsewhere.

Leadership

Our team should be setting the bar and guiding others forward. More than a title, everyone’s role has elements of leadership baked in. The responsibility of a craftsman is to pass down their expertise, not merely excel in their own pursuits.

The more our team learns, the great the expectation to lead. All four of our values embody this with our use of the word ‘we’ throughout. We pursue excellence, not perfection. We create remarkable experiences. We are effectively human. We go boldly forward. We don’t work alone and we bring others along with us.

Client Facing Skills

In a service-based business, producing remarkable experience for clients is everyones responsibility. Whether demoing to a client demos, fulfilling work, or helping someone think through strategic direction, everyone should have a growing level of care and confidence in client interactions.

This aligns with a company value: we are effectively human. We should be able to translate our work and communicate it effectively to clients who have commissioned it.

Industry Involvement

We should not be operating in isolation. Shaping the community is a group effort. Whether through conferences, meetups, or mentoring it’s likely our early days are as participants but overtime we should step into greater responsibilities.

Creating remarkable experiences shouldn’t end when the work day is over. When we take ownership of the world around us, it’s an attitude that comes home with us and should influence our industry.

Knowledge

In a fast-changing industry, leveling up our knowledge and understanding is mandatory. As technology rises and falls, our ability to adapt is what sets us apart.

When we share about going boldly forward, expanding our knowledge is implied within our forward momentum. We are not settling for what we have always done or who we were back then. We look to what’s next.


With clarity into what matters most at each level of the organization, it creates clarity that team members can understand and explore for themselves. Rather than limiting their growth or perpetuating inequality in the workplace, there is a shared accountability. Team members are responsible for their growth and the company is responsible for compensating them fairly for it.

Send Shorter Emails

A professor in college would tag every email as important. Upon opening the first few, I quickly realized it wasn’t as important as she thought. Each email was painfully long, poorly organized, and uneventful. After the 2–3 weeks, I didn’t read any more of them.

When you write less, the content is actually consumed. Communication is two sided: information sent and information received. If you expect it to be read and thoughtfully digested, keep it short. Long emails often contain too much, which makes grasping the point even more challenging.

While it may seem like most emails include a lot of valuable information, that’s simply not the case. Short emails have higher readability, are more deliberate, and respect the time of others.

If you don’t have the time or energy to write a short, clear email… summarize at the end. That’s right, include a 2–5 bullet list at the end of email touching on what you mentioned above. If you can’t summarize in 2–5 bullets, you’re email is saying too much.

Writing a good, short email is a skill.

For reference, checkout the…

The Five Sentence Policy

The Four Sentence Policy

The Three Sentence Policy

The Three Sentence Policy

Bringing Humanity Back to Email

A more productive and engaged version of you.

While exchanging emails with Adam Walker, a fellow Atlanta entrepreneur and friend, I noticed a message on the footer of his emails.

Adam’s message circa 2017:

Having batched email communication for years, this seemed like a thoughtful solution to the fervent-mailers who expect a reply within hours or minutes. If nothing else, it properly sets expectations and outlines personal rules of engagement.

Continue reading “Bringing Humanity Back to Email”