Culture

Culture is something that you don’t need to formally document as a smaller company. But as soon as your business starts to grow it’s really important to write a short single page on your culture if you want to keep it.

I’m a big believer that you should try to avoid management-speak and make it from the heart rather than from the HR department. It’s also got to be very specific to your company.

Here’s what I wrote for Machine Labs.

A. Always learning
Everyone should always be learning and we’re really keen to support this. We love attending conferences, supply unlimited technical books, embrace critical peer review, will support external training when it makes sense and love sharing knowledge and arranging mentors.

From the CEO to our graduate trainees everyone should constantly be learning new things.

B. Be pragmatic
There’s huge pressure to ship code or get our projects done as quickly as possible. There’s also the problem of technical debt or not doing our best thru rushing. We trust our team to be pragmatic and make sensible decisions balancing all the messy trade-offs that business involves.

C. Customers first
To make it easy to remember this culture list is in alphabetical order. If it was in order of priority this would be first.

How would you want to be treated if you were a customer? Sometimes putting the customer first costs us some money up front but in the long term it’s always the right thing to do.

D. Data driven
“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine,” said Jim Barksdale.

We need to treat the business as a science experiment, nobody knows what will work but we know how to test and then let’s go with what the numbers say. It’s not about intuition, it’s about process.

E. Embrace failures
An innovative, experimental business will by definition have failures. A better way of thinking about failure is that it is simply a negative result.

If we’re not having failures we’re not innovating. Nobody at Machine Labs will ever be fired for a failure but we do want failures acknowledged quickly so we can move on.

F. Fulfilment and fun
“There’s no fun like work,” said Sir Tommy Dewar. You are probably going to be spend about 90,000 hours (a third) of your life at work. Imagine yourself at 80 looking back on your life. You’ll want to think that you did the best you could for yourself, your customers, your team and your community.

G. Go for it!
There’s always a good reason not to do something. Most mistakes don’t really matter as long as they are reversed quickly. But not trying is the worst failure of all.

Machine Labs should be a unicorn ($1 billion business) and we want to share that success. Everyone who works for us should be the best they can be.

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