Work smart, never stop learning, create remarkable things, help others and always stop to enjoy the moment.
1. Work Smart
Pace Oriented, not Deadline Driven
Everything we do is geared towards making our customers - and even their customers - more awesome at what they do.
Just like a good UI or API, we should aim to disappear in the background and only be there when people need to use us.
That's why we talk about benefits instead of features, why we showcase people's success via the Faces of Growth blog. When you're working on something, consider: how does this make our users more awesome?
Think: what else can we do to make our community more awesome? How can we help our customers help their clients/customers/users become more awesome?
But what if I’m asked to do stuff quickly?
At Intempt, we focus on being pace driven, not deadline driven.
It seems so natural to me, but I sometimes get reminded of how uncommon this is for software companies. We started stressing out, not enjoying our work as much and, ultimately, not doing our best work.
Since we're bootstrapped, profitable and independent, our only pressure comes from our customers, and from our own urge to do great stuff (we do look at what the competition is doing, but they're not really a real factor, at least for now). We value work/life balance immensely, and believe employee burnout is one of the worst things that can happen to a small business.
The metaphor I use is about driving a stick-shift car: sometimes we go in 4th gear, sometimes in 5th, but sometimes we have to go in 2nd or 1st, it's just the way it is.
In general, we should strive to hum along in 4th gear. If 5th gear happens, that's awesome. If the whole dev team is on holiday at the same time and we spend a week in 1st gear. Being in 5th gear all the time is dangerous, and being in 2nd or 3rd gear is generally draining and transitionary.
"Founders at Work" taught me that first-to-market is totally overrated. In fact, most successful companies were 2nd or 3rd to their market, learning from their precursor's mistakes. Intempt wasn't the first personalization system out there.
2. Never Stop Learning
The central idea is to try and really put yourself in the customer's shoes.
- This means really listening, reading their messages carefully, without rushing, trying to understand where they're coming from.
- It means being patient, empathetic, compassionate and non-judgmental. Remember: An Enemy Is One Whose Story We Have Not Heard [Irene Butter].
- Then, it means imagining the user as someone you like, someone you'd like to help succeed in their work.
- In support, this results in really trying to imagine the best course of action for the user, including offering full refunds, suggesting a competing product, offering to recreate some lost data for them...
- In marketing, this means being clear and honest about benefits as well as shortcomings, being respectful and never talking down to our users, and always trying to align our goals with theirs.
When in doubt, choose to trust people's good intentions. Don't waste your energy trying to decipher if someone might be trying to scam us, it's not worth our time.
Think: how can we make our customers more successful? Do our processes support this goal?
3. Help Others
As we say on our company page, we try to be good upstanding citizens of our online community.
We realize that we are only a small part of a community that involves our customers, our users, our partners, our competitors, their users, industry experts, bloggers, event organizers, and many others.
We strive to be considered leaders in our community, but we know we have to earn it.
Here's a quote about Servant Leadership:
The point of servant leadership is to serve others by thinking of their needs, recognizing their needs and supporting efforts to meet their needs. Doing that requires strength, clear vision, and an undeterred drive. It’s not about taking a backseat and deferring to the whims and wishes of others.
Highly effective leaders are more interested in creating more leaders not in gathering more followers. They see themselves as equals to others. They adopt an other-orientation so they are able to be more effective in reaching their own goals, too.
How this applies to competition: we never speak ill of our competitors: they are people, doing their best, just like us. And for some customers, they might be better off with the competition.
We compete on usability and customer service: if someone has better usability and customer service than we do, they deserve to win.
We are respectful of our customer's time: that's why we believe in quality over quantity, and we are extremely mindful of not spamming our customers.
Think: how else can we be of service to our community? We have time and money: how can we use them to provide something that the community needs?
We can afford to be generous.
We have the time, we have the money, helping people is what we should be doing. So, be generous!
- We do it with keeping our prices low.
- We do it with offering discounts and many, many free licenses.
- We do it by sponsoring things we want to see succeed.
- We do it with our time! Answering every email, tweet and phone call, calling people back, helping people who need advice.
If the word generous doesn't do it for you, you could try compassionate instead.
Think: having a hard time with a difficult task, or a difficult customer? Think to yourself: am I being generous enough?
4. Create Remarkable Things
A big part of being REALLY GOOD at what we do is to really "GET" our customers. We strive to think outside the box in order to provide them with "the complete solution" and not just a piece of it.
Atlassian calls this Always Be Marketing. This is, of course, easier said than done. It's a high bar to reach, and we will not reach it every time. But it's a good goal to have, it's a fun challenge.
When people copy what you do, rejoice! It's a sign that it was good! 🙂
5. Always stop to enjoy the moment
This is something that's hard to do because we run the risk of seeming boastful or, even more annoyingly, humblebragging.
At the same time, this is something that we really need to do. You’ll enjoy the money but you’ll never forget your achievements.
So when you achieve, always stop to enjoy it. And if you feel like the year is just a series of small wins, take time off to exercise.
For example, some of us have switched to the IKEA convertible desk recently. If Sid needs to do "real" work, he stands up; for reading and reviewing, sitting is best for him. As you can read in Everything Science Knows Right Now About Standing Desks, standing desks are good for energy expenditure, weight loss, metabolic risk factors. Moreover, they are good for your mood!
Or just try to walk whenever you can. I try to go everywhere by walking. It was a bit difficult at first, because it takes longer than going by car or bus.