Why? Because culture underpins everything we do. Meaning a good strategy will fail in the hands of a bad culture. But even without a clear strategy, the right culture will pave the way to success.
At this early stage, the founders' dynamics and behaviours will significantly shape CalcTree. So the front-of-mind questions are:
- What kind of company do we want to create?
- What do we want the experience of working together to look like?
Tim, Mahan, and I, as founders of CalcTree, have experienced the cost of bad cultures, which include examples such as:
- An inability of leadership to bring out the best in people leads to an inability to attract and retain top talent.
- The cost of burnout, driven by leaders who think getting ahead now won’t cost them later, leaves staff exhausted from rounds and rounds of sprinting with no time for respite.
- Things grinding to a halt due to poor decision-making leadership, either indecision or going back and forth on decisions.
- Stifled innovation because leaders prefer their own ideas rather than creating a risk-managed open innovation program where everyone can explore and trial new ideas.
There’s a common thread to the pain points above… leadership. Good leadership is hard to come by. And it’s even harder when the stakes are as high as they are in a startup. Where the company’s life relies on inflows of VC capital, the need to meet and exceed targets is critical, even at the cost of losing the right culture.
So given the contextual challenges ahead of us, how do we plan to avoid these common leadership pitfalls at CalcTree?
Firstly, by ensuring, we don’t slip into ‘terror territory’ - running out of cash! Just like humans, startups follow Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If your physiological and safety (cash) needs are satisfied, showing up each day with a positive mindset is easier. If safety is threatened, founders are put under a lot of pressure. Under these conditions, it’s unlikely they’ll create a physiologically safe environment for their team. Google’s extensive research on physiological safety demonstrates that its vital for a healthy culture.
We’re tackling this by engaging and building long-term relationships with VCs as early as possible. VCs who are on board with our vision and strategy to achieve it. At CalcTree, we’re building a company that conscientiously considers culture at every turn. We want to realise our values in our actions to create a great place to work.
Secondly, we wanted to capture and build on the strengths of our existing culture. Each individual has strengths and weaknesses. Teams are an aggregation of their individuals. As founders, we found the below values that make up our strengths.
As a founding team, we know our strengths and weaknesses. We've analysed them and picked the most important ones to focus on and build into CalcTree's DNA. We’re proud of them, and we believe if established well as company values, our strengths can make a lasting impact on CalcTree’s culture. So without further ado, here are our values:
We love the simplicity and power of this value. It’s human, it’s real, it’s no B.S. More than anything, we value authenticity. It’s the source of creating meaningful connections and relationships. We spend a lot of our day at work, so why not create an environment where we’re free to be ourselves?
We balance moving fast with thinking deeply from multiple perspectives.
Yes to ‘move fast and break things’. But not when a further thought could have saved a lot of time and energy. Good strategies are hard to come by. It requires a balance of trial and error and time to consider options and first principles before deciding. We invite your intelligence to solve problems and know when to balance the two operating modalities.
We make evidence-based decisions regardless of where or who the best idea came from.
We value meritocracy over ego. Active listening helps bring out people’s ideas, and logical decision-making criteria allow the best ideas to surface at the top. This is part of the engineering culture we want to create, where introverts and extroverts have equal air time to share ideas.
The best solutions are forged from the collaboration of mixed expertise and experiences.
The wisdom is in the group. It’s a mantra we hold onto closely. No individual has the right answer. The collective effort of rigorous thought and deliberation from diverse people with different life experiences and perspectives adds richness to any solution. We welcome different expertise and experiences in their entirety and do our best to create a culturally diverse workplace. As painful as can be to challenge your viewpoint, these moments present real growth for us individually and collectively. The process enables us to uncover our blindspots and break through habitual thinking.
⚙️ Systems thinking
CalcTree is one big system. As individuals and as a team, we build every aspect of it to run and scale as autonomously as possible.
Systems thinking is a vital skill in the 21st century. The world is more complex than ever before. There are increasingly more variables to consider when designing a solution – whether that’s an internal process or a product feature. Think holistically about the problem, cause and effect of your proposed solutions and the technology needed to drive automation at scale. That is to be balanced with not over-investing in a solution. If the problem is small, building a Ferrari is unnecessary. Start small, and build scalable solutions over time. The hardest job of a startup is to keep all the moving parts in sync and moving forward. Automating more and more pieces of the system frees us up to do creative things, which is where we believe we should spend most of our time.
🎨 Visual storytelling
A picture paints a thousand words. We communicate ideas visually to accelerate alignment and shared understanding.
Communication is a value we want to get stronger at. We are solving a complex problem, but the solutions and how we convey them need to be simple. There are limitations to verbal communication when discussing complex problems. A quick mockup or prototype goes a long way to reveal the assumptions we each hold for our solutions. Where possible, we strive to show rather than tell by providing visual representations of the solutions we have in mind. We welcome anyone to jump in and play with proposed solution designs so we can rapidly iterate toward the ideal decision.
There you have it: the set of beliefs driving CalcTree’s current culture. This is likely to evolve, and perhaps the list will expand or reduce as we gain more focus. The important thing is that as a team, we full-heartedly believe in our values and work hard every day to bring these to life.
If these values resonate with you, reach out. We always seek bright, ambitious, conscientious people to join us at CalcTree. Let’s create the workplace we want together!