On January 2, Highrise became a fully remote company. We’re now 18 people spread across California, North Carolina, New York, Argentina, Croatia, England, China, and the Netherlands.
As a remote company, one of our top priorities is learning how to communicate virtually. Often, this means writing down ideas and processes that would otherwise spread verbally. Our first step was to draft a set of core values that can guide our decisions. These values will change as our organization evolves, and the most current set of values can be found in our User Manual.
1. Customer First
Our end goal is to build products that our customers love. They should evolve with our customers. To that end, we make decisions with that customer at the forefront of our minds.
- Lead with empathy. Treat the customer as your friend. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. “Would I like this? Do I like this?”
- Dedicated community contact. To build a product our customers love, we need to know who our customers are. We are in constant contact with our customers, with a focus on conducting 5 customer interviews per week.
- Support is a product feature. Our support team and tools are part of the service we provide. We consider the quality of our support to be a core differentiating feature of our product. Support conversations are also the most direct and continuous conversations with we have with our customers.
- We delight. Whenever possible, and within our power, we consider how to design delightful experiences. Oftentimes, small considerations can result in major delight. As an entertainment company, we are in the business of delighting our customers.
2. Ideas Are Precious
Ultimately, we are a creative company. On top of that, we make a creative product for creative people. One of our primary goals is to think up new ideas that delight our customers.
- Good ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from customers, teammates, friends, and strangers. But ideas are fragile, and we need to do our best to (a) elicit them and (b) nurture them. If you have an idea, speak up. If someone has an idea, explore it! If nothing else, you’ll have some fun.
- Don’t kill the weakling baby. Ideas are seedlings — they are never fully formed when they first emerge. They have no defenses when they’re first born. They must be protected by the family before they can defend themselves. As individuals, we need to consciously make room for ideas to grow.
- First, nurture an idea. Typically, our first instinct is to criticize an idea. We identify the idea’s flaws because (a) it’s easy because all ideas are flawed and (b) criticism is fun. Before jumping to criticism, suspend your disbelief and try to evolve the idea. Think of ways that the idea can morph or evolve. Build on the idea, instead of immediately tearing it down.
We support each other, even if supporting actions don’t accomplish our individual short-term goals. We’re kind to each other. When someone asks for help, we provide it. And we know that if we ever need help, someone will be there to help us.
- We’re kind. This is not to be mistaken with “nice” or “polite”. We’re direct but kind.
- We talk about most issues publicly, so that everyone can learn and benefit.
- We share negative feedback privately.
- We say thanks (often with a taco 🌮!)
- We give genuine feedback to each other, with the goal of improving both our ability to get excellent work done, as well as to help teammates grow meaningfully in their careers.
- We make mistakes, but we say sorry. It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s not OK to not own up to it, or fear admitting it.
- We want our teammates to succeed. We help them achieve their goals, both personal and business.
- We don’t have ego. Nobody cares if you win an argument. The only thing anyone cares about is if the answer is right, and that’s often best discovered through discussion.
- We treat everyone like adults. We set a high bar for hiring and trust our teammates.
- We share the glory of our individual wins and accept responsibility for collective misses.
4. Output over input
As a remote team, we don’t measure the time you spend in the office or working on a task (the “input”). Our primary skill is setting goals, defining expectations around those goals, and then achieving those goals. Over and over again.
- We measure output, not input. That means sometimes people will accomplish their goals quickly, while others might take longer. As we get better at defining goals, setting expectations and measuring outcomes, output will naturally match input.
- We believe in a growth mindset. We optimize for the slope, not the y-interecept. In other words, we believe individuals can grow through a combination of hard work, mindfulness, and feedback from others.
- We focus on results as the first priority. Results are a successful, delightful product that achieves our goal KPIs. All other values help us achieve results.
We focus on iterating quickly. This means working on the smallest, highest impact components, learning from them, and repeating.
- Embrace a low level of shame. If we’re truly iterative, we will release unpolished features and components, and we must be comfortable knowing that things could be better but we specifically choose for them to be good enough.
- Learn from each iteration. For iteration to work, we must learn from each iteration. Otherwise, we’re just building small, mediocre features. These iterations need to pave a road that guides us to the best possible product.
- Minimum Viable Change (MVC). If a feature is unpolished, but it’s better than what currently exists… release it!
Everything that can be internally shared, should be internally shared. This is difficult for many, as it means asking questions in public and having discussions with an audience. It means being unashamed when we have a question that we think others might know the answer to.
- If you don’t know, someone else probably doesn’t, either. Ask the question in public in the relevant channel, and @ the relevant person. This will ensure that everyone is exposed to this information.
- We are direct. We are both (1) straightforward and (2) kind, an “uncommon cocktail of no-bullshit and no-asshole”. We tell it like it is, but with affection and appreciation for the people receiving the feedback.
- Disagree and commit. Because we have fast iterations, it is OK to disagree and commit. You can then look back on that decision and discuss which decision was correct and why.
- Anyone and anything can be questioned. These guidelines, for example, will continue to evolve based on the team’s feedback.
- Be transparent even when it’s hard. Even white lies are not worth maintaining in a truly transparent environment.