As we approach the year end and our 8th Birthday, it is useful to take a look at our original Guiding Principles and make sure we are still aligned. There are actually 3 sets of Guiding Principles that are each self reinforcing – hopefully a kind of perpetual motion machine!
The first set is basically what I said to my daughters when I used to drop them off at school – “Work hard, learn a lot, get along with others and have fun!”
Taking these actions as an individual helps to give fulfillment and meaning to our endeavors at RunSignUp. Working hard is kind of obvious in terms of achieving success. But working hard on a consistent basis is the key. When I ran at college, our basic training plan was run 5 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the afternoon. You just get better if you put consistent work in. Maybe not overnight, but if you work hard consistently, after 8 years you can get pretty good.
Learning is the second critical piece. People need to feel empowered to experiment and learn – even if there is failure involved. True learners do not fear failure, they welcome it as a new lesson to build on tomorrow. Staying within what you know is not fulfilling, and does not build on the fact that the world is constantly changing. Taking advantage of those changes requires learning.
Fun is also a requirement. What motivation is there to working hard if it is not also fun. And laughing at ourselves is a requirement so we do not take ourselves too seriously or become ego-centric.
Team makes it fulfilling for individuals. Sharing in the working, learning and fun is so much better with a team than by yourself. And if you harness the combined and diverse talents of a team, you can do things that no individual can.
Our second set of Guiding Principles was based on something I learned from the CTO at Bluestone. He taught me that it was inefficient to communicate. The most effective way to do something was to do it, not talk about it. Of course that has limitations if you are trying to build something larger or more complex. This model helps to maximize the efficiency and is based on Responsibility.
At RunSignUp, each employee feels responsibility for their job. They figure out how to meet the needs of their job and are responsible for delivering on that.
Trust is the key to making this work. Developers trust Account Managers to explain new features to customers, and Account Managers trust Developers to create the best product they are able to. The system kind of works like an efficient Microservices based computing architecture – with API calls being made of different services when they are needed.
Here’s an example. Meredith is building the new RunSignUp.com front end website. We are not going thru countless meetings to argue over specific layouts or designs. We are trusting that Meredith has exceptional skills in User Experience and that she will come up with a great new website. She asks for help and input when needed. This allows us to produce new things much more rapidly. Rather than have 10 people in conference rooms for days arguing, Meredith is getting it done. When we release, we will give her input and she will learn and then make iterative improvements. Since she is taking responsibility, she feels empowered and there is also a bit of pressure (especially now!) to not let the team down. And that is efficient.
The final piece of our Guiding Principles is really based on the question of “Who is a company?” I’ve written about this publicly as the “Three Leg Stool“, contrasting our approach with the typical capitalist version of profit to owners being the Raison d’être of a company.
The simple fact is that none of the three legs can survive without the others. And if the three groups are all aligned, then there is a self reinforcing system that is created.
We try to have very productive relationships with customers where we treat each other as peers trying to create great race experiences. Things like our Customer Advisory Board and RunSignUp Community Grant Program help reinforce this. But it actually happens on a daily basis as customers feed ideas and requirements into our team, and we collect and collate all those great ideas into a cohesive technology roadmap that maximizes the benefit to the entire RunSignUp Community.
We will also be making an announcement at the beginning of the year about taking a major step forward in making employees owners.
When we look back on our nearly 8 years in business, these principles have guided us well. And hopefully they will for many years into the future.