Posts Tagged ‘Employment’

A Practical Startup Company Vision Statement

January 1, 2011

We are using the following document within our company, hopefully implementing as well. It might be interesting or useful for others.

Introduction

Vision statements generally remain unused because they present a collection of good values that can not be translated to real life (see NetFlix’s Reference Guide on Freedom and Responsibility as an interesting exception) . The object of this document is to offer principles for the operation of a Company, examples for their implementation and understanding of situations where we are willing “to pay” in order to stand by these principles.

It is not meant to replace a detailed Company procedure, but to give a principled framework for the company’s activities and to enable candidates to see whether they are interested in joining it and share its principles. This document should be read as a whole since the principles in it complement one another.

The document is constructed as follows:

Principle – clear.

Implementation (i.e.) – an example of a situation in which we adhere to a principle and forego other opportunity.

Exception – since every rule has an exception.

At each cite that the document related to a company’s employee, it means also manager, of course.

The Principles

1. The products and services of the Company must be of such a quality that the Company’s clients will be delighted from the product and service they receive for their money.

The quality of the product will be measured according to this criterion. We believe that in order to achieve this, the product must be of very high quality in many senses.

i.e. To design the Company’s products from the start to a high quality standard, to ensure excellence in testing, usefulness, performance and flexibility for the users. For instance, to forgo extra features in order to favor testability.

Exception – The quality must be focused on the client’s needs and keep a healthy simplicity.

2. The Company’s aim is to attain meaningful income of hundreds millions dollars and profits of at least tens of millions dollars.

i.e. In the long range, the target markets must be large and meaningful. If there is a good opportunity for a small market that can not be enlarged, we should abandon it. We should invest in ordered infrastructures for a Company that wishes to grow and become independent and established and not merely to be sold.

3. The Company’s employees should be satisfied and enjoy their work. The Company should care for their welfare and enrichment.

i.e. Treating the employees as persons and not merely “human resources”. Respecting the employees, affording the possibilities for professional and personal development, investment in guidance. Support the employees in hard times and mutual respect among the employees.

4. The Company must be frugal in its expenditures.

i.e. Modest salaries, sampling and aggressive pricing amongst vendors, creative solutions, consideration of every expenditure. It is important that the atmosphere in the Company, among its employees and vendors will project it.

Exception – it is important that the savings will be not only in the direct financial cost alone but also in the alternative costs of time, personnel or productivity. For instance, there is no sense in obtaining a $100 discount if it entails a month’s delay in the project. We must maintain the difference between frugality on one hand and stinginess and pettiness on the other.

5. The Company must be fair, honest and open.

i.e. Paying vendors on time, paying for all used software programs, letting the employees share information, harmonizing expectations with new employees. We do not accept to the Company an excellent candidate if there are some doubts about his/her honesty and integrity.

6. We work hard, focused and with a broad scope.

Every employee is expected to contribute his/her best time and skills to the Company. The Company will recruit employees that are willing to invest the necessary effort.

i.e. A workday that starts at 9:00 a.m. and continues to, at least, 6:00 p.m. The employees are expected to work diligently in accordance with the character of a start-up company. Focused – a few efficient discussions with a small number of persons, work atmosphere, limited lunches and external prattle meetings, quiet and comfortable work environment. Persons that assume on the subject matter complete responsibility and ownership. There is no feeling of pampering and every employee does what should be done in order to reach the common goal.

7. Excellence, innovation and creativity.

The goal is to lead in every area critical to the Company’s activities. The commitment in not only to be the best in that area, but also to think outside the box – how can things be done in a better fashion, how can things be done differently, and what is really needed and better for the clients and the Company.

i.e. It is better to forgo a financially very good candidate in favor of an excellent candidate that didn’t arrive yet. Not to receive work discounts simply because “everyone is doing it”. Willingness to invest resources in courses, books and time-resources in “games” whose immediate benefits are not obvious.

8. Pluralism, openness, cooperation and teamwork.

The Company will encourage openness among the employees and managers, focused concrete discussions that may be hard but not personal. Information is not to be concealed in order to acquire personal power.

i.e. We recruit employees that are not entirely from the same assembly line, we offer equal opportunity to females or minorities, we make sure to inform our employees, partners and investors with important decisions and current information. Information reaches our employees before it reaches the media. The Company’s procedures and goals are public and open to our employees.

Exception – there is information that is kept secret for personal, legal or commercial reasons.

9. Immediacy and purposefulness.

Success is measured according to the bottom line – whether the goal was reached on time. The aim is to perform each task at the earliest possible moment. What could have been done yesterday, should not be left for tomorrow.

i.e. Responses to e-mails are rapid, stimulating vendors, employees and partners. Giving fast answers and expecting rapid replies. If confronted with a delay, searching  for alternative solutions. Looking to reduce bureaucracy and friction in order to achieve maximal efficiency. The employees’ time is dedicated to reach maximum efficiency.

Exception – we have to ensure that short-range targets should grow from deep and fundamental thinking out of long-range goals.

10. Trust.

The Company’s management model is predicated on the notion that its employees are honest, experienced, capable and diligent. Under these circumstances, the best way to obtain output is a relatively decentralized management model that demands high responsibility but allows a lot of independence to the managed. The model is based on results-dependent control combined with an ability of managers to delve into details in a selective manner in order to help the employees and perform control. The idea is to execute control rather infrequently, but to do it in a most thorough way.

i.e. The manager does not nag the employees and is obliged to help them perform their assignment. Managers in the Company will have the capability to delve into details and understand thoroughly any issue, when needed. The expectation from all persons in the Company is that they can analytically dissect their actions and know how to support their own decisions. Conversely, when a person fails the trust invested in him/her, it must be handled fast and incisively.

Contracting Heaven

August 26, 2010

A man walks down the street,
He says, Why am I soft in the middle now?
Why am I soft in the middle?
The rest of my life is so hard!

Paul Simon, “You Can Call me Al”

On a previous post I described some “Contracting Nightmares“.

Today, the focus would be on the full half of the glass. The freelancers that killed a dragon for us.

The ground rules are:

  1. Hire a person you know well, and consider to be a top performer (“Shakel” in Hebrew). Don’t lower the bar for temps.
  2. Hire a trust worthy individual who shares your core values and understands your “language”.
  3. Hire him, or her, to work in their field of expertise.
  4. Hire “over qualified” contractors, for short-term assignments.

In my experience, only the following combinations work out well

  • A Well defined, isolated  project

For example “back-porting open source Japanese fonts library from 2.4 to 2.6″.We had to do it for our SSL-VPN products.It was an ugly job, but somebody has to do it. It was not really related to any domain expertise we had inside the company and it was a non trivial task. On the other hand, it was a pretty well-defined project so the contractor could scope it well.

  • Hire a contractor for at least 6 months as an integrated team member

For our GUI team we needed an additional developers(see post) but could not find candidates that met our expectations.

We had three hiring experiments with outside help. The one that works well is outsourced from an external company, but has passed all our usual tests. He was not a “compromise”  in any way. Moreover, he is an expert in .Net ,so training time was less than a month. Since he came from an external company we got a 12 months commitment.As a result the on-boarding costs are smaller, and we still have a lower  financial commitment.

We also examined the company’s background, since in previous attempts we realized the “best” in some companies may not be productive enough in our environment. In other words – contracting is more expensive than in-house, therefore contractors should be just as good as full-time employees , if not better.

One drawback for this method is that the freelancer cannot become an owner of core functionality, since his future is always “at risk”.

The other drawback is that such contractor requires managerial attention,making it suitable to well established teams.

An Over Qualified Beautiful Old Car

An Over Qualified Beautiful Old Car

  • A research and scoping project

In Cloudshare’s very early days (aka as IT Structures) we wanted to have our first paying customer ASAP. Our feeling was that  real customer’s feedback is critical for our success. We only had  two developers at the time, so we hired I.Z to help us with building a virtualized networking architecture.

IZ was an experienced team leader and architect that lead two complex networking projects in his previous roles. He was in between jobs, as he was considering his next career steps (being both a great singer + a talented coder).

We were considering which remote console protocol to use ( VNC\RDP\ICA) and needed objective results showing how well each worked over different latency and packet lost conditions. To our surprise, there was not updated research available.

IZ came out with objective and clear results in a new territory’s for us in which he had  domain expertise. Till this day our remote access performance is one of our key advantages over other solutions in the market.

I trusted him, so we could work on time and materials base. He trusted us that we will not nickel-and-dime him. I always prefer to pay by the hour, as scoping is hard for complicated projects.Both sides feel wrong if the estimate is wrong for a fixed costs project.


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