A Practical Startup Company Vision Statement

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.

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2 Responses to “A Practical Startup Company Vision Statement”

  1. Gregory Appel Says:

    Hi Ophir,
    An interesting article there… Very well put.
    The reason I decided to write a comment though is because I disagree with one of your principles. Specifically – working hard.

    I believe, working hard has little to do with efficiency of work and its overall effectiveness. The belief that working hard contributes to the business has been brought up by those companies you are trying to advise against – the overwhelming majority – the ones that aren’t perfect and the ones that are trying to rectify their “problems” by putting the onus on their employees…

    This is, no doubt, a very capitalist way of managing a business but it’s not the only way and arguably, not the best way. Being a capitalist invention, this paradigm can be regarded as a “cultural thing” and you WILL see less of it in less capitalistic environments such as Europe and Russia. Of course, if you ask executives in Europe and Russia they would twist their eyes and say that they “would prefer people to work hard” but wanting and actually having it as part of your corporate culture are two very different things. Another proof of this theory is that in financial sector everybody works like crazy regardless of where in the world they are – because finance and capitalizm…well, go together.

    My name for topic #6 would be: DEVOTION, PURPOSE and SCOPE
    In my experience, people perform best and achieve the best results when they are DEVOTED to achieve a satisfactory result AND they OWN THEIR OWN EFFORT.

    Example: imagine you WANT to achieve 1$ million profit by end of year and you are DEVOTED to the goal and understand the task ahead…and then I come in and TELL you AUTHORITATIVELY that you must achieve 1$ million profit by end of year and you must work at least 9am to 6pm until you achieve it. Surely, such enforcement / motivation will not contribute to neither your job satisfaction nor the achievement of result. This is true regardless of whether I tell you this directly or put it in force indirectly.

    HOW to get people to become DEVOTED is a topic for another discussion but THIS is what a good company and a good manager should try to achieve and “working hard” does not even qualify as the “next best thing”, IMHO.

    P.S. I could go on about the negative effects of causing people to work hard [against their will] and the positive effects of actively projecting your effort to stop people from working hard and alleviate their efforts WHILE pursuing a goal (because objective is the higher value but it is not the only value as it would be in pure capitalist eyes). However, I suspect you know this better than I do :o)

  2. ophirk Says:

    Thanks Gregory. You are making some excellent points.

    I agree that devotion is what’s really important, but I think setting people expectations is also important. I want to tell people about what’s expected BEFORE they join the company, so it is our of their own free will.

    This is a guide for start-up, not for any type of organization in the world.As a start-up we are trying to be the best in the world and build a product with 10 people that would be 3X better than companies with 100,000 employees. As smart as these people are, they will need to work hard.

    Think about it from the “socialist” point of view. A social worker with MSC and 15 years experience in Israel would make 6000 Shekels a month for a very hard work.
    Isn’t it fair to ask a 0 experience graduate of computer science, making 15000 a month to work an extra hour a day ?

    Another point to consider is timing. In Soccer, Wall Street and programming the hardest working years are the first 15 years an than people move to less demanding work. In other professions it is more evenly distributed over the years.

    I think the key is giving people a goal they would want to achieve, with the resources and independence to make it possible and a fun environment to be in.

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