RunSignUp is a company that provides a set of web services for the endurance market. We have two differentiators – the fact that we know how to build really a good and open technology platform that makes our customer’s lives better, and the foundations our company is built on. This blog usually talks about the first, but this article focuses on our Raison d’être.
Every 6 months we have a company business strategy session. In every session I start out with the same slide on our Guiding Principles (yes, there are groans from some of the veterans):
The top left box is what we use to give meaning and purpose to our life – as well as provide a foundation for how we work as a company since we all aspire to these.
- Work – yes, we work very hard. You will find many of us on email or writing code well beyond 5PM. But when combined with the others it is more life than work.
- Learn – We are surrounded by customers who know so much more than us about what their needs are. If we really stop and listen, we can understand those needs and try to craft solutions (in our work) that meet those needs in an open fashion so everyone can use our work. We also know we are not perfect and make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes. That is why you see our posts when our systems go down – if we are open about it, it enables us to learn and improve.
- Fun – We want our learning and work to be fun. We happen to like technology and running. It also turns out that most people that are related to running are really nice people – so we wind up with mostly very pleasant relationships with our customers. And quite a few laughs!
- Team – This might be the most important if I had to choose. Doing work on your own without learning from others is not fun. We stand up for each other. We accept each others strengths and weaknesses. We view our customers as part of our team – and together we can do really fun and meaningful work.
That leads to our whole philosophy of the Three Legged Stool in the upper right corner of the slide. We believe that customers, employees and owners are equal partners. You can’t have one without the other. In this blog post I contrast this to a pure capitalistic model that seeks to maximize the return to the owners as the primary objective. Our view of the world is that RunSignUp does not exist without all of us. We think about that every day, and will be expanding the power of our Customer Advisory Board at this year’s Symposium (more on that later). Not many companies take this point of view these days – decisions are made for short term gains and not for a long term strategy that benefits all parties. To be clear, we have a long term objective for our employees to be well paid and for Bob to earn a very good return on my investment – but this is done with a view over decades and not quarterly numbers. We think our customers benefit by our investment in technology and customer service, and we benefit from the rapid growth our customers are providing to us with the viral way they are spreading our technology and giving us guidance on what to build.
This leads to the final box in the slide.
- Responsibility – We all have a responsibility to each other. We need to hold up our end of the partnership we are a part of. When we hire employees, they get guidance, but they also know that they are responsible for figuring it out and doing the job. They can feel a sense of pride in their work because they owned it – there was no one telling them what to do – no top-down exact instructions. This brings the power of each person’s creativity and passion to the job. In the RunSignUp-Customer relationship, we also have a responsibility to each other. We need to deliver great technology and service to help you do your job. But we want and hope that you feel that you are part of our team and contribute back with ideas and suggestions, with recommendations to friends to use us, and to be kind and treat us as equals when we are collaborating on solving a problem.
- Trust – And perhaps the most important of all. This whole system falls apart if we do not trust each other to do the best we can. If I trust an employee to help a customer or design a new function, then they will feel that sense of responsibility and their work effort will be better than I could direct. It then allows me to spend time writing blog posts like this 🙂 But seriously, it increases the efficiency of the whole operation. Meaning more work gets done, people are happier, everyone is working as a team and we all have fun because the results are very good!
I will end this post by saying that this is all obvious and boring stuff. But it is surprising how few companies really implement this whole system. Which is great for our little (fast growing and highly functional) RunSignUp community!