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Seven ideas and practices that shape how we work at GuildQualityMarch 18th, 2018 by
A friend of mine once described one of the challenges of growth like this:
We roll a giant stone up an enormous mountain, and when we reach the top, we rest for a brief moment, and tell our team, “Way to go, everyone! Now let’s go find a bigger stone and roll it up an even bigger mountain!”
Isn’t that the truth! Every year, we tackle a new phase of growth for our business. With more members to serve, more products to offer, and more people to help advance our mission, the challenge becomes more and more complex.
This weekend I was reflecting on the ways we deal with that complexity and how we all stay pointed in the right direction. Following are seven ideas and practices that shape the way we work here at GuildQuality. They help us stay true to our mission while we roll larger stones up ever larger mountains.
From our Employee Handbook: “Let’s be vigilant in avoiding the insidious tendency to restrict, distrust, and impede, and let’s mindfully preserve our commitment to having a culture of empowerment.”
In practice, having an empowered work environment means we trust our people to make good decisions (including about how, when, and where they work—roughly a third of our team works completely remotely), and the people we hire don’t seek permission to pursue the courses of action they deem best.
We anonymously poll our employees once a quarter, seeking their input about what they like (or don’t like) about GuildQuality. Empowerment is always at the top of the list of reasons they choose to work here.
We have been “open book” since in 2008. We began that practice in order to give people a clear picture of exactly where we were from a financial perspective. Over the years, we’ve expanded our open-bookedness from just the financials (and if you are wondering, no, we don’t share individual compensation) to all the metrics that reflect performance for every function of the business.
Sometimes the best way to achieve your goals is to let other people know what they are. Sharing our metrics is a form of that—it gets people to understand where we all are and helps people to visualize how we can accomplish our goals.
3. Communication Tools
For spreadsheets and other documents, we seldom have files that we save, attach, or email around, and for intra-company communication, we rarely use email.
Google Sheets (and Google Docs and Hangout to a lesser extent) for sharing and collaboration on important documents (like Key Metrics). I haven’t authored a Word or Pages document in many moons, and only use Excel for the very largest of spreadsheets.
Basecamp for asynchronous communication about projects we have underway or ideas we’d like to explore. Basecamp gives us a record of all the important conversations, dialog, explorations, and projects that we’ve had at GuildQuality since way back in 2005. Were it not for Basecamp, they’d be lost in the email void and existing project discussions would be indecipherably mired in email threads.
Slack for synchronous communication. Slack has been our water cooler for about three years. In addition to using it for regular chat, we have Slack integrated with other tools we use (like Salesforce, Github, and very own GuildQuality app) to automagically share news of important things happening in the business (i.e. “Company X of Buildville, GA just joined GuildQuality!”). As a bonus, Slack also offers what I view to be the very best video conferencing and screen sharing available—the catch is it only works with people who are in your company.
It’s worth mentioning that irresponsible Slack usage is fraught with danger. It is so easy—too easy—to ask everyone a question or share something with everyone. Jason Fried describes it well:
What we’ve learned is that group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense. What makes a lot less sense is chat as the primary, default method of communication inside an organization.
Slack unquestionably brings us closer together. It enables us to share in each others’ successes. It makes it easy to ask important questions to the right handful of people that have the insight to help find the answer. But there can be a tyranny of interruption. For that reason, I think Slack’s best feature—and one I use liberally—is its “snooze notifications” option.
As we have grown larger and larger, maintaining alignment has required more and more intentionality. About a year ago, we started using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Early results are very positive, and everyone on the team seems to really like them (the OKR framework even gets favorable mentions in our anonymous quarterly survey).
With OKRs, we set company-wide goals for the year. Then quarterly goals for each function that directly support each of the company goals. Then individual goals for each member of the team that support the functional and company-wide goals. If you are curious, you can learn more about the OKR framework in this short video.
5. Performance Management
As much as we possibly can, we assess performance based on measurables. Some people characterize this as a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). We don’t have discretionary bonuses with subjective calculations. Contribution in many roles (i.e. Sales and Member Services) is explicitly measurable. For others (i.e. Design and Engineering) measuring quality is more difficult. For those, we rely more heavily on assessment of progress on individual OKRs.
For the last decade or so, we’ve endeavored to cultivate the type of work atmosphere we want to have by explicitly hiring for some common attributes. When interviewing candidates for any role, we’re ruling out anyone who lacks even one of those attributes. Again, from our employee handbook:
Friendly. We hire friendly people, who are respectful and kind to those around them. That is one of the ways we maintain the type of work environment that people want to be a part of.
Committed. Every person on the team moves the needle. By joining the team, people commit themselves to work toward our success and to moving that needle!
Resourceful. We hire solution seekers with a bias toward action. They figure things out and aren’t afraid to draw on the talented people around them for help.
With the exception of a few word tweaks here and there, our mission has remained unchanged for over fifteen years:
We seek to elevate the stature of the building and home improvement industry to a level commensurate with its importance. Our Guildmembers build, sell, improve, maintain, and care for people’s homes – and our task is to help them do the best job possible and earn the recognition they deserve for their commitment to service excellence.
It’s an aspirational mission, it’s a compass, and it’s a motivator. In working at GuildQuality, we get to do well by doing good.