We were a young company even within the framework of startups. When my business coach Shane Metcalf suggested I sit down with my co-founder to work on core values for Wootric, I was dismissive: It’s too early! We’ve only been doing this for a month. But he insisted that it is time to talk about core company values when any venture involves more than just one person.
Values of Organizations We Admire
We started by looking at the core values of organizations that we admire: Zappos loves to WOW their customers, Quora is all about knowledge, and Buffer is radical about transparency. I saw first hand (while baking bagels out of their kitchen) how Asana fostered a culture of fearlessness.
We also reflected on the values of our past employers that we wanted to emulate: Clorox’s collaborative and diverse workforce, Salesforce’s charitable foundation, and MoFo’s dedication to pro bono. Themes emerged (knowledge, freedom, excellence, service) and phrases (some in foreign languages) resonated.
And so, after many hours of warm tea and whiteboarding at the Alamo Square co-working house Factory Zero, we found ourselves embracing these five values for Wootric. They are the values from which we develop our culture, our product, our brand, and our business strategies.
- Listen, Learn, Improve
- Areté: the act of living up to one’s full potential
- Trust, and be Free
- Failure is Feedback
- Serious fun, you must have or śavāsana
We hope that in sharing our values, you might draw inspiration for your company, whatever stage of entrepreneurship you’re in. And selfishly, hold us accountable to ours.
If you would like to learn a little more about each of these values and how we arrived at them, keep on reading.
1. Listen, Learn, Improve
As commonplace as they sound, these three words as a value embody everything that we are as a product and a company. Wootric makes listening to your customers simple and easy. Our product automates measuring Net Promoter Score (NPS), a proven customer loyalty metric, inside your application. Wootric also helps you follow-up with your customers and to draw key insights from their feedback. With these learnings, we set you up to improve your product, supercharge your marketing, and increase growth.
At Wootric, we focus on agility above perfection for every product idea and iteration. This means we are on a frequent release cycle with small detailed improvements that we vet with our customers. This also means that we’re always slightly embarrassed by the product.
As for the team, we wouldn’t be here without the opportunity learn and grow. Personally, in 8 months I’ve gone from bagel maker to the sole coder, IT guy, product visionary, CPA, lawyer, and pitch-meister. Jess, has evolved from a seasoned marketing professional at a large CPG company to scrappy salesperson, blogging/tweeting/ad tech machine, the world’s most patient call center agent, and as much as she hates the term growth-hacker extraordinaire. Our list of things to get good at this month alone is scary–fundraising and hiring. Our combined knowledge of NPS is impressive!
While our product helps our customers delight their users through listening-learning-and-improving, our company mission is to enable that, and in doing so delight ours. This is the why of Wootric.
(Greek: ἀρετή): the act of living up to one’s full potential. We are a motley band of personalities and talents. Jessica is a So-Cal girl and a jazz singer, who speaks and dreams in Mandarin. My home is in Bangalore, my heart lives in San Francisco, and I’m equally passionate about eastern spirituality and western legal traditions. Our design advisor is a childhood friend. The opposite-of-a-brooding artist who seamlessly melds work & play, he makes time for capoeira and a new hobby every week.
We share a great love for travel and an even greater pride for being effective at what we do–Jessica works on marketing and customer success for Wootric. I do all things related to product and operations. Our designer magically blends his explosive artistry with clear and intuitive analytics-based design. We had to look to Greek, and Homeric tradition to capture this notion of all-round excellence. The ability to live up to one’s full potential, or Areté, is value worth living for. And certainly one worth working for.
3. Trust and be Free
Another value that came up often was the role of freedom at Wootric, earned through trust: trusting one another, trusting ourselves, and having conviction in the idea and the product. This means that Jessica can garden whenever she wants to, as long as everything that was her responsibility is taken care of. This means that designs can come in at 3am. I can work out of my home or the local watering hole or any environment that in my judgment would help me get shit done. This also means that rejection from one investor or losing a coveted customer isn’t the end of Wootric. We’re in this because we trust in our idea, product, and team. This makes us optimistic, resilient, and free to fail and recover. Which leads to our next core value, failure is feedback.
4. Failure is Feedback
At Wootric, we fail every day. Here are two little stories that forced us to embrace failure as a core value.
The YC Interview Debacle
There are many excellent accounts of the YC interview and ours wasn’t very different. While the rejection was disappointing, the process of putting together our application and the five minutes of feedback they gave us made the effort worthwhile. Our failure was that we could not convince YC of the value of a platform dedicated to NPS. They didn’t get that we were helping our customers to leverage the power of NPS as a program for growth–not just a score that you measure. Features such as the annotated trend graph, qualitative comment follow-up, and custom filters allow our customers take marketing/product/customer-support related follow-up action. This, in turn, may lead to increased growth, more effective marketing campaigns, or reduced churn. NPS would be the gateway to a much broader customer experience management platform. Although we failed to communicate this, there was a valuable takeaway: internalize the “actionable” part of the story and communicate it upfront and automatically. We’ve since launched our public beta and the focus on making NPS actionable has delivered interest, revenue, and delighted customers.
Launch, then Meltdown
A week after we launched our public beta, the site became crippled with performance issues. I needed a crash course on architecting real-time analytics products with enormous data sets. Jess learned to manage messaging and support around outages and the perils of overpromising and under-delivering. Our design needed to recognize the limitations of crunching NPS metrics over a large time frame. We now have mechanisms in place for the next performance bottleneck (waitlists, background jobs, status reports, performance-informed design) and look back at that week as a great early failure to have experienced. Failing is a core value at Wootric because the risks of working a startup are ultimately only outweighed by the learnings. And failure is the quickest way to learn.
5. Serious fun, you must have
We take our final inspiration from śavāsana (Sanskrit: शवासन): the final relaxation and perhaps the most important important part of a yoga practice, suggesting space and time at Wootric for everyone to rest and rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit. Whether taking 10 minutes out of the morning and the afternoon to practice savasana (me), or noodling on UX paradigms and doodling in an art notebook before a big meeting, or taking evenings to sing in her local choir group (Jess), we at Wootric believe in fun in a very serious way. We all wanted to allocate time and resources in the service of others. For without this value we couldn’t live up to our full potential, or listen/learn/improve very well, or recover from failure, or be free.
As we continue on our start-up journey, these values are sure to evolve. We’ll keep you posted!
Deepa Subramanian is CEO of Wootric. An early Salesforce.com engineer and former attorney, she has led several companies to success by understanding the necessity of listening to customers ahead of anything else. She holds a BA in Computer Science from Smith College and a JD from Harvard.