Stevan Popovic'

Thoughts For My Future Company (Version 1)

February 8th, 2017

I’ve always wanted to start my own company. Daily, I think about my future company. Early on in my career, I’ve seen how companies work. I’ve seen different company dynamics and noticed what they do well and what they do badly. From this experience, I’ve formed opinions of what they could do better or differently. In general, these thoughts are about culture, management, organisation and so on.

A few months ago, I started making a note of these in my phone. I wanted to write these thoughts down as I had them to make sure that I remembered them for when I eventually did start a company. The thing is, the experience of a young up and comer in a company is very different to the experience of a senior manager or founder, so I wanted to write them down as I experienced them.

A few days ago, I noticed the list had actually become quite long. Some points are more unique, some are fairly standard, but all are practices I’d like to introduce in my future company. I thought I’d share it here as a living and evolving document that I can add to and adapt over time.

Company building blocks - my future company

Culture

The company will state and share clear company values, employee expectations and an employee value proposition from the outset. Company values should reflect the core values of the founder and early team. Taking this further, employee expectations should be a simple set of directives that employees are aligned with. The employee value proposition is what an employee can expect from the company. (From 15.20, David Politis on TwentyMinuteVC).

For example, an employee expectation might be: respect peoples time – finish meetings on time, write processes down when someone explains them, etc.

A monthly culture and happiness survey.  Each month, employees will answer a survey that aims to judge the happiness of the team and how they feel about the company. The goal is to track employee sentiment around key milestones (targets hit, funding raised) or potential negative impacts (redundancies, etc). (Roland Lamb, ROLI).

A “company day” for new joiners. This is a chance once a month for all new joiners to hear the founding story, key milestones and ask any questions. It should be led by the founder or someone from the founding team. It’s also an opportunity to go over the key values and opportunities moving forward.

Recommended reading for new joiners. Founders often reference a few key readings or books that informed their opinions. Hence, the recommended reading is a chance to share those books so that employees can get up to speed should they want to.

Management

Managers KPIs are only the sum of their teams. A managers job is to help their team and act as an extra resource, nothing more. One of the biggest challenges at startup companies is having managers who actually support the individuals within the team. This is a particular challenge when you consider most startups hire on the side of young and inexperienced.

Management meetings should include work and personal challenges. Often, issues in personal life can prevent productivity in work life. Work life and personal life are not mutually exclusive. The goal of the manager should be to help remove any and all challenges so that the employee can ultimately feel happy and more productive. Of course, this takes a certain amount of trust, so should be aspirational in the short term. The goal of this is to show a willingness to invest company time into the wellbeing and future of the individual.

(Professional) Development

A productivity session in month one. I want employees to feel like we invest in their skills early on. Furthermore, employees should understand the different modes of productivity and stages to accomplishing tasks. This should create an empathy when working with other colleagues.

Life skill workshops. These are workshops for practical skills that are not taught in traditional education. This may include time-management, parenting or personal finance. The goal here is to build a skill set for the employee that is ultimately useful and an investment in that individual and their future.

Skillshare sessions. Within companies, there is a wide range of skills and talents. From instrumentalists to coders to financing experts. The company will encourage peer to peer learning through incentives. The workplace should feel like a place where everyone can learn and teach.

Founder stories. An opportunity to have successful people come in and share their story. For employees, this is an opportunity to hear the true story from founders and grow their network. (Rytis & Viktoras, YPlan).

Meetings

Have less of them and make them shorter. It seems everyone agrees that meetings are the biggest waste of time, yet everyone has them all the time.

Employees should set an agenda before any meeting is booked. Additionally, the reason for the meeting should be clearly stated along with the company goal it will help to achieve.

Meetings to be 20/40min by default. Generally, meetings are 30/60mins. Meetings always overrun and people get backed up as there is no time between them. By making meetings 20mins or 40 mins you have time in between to send actionable summaries…

Employees should follow all meetings with actionable summaries. Whoever called the meeting should be in charge of creating the summary. If there is nothing actionable at the end of the meeting, then you should consider whether it is worth meeting about at all (or whether an email update would suffice).

Other

Self-approved holidays. Employees have direct access to the holiday calendar and between themselves can approve suitable time to take holidays.