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What are the challenges of running a business based on values?

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riginally appeared on Quora – the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique ideas .

Response from Jordan Ritter, CEO of Atlas Informatics, formerly of Napster and Cloudmark, on Quora.

Here are some really important lessons I’ve learned about building a values-driven culture in startups:

All values are derived from the top . Whether intentional or not, the beating that everyone is going to come from the person with the absolute authority to hire and shoot in the organization. Values do not come from co-founders without the title of CEO (no matter how much they tried – personal experience), nor what is written on the wall (unless of course they match), or the HR VP or Assembled Culture Committee. If the CEO respects them, they are real and true and everyone puts them in; if it does not respect them, all values erode trust and faith in what the company actually represents.

Values are better when they are measurable . Back in one of my previous businesses, one of the inspiring words we found in a values exercise was Passion – we all felt it, we all believed it – but as a landmark of culture, what did it really mean? The word defines a feeling that we all felt, but as a way to perpetuate and strengthen the culture we loved, it was actually a judgment and terrible. It is therefore important to choose words, phrases or concepts that are objective and applicable each day.

Here at Atlas our general framework for what makes a good value is a word that can be used to evaluate, evaluate, praise and criticize daily. For us, the Passion felt personal and just could not be measured, but the Obsession was easier to see and encourage, and its absence did not mean you were a bad person. And if you really think about it, the great luminaries of the startup, we all seek to have an obsession in the spades.

Things change . Another way of looking at values and culture is through the prism of “social norms”, which change all the time. When written values cease to correspond to the true culture of the company, they become erosive and destructive. It is important to understand that everything you define as your values today, we will have to reevaluate them over time.

Great values often have an opposite tension . Not only is it natural, but frankly, I would encourage the creation of values that create tensions between them. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but these tensions can lead to very good conversations and allow teams to flex what is important when circumstances dictate.

If you are curious about the values of Atlas which is the 5th company that I helped to build, here they are:

  • Craftsmanship : Be proud to build meaningful things that last – platforms, products, teams and cultures. This value is about sustainability, not perfection.
  • Obsession : Be obsessive about everything: technology, innovation, reinvention, the other and our community. The obsession is the rocket fuel of our creativity.
  • Experimentalism : Be opportunistic, be fearless, be ready to fail and try again. Look for ways to challenge yourself and challenge yourself. There are no guidebooks – always be iterating and trying new things.
  • Adaptability : Aim for agility in thought and versatility in action. Change your friendship and adopt it warmly – that’s the only thing certain.
  • Inclusion : Listen with humility, speak with conviction, be open to the influence, to the encouragement and the investment one of the most important. other, dream and deliver together. Despite the denomination, this value does not really relate to the literal act of including people, but rather the broader (and frankly much larger) aspects of how we treat each other.
  • Bias for action : Insist on the decision and the execution. Making informed choices where the risk is involved is important, but perfection is the mortal enemy of the fact. You will never be able to do things right: the sooner you start, the sooner you will learn, and the sooner you will achieve something better.

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