Data and customer feedback trump ego and opinion. Be open to new ideas, acknowledge limitations and let the results speak for themselves. When you make a mistake – everyone does – be humble: accept responsibility, ask for help and get to work to fix the problem as soon as possible.
Warren Buffett talks about how he "tap dances to work" each day because he loves his work and the team around him. Strive to make work as enjoyable as possible. This might mean making tough decisions about working with partners, customers, or suppliers who drain our energy. Use common sense over rules when it comes to day-to-day conduct and interactions with others.
Stay hungry. It isn't enough to have an idea – it’s persistence that determines success. Results come from pursuing long-term goals with passion. We are working in a very competitive business. Great results come when we all embrace an entrepreneurial mindset of being self-motivated, self-aware, self-disciplined, and self-improving.
Embrace the philosophy of "little bets" in all aspects of the organization. When an idea fails, allow it to fail quickly, so we can learn from it and then iterate. When an idea succeeds, scale it by automating or outsourcing, and then sharing the knowledge across the company. A small number of people can achieve far more than any large organization when working with this mindset.
We really hope those all go without saying – but just in case – we said them anyways.
We know first hand that the first time you bet on yourself and take the leap into entrepreneurship is the scariest. It gets a little easier each time but it never gets easy. It got us wondering, if people had a safe place (or “safer”) to start a business with guidance and help, how many more people would start amazing businesses? How many of our team members have great ideas tossing around in their brains that they haven’t been able to take the first step on? So the Intrapreneur Program was born…
This program excites us because we hope it allows great ideas to take advantage of the resources we have internally. We also hope it means AltaML continues to attract the best talent and motivates every team member to continue to grow.
So you might wonder... what if I screw up? Nobody has ever been fired here for making a mistake. Providing the freedom to fail is important - we couldn’t expect so much of individuals if we also penalized people for errors. We genuinely look at these mistakes as opportunities to learn. Screwing up is a great way to find out that your assumptions were wrong. As long as you adjust your plan accordingly and move forward with a better plan, you’re doing it right. Look for ways to make small bets. Never be afraid to run an experiment or to collect more data. Ask yourself “what would I expect to see if I’m right?” Ask yourself “what would I expect to see if I’m wrong?” Then ask yourself “what do I see?” If something totally unexpected happens, try to figure out why.
There are however bad ways to fail. Repeating the same mistake over and over is one. Not listening to customers or peers before or after a failure is another. Never ignore the data; particularly when it says you’re wrong.
Expect others to question your assumptions, that is why they are part of the team. This doesn't mean you aren't doing a great job, it just means everyone comes with a different background and different experiences – no two people would tackle a problem the same way. By seeking out those questions from your peers, each solution and plan gets more refined and we can get to the best plan much quicker. As long as we are respectful of the way we communicate, we will all improve by having real and substantive debate.
We are a team, not a family. You are stuck with your family no matter how many strange things they do. Being with family means putting on a smile with the uncle that thinks he is just so cool. Being part of a team means collaboration, pulling your own weight, encouragement of your other team members, pushing ourselves and each other and most importantly not being a jerk. Everyone has had to do a group project in school, there is always someone or multiple people who don't pull their weight or provide any value to the project. In those cases, you generally just have to suck it up and put in some extra work yourself - not here. Succeeding on a team at AltaML means sustained "A" performance. That means being the most effective you can be. Ineffective people can work really hard and always maintain a "B" performance - that won't work here.
Open communication is key. It is important that managers communicate frequently with their team members so they know where they stand and there are no surprises. We like to use the "keeper test" to judge how a member of the team is doing. What this means is a manager should ask themselves, if you found out this person was leaving for another job, would you fight to keep them? If the answer is no then a discussion needs to be had immediately. An opportunity to turn things around will certainly be given to anyone found in this position but you can't create a culture of an amazing team pursuing ambitious goals with "B" level team members.
We suck compared to how great we want to become. There are a lot of big goals and big ideas driving this business. Things are changing quickly and often. We are growing at a crazy rate. That is going to mean we don't have everything figured out. That means we can guarantee you there will be some missteps along the way. We can also guarantee there is huge opportunity for growth, learning, and excitement. Bear with us through the missteps but hang on for the ride!
Lunch & Learn sessions happen once a month. It’s an opportunity for people to share their knowledge and expertise with the rest of the company.
New staff are welcomed on Fridays and all Fridays involve a company-wide staff meeting and an informal social. The weekly All Hands usually begins with someone giving a short presentation about themselves that they’ve prepared ahead of time. This lets everyone get to know that person a bit better and we typically learn a lot from everybody’s different backgrounds. All Hands also includes the Lion and the Monkey, as well as any new staff introductions, announcements and presentations. We get back to work and then break early and reconvene for an informal social.
The Lion is given to the person who has done a great job, finished something special or in general has "killed it" in the past week. It is the responsibility of the current holder of the Lion to collect nominations for the next recipient. We now also announce “mini-lions” as there are frequently many nominations for outstanding contributions each week.
The Monkey goes to someone who has messed up during the week - no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. The idea with the Monkey is to learn from your failures and to share those learnings with the team.