Optimizing your company’s culture around Mission, Values and Vision

Optimizing your company’s culture around Mission, Values and Vision

Host: Sean Tierney | Published: January 16, 2020

Rahul Bansal has built rtCamp from scratch to be a hugely successful WP dev agency. We were honored to have him speak this year at PressNomics 6 on the lessons learned from growing his organization. In this conversation Sean interviews Rahul about the pillars of a solid company culture, how to implement them in one’s own company and Rahul’s lessons from growing his dev agency.


Show Notes

0:00:54   Welcome and context
0:01:46   What are you speaking about at PressNomics 6?
0:02:26   What does rtCamp do?
0:03:48   Who do you serve?
0:04:30   Can you talk about the gaps in organizational culture that hamper growth?
0:08:36   Does this problem afflict only remote companies or in-office companies as well?
0:11:06   Can you talk about Values, Mission & Vision?
0:15:42   Having margins is healthy
0:17:24   Can you talk about the causative elements of good culture?
0:23:28   Do you have any attributable results that prove these ideas work?
0:27:46   Can you differentiate the terms Values, Mission & Vision?
0:35:38   What is the difference between equality vs. equity?
0:41:44   At what point does equity approach being “affirmative action?”
0:42:56   What happens when you attain your goals and don’t have a stretch goal?
0:47:42   Can you talk about what’s necessary to make that shift?
0:49:44   Decentralized decision making, branding and value
0:57:26   What book has had the most profound impact on you?
1:00:03   What is one tool or hack that you use daily to save time or headaches?
1:01:53   What is one piece of music that speaks to you?
1:03:00   What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
1:05:21   If you had a time machine to visit your 20-yr-old self what advice would you give?

Show Transcript

Sean: 00:00:50 All right, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. I am here today with Rahul Bansal. Rahul is founder of rtCamp and enterprise WordPress agency focused on publishing and e-commerce. He’s also founder of Easy Engine, a command line interface tool that makes it easy to run and manage high traffic WordPress websites for over a decade. Now, Rahul has contributed to the WordPress community in various ways, including being a WordCamp speaker and organizer. He’s been on the translation team for WordPress translating into both Hindi and Marathi languages and as a developer of various plugins and themes, he is currently organizer of WordCamp Asia in 2020 the first ever regional WordCamp in Asia. Welcome Rahul to the show.

Rahul: 00:01:32 Thanks in times for the warm nice enlightened introduction.

Sean: 00:01:37 Absolutely. So now you’re a speaker at PressNomics six, and let’s just dive right in. What are you going to be speaking about?

Rahul: 00:01:46 So basically as we look at personal media as a conference for work based economics. I thought I will contribute something that helped me with commercial success or the more local business area that again, so this talk will be more focused about how we did certain things that are to cam which help us scaling the team size on the the oral, the culture as you grow from one person to multiple teams.

Sean: 00:02:21 [Inaudible] Can you, can you kind of give some context, what is our T camp in your opinion? I know it’s a WordPress agency, but can you just kinda describe what you guys do?

Rahul: 00:02:30 Yeah, so so rtCamp was started like almost a decade ago. And that day when I finalized the name RT cam, at that time I wasn’t sure that we will be building a word persistency. In fact, the early plan was to build a probably publication company. Like we were actually a blog network before RT cam. And we want to have more writers, gen 200 more content, grow more in the media and publishing space. But over the time, like we transitioned into a full agency then only agency. So we have the journey has been transformational in sense of what we do. But one thing that we care that our T camp is that anything we do we must do good work. It must meet certain like the level of excellence and things like that. So that’s where the name is Arctic M solutions. If somebody look at the name, they can’t figure out what we do. It’s like there is no media, there is no it, there is no engineering, it just solutions. So we are here to just solve problem and currently we are solving what problem does it do.

Sean: 00:03:43 Okay. And who do you serve with this agency?

Rahul: 00:03:47 So as we had a firsthand experience into the publishing that is a domain we automatically become comfortable with. Then the second experience I had with not e-commerce, but offline commerce, like I have grown into a family which runs retail shop. So I had a decent exposure to retail businesses. So e-commerce is coming from there. Like my initial comfort. And domain knowledge of a retailing. So we sort of like publishing and e-commerce because we have roots there.

Sean: 00:04:25 Okay. So talk to me about like, I went through your slides and I know that the problem that you were addressing was related to gaps in organizational culture and it says according to you at hampers, growth affects decision making and public perception of the company. Can you talk a little bit about that problem that you’re, you’re, you’re speaking of?

Rahul: 00:04:46 So, so like when, when we start company like a one person or a bunch of co-founder when we do our first initial hiring, we, we automatically get a lot of time to orient them. Talk about what’s important for our organization. Like what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable. It could be like a, anything, like, it could be D size when to refund, when not pretty fun. Support, limit, support, policy, anything that basically sex expectation of people interfacing with the company, it client or user. So when company grow from a like a single unit it could go from an hourly employees to multiple team. And quite like in WordPress, it’s quite common in the WordPress ecosystem that we have remoting. I believe you were also remotely so, so remote is quite common in WordPress ecosystem and we are not only remote within country, but we are, most of the WordPress agencies, businesses are remote across the globe.

Rahul: 00:06:00 So not only we have multiple team, but we are multiple times on so, so, so there is very less of what we call watercolor moment that they’re not available in a old, old school companies where employees can chat over the lunch, a coffee breaks, go for a walk and talk. So when this kind of thing happen there is a little bit like sometimes gap gets created as in what, so basically we usually document the business processes, but we cannot talk about everything and when something unexpected happen if there is no guiding principle or the like a guideline then people behave based on their experience or their personal traits. So, so that can backfire. Sometime. A recent example, like I, I don’t have the insider information on this, but as, as outside Alexian sort of more public perception there was a case with DigitalOcean I think this year where they suspended somebody’s account and like initially a convert suspended the user reach to the support, the first person unlocked account and it was always then second time it got suspended I guess again in a day or two.

Rahul: 00:07:30 And the second support person refused to reinstate the account. So now if you see there is an extreme like behavior difference between the two support person who interacted on the same case. I think there was a gap here like if there was a policy on that, then both people should have been looking at the policy same policy and giving the same verdict. So maybe like the first person restored the account and this, that’s why they didn’t take it seriously. Like, okay, it might be one of mistake. So usually when this happens, it indicates that there’s a gap when two people, so when you’re in any company, when you’re doing dealing with two people and you get different answer for the same questions that contradict each other, then that means there is a gap.

Sean: 00:08:28 So let me ask you this though, sorry to interrupt, but this issue, it seems to me exists in companies that are all in the same office as well. But [inaudible] are you saying that this is more prevalent in remote teams just because there isn’t that opportunity around the water cooler to kind of, you know, have that random interaction that might proliferate that knowledge to other people in the company or it can you clarify like, yeah, definitely,

Rahul: 00:08:56 Definitely. Yeah. So, so I would say like this is definitely not a problem that can encourage remote companies. This can very well have been into the in-office companies as well. Usually in office when like we are working in the same office we have informal way of communication. So, for example, like just imagine digital ocean or is fightable company working from a single room and the first supportive prison to which interacted with the case. And second one, which interacted with the same case sitting next to each other, the mutter discussed among themselves like, Hey, why did you unlock five minutes ago? And like there could have been an informal communication line which I’m not saying which so in this case it is it is secondary that whether they shouldn’t tell blogged account or like keep it unblock that is a different, the point is that two people behave differently in the same circumstances.

Rahul: 00:10:02 So this can happen in any company, but with remote company, I, I somehow feel it happens at smaller sites where, where as in when everybody’s working from office you can get away without having like a formal definition of your values and culture. Pretty much like up to 30, 40 people. But in demoed it happens. So I think around eight to 10 people it can happen. It’s not necessarily that it will happen. We have some example of remote companies which are more than a hundred people and their behavior doesn’t reflect that they’re disoriented. They look like a one one tribe.

Sean: 00:10:48 Yeah, absolutely. I just actually interviewed 10 up, which is one of our partners and there are 180 people all distributed and you’d never know it. Like they have the cohesiveness of, you mentioned values and you know, in your slides you’ve got values, mission and vision. Can you talk a little bit about those four values that you guys have?

Rahul: 00:11:13 So, so we hel like so we have seen journey from one into another end. Like we were fully work from office company in the early days. We have been like that for I think four or five years. Then we started opening to the remote and now we are quite remote that hardly anyone comes to the office. Like, I came to office today for this interview because I wanted a really good internet and quite place. And since nobody comes to office, this is quite explicit. I have.

Sean: 00:11:48 So

Rahul: 00:11:49 So like like everything transition, our values went a bit of breaking because when we started in early days, we used to have lunch together all four meals together almost. We used to work in a single room, like when we were like around 20 people. So we, we didn’t wrote down our values as in as in like formally in a document instead of we used to communicate and when people sort of got a list of it. But yeah, so currently we have written them a sign. We have like a like two primary values that are good work and good people that defines most of us. So for the good work tells that good work is everything. It can mean better code, it can mean better customer support. It can mean better project management, different.

Rahul: 00:12:47 So the good would mean mean different to different people based on their job, what they’re doing. But everyone should aspire to do good work. And good people is again, implied like honesty, integrity the buddy buddy program that most companies out that that is a code into good people, where people are encouraged to help their teammates and things like that. So apart from that we have like another value that is more about experimentation because as a business so, so there’s a line that I come up, I read a few months ago in a book that nothing feels like success and that encourages to experiment a lot more because no matter how good things are going on they’re eventually change. They will change. And if you don’t unlock the next big thing in time you will become relevant. So experimentation is quite important.

Rahul: 00:13:51 Then we have one more that’s more like a for profit that we imported so that this is like a last addition door value system. Almost like a in a, a year back when we realize that profit is good. So basically when we started the Roundtable ledger and the philosophy was beat, like a sour behavior was more like a nonprofit. While we survived for eight years we, we couldn’t make much. And that always puts some strain on the system, like how much events we can sponsor, how much we can invest in RMD new projects and idea. And that’s where we thought like it’s perfectly fine to embarrass profit being fearful, being for-profit. And we define that value as a, we want to be profitable to stay independent. A few days back, I in tech we saw a bit of drama in the community when a large dusting company tried to make some marketing claim and there was some heated discussions around it. So I sometimes feel that if you have external pressures then sometimes you need to compromise on things. So being profitable is very important that you can stay independent. You can invest in different ideas. Even if a project is not doing well or the side project is not doing well, you can still keep it running because they’re not answerable to some particular like shareholders or investor. So

Sean: 00:15:36 100% agree with the like margin is healthy. And I don’t know where this, so there’s, there’s some kind of thing that’s crept in where people feel like, you know, having a healthy margin is greedy or I don’t know.

Rahul: 00:15:50 So if we had the same, same like for few years, a notional form where we started feeling guilty about margins. But when we first got numbers that I we realize the potential it has the parts and benefits we can offer to our teammates us, we can do so many things good things. And so th so then we, so it’s like when company, as we grow, many things change. So I’m not saying value as, as much as I say that, well, you should be non-negotiable. It’s like when you, when you decide on something, then it has to be non-negotiable, but you can revisit them. It’s more like a values. If you look at values as a constitution of your organization at the right time we can make custom additional amendments. So, so we added this like a profit for freedom two years back most. And like so we added last year based on the experience we had two years back. And since then we have been more accountable, more open. So even we work with nonprofit, like, which we still do some projects for nonprofit at very low margin or even like we do some work for free, but then that’s, that’s a plan one. The, in the overall picture, it doesn’t affect the bottom line.

Sean: 00:17:21 [Inaudible] Well, so you, you talked about good work and good people as being foundational values. I had written down quality, equality, causal and think different. Yeah.

Rahul: 00:17:32 So, yeah. So the thing is that those whatever initial like the starting point when we used to convey value more as in an informal way. So, so basically when we started this company there were two things that were central, like the the reflecting of our name. The name is Arctic MRT means Roundtable and Roundtable is inspired by King Arthur’s round table where everyone has equal say. So now this might not seem like a big deal. Like isn’t equals there has to be default. But culturally, when we were starting in 2008, nine there wasn’t much of equal say here. It was a Liz and the culture was in this region in India. It was more about bosses always, right. And we want, we want to change that. We wanted to build an organization where anybody can challenge anyone so anyone can be right.

Rahul: 00:18:33 It’s not just because you’ve got some gray hairs, means you got some extra wisdom. Like CEOs can make mistakes, manager can make mistakes, anybody can make mistakes. And we wanted to build a team with challenge that. So that came, that’s where we heard the equality and quality as in as I said, like when we were starting Arctic cam we were a media company, then we transitioned into WordPress and agency business and the development work. We did little bit products also at some point. So in fact we did some monitor work also, but the idea was that everything we do we will do it best. Like so this is more level quality and equality. But, and then we had a, like a thing different that was more of we, we were a design company also at that time.

Rahul: 00:19:26 We used to do a lot of design work, so it was more of a we want to do anything we are building. We want to make it, make it creative. So it’s like those were the, I would say the draft first draft of values, but when we were finalizing them, so we did a lot of work on finalizing, or I would say, articulating our values two, three years back when we were building the new office. We took that opportunity to do some work around lower welders basically. If you just write them on a paper more like a handbook page that people did on the day one, then it may not work out. So we wanted to write down in a way that we don’t need to change it quite frequently. And since we are building new office, we thought that once we get the articulation right we will make sure that we will do something to transfer over values.

Rahul: 00:20:30 So for example, we hired a doodle artist. So once we finalize these values, they could work with people and other things. We, we hired a doodle artist. Rather than putting like a typical Steve jobs or inspirational quotes on our walls of office, we literally had to do the artist and created some doodles which reflected our values. Sometimes as a reminder, sometimes as a guiding principle to put in daily work. For example, in our, in our office we have a central pillar. There’s a doodle which asks people like, can you do it better? Whatever you are doing, if we can do it better, then you are not doing good work. The good work is only when you believe that this is the best possible outcome I can do today. So installing that value is very important. In fact, we have a special domain.gw for all of our staging site, staging and deal sites. The GW means good work. So all sites you create goes on the GW. So whenever developers do a push or deployment on dark, GW domain it against reminds them that, Hey, I am pushing the good word out. So it’s like a micro reminders everywhere spreading the organization where people like subconsciously get get to remind that, Hey, you should be doing good work.

Sean: 00:22:04 Okay. And there was a third one, causal. Can you trace what the origin of that one is?

Rahul: 00:22:11 Again like it was more about the trace code and culture, like how we behave in the office in early days. Like, so, so basically when we started, I had a different frame of reference. I, what I was seeing at that time was companies were a lot more top down, a lot more bureaucratic pupil. They were expectation to dress up, certainly like companies, disturb uniforms. And we wanted people to work in Bermudez. Like they can walk into the office on the shorts, they can walk anytime they want. So you believe that everybody has that personal preference. And like we should be casual in our attire, the very bill we need to like ask permissions for smaller things like of people. People should own the company and the ownership will come when they believe that first party to this organization.

Sean: 00:23:13 Got it. So it’s casual. I’m sorry. I read it as, okay. So just a typo. I thought it was comparable. Okay. That makes more sense. Great. Okay. Well, so have you always had the values, you know, do you, you brought in a doodle artist because you wanted to make these little reminders and whatnot prior to that when they weren’t so upfront and everyone, you know, they weren’t living and breathing these things, do you have any hard numbers or anything you can point to to show that you’ve actually seen an improvement after surfacing

Rahul: 00:23:46 Those and making people consciously aware of them? Actually as I said, like in our early days we were so it’s like we always heard, well, system the, the initial in initial days it was a informal like it was a more like a formula that you will hear from your seniors like part of your orientation. And we used to have enough time because at Arctic campers, since we had a flexible timing and the office is to open around 6:00 AM and it was there open Dillon most past midnight, people can come and go anytime. I think it used to close on only for four hours to 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM something we had different teams housekeeping, 10 different support teams taking care of different thing. So we had like a morning breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinners in office.

Rahul: 00:24:46 And we had like a V on weekend. We used to team activities to get matched to get, it’s like a baseball, like a game in India, which is quite popular. Then we used to have like taking the news journal every month town halls. Before that, since we were a small team, we used to celebrate everybody’s birthday. So there were a lot, many activities and opportunities to convey this value every time. So let me give a small example for cricket match. So we used to usually ask the junior person in our team some, someone who is not leading any, anybody in the professional work to lead a cricket team, like a two liter sports team. So that that’s our way of conveying that, Hey you can order people, you can order your boss to become a better or baller and so you can come on things you can be a leader.

Rahul: 00:25:42 So, so these were, so they were like all these opportunities where people what learning, what article stands for first time and this was been done every day and it worked until there were enough people in the, the, the size was enough that we can offer to fit in one room. So when we started growing at that time, we felt that there is some gap. Like there was some gaps with our expectation that we had about this is a, like a person of great RT camp camper. Like the person who doesn’t compromise on the quality do this, this, this, there’s many boxes that’s not getting transferred to the new generation like that. We of them might sound like teacher, like for just the 10 years company, but we felt that the new hires not getting it right, there’s a little bit of gap there and before it becomes wider, we need to address that.

Rahul: 00:26:45 So around 14, 15, we started writing this and then we read in the like quite informally quality, quality. We convert that. But the mistake we made, we didn’t explain that we thought like this, this is all implied. What is there to explain and like so that is when so that mistake reminded us when we were building this new office that Hey, we have an opportunity to reinforce our values. So yeah, the reinforcement is a nice word. That goes here because culture cannot be like taught in a day. Like you need to give people clues, reminders which navigate which help them navigate within the company and understand what we stand for.

Sean: 00:27:38 Right. Okay. Can you, I just want to get some clarification because I know there’s some terms that are thrown around and loosely every company touts them and then people don’t really stop it. I can tell what they are. So I’d like you to, with the terms values, mission and vision, can you just real quick touch on each one of those and explain what they are in relation to one another?

Rahul: 00:28:01 Yeah. So, so this stumps had venues across different companies like, so I don’t think they did a standard definition, but what we think of them is, well, this is a list of things. The five things that are non-negotiable. It could be seven for some, four for some it, it doesn’t matter, but it has to be helpful. And this is like a good work is one, like just two words. But this we need to define what is good work and somehow like at least at some level and how much it is important. For example, if a plant is not willing to pay for something. So, but since it is not meeting our could work definition, we will do it from our own pocket. So, so basically values is a list of things that you never negotiate. For example, coterie is not negotiable.

Rahul: 00:28:58 Like it’s always going to be part of work because that’s how we believe we deliver a good hook. So, so that’s, so this good word or sorry, the value system is like a list of checklist that is that you will never compromise on across the company. And then comes the mission. Envision. This is again, people use interchangeably. For us, a mission is more of a aspirational, it’s like a more like a motivational, endless. For example, Democrat is in publishing the mission of workplace. How do we define success? Like do we have like a 60% Democrat ideation or 80% or Democrat is inward publishing 20, 20 or 2030. So, so this is more like an never ending aspirational things. A region can be thought of more like a two to five year plan. It could be thought of like a next big thing.

Rahul: 00:29:55 We need both. Let me tell you, like Gutenberg could have be thought of a region because two years before we started, I think in 2017 state of the word Matt mentioned about something like learn JavaScript deeply and he prepared for this big change. Almost two years. We sailed to this vision, like it will go probably for two more years. So we just usually defines next big thing. Now why both are important. Mission usually. As I said, like it’s aspirational and motivational. When somebody’s having a bad day or feeling a little bit down or feeling demotivated, the mission can act as a reminder at the greater good or the big thing we stand for. For us when you’re writing mission is better you write it in a way that it colors your value. So it acts as another reminder for your values.

Rahul: 00:30:50 So values and mission are tightly couple at Arctic and in that sense, so the, yeah, well isn’t mission, the vision is usually keep changing. So we had region until 2016 or different regions. Then when that is achieved, we plan something for, we internally say vision 20, 20, and that will be, we want to get. So usually now why this is important as well. Growing big, we have a developer team, we have ad management team, we have our design team now, okay. So all this team are working on their tasks in their day to day life. But subconsciously they will align their referred in a single direction, which will lead to the success of the bigger vision that, okay. So for example, our current vision is for 20, 20 days to become a full service agency. So, so even when developers are like they might think that we are doing our job very well, but since they know about this vision, they know that what extra we need to do, what are the gaps.

Rahul: 00:31:54 And so they will subconsciously try to fill up the gap. For example, they will recommended a very good designer friend Duarte camp, even though the designer friend may not like RT cam seeing like, Hey, what is this company? This the barely having a design portfolio, why should I join this? But since it is part of the region the brand ambassador, the employer of Arctic cam will go extra mile to convince their friends to join Arctic camp like that designer friends. So region somehow align our actions among the distributed disjointed team disco like discredited and not the wrong way, like a Dean, which are not related to each other but can still work for each other because they’re working towards a common vision. And I guess also this is more like the differentiation. So mission is more like a aspirational, motivational enlist reminder of values.

Rahul: 00:32:57 Vision is a next strategic shift you are doing. And this is important because somebody who is really good at their work can feel awful at time that what is their career part? What if your company has a strong and cleric clear division, then there’s a know that where we are heading and if they want to be part of the journey, it’s okay that people come and go, but people shouldn’t go out because there’s no clarity. And that is a very bad for an organization to lose people because they didn’t feel confident about the organizations. Future roadmap.

Sean: 00:33:38 Yup. Okay. So I’m just going to summarize just to kind of put a bow on that from what I might take is, so values is that list of things that you’re unwilling to compromise on. It’s those, those non-negotiables. Like you said, the, and the mission is really just what the company is all about. It’s your purpose, it’s what you’re there to do. And that’s, that’s fundamental. The vision is almost an expression of that mission, but it’s a grand, I almost think of it like if we’re, if we’re using the space, like NASA is as an example here, you know, when Kennedy said, we’re going to put a man on the moon in 10 years, that’s this grand vision that everyone can kind of latch onto and get behind. So it’s like a rally cry that is consistent with the mission, but it’s an expression of the mission. It’s, it’s, so it’s related but not the same thing.

Rahul: 00:34:30 Yes. So region usually how like a deadline, Virginia is more actionable, so, so, so vision can help people act.

Sean: 00:34:44 Got it. What about, there’s another set of terms I was hoping you could clarify and you have a brilliant slide in your presentation that visually says this, but I’m hoping you can kind of paint the picture here. A equality versus equity. Can you clear up what that distinction is?

Rahul: 00:34:59 Oh so when we were as I said, like [inaudible] spent a great deal of resources into this metal work at our D camp, like articulation do the artist many things. So once we hired an economist, a little economics, somebody from the economist’s background who worked with the government on policymaking, and that person basically analyze Arctic camp and said what you say is not any quality. That’s equity. And that was a shock for us because equity is the word we only heard in context of like a stock market. And then he basically pulled that picture and showed to us and he initially fit in the title and like he, I don’t grab the picture and he told me to relate which way Arctic M like what is, what does Arctic M more relate to? And I automatically point to finger of equity because we do many things that’s equitable.

Rahul: 00:36:11 So equal opportunities in say a liquid put in. What was context? There is enormous shift where people are learning JavaScript, right? And in work with many, many organizations are getting ready with JavaScript, helping their PHP programmers learn JavaScript. We, we did a lot of those courses for our team. So equitable behavior will mean that you will do equal opportunity. So, Hey, this is a course. 10 copies says I Gordon’s course, and you each learn one course. Now this is very quality and the equity is a higher ground than equality. We’d go beyond and go back to the all those 10 people and see if they really made it. Some might have done, like some might’ve already done without the course. Some mitered done good work right after the course. There might be few which are still struggling. And it quickly tells us that you need to invest more into those people. They need another course they need, might be a training workshop they need, might be more inspiration. They need some counseling, like the example fit in the JavaScript piece with my transition. But the idea is that giving equal opportunity is not enough. Some time this is, we need to sometime take an extra effort to to, to really help people get where you want to.

Sean: 00:37:46 Right. So, so equality is giving the same exact thing to everyone, but equity you’re saying is some people just might need more, they might need more coaching or more aid or whatever it is. And so equity is the notion that you give enough to bring them up to the same level as the other people.

Rahul: 00:38:04 Yeah. Yeah. And this is reflect in a say in remote work, distributed globally distributed team different countries held different cost of living. So we cannot just say, Hey we pay like $10 in this country. So it should pretend everywhere to pull out different cost of limbs. So for example, equity, another equitable behavior that those, that economist friend notice when the annual Arctic and that there was a salary, Haig pattern around people’s marriage and fatherhood or motherhood. Like when people become parents they become like they got married. They’re they got a raise. That was a higher than their aerating, justified. So we had that subconscious, that plan that, Hey your expenses are going to increase and we would like to support you. We don’t want new responsibility to put pressure on your shoulders.

Rahul: 00:39:03 So, so now that discussion came in, came and resulted in a lot of confusion because when we send people that, our team that in, but Hey guys, we just realized that when we stand for equality, we are actually standing for equity. And that the God confused because when people heard about equity, they immediately thought about stock market shares and equity as in, in that conversation. So yeah. And that is when we actually taught, taught we need to rewrite our values. And actually it is good work and good people. This word came from like you might know Daniel makeover. He worked on WPC reporter for a long time. He was with Arctic and for 18 months and he was here on our team retreat when we have, we were having this whole, we dedicated a whole day to discussing our value system.

Rahul: 00:40:01 And that’s when we thought like it doesn’t matter, equity or equality, what matters is a, we care about being good pitcher. So then we shifted to that good people and likewise the quality becomes good work because quality was more it felt we filled it. It is a bit dry. It was B, the binary that highest ground, too much pressure. So it’s like good enough. Like, because they cannot be best because what I think is a good work today, maybe after one year I will see my code. NCI, I could have reflected that. I could have added some different logical I could have done better handling something like that will come up in my mind after two, three years when I look back.

Sean: 00:40:52 Yeah. So it seems to me, I mean, equity, it’s a noble goal to say, you know, give, give whatever’s necessary to bring those people up to the level where they need to be. I think the slippery slope here is that it starts to sound like not socialism, but almost like affirmative action in the, in the sense, you know, I mean, which is like, I see both sides of this coin, right? It’s not a, it’s not a binary thing that equality versus equity. It sounds to me like there’s a balance that needs to be struck here in terms of, and also you’re a for profit company. So, you know, it’s some point while it’s nice to think that you can bring everyone up speed and you know, that person who’s struggling to learn Java script, you know, repeatedly after many courses in all the help you can give.

Sean: 00:41:39 If it’s not working out, then I’m sorry, but throw equity out the window at some point and get, find someone who can write Java script. So but it’s an interesting conversation and it’s, it’s a term I’m glad that we’re having this discussion because it’s something that I don’t know, I’ve not heard this pitted against each other and discussed openly like this. So I want to ask you, so you guys got a bit derailed in 2017. I know from going through your slides, it sounds like you, you nailed your goals and you didn’t really have like a stretch goal beyond that, which is an unique challenge. Like you put the thing out there, you go for the carrot, and then what do you do once you get the carrot, if you haven’t thought of what’s next? Can you talk a little bit about that situation?

Rahul: 00:42:25 Yeah. So so basically when we, like in early days when you started this work with agency, like when you become the workplace agency dedicated full time, no publishing witness, only focusing on engineering and bring WordPress consulting and services, development services. We were facing a lot of like negativity as in, in the market perception about India, this region, the quality delivers. So we, we, we sort of made a Medi dollar goal. The purpose of life, the aim, the vision, the mission, everything that we will do good work to the level where if you will remember how our quality now we drifted here and there. And then at one point we sort of figured out like not figure, dislike me sort of like, so we were doing good work. In my opinion. We were, we were a lot better since early days.

Rahul: 00:43:35 But that’s not enough. The people who are buying from us should believe that my believing my team is good, isn’t enough. It it is something that the prospect should believe the possibility customers will do. And that’s why we wanted to get a recognition that a stamp of sort of approval that okay, these are the people in touch with the quality and our own 14 I somehow like came across the VIP partner program, better medic. And I feel that people look at that program very highly. And if we become one of the partner that will automatically, like ironically automatics, David program will automatically give us that scene, that set of like recognition across the globe. And that might help us a rise of all the previous bad expenses people had in this region.

Rahul: 00:44:38 So we had that goal and we achieved in 2016. The problem is that after that we didn’t talk about anything else. So it’s like we wanted to prove to the world that we can do amazing engineering work. But we never thought beyond that. And that’s when we felt like little [inaudible] like we were, we were doing amazing project. There were like a like a good profit. We made a deer. But one day I asked him that what are we, where are we going next? And nobody had an idea. And then I felt that as I mentioned sometime back in this like vision is very important because when we had that vision to achieve some, some like extra color quality excellence, beat core contribution, we did contribute to the pole a lot. Like since 2013 basically we took area personally to prove that we can do good engineering work, but once we felt that, Hey, we are at the pinnacle and we’d known it to prove it again and again anymore.

Rahul: 00:45:49 Like they want to contribute to the code, but it is more of a giving back. We have nothing to prove to anybody anymore what we want to do next. And that’s where we fell a little bit. Like a disorientation did element that people are not able to pull their actions together. Like that’s when we discuss that, what is next? I like, okay, the workplace is doing well. We, everything’s doing well, so shall we [inaudible] shall we go next time you start a product, another engineering division. And so that is where we had discussions and then we agreed that I think we already proved we are a good engineering team and now it’s time to prove that we can do things around also equally good. So we designed that management and other things that our clients care about and that’s where we tried to then that’s what we came up with, this vision 20, 20, where we had like, okay, by the end of 2020, we should be a full service agents.

Sean: 00:46:56 Okay. So that’s a, I mean, that’s a fundamental change. Can you talk about what’s necessary to make that shift?

Rahul: 00:47:04 So first you need to realize that like you have a vision like among your team because if you don’t have that C getting day to day work done is different. You might deploy your project, you might get that core it, the, you might get 100% of time, you might get that [inaudible], but those are transactions. There is something that binds the team together more like a teams who don’t know each other. So I, I always wonder that how these large companies work like 10,000 people, 100,000 people, it always mesmerized me how they, how they, how they are connected on a single journey. And this is where we need to figure out basically this is important to give people autonomy, but at the same time get cohort and output outcome such like you will ask people to do different things or do things the way they want to do, but still you get cohort and outcome and the, this kind of vision or a goal setting is required across organization. Because once you align, when you align everybody on one, one, one page or one region or one goal they end up helping each other without knowing.

Sean: 00:48:29 And I think that’s, that’s a pretty important thing to get clear on. And this concept of once you are all aligned on values, you don’t need a script that tells you how to act in every situation. People will figure it out naturally on their own based on, you know, Hey, this is a novel situation, but I know my values are these and I know that our mission is this. And so what should, what fits, what is the best fit with that? And that dictates how you act in a novel situation. So 100% agree with you on that. Can you talk about, there was three things is a part of this strategic shift that you mentioned decentralized decision making, branding and value. Can you talk about those three things?

Rahul: 00:49:11 So the centralization is more over like as well growing and expanding into multiple teams and multiple business units. Like those were different.

Rahul: 00:49:23 So, so like when we turned 10 year old like Hartigan turned 10 year old in March we had like a very, like a serious discussion across the board, like between different team. And we realized that there are too many things going through me. And that’s not good for the company. So for next five years, my personal goal is

Rahul: 00:49:52 To give away the decision making, like so I don’t, so basically somehow like, so basically most founders or leaders take decisions based on intuition and that intuition is hard to document. Like there is no way you can document why you feel the person should be hired, like can have the binary questions with yes, no answers and you can have a score sheet and all. But there is always something that we call intuition. Which often gets the best out of you. Eh, like for example, 29, two zero, zero nine when I decided to make this as a WordPress agency, WordPress wasn’t as big as it is today, but somewhere there was intuition that this is a software we love to use and this is where we should put our all energy. So, so I want to give it away, like how I make decision. And the goal is to like, when I, when decent allegedly is not the management, it is decentralized leadership. So people should be able to lead. You need as a CEO of the group, like so the air management head should should lead it in a way that is in line with our values without consulting me, without need to consult me or without need to concern consult the other founders.

Sean: 00:51:19 [Inaudible] Yeah, we talked about this actually. So this is court of Pagely as well. I talked about it. I, I recently interviewed Craig Martin and performance Foundry, which is another one of our partners. And there’s some fundamental stuff that we agree on in terms of extreme ownership and what’s called leader leader pushing that decision making to the edges cause it doesn’t scale otherwise. You know, like you said in a company of 10,000 people, if all the decision making has to be, has to be coming from the top and then, you know, checking every decision that just, it does not scale. There’s no way you could support that at that level. It has to be pushed to the edges for that to even work. Okay. So that’s the decentralized decision making. Can you talk about branding and value?

Rahul: 00:52:02 So basically branding is more about that so since we, we have been more into engineering things where we are more like a commodity as in we did a lot of stuff or we argumented many things. So now we want to expand into as in the front front end, like a front end of the business, more like a revenue side marketing side, design side. So we need to have a strong branding of ourself. So we are investing a lot into our own branding that is as simple as like a style guide or design, but as big as like the one I, the example I gave there when we hired a doodle artist to literally create our own things. We even had hired a graffiti artists, but we didn’t get permission from the building to paint the walls, external walls. So, so, so the see like my branding is when that but projecting Arctic cam in line with the vision, the new vision or the new aspirations of the company.

Sean: 00:53:18 Hmm. And so when you say Brandon, you’re referring to like visual identity,

Rahul: 00:53:23 Ritual identity. Yeah, around like a content case studies packaging the communication and like the communication should shift from so it, it, it also involves communication guideline to all the stakeholders, right. From the developers to the sales. Like like the developers now was more client like usually when they get a task, why we are doing that. Like three days back we got a very good success when a developer flags a requirement by applying and with after discussing the client they were like, yeah, this shouldn’t have been done that way. So we are like asking people to act as a leaders even if they’re at the junior most position. So branding is more of, it’s like a brand communication. This visual identity is a key part of it, but there is a more to it like like empathy how you should have you step into other shoes. So it’s like basically current. We are, we’re kinda looked at as a premise with an engineering company, which needs a good WordPress engineers and we want to get to the full stack solution like the company. We can do it all for you. So that is not just a menu of like adding more solicit to the menu. It will require that the change change, it will require the whole communication change the way we talk to the people, the way we project ourselves and we just want design cannot be sold as a commodity.

Rahul: 00:55:01 And then that last one value. Can you talk about that? So I think you have written this time, the value in different context. The way as we are doing transition we are trying to move away from being the cost center to the value centers where you in this context as in so currently when people had Arctic em they usually save that hiring cost or engineering costs or like a development cost because of the unique advantage we offer in terms of the pricing, you know. But now this this this benefit is always have a ceiling as in the cost they would be to our competitors. So here we are trying to make a transition where we are actually trying to forge partnerships with publishers. Usually the small to medium sized publishers who are under budget. We are trying to do more like a revenue partnership that Hey, you don’t need to hire us. We can come onboard as a your CTO or your tech partner. You focus on content creating or some news media, whatever you want. And we will take care of everything in exchange of some revenue share. So we are no the cost centers to them. We are more like a partner, a revenue [inaudible].

Sean: 00:56:33 Cool. All right, well Rahul, I think this is probably a good place to start wrapping up. I do have a, just a common set of questions that I ask all my guests. Can you, is there a specific book that has had a profound influence on you?

Rahul: 00:56:51 I, I did very few books, so I cannot recall the books, but so like as I said, like we, we invested a lot into the culture itself. Around 2015, we hired somebody in HR and that was a very different hiring. Usually in India, people hire HR what MBH or, or where the diploma in nature. We, I think I or somebody who has a MSI clergy and and that person Umbria. It’s funny. Give me a talk like a Ted talk, clink by assignments in a

Sean: 00:57:34 Great leaders inspire action.

Rahul: 00:57:37 Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was so I, I remember that as a why do we exist? So in my mental model the talk is saved as a Simon Sinek talk. Why do we exist? So, but yeah, the actual title is the one you said. So that talk basically froze me for a few days because I did many things with good intentions and there, but it was very hard to articulate in one line. It’s like most of the time we end the focus drifting to how we do things and what are the features and things like that. So that literally changed the way I think about the whole thing. And it helped me motivated my team to a different level. And so I think that is that single tick thing. And I, and I, I give it to all the time. Like whenever I meet somebody who is struggling, I give that talk link to them.

Sean: 00:58:42 Yeah. It’s, I literally just yesterday cited it as a friend, had a solicitation for what’s your favorite Ted talk ever? And that’s the one that I listed. It’s Simon Sineck is, I’m a huge fan. I don’t know if you happen to have read his book or done his course. Both are good. I think the online course that they have this start with why.com is fantastic. I recommend that to people all the time. But yeah, I think just the, the takeaway for me with that, he says, people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it and what a powerful concept. So good, good, good choice. What about, what is one tool or hack that you use daily to save time or money or headaches?

Rahul: 00:59:27 [Inaudible]

Rahul: 00:59:29 I so like it’s hard to say because my, my actually day to day work is quite so, so, okay. Now this is actually the success of our value system. Contractor to other CEOs and pretty much free. And I’m like a very, like, I’m always available for call, chat, casual discussion. I, I, I really need to talk to any client I, they need to get involved in any project the company. So the way I sit, I’m, I’m mostly working on the company. I have my my, my parallel universe where I’m looking at RT camp every day and trying to tweak it a little bit and improve it. So I don’t need to use a lot, many tools. My simple, like my day starts with simple Chrome and Slack. I don’t go to him much these days and yeah, usually tends with Chrome and Slack. Yeah.

Sean: 01:00:29 Okay. And that’s great. So maybe your hack is just that you don’t really have a hack.

Rahul: 01:00:38 Yes. That’s like, I don’t need to, it’s like the real like for our size and scale we have, we are pretty much into that zone where things are running literally like autonomously. I, I, I really need, need not talk to many people. Like I haven’t talked to many people in, within the company for a long time. It’s like, it’s not like they are not available. We don’t need to like things just go, go on automatically. Like I’m never stressed about I got to do so many. So usually I, or my workload is more from the external side. Like I sign up for what campus here and I’m giving pretty much a like a, like almost my 15 to 20 hours a week there. And I can do that without affecting my work because there is very less to do me, less to do for me in the office.

Sean: 01:01:30 Let me ask you, is the CEO of how do you choose what you’re going to focus on next?

Rahul: 01:01:36 So, so that, yeah, so that vision that we created after discussing with our leadership team, Intel leadership team also helped me dictate my behavior. Like the, so I’m most mostly working on the strategic plan. Like okay, we need to get to this next thing. Next region we have is that to get a full full service agency. So my most of the time goes in finding out those blocks and which block to pick. For example, we had one discussion that we don’t want to become another Indian engagement’s like a Java agency or of religions or something because to prove our engineering, we already have workplace like our work with workplace. So you will, this, this decision making related research is something I ended up bringing most. And you mentioned that, start with Vitor com. Maybe I will go ahead and check that. And that will be my task list leg. So this is usually, Hey end up being most

Sean: 01:02:41 Cool. All right. What about is, what is one piece of music that speaks to you lately? And it can be just a musical artist or it can be a particular song.

Rahul: 01:02:50 So I am mostly into the local music, so I listen to a lot of Sufi music. That’s like actually I think that from Pakistan. But I love the Sufi music a lot. I I don’t think like so I how within Sophie’s own there is a, what are you brothers? Those are my favorite artists. They used to be two brothers, one passed away sometime ago. So what I live with so like I don’t listen much music. I need pin drop silence all around me. But whenever I do listen, I am mostly ended up playing some Sufi music from what else?

Sean: 01:03:38 Okay. I’d love to get a link that we can embed in the show notes just so people can check out this music. Cool. What about take your time with this one cause it’s a, it’s a little bit of a heavy question, but what important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Rahul: 01:03:56 [Inaudible] Most people like wanted us to fit in rather than like start this strategy, disability kind of attitude where we had like a like no hierarchy, so much autonomy to select people who knows closely me and know like, have more details interact. Again, they often being critical about the Roundtable nature of it. But I think that’s the reason we are successful is like,

Sean: 01:04:40 Is that a cultural thing do you think unique?

Rahul: 01:04:45 Yeah. Culturally we are very unique and I think so, so basically you see as I mentioned like I, I don’t need to Mark what I didn’t, I don’t need to work much as in like, so I usually end up doing what I like. I rarely have something on my head like, Hey, you need to finish this unit to finish that you need to attend this meeting or unit two, we need to consult for this project. This is happening because we build this culture like in a decade that nobody is working for me. We consciously made this choice that people don’t work for each other and actually people are not working for either RT camp. People are working for themselves. They have their own journeys and Arctic and was more like a pitstop. If we are lucky, we will travel maybe a daycare or maybe a lifetime together. But that is not an expectation or a compulsion. So, so this is very different compared to the culture, the working culture in India where the owners literally want to own everything and they end up doing everybody’s work. Like that’s what my continued ism that you end up doing all your team’s work. In my case it’s opposite. Like I barely do anything.

Sean: 01:06:06 Cool. All right. What a last question for you here. What about, what is one piece of advice, if you had a time machine to go back to your former 20 year old self and give yourself any bit of advice, what would you say?

Rahul: 01:06:23 At 20 year old, like I would it’s very hard because I, I like what we ended up doing. The only thing maybe at 25 when I started Arctic M I will definitely not start Arctic gamble earlier. I sometimes that I feel bad about the young ones, proponents like like there’s a part of life which is really good in those days and enter entrepreneurship should be delayed as much as possible. You should start as that as possible. And once you start I think that Mmm, if I had some maturity to understand the customer perspective earlier or the forfeiting said that we will create a vote. Sorry. We feel guilty about being for-profit is a greedy thing. We really feel that like port first few years ago and in fact I lost many opportunities and there were a lot of mental conflict going on.

Rahul: 01:07:31 So I would like to fix that one thing that, yeah, it’s not, it was never bad. Like it was practical thing. Is the problem is not how like if you make money, the, if any part that could be bad about wealth, it is how do you use it? Are you, like, how do you spend it? Like if you if you can give it back in a nice way or put those resources at a good place, there’s no need to kill bird. Like, so one thing I wanted to change is yet I wish to be for-profit.

Sean: 01:08:08 Good advice. Good advice. Well, Rahul, thank you so much for your time today. How do people, if they want to get in touch with you, where, where we send them?

Rahul: 01:08:18 Like I’m, as I said, like I am a, a lot of times they can reach out to me or the, my personal email hold two 86, ed G Miller com. I’m also on Twitter. I told I will do 86.

Sean: 01:08:32 Okay, sounds good Rob. Well, thank you so much for your time today and best of luck and we’ll see you at PressNomics.

Rahul: 01:08:38 Yeah, thanks Sam for having me here. Thank you. Cheers.

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