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More thoughts on culture

Before you know it, we have been working on our own startup for three years! Despite all the blood, sweat, and tears, we are still having so much fun that every day seems like a trip to a new part of a jungle : ).

One of the main factors that motivated us to start Trusli is now getting to build our own culture. We have been out there and been through the fire and grill. Between my co-founder and myself, we have seen stuffy law firms, huge multinational enterprises, hyper-growth startups powered by Silicon Valley craziness, joint ventures, or Silicon Valley offices of foreign companies, to name a few. Each brings its own set of challenges, be it cultural biases, antiquated ways of working, or moving too slow or sometimes too fast. So, when we are building Trusli, we are very intentional about the kind of culture we want to build here.

Of course, we are also standing on giants’ shoulders when it comes to culture. From Apple, we learned an extremely high standard of excellence and beautiful design. From startups like Zoox, we learned how to hire only rockstars and empower them to do great things at an extremely high speed. From companies like Amazon, we learned principles such as “bias for action” and “frugality”.

Over the course, we also learned the challenges of operating under an extremely tight budget, on a very fast timeline, with a talented yet very young crew. We had to adjust our plans accordingly. So, at this point, what do we hold as true for our culture?

1. Relentless pursuit of truth and excellence.

The one thing that we have not and will not negotiate is our pursuit of our mission, building a beautiful product that people want and that makes their life better, and how we get there. There are many mistakes to make, but we are open for debate and trial and error. However, ultimately we want to achieve a high standard and really solve people’s problems, not just pretending to care, but really care.

We will not tolerate a lower standard of excellence. Everything we do we must excel. If not, we might as well not do it. Yes, we cut corners when we can to expedite things. Yes, we may skip steps that we know we should stick to in terms of processes, but we cannot and will not settle for a less than perfect work product.

For our team, we do not tolerate B players. If you want to be a B player, you should leave and do so somewhere else. For us to tolerate B player behavior, it’s like saying to our entire team that the behavior is ok. It is not OK.

2. Know when to delegate and when not.

Some team members are puzzled by certain very “hands on” acts. I personally don’t believe I am a micro manager, nor do I intend to become one in the foreseeable future. However, because we are in uncharted waters, and because we do have a very high standard, we must pick and choose when and how we delegate.

As they say in McKinsey, every problem of this word can be solved by a 2x2 box. Here is mine for delegation.

3. Bias for action and ultimate accountability.

This is another area that we feel passionate about and will not settle. We choose to build a startup because we thrive to do, not to go back and forth, rely on others, try to take it easy, find excuses. We do. We make it happen. We choose to act, sometimes knowing that acting too fast will bring its own share of mistakes, but we act regardless.

In connection with taking action, we ask the team to take accountability. We are biased to act, but we are ready to be accountable for the consequences. We finish everything we start off. We recognize our mistakes and take responsibility for them. We don’t wait around. We don’t blame others.

4. Never forget the human element.

The one thing we really need to remind ourselves is not to forget the human element despite our very high standards, the huge pressure we are under every day to develop and ship products, and all the roadblocks we may hit on the way.

Ultimately, we are building a team of rockstars and want them to have fun along the way. Even though our bias for action method and our directness in communication derived from the sense of urgency may cause the team to feel we are “harsh”, it’s no excuse for forgetting the human element behind every action, critique, and feedback. We aspire to be empathetic, respectful, and delightful despite all the pressure and stress.

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