Core values are more essential than you realize.
“It is so important to have a strong core,” said every fitness trainer ever. Having a strong core is essential for the following things: balance, support, and basic movements like turning and pivoting. The same can be said for a company that has a strong core or strong core values. Companies with solid core values have balance, stability, and the agility to pivot when necessary. Think of Toyota and the amazing story of how they made it through the 2008 global recession without the need to lay off large groups of workers. Some of Toyota’s core values, such as welcoming new challenges, taking a global perspective, and encouraging teamwork, gave them a balanced perspective enabling them to survive during the global economic upheaval.
Companies with strong core values can support themselves, clients, and employees in growth phases. Even experts agree that one of the secrets of fast-growing companies is having strong core values. Even more compelling is the research that was done at a Swedish university which suggests that a robust company culture that is driven by strong core values is one of many differentiating factors that has helped successful IT startups thrive. GoPro is an example of a company whose core values have helped them build stability to support growth. Their core value of “harnessing the power of wow”, enabled them to not only compete but dominate in a market that was already largely oversaturated by smartphone technology.
Companies with strong core values tend to pivot more successfully. Not many people know this, but Instagram will go down in history as one of the most successful business pivots ever. The failed precursor to Instagram was an app called Burbn. Its features were complicated, and the user experience was not simple or streamlined. Burbn founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger took a significant risk in deciding to pivot. Stripping their app down to barebones, focusing on photos, and a simple, clean user interface was crucial for pivoting. The new version of the Burbn app is what we know today as Instagram. Instagram’s core values of “community first, inspire creativity, and simplicity matters” allowed the platform to reinvent itself to be a giant in the social media platform industry with over a billion users worldwide.
Core values are the rudder that steers the ship on a daily basis. At the same time, core values also act as a guide and starting point for long-term goals both personally and professionally. I am a big believer in core values. I myself, went on a journey over the past 18 months to find my own core values; Authenticity, Trust, Courage, and Spirituality.
As a new employee of this small but mighty company, it has been such a privilege to lean into Online Growth Systems’ core values over the last few weeks as I orient myself in my new role. It has been refreshing to see these core values lived out in real-time. I can confidently say that I see Online Growth Systems’ core values at play every minute of every day while we work.
Below are the OGS core values and how I have seen them in action during my first few weeks:
1. Engage in radical candor.
Ability to show confidence in yourself and your work, yet humble when receiving accurate and constructive criticism. Humble enough to set aside personal desires and buy-in for the benefit of the team.
This core value, more than any other, is at the center of how Online Growth Systems operates both internally and externally. This value is born from the indispensable advice of Kim Scott in her 2015 talk on “Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss.” In her talk, Kim discusses her experience with a boss who very compassionately told her, after an otherwise stellar presentation, that when she “said um every third word, it made [her] sound stupid.” She talks about how her boss earned the right to give her that feedback because they proved to her that they cared about her. Kim has systematized a style of communication that she calls radical candor. To distinguish between radical honesty and just being a jerk, Kim suggests remembering these guidelines with the acronym “HIP.”
Radical candor is:
In private (if criticism)
In public (if praise)
Does not Personalize. Not personalizing means not attributing the feedback you give to a personal or moral failure (you did something bad vs. you are bad).
This core value is one of the main reasons I wanted to work for OGS. I saw this value at play even before becoming an Online Growth Systems employee. During my recruitment and hiring process, my conversations with company founder Dick Polipnick were unlike any other recruitment or interview I had ever been a part of. Dick was honest with me about how his small but mighty company is a startup that is poised for growth. Dick was open about the fact that I was not the only person he was considering for the job. Dick was honest about what the salary would be and the true challenges of the job. In exchange, I felt like I could bring my most authentic self to every interaction I have since had with him.
Radical candor is happening all day, every day at Online Growth Systems. In our morning and evening stand-up meetings, we hold each other accountable for meeting daily task goals to ensure we continue to grow. In our meetings with clients, we use radical candor when discussing project scopes, expectations, and challenges with as much transparency as possible. What has been so refreshing is that it creates an environment where it feels safe enough to say “I don’t know” or “I disagree.” The irony is that environments like this that are safe enough for people to admit to lack of knowledge or lack of alignment are the most fertile for growth and learning. It is not possible to learn something without first admitting that you don’t know. These types of environments allow employees to be more confident in their ability to grow. These types of environments make it possible to achieve much deeper levels of expertise because questions are welcomed. These types of environments foster innovation.
At OGS, it is never just “I don’t know”; it’s “I don’t know yet, and I will find out.” Radical candor makes negative feedback easier to receive because you can trust that the other person genuinely wants to help you succeed. Radical candor makes positive feedback more meaningful because you understand that there are no ulterior motives at play.
2. Adopt a growth mindset and take action.
Professionally and personally, we focus on #growth as our One Word. We are driven to improve and take the initiative.
During the times when I have made mistakes, I have been encouraged to take action to analyze what happened and learn from it as a way to improve our systems. Focusing on having a growth mindset has helped me remember that growing isn’t always comfortable, but it is always good. We’ve all had growing pains, but when you live in a growth mindset, they don’t have to be painful. As I’ve inhabited this growth mindset more and more, it reminds me that the “painful” parts of growth are the best teachers fueling us to become our best selves.
As a perfectionist, when I want to do well at a project, I can fall into the trap of getting paralyzed by the fear of not getting it right the first time, or better known as “analysis-paralysis.” Having a growth mindset has helped me remember that if I don’t get it perfect this time that there is always room for improvement. Ironically, it had allowed me to have the freedom to do much better than I had in the past when I was stagnant for fear of messing up. Being able to have room to grow and take immediate action has given me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. This accomplishment has generated an incredible amount of momentum and motivation as I see how my actions have a very positive impact in real-time. It is fantastic to feel so productive.
At one point, several weeks in, the OGS team needed to confront the problem of meeting timeliness. We used our growth mindset to honestly investigate what might be holding us back from being able to keep meetings on schedule without blaming each other. Instead of pointing fingers, we collectively took immediate action to find out where we could learn. We took time to grow as a team and find a solution that benefited everyone.
3. Inspire change.
Our products and services go beyond their face value. Our company inspires innovation and impacts people outside our clientele.
If you haven’t noticed yet, each core value tends to build on the other. Radical candor is key to having a growth mindset and taking action. Growing and taking action fuels us to inspire change in each other, change in ourselves, change in the company, and ultimately, we hope, change the world. I am sure you’ve heard the adage “the change starts with you.” We are encouraged to grow and changes as humans, employees, and as a company. There have been a couple of instances where one of us has shared something that is inspiring us from a book we are reading, a new workflow we’ve created, or a hack we have discovered that improves efficiency. Inside the company, when each of us changes, we aim to inspire each other to change as well. Our work environment is constantly pushing us to be the best version of ourselves.
Inspiring change on a micro-level with each other pushes us to create better UX environments in the software we create and better UI for the customers that our clients serve. Inspiring change with well-designed SaaS and Ecommerce technology can change the course of business for the clients we serve. Dick once told me why he is so obsessed with helping companies grow. We were packing up our stuff for the day, and he said, “I hope you know that I am not just obsessed with growing companies from a purely profit-driven standpoint. When we help a company grow, it impacts the lives of its employees. It can create new jobs, further impacting people outside of the company… I just love that. I love that we can have that level of impact when we help companies grow.”
4. Build systems.
We invest in the long term. Whether it’s automating a procedure or building a dynamic process, we invest today to grow tomorrow.
This core value epitomizes the axiom “working smarter, not harder.” Though I can attest to the fact that all of us are very hard-working, we are intentional about how we spend our time and energy. Online Growth Systems is obsessed with creating a methodology that allows us to quickly deliver and maintain a high standard of excellence in serving our clients. We want to develop systems for our clients that ensure growth but also sustainability. We want to help our clients generate frameworks that provide sustainable growth. We learn about the challenges our clients face to make systems and actionable recommendations that bring results.
During my onboarding experience, I saw this core value as tasks were streamlined with growth in mind. Since we are all open to constructive feedback because of radical candor, the systems we create are continuously improving. Internally, these systems act as frameworks that can be followed, making it almost impossible not to succeed. Externally, these systems create consistency and transparency for our clients building strong client relationships where mutual respect and trust color every interaction.
5. Foster fun experiences.
For clients, fans, and for our internal team- whenever you interact with OGS, you’ll have an experience that you’ll want to keep coming back to.
I have never had so much fun at a job. I will admit that I frequently thought that business and fun were meant to be entirely separate things. It has been an adjustment for me as my team has encouraged me to bring my own quirky sense of humor to work. It is such a relief after an intense session of doing deep strategy work, I can always count on someone on my team to lift the mood. Interestingly, having moments of fun and comic relief has allowed me to have greater focus when it’s “go time.” I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at work ever. Studies show that laughter increases dopamine, decreases stress hormones, and builds our immune system. Fostering fun experiences through laughter at work makes us smarter, improves our focus by lowering stress, and makes us healthier.
Fostering fun experiences isn’t just about laughing, though. Fostering fun experiences is about creating connections. Connection is something we could all use more of right now. A few days ago I had to start my day very early. My coworker asked me to call them when I got up at 5:00 am to keep them accountable for waking up to get some additional work done as well. I was groggy and cranky when I called them at 5:15 am. The moment they answered the phone, I rattled off an inside joke that has been going around for a bit. We both had a good laugh before we started our day. It was amazing to start my day with connection and laughter. It made my morning that much easier. I am reminded of the quote, “people will forget what you say or do, but people will remember how you made them feel.” Fostering fun experiences makes everyone feel good and makes all of us want to return.
Speaking of fostering fun experiences… I have really enjoyed reflecting on the core values that make this company great. I am convinced now more than ever that what we have here at OGS is special. I can honestly say that these past few weeks working at Online Growth Systems, being guided by these core values, has changed my life. As the OGS team looks to the future, I hope you will join us, as a client or an employee, on our radical mission to inspire change through creating SaaS and e-commerce solutions to fuel growth.