Core Values, Culture and Growth: An End of Year Reflection
And just like that, the end of another year… Holy crap, where did that go, right?
For me, the end of the year is more than just indulging under the all-forgiving phrase “hey it’s Christmas,” guzzling down that mulled wine and partying a tad (ok, a lot) too much... For me it’s the perfect opportunity for reflection, understanding what went well, what turned to sh*t, and above all, what has changed and evolved over the last 12 months…
It is safe to say, a lot has been crammed into this year, particularly for Tada. Being a growth stage company is very different from the startup days… Ah, those good ol’ startup day (and incredible soul destroying all at the same time)... You see, doubling in size each year changes the fabric of the enterprise, it’s only natural and completely necessary. But increasing the team size is just one small piece, to a very large and complicated puzzle. Where those team members go and what they do to bring value to the company is what really makes the difference. And it is this growth and these developments that have turned Tada into a type of teenager… You remember right? That weird teenage phase… That mental and physical battle between one hand latching onto childhood (flat hierarchy, whole team pub sessions, all being able to easily fit into a single selfie.. etc. ), with the other hand fiercely and determinedly reaching out for adulthood (company-wide policy, name tags, new departments… you get the drift). Above all, it is the phase of experimenting, maturing… and acne, ugh, the acne (did I mention policies?)…
For the first time, we have “proper real people” managing “proper real departments” (not just two founders running around doing everything, but mastering nothing). We have a finance department run by people that make Excel spreadsheet creation look like a theatrical performance, we have HR department whose mission is to recruit the globe’s best talent, and make onboarding as smooth as a babies tuchus. Oh, and we even have an amazing team managing people’s growth and career development within Tada, wow… just wow, Tada has turned, well, mature.
But if there is one thing I have witnessed time and time again, particularly this year, it is the importance of having a unified company, all walking or running, no sprinting (we are agile, see what I did there?), in the same direction. And if there is one thing that I have realized contributes to this the most, it is a thing called ‘core values’. After all, the core values act as the glue that not only unites the past with the future but unifies each and every single person in the team together. Disclaimer alert: when I talk about core values, I mean real values. Not the crap the (often) big corporates like to write on their walls. Those airy-fairy, fancy spancy words that only “pretend” to dictate their raison d’être, but never actually do. Real core values, for me and for Tada, are lived more than written, innate more than learned. They provide the DNA of the company, of the attitude possessed by the team’s collective intelligence and above all, they work to guide the company towards a strong future and give trust to our customers.
Now, I have written and spoken about the importance of core values many a time. I have often explained how such values need to emerge organically over time, and lived by from the top-down and the bottom-up. Here at Tada, our core values were heavily influenced by us as founders but critically tweaked over time to reflect the values of everyone who has joined us, the customers we serve and the dreams of where we want to go. And to be honest, after a short reflection, the way the team has lived up to our core values is the thing that makes me the proudest this year. So, what are the Tada core values and why is each so important?
1 Family First
How it emerged:
As one does, just to give a nice dose of double challenge, at the time Tada started, so too did our family, with the birth of our incredible little man, Jack, in 2013… And boy, did I get a quick and fast reality hit when I found myself rapidly thrust into the world of being a working Mumma, in a very early stage high-risk phase of business. I felt the stress and guilt associated with feeling like a “crap mum” for being at work, and a “crap founder” for being at home… and you know what? Because of that, I couldn’t be a good mum nor a good founder… So very early on, as the team grew, as the number of babies increased, as the partners came on board, as the team’s parents started aging, as Founders were adamant that for our team, if their family needed them, that is where you needed to be… And you know what, I could not be more proud of this decision. For me, it was logical, after all, who works well if they are racked with guilt, stress, and distraction… Well, duh… right?
How the team lives it:
The team is told from day one, if their family needs them, there will be no questions asked. From a sick parent to a child’s football game or ballet recital, to a partner not being well and a lot of things in between. Family first is ingrained into the fabric of Tada. The team is never made to feel guilty for being where they need to be, and when they are at work, they give their best and work harder than ever. We celebrate this value each and every year, in the form of the Tadaweb Family Party. A unique opportunity to unite the team and their family members, together in one place over food, drinks and children's (ok and a little bit adult) activities. Check out our last one below.
2 Work Hard, Play Hard(er)
How it emerged:
We were young founders… fresh off the plane from one of the happiest, easy-going (and probably the most party focused) countries in the world. For the years we spent in New Zealand, balancing hard work with a nice dose of fun was the norm. And why shouldn’t it be? Work finished at 4.30 pm most Fridays and usually followed a nice walk down to the waterfront pubs, where, as a team we, well, we had fun.
This definitely brushed off on Tada, very early on. When we printed our Tada swag, we were proud to proclaim - “Tadaweb, data is small, dreams are big and beer is free,” much to many people’s disapproval… But you know what? We didn’t care, and this phrase clads our numerous pieces of Tada swag to this day!
How the team lives it:
Getting to know co-workers on multiple levels, in multiple different situations is something I believe to be important, some disagree, but at the end of the day, I don’t want people having to change when they step foot in the office. I personally believe that this notion of “work me” and “home me” simply shouldn’t exist. Sure, I don’t mean you need to rock around the office in your pj’s nor share your most intimate secrets, rather, I believe people should be free to be themselves. Working and playing together seems to enable this, providing multiple different settings and situations for the team to get to know each other… It may be from the high ropes of an adventure course, when team support really shines, to the proud faces of a culture day when different team members show where they come from, to a beer over a Friday beer-o-clock… This value is entrenched in celebrating the small wins, whatever they may be.
3 Nothing is impossible
How is emerged:
My Co-Founder is hacker, well he was, and arguably always will be, and to be fair, every single person we hire into our company is required to at least possess the potential of a “hacker mentality”… Now, before you go gasping “huh, a hacker, one of those badies” let me take a short trip down the rabbit hole to educate you about our definition of a “hacker mentality.” You see, for us, the notion of hacking something can also be described as knowing something so intrinsically well, that you can take it apart and rebuild as well as the person who made it… Hackers, or should I say “the hacker mentality” for us, is nothing to do with ripping vulnerable people off, gathering illegal items, or trying to bring down people or entities, rather it is a mentality based on the premise that “nothing is impossible” and no matter how hard a challenge may appear, there is always a solution - “confiant.”
How the team lives it:
The hacker mentality provides people with a level of understanding like no other, as a result, the team spends a great deal of time delicately researching, assessing and evaluating the most strategic route possible. If one strategy doesn’t work, they ask themselves “why” and never give up. The easy option is never taken, the best option rules the roost. It is this mentality that has got Tada though some of the biggest challenges. It is this mentality that makes our technology the most cutting edge on the market. And it this intricate understanding and solution-centric thinking that has shaped the face of who we are. The value is expressed more in the form of a mentality. I have to admit, for some, it can take time, for some it can be frustrating at first, but it is one of the most empowering core values our company possesses.
As the team grows, the dynamics change, the melting pot of cultures increases, it is only normal for new values to emerge. Already now we can see, through this metamorphosis between child and adult, that the company is in a phase of evolution. So what is does the future hold? Well, obviously, that we can never really know. But the fact is, we are growing and growing fast. Next year will see the team move to a brand new building, 4000m2 of pure Tadaness… and what an HQ it will be. But it is also the perfect occasion for us to use our new space to shape, showcase and further define who we are. We will create a space that is not just conducive to who we are, but that will facilitate our culture, our company and our work style.
So all in all, 2019 has been a big year, a year of growth, maturing and cohesion. Next year will be even bigger, even faster and surely even better! I would like to finish this blog with a huge thanks for all of the people that make Tadaweb so awesome, our team, our Board and our customers - without you, there would be no Tada!