How to define Values and write a Vision Statement for Your Startup?

The whole process took about 3 months of intense work. I decided to share our method so you can use it in your company too.

If you decide to go this path, please keep one thing on mind: honesty. It takes a lot of courage to truly listen to people’s voice, pain points and doubts. Be honest with your employees and to yourself. Without honesty you’ll create a fiction that will not help you. I heard few harsh things during the process but that was absolutely necessary to define our true Software Brothers’ values.


How to define Values and write a Vision Statement for Your Startup?

Below I present how to create a company vision statement and define company values, using the example of a process implemented in Software Brothers.

creating values is a team work

  1. We believe that defining company values must be a bottom-up, not top-down process. We decided that the management would determine the general direction of development, but the way and manner of doing it would be up to everyone at Software Brothers.
  2. We appointed a person, in our case the HR head, with very high communication qualifications. The person was given full autonomy to conduct interviews, which - importantly - was announced publicly. In addition, we agreed that the interviews would be conducted anonymously.
  3. Before the interviews, as a management board, we defined the direction for the company. In our case, it was the choice of a leading technology, i.e. JavaScript. We announced this along with information about the planned interviews. Our goal was to create our company's vision and mission as well as the company values.
  4. The interviews were conducted individually according to the questions below.
  5. Based on the interviews, a report was prepared with the following sections:
    1. The current image of the company
    2. Desired image and further development
    3. Values important to the company and employee attitudes
    4. Company communication and feedback
    5. Things to improve, continue and start
    6. The current image of the Board
    7. Desirable image of the Board
    8. Feedback to the Management Board in the context of improving, continuing and starting activities
    9. Summary
  6. Based on the analysis of the report, we came up with four values and their respective ranges. The challenge was to describe them in a way that would properly represent what the employees said in the meetings.
  7. We then edited them together with the interviewer. Once we defined the values, their definitions, what the company expects and what the company offers people, we created groups of 5-6 people which conducted presentations of the content, and then we collected feedback. We were surprised by the lively discussions and commitment of the teams. After the meetings, we edited the values again. Their current versions can be found below in this document. They are not final. We will be adding more elements as the company develops. During the interviews, a few things were wrongly identified. We wanted to stick to the elements that were really present.
  8. The management board then assembled an operational group including each of the representatives of individual competences in the company, i.e. Production Manager, Marketing Manager, HR Manager, Head of Sales (there were just two salespeople), Management Board - two people.
  9. In such team, fully aware of the values and needs of the employees, and knowing the direction of the company's development, we created our mission / vision. We did not differentiate between vision and mission. We decided together that, at the current stage of development, this would be best for us.
  10. We introduced quarterly meetings held in front of the entire company, which are conducted according to our values - literally. The operational group sets goals for the quarter, which always fit into one of the values, and each member of the operational group determines what and how they will accomplish in a given quarter. It is announced publicly at the quarterly meetings, presented to the whole company.
  11. We see strong changes in the organization in terms of commitment and willingness to cooperate. In addition, it makes it easier to identify with the organization when, e.g. wearing a hat with the company logo, you know exactly what it means.


Questions for employees

  • What is Software Brothers for you?
  • What is this company supposed to achieve?
  • How is it supposed to achieve it? How can you tell that this is exactly what’s happening?
  • Is the company doing it now? Is there something missing
  • Last year’s changing directions in the company
  • What is this place like?
  • What are its values?
  • What should we stop doing in the company?
  • What should we continue doing in the company?
  • What should we start doing in the company?
questions

Employees

  • What kind of employees does the company seek?
  • Do we have such employees?
  • What if someone does not exactly match the definition?
  • What is a Software Brothers employee like, in your opinion?
  • What kind of people don't you like to work with?
  • What should be the relationship between employees at Software Brothers?
  • What should be the relations between the employee and the management board?
  • Are there specific rules for working in the company?
  • What are the rules?

Management

  • How do you understand the role of the management board? (not as it is, but what it should be in an ideal world)
    • What duties should they perform?
    • What relationships should they build?
    • How should they communicate?
    • Do they meet these conditions? What’s the situation really like?
    • What could they improve?
    • What should they continue doing?
    • What should they start doing?

Information transparency

  • Are people allowed to give feedback? (Are there specific tools for it?)
    • To the team they work with
    • To the company
    • Directly to individual people from the company
  • What happens with this feedback?
  • What impact does the employee have on the company's development?
  • Is there anything that you feel you should know about the company, but you don’t? (and knowing it would make you feel more comfortable and safe)

A single worker

  • Is there anything you would like to have more influence on?
  • Do you feel appreciated for working in the company?
  • What gives you the most satisfaction in working at Software Brothers?
  • What irritates you the most in working at Software Brothers?

Closing

  • Is there anything worth talking about I forgot to mention?

Now I’d like to share the ready effect of our work. I’m proud of the result and I truly hope it will inspire you to create something awe-inspiring!


1. Software Brothers’ Vision / Mission

We believe that JavaScript will allow us to respond to all the technological needs of our clients.

  • We strive to be an influential brand in the Javascript community.
  • We employ experts hungry for personal development.
  • We provide software for all platforms.

These are the reasons why our clients want to build their products with us.


2. Software Brothers’ Values

Growth

We care about professional development of each of our employees and the entire organization. We base the best solutions from the perspective of our clients' business needs. We share our knowledge both in the company and when we represent it outside. Through this value, we strive for the highest possible quality of our services.

Desired employee behavior:

What can you get from the company?

I follow industry trends and transfer relevant information to the team. Up to 75% co-financing of you conference participation cost
I share knowledge via lightning talks and presentations in the company. If you are a speaker, you can prepare your presentation during work.
I take an active part in hackathons. Time spent on:
  • writing blog posts,
  • open source,
  • lighting talk preparation.
I develop open source projects. An extra day of paid holiday as an incentive for presenting at an external event or delivering the best in-company speech, and a consent for its use in the Software Brothers advertising materials.
I propose new solutions in the team and in the company. Regularly organized hackathons (twice a quarter during work time).
I write articles for the blog. Training and preparation through feedback to public speaking.
I take up new challenges - I learn new frameworks, tools and solutions. Co-financing for English lessons organized in the office.
vision of software brothers

Responsibility

In our everyday work, we realistically assess feasibility to be honest with each other and the client. When we commit to something, we deliver. We respect other people's time. We value the ability to solve problems independently.

Desired employee behavior:

What can you get from the company?

The employee treats the obligations very seriously and implements them according to prior arrangements. Whenever I can not fulfill my promise I inform the interested persons about it. The ability to make decisions about technology, tools and ways to solve problems (provided that your choice is beneficial for the development of the company).
I am punctual and if I can not appear at the meeting, I inform the interested persons beforehand, respecting their time.
I take full responsibility for the tasks that have been entrusted to me - I do not blame other team members for failing to deliver. Company retrospectives during which we openly share our successes and failures.
During remote work, apply to established principles in the company, among others:
  • I am available via slack, mail and phone,
  • I send the code to the repository at the end of the working day,
  • I work during core hours, i.e. 9:00 - 15:00.
When solving client disputes, the company will take your side you if the customer's allegations are unfounded.
I take responsibility for the whole organization and never ignore its needs and problems. The company will give you constructive feedback if you notice aspects worth improvement.
I keep the office clean. I always clean up after myself in the kitchen and other common spaces. When organizing the meeting, I leave the conference room ready for the next meeting. The company lets you work 40-hour working weeks on a core hours basis.
The company allows remote work.
The company Organizes work in agile methodologies (Scrum, Kanban).
core values

Communication

We communicate in a cultural way, open to new ideas and provide constructive feedback, which is the motivation for us to improve relationships. We trust each other and always assume good intentions.

Desired employee behavior:

What can you get from the company?

I always assume the good intentions of the other person - I try to understand their point of view. The company helps in resolving conflicts through mediation and 360 degree assessment.
I can admit mistakes. The company examines the expectations of the team through meetings - 1: 1, surveys, employee satisfaction surveys.
I ask questions when I don’t know something. Corporate wikis developed by all employees.
I respect the opinions of all team members, even if they are different from mine. The company aggregates training knowledge.
I know and use the principles of feedback - I see, think, feel, and need. The company organizes a company integration event each quarter.
In case of conflicts, I try to solve them or ask for help and intervention of the HR department. The company sends a newsletter and cares about transparency of information.
I take an active part in the retrospectives with the aim of improving the company's operations. The company offers budget for integrations, whenever a project is completed according to estimates.
I care about good atmosphere at work and I see the needs of co-workers, eg in the context of communication, guaranteeing the possibility of gathering others, cleaning up after themselves.
I inform the company about my successes, but I recognize and praise the achievements of others.
I value honesty and transparency of information.

Professionalism

We maintain professionalism both in relation to the client and in the company, which is understood as providing our services at the highest level. We recognize the business needs of our clients, and we always strive to find a compromise between the quality of the code and the speed of delivery.

Desired employee behavior:

What can you get from the company?

The employee regularly and consistently logs working time, understanding that the company's budget and payment to co-workers depend on it. It has clearly described processes and principles of work.
Is always prepared for the meetings in which they participate. It provides document templates such as a meeting note or a demo plan.
When I conduct a meeting, I prepare an agenda for it, I clearly define its purpose and timing, and act as its moderator. Project Managers who gather business requirements from clients and manage the backlog so that it is always up-to-date.
At work, I always follow the goals set by the company / clients. The company provides tools to maintain high quality projects, such as static analysis tools and CI.
I do not introduce additional functionalities without consulting the client. It enables conducting trials on which participants receive feedback - trial demos.
When starting team work, we always set a contract that we follow. It conducts customer service training.
We treat the client and co-workers as partners and demand the same from them. It gives the opportunity to conduct a code review to people outside of the project.
The employee works according to measurable goals, and implements them at a predetermined time. It engages the Board during crisis situations with the client.
The client provides the highest quality product by following company standards, code review and technological debt monitoring. It controls customer satisfaction via surveys and direct feedback.
The employee writes automatic tests. It uses the principle of acceptance criteria in projects.
Estimates task time according to real possibilities. It cares for the synergy between sales and production.
In the shortest possible time, I answer questions from customers and team members. If I do not know the answer right away, I confirm the receipt of the message and determine when I will come back with the answer. It provides tools for effective work, e.g. programs, equipment.


3. Summary

Working on your Startup vision and values takes time and effort but it is actually the best groundwork of all of your further activities - from marketing, sales, production to customer service. It shows you a high-level direction and defines the proper way to achieve your goals. It doesn’t tell you WHAT to achieve but HOW to achieve it.

It creates a common ground for all company’s departments and teams. Well defined values are a useful basis for your Startup’s communication - both internal and external (Production, HR, PR, EB, media-relations etc.). It also helps in sales & marketing, making your market campaigns more “human” and relatable.

Now there’s one last thing I need to mention - the implementation. It’s crucial. Without the proper implementation, your vision will be a beautiful… but dead statement. Company’s values need to be alive and respected on a daily basis. I suggest you show it in the corridor or in the conference room and make sure each and every team member reads it. It should also be included in the Onboarding process for the new employees, so I strongly suggest you work on it with your HR Manager.

Want to talk about your company's values and vision? Write to me at kris@softwarebrothers.co and we can figure it out together!