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Acadia National Park, Maine; photo by the author

Last week I interviewed a candidate who asked me what I like most about Brightflag. It’s an easy question for me to answer: our values and how deeply ingrained they are in everything we do.

Literally not a day goes by where someone doesn’t make reference to one of our values during a meeting. We made stickers for each of them, and they adorn our laptops and notebooks. They exist as custom emoji in our Slack workspace. We nominate our hero of the week each Friday based on how team members have exemplified them.

I can say with confidence that Brightflag’s values, and the degree to which they guide our team’s actions, are a significant contributor to success. I share them below and discuss what each means to me.

Think Long Term

Almost eight years ago, Jason M. Lemkin wrote a post about the compounding nature of SaaS. The post stuck with me, and some number of years later he simplified his message to two words: go long.

The value Think Long Term is very much in the vein of “go long.” It’s an explicit recognization that building a successful company is a marathon, not a sprint, and follows a winding route. Here are a few examples of situations in which we regularly apply this value:

  • Most candidates with industry experience will provide more value to the business in their first six months than candidates who lack this experience will in the same time. This advantage is lessened with a good training program, which gives the hiring manager flexibility to hire candidates with the greatest long-term potential.
  • Our marketing team has a pipeline creation goal and most of our programs are geared towards achieving this goal. At the same time, we know that we need to plant trees that we’ll never see (or at least, that we won’t see immediately) because this is how you ultimately scale demand. For example, early-stage analyst relations.
  • Starting a new customer implementation before the contract is signed. There’s some value in making implementation contingent on a signed contract, but in general I’ve found it to be short-term value (speed of signature) at the expense of long-term value (shortening time to value for the customer, thereby maximizing ROI).

Make Every Day Count

Brightflag’s original value was Every Day Counts. When we refreshed our values a little over a year ago, we wanted to keep the spirit of the original value—the importance of hustle—but to lose any suggestion that success is measured by the number of hours worked.

The value Make Every Day Count is a reminder that each day can contribute to making a difference, whether a big one or a little one, if it’s spent with purpose. Working hard is sometimes important whereas working smart is always important. Combined with long-term thinking, striving to make every day count is a recipe for sustained success, even if the competition is better known and more deeply entrenched.

A front-of-mind example of this value in action at Brightflag is our ongoing focus on eliminating bad meetings, because your contributions are measured by what you create, rather than the fullness of your calendar.

Win and Lose Together

This has been a guiding principle of mine since I first read Dave Kellogg’s post Win Them Alone, Lose Them Together. I incorporated it into the customer service principles I developed at Smartling and was pleased to see it incorporated it into Brightflag’s values, too.

To me, Win and Lose Together is so much more powerful as a value than Teamwork because it calls attention to losing. Losing is a fact of winning; if you aren’t losing then you also aren’t winning enough (for the reason that you’re playing it too safe). Having a value that includes the words “lose together” was controversial at first, but in my mind it was essential to acknowledge failure rather than focus entirely on winning.

The most successful companies proudly embrace failure. I recently listened to Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services, speak about that business’s origins. He explained that one of the hardest but most important things he’s done as a leader is to create an environment in which top performers are willing to leave the comfort of already-successful businesses to take on new initiatives that have a high probability of failure, as AWS had in its earliest days. As he put it, you cannot achieve this outcome—top performers being comfortable taking large risks—unless you prove through words and actions that individuals will not be faulted for failures.

Even putting the pandemic aside, Brightflag’s performance in 2020 has been stellar. But of course there have been losses, and a small number of people on the team have borne the brunt of them in terms of quota attainment. Recently, one of these people apologized to me for “letting the team down” because a buyer chose one of our competitors. I had to remind them that there was no reason to have done this; every loss is a team loss, and we needed to (and did) meet to learn from the failure together.

Embrace Authenticity

The use of the imperative mood is most impactful in Embrace Authenticity, because as the subtext says, each of us is responsible for proactively guarding and growing our diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Diversity and inclusion is not something that will happen by chance; only with intention can it be achieved, and authenticity embraced fully.

Like many organizations, Brightflag endeavors to be more diverse and inclusive. Education is important to achieving this goal. Recently, we invited Royston John, an unconscious bias, diversity, equality, and emotional intelligence educator, to lead a company-wide workshop on:

  • Identity, privilege, and differential treatment
  • Recognizing misinformation we learn about various groups
  • Ongoing discrimination dialogue, language, and barriers
  • Understanding how we can be actively inclusive

The workshop was challenging, upsetting, and motivating. I cannot recommend Royston highly enough, and plan to write a blog post dedicated to some of my takeaways from the session.

I’m convinced that having and living the right values can make a big difference in results, and I encourage you to think hard about how to refine and better effectuate your company’s values.

If Brightflag’s values resonate with you, I encourage you to consider applying to one of our open positions. At Brightflag, people say what they mean, do what they say, and are passionate about what they do.

Written by

Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

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