Qwilr is built on the following three principles:
This is the moral and intellectual code by which our company runs, thrives and will ultimately win.
(PS: You can read here why this document is about Principles and not "Culture").
I believe the right way to win the race of business (and in life), is to win by being the best.
Not just being good, not even great, but The Best, bestness taken to its final conclusion. A superiority which once experienced, cannot be argued with. This is Undeniable Bestness.
Undeniable Bestness means customer and product experiences that are true outliers in terms of quality, a quantum leap away from the rest of the field.
Short term thinking won't get us there. Each lazy hack and shortcut we take accrues a kind of debt that we will need to pay down at some point in the future - and if we fail to do so, and our debt grows too large, we will default.
So adventurer beware: Undeniable Bestness isn't free. Don't believe the startup hype, nothing is free.
Undeniable Bestness means being hard on ourselves and having strong personal benchmarks of quality. It means accommodating oneself to a constant state of dissatisfaction and seeing this dissatisfaction as a good thing. An evergreen force to drive us forward.
Not only is this an honourable way to win the race of life and of commerce, it also creates a large and sustainable business in the long term.
Velocity With Valour.
There is an old adage: “perfect is the enemy of done”.
One might argue that following the principle of Undeniable Bestness we will become victims of perfection and lose all important velocity as a company.
So how do we square Undeniable Bestness with the pragmatic need to move fast?
Firstly: what's the value of velocity? Why move fast?
Because time is the most precious thing a startup has. Over time we learn more and more about what constitutes value for our customers. And with time, we can feed that learning back into our product and customer experiences to deliver more value. The more value we deliver, the happier and more loyal our customers are and ultimately the more successful we are as a business.
But in order to learn where value lies, we need to try things. In startup parlance we need to “run experiments”. Moving fast means we increase the surface area of our experimentation across time. So we learn faster, discover value earlier and deepen that value for our customers. It’s a positive feedback loop.
Secondly: well if that’s all true, why don't we just completely optimise for speed?
If we move too fast, if we go too deep on velocity and compromise too heavily on quality, then we destroy the validity of our experiments.
Along with the rapid pace that a minimum viable product (MVP) mentality encourages, there is also I believe, an antagonistic requirement for minimum viable quality. MVP thinking is no excuse for lazy execution.
Balancing the tradeoff between quality and velocity, is perhaps the single most defining challenge of building a startup.
While there is no cut and dry answer to that tradeoff I do believe there is a middle road, which we can call "Velocity With Valour", which asks us to move as fast as honour (aka the quality of execution) will permit.
The critical question is: "what is Undeniable Bestness, given our current constraints?".
Clarity Through Collaboration.
A lone ant has only the vaguest sense of which direction its home is. That's why they wander around in those mad little circles when they're alone. But because ants can follow the trails of other ants, when you get a whole lot of ants together, they're collective sense of direction improves to the point that they form a very precise and durable homing beacon.
Their individual lack of clarity is subsumed by their collective intelligence.
You can probably see where this is going…
In business, as in life, everyone is fallible - from the freshest graduate, to the most seasoned executive, to founders, board members and investors.
That's why business building is a collective enterprise. One in which our individual lack of complete knowledge is subsumed and made (more) whole by our collective.
Harnessing collective intelligence requires each individual contributor to make their ideas and their reasoning as clear as possible to the rest of the group. If I am not able to articulate my thoughts with clarity, I can't help us find the right direction home.
Clarity, on an individual level, is the critical ingredient for effective collaboration. And effective collaboration is the critical ingredient for clear company thinking.
PS: We've collected a small set of practices to enable Clarity Through Collaboration here.
For the purist, a set of principles can be problematic.
If you consistently follow any principle, eventually that principle will come into conflict with others in the set.
That's why balance is so critical. Its not about following any one of our principles over another, but in the tension between them, that we will find our ideal.
Such a balancing act is never finished. There will never be a “correct balance”, but only the right balance for that particular moment of the company.
A Start Not An End.
Sticking to one's principles is hard. In the momentum and pressures of startup life it can be really hard.
But given the opportunity before us, if we can hold true to our principles, if we can live in that balance between them, then the only limit on what we can achieve together, will be our collective imaginations.