Discover how three breakout SaaS companies scaled from an idea to hundreds of employees and $1B+ valuations, all while living their values along the way. 

Notion COO Akshay Kothari, Motive CEO and Founder Shoaib Makani, and CEO and Co-Founder of Incredible Health Iman Abuzeid share the secrets of ensuring their company-centered values and purpose remained an anchor amidst hypergrowth. Moderated by Laura Weidman Powers, Operating Partner at Base10 Partners. 

As we dive into these three highly successful companies, we’ll talk about their values, the process of creating them, and the right time for founders to create their own values. 

How To Create Values For Your Startup

For purpose-driven founders, how you live and honor your values when building and running a unicorn is powerful, not only for your company culture but also for the success of your business. 

Let’s take a look at the values of Incredible Health, Notion, and Motive. 

Founders can use the strategies that make sense for them to develop their own set of company values. 

Incredible Health’s values are: 

  • Customer obsession — whatever you can to delight users
  • Speed — move as quickly as humanly possible
  • Deliver results — measure inputs and outputs, deliver results despite setbacks
  • Disagree and commit — obligation to dissent
  • Ownership — everyone needs to act like a CEO

Motive’s four values include: 

  • Own it
  • Less but better
  • Build trust
  • Unlock potential

Notion also has four values that include: 

  • Be the owner of the mission.
  • Be a pace-setter.
  • Be a truth-seeker.
  • Be kind and direct.

When creating values for your startup, less is more. 

You want more than nice words on a page. 

Motive’s strategy for getting the wording just right was to be intentional about two things: 

  1. What behaviors did they believe would allow them to accomplish their mission, and when?
  2. What actions were they actually exhibiting every day that allowed them to win? 

What you do is what other people will follow in corporate culture, regardless of what you say. 

So make sure your beliefs and values align with those actions you’re continuously exhibiting. 

Ideally, you want to keep it at 3-5 values. 

Anything more, and it’s hard to remember them. 

You want values that are easy to remember and act on. 

Figure out which behaviors and actions will get you to that next chapter of success while looking at the reality of what you do today.

Values Take Time To Develop — Trust The Process

Every company, even hyper-growth companies, develops its values in different ways. 

Incredible Health was raising their first round, and before their investor would wire them money, asked them to write down their mission, vision, and values. 

So, only the two co-founders wrote it, and it was a reflection of their personalities and what they dreamed of for the company. 

Notion, on the other hand, spent 18 months developing their values with a group of around 20 people. 

Yet everyone agrees that you should create your values and write them down as early as possible. 

Your company values are the operating system and how you make decisions. They drive alignment, one of the most challenging things you can do as you scale, so the earlier you establish values, the better. 

Make Sure Your Values Are Implemented And Integrated, Not Just Written Down 

When people gather to write down their values, they often get the right value, but they don’t spend enough time on the verbiage. 

Once you nail down the wording, you should make another document about how you’ll actually use them inside the company and ways to incorporate them into day-to-day life — how you interview people, find the next employee, solve problems, launch new products, etc. 

For example, Incredible Health launched in the northeast part of the country later last year. For some unknown reason, the northeast part of the marketplace wasn’t functioning as well as the west or south. 

So they tapped into their core values of customer obsession, speed, disagreement, and acting like owners to deliver results and get out of the situation. 

Your values become the framework that keeps your company moving forward with alignment, and it’s the framework that will get you out of hard situations. 

Ensure The Company’s Values Have High Overlap With Your Personal Values

A founder’s personal values are a great starting point. 

Your core company values must be an extension of your values because if they aren’t compatible, it won’t work. 

They don’t have to be completely unique. 

It’s okay to look to other successful organizations or companies you admire. 

And then…

You can customize those “borrowed” values so they’re a reflection of the founders’ and leaders’ personal values. 

Values Should Scale As Your Business Scales

As you scale, you want your values to scale with you. 

To do that, you need to establish actionable, simple values that are an extension of the founder’s values. 

These values then act as a filtering mechanism for employees to self-select whether they’re a fit for your company or not. 

You’ll notice a common thread between all three of these hyper-growth companies. Each one prioritizes customer happiness and speed. 

These two are almost a requirement if you’re trying to scale rapidly. 

One competitive advantage of speed is the ability to move faster than anyone else in the market. It creates incredible value for your team and the market. 

The same goes for delighting the user. 

High-growth tech companies can only win and thrive if they solve a very real problem that people are willing to pay for over and over. 

If you don’t have that, nothing else matters.

So, prioritize speed and customer obsession within your company values. 

Take The Time To Celebrate Wins That Strongly Align With Company Values 

There’s so much power in recognition and reward when people exemplify behaviors you think are important in your company. 

It’s so easy and has zero marginal cost. It’s free, and the return is incredible for driving retention and inspiring the team. 

Taking the time to celebrate wins that strongly align with company values further helps you implement and integrate those values into company culture. 

Functional company values allow for the following:

  • better alignment 
  • asynchronous communication
  • better editing and input

When growing rapidly, your values get tested. 

By creating a culture centered around them, you can protect them and also attract other people who align with your values and are willing to protect them, too. 

Key Takeaways

You want to create values that have more to do with what you do as a company and less to do with what you say. What you do has more of an impact on your organizational values than anything else. 

So, the key takeaways when creating and living your values while building a unicorn are: 

  1. Keep them simple and actionable. Creating values takes time — trust the process. 
  2. Ensure you’re implementing and integrating your values into the framework of your business. You don’t want pretty but useless words on a page. 
  3. Ensure your company’s values overlap with the founder’s personal values. If they don’t, it won’t work. 
  4. Make sure your values scale as you scale. 
  5. Take the time to celebrate wins that align with company values. 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This