We all value things in life. Some values are broad and almost universal, like the importance of regularly spending time with friends and family and receiving recognition for a job well done.
Some values are more specific to a time, place or group of people, like the value British people place on a good cup of tea and how that is slightly different to the importance of Fika in Swedish culture. Values indicate a set of beliefs or principles on what we feel is important and, by extension, what is not. They provide guidance for how we approach situations and how we interact with the world around us.
In business, values matter too. They help us orientate our work around what we believe it is important to spend our time and resources on. What a company values — whether stated or unstated, good or bad — should be apparent to anyone that interacts with your company, as an employee, partner or customer.
Everything we create, from advertising through to our products, should reflect these values. Just as we know Uber values the experience of it’s users above all else. We also know that Uber perhaps doesn’t value the needs of it’s drivers quite as much, which has led to some challenges for their company over the last few years.
At BuffaloGrid, we are trying to solve a major global problem — the lack of availability of power and internet for billions of people around the world, the impact this is having on people’s lives and the effect this has on global inequality. This is a big challenge, and like in all startups, we are limited by the time and resources we have to tackle it. So we need to make sure we are working on the right things, for the right reasons and in the right way. That’s why we thought it was time to nail our values to the door and start publicly expressing what we believe in and why.
These are our company values, each with a candid description of what we mean. The first five values look into our company and speak to our approach. The last three look outwards as an articulation of how we see the world.
Our first principle: We serve our users as they are, not as we think they should be
We seek to know and understand our users and ground everything we do in our service of them. We don’t design things they won’t want and we don’t build things they don’t need. We value the practice of establishing facts on the ground. We are mindful of our own cultural-bias and while we do believe in the universal idea of a “better life”, we don’t believe the life we live to be the life our users have to live.
Our motivation: Build useful things
We build products, services and processes that people need. We know people need them because we use data to decide and insights to understand. And we do this because we are committed to using our time, money and talents effectively.
Our style: Clarity in design, communication and intent
Good, simple and clear communication in everything we do. Clear reasons for designing products, supported by data and presented with simplicity and ease. Intentions that are direct, well defined and easy to understand.
Our commitment: Move fast, don’t break things
…like people and the planet. When moving at speed, we must not lose sight of the world we are building and the historical and cultural context in which we operate. We must always strive to limit our environmental impact and not undermine our commitment to equality. And we don’t waste money, resources and talent.
Our approach: We are antidisciplinary
Our users and our market require a unique approach to design and technology. Our problem-space is complex and difficult. We bring an approach that is not focussed on verticals and formal disciplines, but on an excitement for any idea that helps solve a problem and desire to learn. We are brave and not afraid to go against accepted wisdom. We are extreme collaborators, holding a deep understanding that a concept is valid no matter where it originates.
Our vehicle: Business gets things done
We believe in the power of business to solve problems in people’s lives that governments and charities cannot. We can attract talent, capital and partners then focus them on a challenge in a unique way. Change through business is sustainable. Business can be a force for good and it is the tool we choose to exact change.
Our belief: Choice matters and should be available to everyone
Life for the Next Billion is a life of limited choice in a world dominated by monopolistic forces. We want to use internet-services to provide options to people, allowing them to choose their own direction in life and flipping the power dynamic in favour of normal people.
Our philosophy: Life is better with the internet
We think that being able to connect to the internet and then access services on the internet can improve people’s lives. The internet increases our access to everything — from bank accounts to biology books. We don’t think that everything on the internet is good — dark places, malevolent people and manipulative systems exist on the internet just as in the real world. That’s why we have a responsibility to help guide the Next Billion towards internet-enabled services that provide an improvement to their lives.
Done, right? Not Exactly
We’ve seen some great ideas of how companies use their values and embed them deep into their culture. Aside from guiding our decisions everyday, this is how we are going to use our values across the company.
We will make our values public. That starts with this post. We want our customers and partners to know about the principles that govern our work. This starts with this post but will be reflected in everything we do.
We are going to use our values in recruitment. We want to make sure when people join our company, they share our core beliefs about the world and they know what we value as a team.
We will use our values in performance reviews, especially our first five values. We want to assess our individual contributions to our mission against our company values.
We’re going to make our values present in our workplace. We’re going to design some great artwork to represent our values and, like many other companies, hang our values on our wall.
We will keep evolving. We are looking across the company for areas of our work that need to change in order to reflect our values. We are looking at working practices, on-going projects and strategic decisions we have made to check they are aligned with our values.
Nothing is permanent and as people grow their priorities change. The same is true of companies. That’s why our aim is to review our values and our adherence to them every quarter. We will celebrate work that is an embodiment of our values and we will challenge ourselves to improve when our work is not reflective of these core principles.