About a year ago, we performed and started an exercise to refresh our values and to elaborate our mission vision, and values.
Since our launch in 2019, our team had been growing rapidly. While active expansion is a good thing, we were, and still are, aware of how our culture and spirit may get lost if we do not tackle this proactively.
We also want to make sure that the core principles and values we are promoting are up-to-date and can truly guide us through our day-to-day tasks and important decisions making or strategy planning.
Instead of coming up with something from the vacuum or just iterating/ rewording the existing materials- we believe that our people should all have a say and be involved — The actual process could be the content for another post and we will focus on the “outcomes” from our exercise.
After a few rounds of surveys (all, managers, foundering members) and interviews to ask them about what they appreciate / think is working or not working and the quality of people they admire, and what we aspire to be. We found that there is a strong and recurring theme of “mission”, “making an impact”, “working for a good cause”, and “working with nice/helpful colleagues”.
With the materials we gathered, we proceeded to polish and refine our vision, mission, and values.
Start with Why
Make Insurance Good Again.
We half-jokingly used this slogan when we got our license in December 2018. We were open-minded about refreshing this, but from our survey results and months of reflecting on our “why”, we decided to stay with this because it says what we mean:
- To make means we are building. Bowtie is about creating and doing. It’s about building an iconic company we can be proud of. Talk is cheap — it’s what you build that matters.
- Insurance is fundamentally good. Insurance is an amazing financial product that is good for families and society. We happen to hold a strong opinion and will be stubborn about this.
- Again. The original purpose of insurance is good, but many parts of the insurance industry lost its way. We’ve made it really complex — we need to make it simpler. We are here to bring back the good of insurance: protecting people and their families.
We know insurance can be simple and affordable. Our track record is showing insurance doesn’t need pyramid sales schemes to push down our society’s throat. Bowtie as a mission-driven insurer changing our system through modern technology — to make insurance good again.
Then the What
In 5 years, Bowtie will be the first company that comes to your mind when you think of “health insurance”.
After figuring out the why, we came to look at the what — what we want to achieve and what we are building.
We may not be the largest in 5 years. But when people think “health insurance”, Bowtie is the first that comes to mind. Bowtie will define the category of being a health insurer.
This mindshare is ours to win. Bowtie is our chance to build a fast-growing, iconic company where great careers are started and accelerated.
Why Health Insurance
We chose health insurance as our first step and battlefield because health is one of our most important things in life. We believe everyone should have health insurance, even before you have a family. Healthcare can be big and expensive — most people can afford to lose their luggage, but many families can’t afford a million dollars for cancer treatment.
Living our Purpose — defining our values
It is easy to have a grand mission, strong vision, and a nice purpose, and, not very nicely put, have our heads in the cloud, dreaming of big changes. However, the inconvenient truth is that 90% of startups fail — we survive by being the exception, not the average.
Our default is to be killed — if we deliver “average marketing” we will be dead, if we deliver “average engineering” we will be dead.
In such a precarious situation, we need to keep our feet on the ground and be pragmatic, and it is important to agree and align on values that accurately reflect and guide both our mindset and our actions. And we arrived at our 4 core values — live your purpose, own it, unbreakable, and be kind — with examples and counter-examples:
Live your Purpose
Don’t be a 鹹魚 (a salty, preserved dead fish — to have no dreams and no purpose in life).
We have big ambitions, and we want to work with purpose-driven teammates. We all need trusted teammates to be fighting with us. If anyone starts acting selfishly — not towards our purpose — we’ll all get killed.
Having a purpose keeps us focused. It helps us make the right decisions faster, especially when things get hard.
Behaviours we like:
(+) You put the teams’s goal before your own
(+) You do things, big or small and cross-teams, even outside of your expertise, to help move the mission forward
(+) You speak up when you feel the team isn’t on the best path towards the goal
Behaviors we don’t like
(-) Prioritising your own gain over the team — no one likes that
(-) You are unhelpful: “not my job” will get us killed when we are fighting for survival
(+) Offer solutions to customers because it fits them, not because you developed it or you need to “sell” those.
(+) You put in solutions that help propel us towards our mission, because you have the skills and know-how to do so, and not just because it’s in your job description.
We live in a hostile environment. We need to move fast, but the poor quality will also get us killed.
Owning something means you are smart about when to plan and build something industrial-strength, and when to duct-tape it.
We expect you to have a strong sense of ownership. We always deliver on our promises — because we need to be able to depend on each other. We meet the deadlines we promised. We show up to our meetings on time.
We deliver quality. We look for you to own your work and your professional development. We empower our teammates to do their best, and we expect that they will.
We become experts in our area of work. We bring a craftsman spirit to our duties. We crafts products that we love and we eat our own dog food.
Use the mom test: would you sell your product to your mother?
Use the Wall Street Journal test: would you be embarrassed if your work or behavior was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?
Behaviors we like
(+) Craftsmanship: we strive to become an expert in our field and continuously improve. We take pride in our work.
(+) Quality: we always deliver on promises, and we deliver quality work.
(+) Simplifying for our customers: insurance has been made very complicated. It takes understanding and efforts to simplify things for our customers, but it’s important we own that and push things forward.
Behaviors we don’t like:
(-) Being complacent: settling with “good enough” or “just check the box”
(+) keep updated with developments, best practices and the first-principles of your domain
(+) sharpen your tools — become an expert in the tools of your trade, whether it’s Python, marketing psychology or Excel
(+) deliver on time — be realistic with your promise/estimation and always deliver
(-) this song accurately depicts it…
Our journey is like a marathon with obstacles in space (and sometimes, we sprint, too). We are moving forward as fast as we can to survive.
We will hit a lot of roadblocks (and meteorites and space monsters and a lot of pain). Having a resilient mindset and staying positive through challenges is important to moving forward.
Giving up too easily means you avoid doing hard things. Doing the hard things is how we develop muscle and grit to do even bigger things — it’s how we develop.
Unbreakable means you also know when to ask for help, when to step back, so you don’t break. We all have our physical and mental limits and it’s important be self-aware to adjust — we’re asking that you push yourself past your comfort zones, to grow through challenges — not to be an invincible superman.
Behaviors we like:
(+) You are resilient and a problem-solver, you push and push through challenges, and you become stronger and stronger
(+) You are a realistic optimist
(+) You are self-aware and ask for help to push through
Behaviors we don’t like:
(-) You settle into a comfort zone.
(-) You shy away from challenges and tasks just because they seem difficult.
(-) You blame the situation — we are all trying to do our best. You have a choice to help and fix things too.
And Be Kind
Be a kind person. We are all humans here on earth for a limited time.
We work and support each other as a professional sports team. We are respectful and nice, but we also hold each other accountable.
The path ahead is not easy, so we stay kind to help each other through our work and personal hardships. Remember, we cannot know everything that other people are living through, so have compassion and seek to understand before you judge others as a person.
Behaviors we like:
(+) Be respectful
(+) Stay humble
(+) Be open-minded
(+) Be helpful
Behaviors we don’t like:
(-) Don’t be arrogant. Don’t be condescending.
(-) No assholes. Seriously.
(+) You care to explain more to address colleagues’ concern.
(+) Spend time to understand each other’s need and offer help.
(+) Provide candid and respectful feedback to help each other grow.
(+) Being kind doesn’t mean unconditional family love. Sometimes what is best for someone is not to be stuck in the wrong position with our team.
It was a good exercise to remind ourselves of who we are, who we aspire to be, and, more importantly, why we are.
Like other successful companies, such as Amazon, Facebook etc.., having a clear mission and purposes that our people can truly relate to and act upon is core to our existence- a company is anything but its people, and it is important to make sure that people we hire are proud of and care about what we are to achieve together.
Note: if you are looking for opportunities to work with a mission/purpose-driven organization and can resonate with ours — we are hiring across the board.
While we are very happy with what we arrived at, we believe that these principles might need to be fine tuned from time to time. Indeed, we had conducted small group lunch sessions (again, topic for another blog :)) to talk about and listen to what our team think about the above, what confused them, and how these have impacted their work lives (or even personal lives!).
With these we will keep evolving when appropriate to make sure that we can proudly and truly live our purposes and to make insurance good again!