What we’re all about: Sharetribe’s purpose and values

Post-its from our values brainstorming session

At Sharetribe, we believe that the purpose and values of a company are not something that should be defined by management. That kind of approach leads to them being treated as marketing BS: fancy words that don’t really mean anything, and don’t have anything to do with how the company actually operates.

Instead, we wanted to engage the whole team in the discussion, to find a shared understanding of our goals and the things we believe in. To me, this is a prerequisite for being able to work together effectively as a team. Everyone needs to believe in what we do and agree on the direction we’re headed.

We started the work in December 2014 and published the first version in February 2015. However, at that point we already acknowledged that this would be a work in progress, and we would constantly iterate on it as we go. Since then we’ve already made changes, like replacing our “vision” and “mission” with a single purpose statement defining why we exist. I’m proud to present: Sharetribe’s purpose and values.

Purpose

Our purpose is the reason our company exists; the change we want to make in the world. In a group session, we gathered everyone’s thoughts on the subject. We noticed that the reasons fell into three distinct groups, so we decided to create a three-part purpose statement.

  • Foster a sustainable peer economy where resources are shared and re-used. The collaborative economy is about using our existing assets more efficiently, while at the same time building human connections; where people get the goods & services they need directly from each other instead of big corporations. We believe that if we can nurture and grow this economy, it can provide solutions to many of today’s biggest issues: from climate change to the future of work.
  • Democratize platform ownership by making it easy for anyone to build and run their own marketplace. We don’t want a future where a large part of the value created in the collaborative economy will be extracted by the one percent. The marketplace platforms should take only what they need to survive, and distribute the rest to the providers doing the actual work. This can be achieved if the platform technology is commoditized. If some platform tries to extract too much value, it is easy for anyone to set up a competing platform.
  • Build a meaningful workplace that sets an example for other organizations. We want to build an exceptional organization where everyone is empowered to make decisions, be themselves, grow as a person, and constantly learn new things.

Values

Values are the underlying principles guiding all our actions. Whenever we make a decision, we should automatically consider whether that decision is in conflict with one of our values. If it is, that’s a huge red flag.

In the first iteration, we came up with 5 values. Now there are 9. The familiar ideas of sustainability, transparency and being equitable are still there, but formatted a bit differently — and there are a bunch of new ideas to accompany them. Here they are.

  • Prioritize customer happiness. Our customers are our partners. We can only be successful if they are. We cannot be happy if they are not. We exist to help them follow their dreams. We constantly find new ways to delight them and to make their lives better.
  • Be honest and fair. The key in building a successful workplace community is trust. The key in achieving trust is being transparent, treating everyone equally and saying what you really think.
  • Be kind. Kindness is contagious. Human communication can be challenging, but many of the challenges can be avoided by maintaining a friendly and positive attitude. If you smile at them, they will soon smile back to you. Be honest, but be nice.
  • Strive for positive impact. The purpose of our company is not just making money for the shareholders. We want to make the world a better place. The actions of our company should have a net-positive impact on the environment and the society.
  • Encourage experiments. You never know what the next big thing will be. To truly innovate, you need to dedicate enough time to experiment with something new, even if the results are unclear. We encourage everyone on our team to undertake these experiments. We celebrate failure, because it’s a path to something new and better.
  • Always ask why. Everything we do, we do for a reason. Before starting something, we always ask how that particular thing will help us achieve our goals. There’s always more possibilities than there is time, so it’s important to know when to say “no”.
  • Embrace personal learning. While we work together for our common goals, we also empower everyone in our team to achieve their personal goals. Life is more meaningful when you’re constantly trying and learning new things.
  • Finish things. It’s better to do fewer things but to do them well, and get them done before moving on to the next thing. We always invest in quality over quantity.
  • Have balance. Life is meant to be enjoyed. While we are passionate about our work, it’s vital to remember to give enough time to all the other important things out there. If there is something you always wanted to do, the right time to do it is now. It’s later than you think.

Conclusion

As I noted earlier, defining our purpose and values is an iterative process, so they are likely to be refined over time. However, right now we’re pretty happy with the results. Thanks to the thoughtwork we put in, we now have a shared way of working together. What’s yours?

- Juho


Originally published on the Sharetribe blog on February 18, 2015. Last edited Jan 25, 2016