Since 2012, Elephate has been an award-winning SEO and Content Marketing agency. Earlier this year, the SEO side of the agency spun off into its own company — Onely — the One and Only Technical SEO House.
For the SEO team, this was an opportunity for a fresh start.
Not only was it a new brand, different look, and a resharpened focus on technical SEO, it was also a hard reset about how we wanted to define ourselves moving forward.
It meant taking a hard look at who we are, recognizing our weaknesses, and letting go of the past.
You know, the easy stuff!
The Road There
Onely’s CEO Bartosz Góralewicz understood that we couldn’t just coast off of our previous success with a new name. He had to treat the transition into Onely as if he were starting from scratch.
And while it was clear that everyone on the team knew each other, he wondered: did they know the company?
As Bartosz explains it, companies that start without overt core values usually hit a wall down the road. It all begins when the founder chooses the first hires based on his/her values and beliefs. Eventually, these hires will hire someone on their own, and then as the company gets bigger, those third-generation employees will hire people as well, and so on.
Each generation of hires becomes once removed from the personal values of the founder, and because those values were never explained, the problem ends up becoming compounded.
Bartosz concluded, “Our main problem came from the lack of clearly defined core values that we all could agree on and that were transparent to everyone on the team.”
So during all the chaos surrounding the company rebranding, Bartosz initiated a series of meetings to deal with Onely’s core values.
The initial meeting to get the process started involved Onely’s C-level staff and was conducted off-site to minimize distractions.
Here’s what that meeting looked like:
Bartosz Góralewicz’s “How to Get Your Company Traction Using Core Values.”
In this meeting, the members of the team threw out every value they believed relevant to Onely. Once that avenue was exhausted, so began the long process of narrowing the list down to a handful of values.
Each subsequent meeting whittled down the list while bringing more members of the company into the fold.
What We Learned Along the Way
First off, the process is a lot harder than it looks.
After the excitement of seeing all of the things you all agree on, the surprise at some of the differences can open up a lot of spirited debate.
“What do you mean peanut butter isn’t a value? Does it make a difference whether it’s creamy or crunchy?”
There were some headscratchers introduced, especially at that first meeting; so much so that you wondered if you knew the people you were working with.
On top of that, since this was about rebranding our image, it was essential to weed out the values we once represented and the ones we wanted to reflect in the future. We weren’t X previously, but I feel like X is worth striving for now.
Also, it was vital to keep reminding everyone why we were establishing these values. This wasn’t just about knowing who we were internally, but what these values would mean to the clients we work with.
If we decide that transparency is one of our values (spoilers: it is!), how does that look day-to-day at that office? Will people openly criticize each other’s fashion choices? How does that look in the work? How would clients benefit from, for instance, our transparency?
A lot of values were introduced and discussed extensively, but in the end, we finally agreed on seven.
It’s been not only a long process but an exciting journey. And having reached our destination, we want to share our values with you.
1. Excellence Only
- We want to be known as the best in the field.
- We want our work to be top shelf, which means that if a mistake is made, there’s no room for excuses. We own it, we make it right, and we learn from it.
One of the first values to be introduced and then made the final cut, this one was a no-brainer for everyone.
“We follow the rule: act the way you want to feel,” says Maria Cieslak (Head of Technical SEO). “This is why Excellence Only is one of our core values. We do not accept mediocrity and cutting corners because we know that it won’t provide stable and long-lasting results.”
2. Data Driven
- While the goals of our clients might be similar, every website is different. This is why we won’t commit to any long-term decisions until we have all of the data we need.
- Fortune 100 companies don’t trust us with their websites and sensitive data because of our hunches; they trust us because we know what we’re doing and we have years of data-driven experience to back this up.
Emil Gorczyca was a big supporter of this value.
“We don’t trust our gut,” said Emil. “We use data as our compass. As long as we’re following the data, we’re headed in the right direction.”
3. Digging Deeper
- We understand that technical SEO is a constantly evolving landscape and that tomorrow’s latest discovery will become yesterday’s outdated trend.
- We want to lead the way in technical SEO by satisfying our clients above and beyond their expectations and sharing our expertise with the SEO industry as a whole. We believe our success is everyone’s success.
- By being ahead of the curve, we’re setting the path for others to follow and succeed.
Pioneership was the keyword that kept coming up in the discussion.
“We’re always moving towards the next big thing, seeing what’s underneath, exploring new areas,” said Bartosz. “I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”
- There’s a lot to be cynical about these days, but when it comes to the work we love, we feel like there’s no room for negativity. We love technical SEO, and we want everyone to understand how positive it can be for the online experience.
- We don’t get caught up in conspiracy theories when it comes to Google’s updates or a website’s sudden drop in visibility. We’d much rather have the data speak for itself.
This was the value Christian A. Dumais (Head of Marketing and a Writer Who Does Not Enjoy Writing about Himself in the Third Person) was most vocal about.
He said, “It’s so easy to be cynical — especially in an industry like SEO — and I believe it’s important to stand out through optimism and positivity. After all, as a service, Onely provides hope that your website will see better days, and I think that being forward-thinking and optimistic is exactly what clients need.”
- We love what we do. Technical SEO is something we live and breathe, and we hope it shows in the way we do the work and engage with our clients.
- We want our clients to feel like they’re in good hands with professionals who have the experience and enthusiasm to get the job done.
Tomek Rudzki (Head of R&D) believes passion to be one of our most important values. “We believe there are only two ways to gain a new client. One: To be passionate, doing your job the best you can. Such a client not only will be happy about your cooperation but they will recommend it to their friends.”
When asked what the second point was, he responded, “Two: Look at the first point.”
- Results are everything, which is why we’ll never give up in the pursuit of data-driven solutions for our own satisfaction, and especially for our clients.
- And while it’s easy to cut corners and take shortcuts, we’ll always take the long way if it means more accuracy and better data.
SEO Specialist Bartłomiej Kudyba cited some examples of going the extra mile for a client: “We’ll check a piece of code ourselves until we know it works for the client. And we like to dig deep into the source. It’s not enough to say that something should be done this way, the question is why?”
He added, “There’s a difference between talking about solutions and actually achieving them.”
- We are open and honest with one another, including our clients.
- Our workflow is designed to 1) be easy to understand; 2) minimize as many people from the equation as possible so that we can work with the devs directly; 3) yield solid results.
- The prices for our services are made available to the public.
Saving the biggest one for last, this is one of the first values everyone agreed on instantly. “If I learned something over the past years of working with technical SEO,” said Bartosz, “it’s that few factors are differentiating great SEOs from ones who don’t succeed. I believe transparency could be one of them.”
This is why our communication process and workflow with our clients is as open and refined as possible. And this is why we are bucking the trend in the SEO industry and have posted our price list online.
We’re putting it all out there.
Including our values.