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2015 Year in Review- A Look Back on the Year of Foundation Building

2013 was the year of doing whatever it took to hit product market fit. 2014 was the year of growing TINT as fast as possible. I thought 2015 would be the year of scaling to maintain the growth in 2014, but 2015 was the year of foundation building, laying the stepping stones for what I believe 2016 will be: the year of scaling with a purpose.

Every year, I take it upon myself to reflect the past year at TINT as the past teaches us the lessons for the challenges that lie ahead. In this past year, the momentous achievements included:

  • Growing from 19 full time employees to 37 full time employees
  • Expanding from the USA to 3 international countries including United Kingdom, Dubai, and Brazil.
  • Moving out of our 3,000 sq ft. SOMA office to a 10,000 sq ft. Mission office
  • Creating our first org structure for our company
  • Voting in 30 new policies and guidelines that will guide our company growth
  • Squashing 586 bugs in the system
  • Adding 50 features into the platform
  • 1.5x our revenue and MRR
  • Volunteering in 6 philanthropy events to give back to the community
  • Planning 2 team retreats that can barely fit a whole team in one house
  • Celebrating over 50+ mini celebrations for employees’ TINTiversaries and birthdays
  • 800,000 slack messages exchanged between team members
  • Countless high fives and hugs from the losses and wins we achieved together

Taking a Step Back for the Long Term Goal

2015 was the year of foundation building because when we grew 5x our size and revenue in 2014, I secretly knew it was not sustainable. And if we kept trying to maintain that growth velocity in 2015 without the right processes or foundation in place, we would hit a plateau and not be able to scale properly in future years. We needed to slow down and understand all our metrics, processes, and more to set ourselves appropriately for the success of the company.

By acknowledging this, I purposely focused a lot of my attention on the internal operations, knowingly sacrificing “quick profits” for the sake of laying the groundwork for a stronger company that will pride itself on taking care of its employees, customers, and showing the world that things can be done differently with a purpose in companies.

Typically these ‘year in review posts’ go through month by month the winning accomplishments, but this year I decided to change it up to be more practical for you. I wanted to compile the most important lessons the team and I have learned from foundation building this past year so you can apply it for your own company or life. These will be short sound bites, and if any of them resonate with you, let me know so we can blog more about it or discuss it together!

The Lessons

  • Enjoy the journey of building a company. We will all die in a box at the end of our lives, and the only thing we will take with us is our memories from experiences you’ve had.
  • If you provide value to all those around you, profits will follow.
  • Growing a company is a marathon of sprints, so be sure to rest up and take care of your physical body and mental mind. You will be far more productive and creative after a well-rested break.
  • Don’t offer unlimited vacation days. We all know that means nothing, and no one will take them. Instead, offer a minimum # of vacation days.
  • Be patient and persistent. You will inevitably experiences failures, but that does not mean you’re a failure.
  • A lot of the early success of a startup is revolved around the 3 P’s: People, Product, and Process.
  • Process does not equal Corporate. Processes will be your best friend when growing a company because it creates alignment with your diverse team and their unique opinions.
  • The biggest difference from your company and others will be your cultural value statements and what you stand for. Culture is defined by what your employees will default to when their managers are gone. Try creating them with your team.
  • Empathy is undervalued and under practiced. Whenever you’re in an argument, take 20 seconds alone and put yourselves in your counterpart’s shoes and acknowledge it.
  • Organization structures are necessary evil, so define one by following your cultural value statements and what will help your team grow.
  • Millennial typically stay at a job for 2 years. Create a consistent feedback loop in your company so they can share what they need to retain them for the long term.
  • Meetings can make or break a productive day. Only have meetings when necessary, and define the goals and set a timer in the beginning.
  • Humans have 3 core motivations that keep them at a job: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Create processes and opportunities that allow them to grow at a skill. Build relationships to establish trust for autonomy. And have a larger purpose for your company so employees see the big picture outside of just profits.
  • On average, someone who is financially stable will not be motivated by more money. They will be motivated by the self-growth opportunities and the feeling that they are making a positive impact that stretches beyond their own motives.
  • It’s the little thing that counts. A simple ‘good morning + name’ or acknowledgment on their small accomplishments will go long ways for your employees. Celebrating employee’s birthdays mean the world to them.
  • Setting quarterly goals and OKRs help create alignment with your team and set up the foundation for measuring success/growth for your employees.
  • Talk to as many entrepreneurs or a relevant community in your industry. The best way to learn is to hear their mistakes and know you’re know alone.
  • On-boarding a new employee properly with excitement will determine how successful and excited they will be. No one wants to be somewhere people are not excited about them.
  • A goal without a timeline is only a dream. Define deliverables and deadlines for every task to create alignment and minimize confusion.
  • Leave laptops and phones away during meetings, and have a pen and notebook for notes. It will show you are diligent and willing to tire your hands writing what others are saying.
  • Transparency is a difficult thing to balance and achieve. But if done right with persistence, there will be less confusion and more creative communication.
  • If you’re having a tough time getting buy in with your proposals, present it as an ‘experiment’ with a timeline, and you’ll be surprised how much more receptive that is.
  • Document everything as much as possible. It’s time-consuming, but the rewards will pay off. Less ‘he said, she said’ and less of a bus factor for you.
  • Acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate diversity. Though it may create challenging perspectives, their unique mindsets will set you up for more creative solutions.
  • There’s a difference between equality and fairness. Everyone on your team should be treated equally in the basic forms of respect. But not everyone has the same experience or knowledge, so treat decision-making and compensation in terms of fairness.
  • If you face challenges with your peers, it’s typically because there’s a disruption in expectations. Dissect their goals and find compromises.
  • Everyone on your team is a human being just like you. As smart or successful as they are, they all have personal issues they face. This may be the reason they are not having a good day.
  • Showing vulnerability with your colleagues can be the key to establishing trust with one another.
  • Define your measurements of success and don’t let anyone else create false expectations for you to achieve. You will experience life without unnecessary stress.

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Different with a Purpose

There are a ton more I can share, but all the above lessons summarize how much of the 2015 year was about building the TINT foundation. The number of processes, cultural value statements, workflows, meetings, and mindsets we have adopted for our foundation and breathe in our company can all seem like a distraction to building a company—we should be focusing on the product and big market opportunity right?

I disagree because there’s so much more to just building a company than making money and impressing your investors, the press, and those around you. I believe that building a company is just one of many opportunities in life to experience and enjoy. And if done right with patience + persistence, the ‘success’ will follow.

So if we’re going to prove that the above assumption is true and not just some hippy talk, it’s going to be a long-term play. And to achieve this long-term goal, I’m proud we focused on building a strong foundation at TINT in 2015 that will be our north star guiding us through the next years of growing the company. It will set us up to ‘grow the company differently with a purpose.’

If you have a similar mission with your company or life, or just resonated with the above, connect with me so we can discuss more! I challenge you to take some time to reflect your 2015 year and wish you a mindful and productive 2016 that helps you get one step close to your goals.

With much enthusiasm for what’s ahead,

Tim

CEO, TINT