I’ve been reading the book Built to Last and I couldn’t help but notice their founders having some kind of creed to live by for all the company’s employees. I realize now that this is one thing that we lack. We do not have direction in how we are supposed to behave. We do not have a code we are supposed to uphold.
I’m really quite ashamed that we are now almost three years and this is the very first time I’m taking a shot in conjuring a credo I truly believe in. A creed that will be the guiding star of our company as a whole.
This is my first draft so forgive me for lacking any experience whatsoever in doing this.
I figured a creed will be most easily remembered if it’s arranged in some sort of acronym. I chose the word “Achtung” which, in German, means “Attention”. It’s also a word used by my favorite band, U2, in their 1991 album, “Achtung Baby!”.
This creed is not in any way final as I believe all creeds have to be tested in order to see if it is a creed that cohesively works with the company’s culture and DNA. So here goes.
Accountability in Freedom
We are a team that is free. Our office attire does not require a uniform. We do not block off any website found on the internet during office hours. We allow anyone in the team to sleep over at the office to bond and grow as a team. And that is an awesome thing. A thing that most established companies do not have.
However this freedom has to be confined and defined in a fashion where there is accountability.
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” – 1 Peter 2:16
God has freed us from a life of sin and fleshly “freedom”. And in doing so, we do not become just “free men”, no, we become “God’s slaves” because we now know the truth of God’s freedom. It comes with accountability and it comes with Jesus’ Lordship in our lives. He now becomes our Master – the one who calls the shots.
In the same way, I expect people who are given freedom in the office to be accountable for it.
This means that, whenever there are sleep-overs, there will be lights-out. There will be a proper segregation between the men’s and women’s quarters – and there will be no crossing of that boundary. This means that there will be no skimpy clothing found in any of us in the office. This means that office hours are going to be used for the company’s purposes and not our own.
To whom will we be accountable to?
First and foremost, to God. We know that He sees everything.
Secondly, to your peers. The people we work with are smart and respectable people. We are able to see when one is abusing the freedom given us – and the truth will surface over time.
Thirdly, to your leader(s). The company’s leaders are put in position by the Lord. I am grateful to be able to personally choose the men and women who I know will be subservient to your needs and who will be able to resolve problems in the workplace.
If there are people who you think are not being responsible for the freedom the company has endowed to them, please be accountable for that knowledge and protect the company’s interests. They are your own interests as well, as you are part of the SEO Hacker family.
How can you be accountable for that knowledge?
Confront the person who is flaunting the freedom of the company. If he/she does not listen, report it to the concerned leader(s). A true leader will always act in behalf of the company’s best interests and protect the SEO Hacker family.
A huge divider between a person who is considered an ‘A Player’ and a person who is considered a ‘B Player’ is discipline. Naturally, this is also what separates an ‘A Company’ from a ‘B Company’. Apple’s downward spiral when Steve Jobs left was devastating. As a company, it was dying a slow, painful death. Jobs returned at 1997. Consider Jobs’ first move:
“What did Jobs first do to get Apple back on track? Not the iPod, not iTunes, not the iPhone, not the iPad. First, he increased discipline. That’s right, discipline, for without discipline there’d be no chance to do creative work. He brought in Tim Cook, a world-class supply chain expert, and together Jobs and Cook formed a perfect yin-yang team of creativity and discipline.
They cut perks, stopped funding the corporate sabbatical program, improved operating efficiency, lowered overall cost structure, and got people focused on the intense ‘work all day and all of the night’ ethos that’d characterized Apple in its early years. Overhead costs fell. The cash-to-current-liabilities doubled, and then tripled. Long-term debt shrunk by two thirds and the ratio of total liabilities to shareholders’ equity dropped by more than half from 1998 to 1999. Now, you might be thinking, ‘Well, all that financial improvement naturally follows breakthrough innovation.’
But in fact, Apple did all this before the iPod, iTunes, or the iPhone. Anything that didn’t help the company get back to creating great products that people loved would be tossed, cut, slashed, and ruthlessly eliminated.” (p. 83)
– Jim Collins, “Great by Choice”
The result? From 1997 – 2002, Apple outperformed the general stock market by a whopping 127%. 8 years later, Apple would go to become the world’s most valuable technology company.
It all started with discipline folks. I find the words of Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ a powerful mindset in driving us – the people of SEO Hacker as individuals.
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” – Jim Collins, “Good to Great”
“A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.” – Jim Collins, “Good to Great”
There are more than enough times that I find some of us lacking in discipline – in areas that involve personal growth, company tasks, short-term goals, perfectionism of output, cleanliness of workspace – even in simple things such as keeping the doors closed knowing the air-conditioning systems are open, and so on and so forth.
Discipline is vital in propelling a company to greatness. It has to be instilled in each and everyone of us. And like our first creed, everyone is accountable for his/her own discipline at work.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7
When you see someone who lacks discipline in specific areas of work, confront that person. More importantly, if you find yourself lacking discipline in areas of your own work, confront yourself and ask help from a leader in the team.
I’m not confining discipline in a box, stating that there’s only one way to be considered a person of discipline in our company. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I understand that some people have the discipline to work better and focus at night, and some people have the discipline to let creativity flow during break times or informal collaboration.
What I’m trying to point out is for all of us to have the basic disciplines of a person driven to succeed in life. In most cases, it starts with the discipline of the body – sleeping at the right time, sleeping enough, exercising, eating right and healthy, etc. then it trickles down to working habits and in little, nitty-gritty obsessive compulsive mannerisms that shape a person’s creative differences.
In all, the result of discipline is a team player who will bring the ace in his/her game – always.
There are few things more fulfilling than growth in life. Knowing something new. Discovering something different. It doesn’t have to be a colossal, world-changing contribution to society. It can be as small as an awesome, free WordPress plugin that you discovered – and implementing it to some of our client’s blogsites.
At the heart and core of my work, I have pursued a hacker’s thirst for innovation compounded with an obsessed attitude towards problem-solving. What does all this amount to?
A hacker’s thirst for innovation is his driving force in life. Without it, he’s not really a hacker. He’s an old, worn-out guy who knows how to edit old code and work on banks as a maintenance programmer.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10
As much as I hate to admit it, there are people in the team who are stuck. Stuck with the knowledge they had since they started with the team. Stuck with the same set of tools, same set of tasks, and quite possibly, the same set of clients. This, for me, is a nightmare. One of the things I fear the most in life.
With innovation comes problems. Take this scenario:
A new plugin you want to install comes with some code-tinkering so you go to github or stackoverflow to learn how to make a workaround. You come across a good fix. You try it out – then your entire site stops working. There are three options:
- Stop there and quit.
- Ask for help.
- Suit up and find a fix for your website.
The first is the easiest thing to do. The widest road to tread. The second one takes a little bit of humility and patience. The third is the most exciting route to take. The hacker route.
The route that will propel you to greatness.
It’s easily one of the reasons why I am who I am today and why I know what I know. I’ve always taken the third option. The hacker option. Do note that I’m not a coder by heart or skill – I’m naturally a writer. However I pushed myself, perhaps to the furthest limits of my mind and will, to learn as much code as I can.
And so I do realize that there are legitimate fears and problems that some of us in the team may face in the process:
1) You don’t know where to start
2) You don’t want to tamper with code – at all
3) You don’t want to break things
First- you have to start with your own blog/website. There’s no better starting point than having your own baby. That way, you can empathize with a client freaking out whenever something’s wrong with their site. Having your own site gives you the opportunity to test things and break some stuff – all in a controlled platform.
Second- you have to realize that coding is one of the skills in our world today that is considered a ‘superpower’. The good news is, it’s not really hard. If you are in the SEO Hacker team, it means you have the capability to learn how to code. You don’t have to be a whiz at it – the basics is more than enough to open a whole new world of innovation for you.
Third- things break all the time. That’s actually how you learn to piece it all back together again. The more times you break something, the faster you can put it back next time. The more things you break, the more you learn about the fundamentals of putting things back. I’ve broken my blog more than a hundred times by now. And yet, it’s still there. No real harm done – and I’ve learned a world of things.
Innovate like a hacker.
Trust in Difficult Times
Let’s be honest, there will seldom be days when we will sit back, relax, and tell ourselves, “Ah, what a life.”
Smooth sailing isn’t really one of our company’s mantras. Thus far in the two and a half years we’ve been pushing SEO Hacker’s flywheel, we have been grinding on all sorts of aspects of the business – financial, legal, accounts management, cashflow, marketing, client services, and so on and so forth. While these things may not be felt by all of us in the team, it is felt completely by the leaders of the company.
As early as we are existent as a business, we have experienced people who tried to bring our dream and vision down. People who malign and maliciously spread slander amongst ourselves in order to hasten some aspects of the business that are beneficial to themselves. While they may have their grounds for doing so, it has severely damaged something more important in our company’s values.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” – Hebrews 13:17
I have always dreamed of a team who will trust each other completely – and I believe I have displayed this by my own actions. There are no CCTV cameras in the office. I rarely check up on what people are doing. I do not ask for a daily report from the team. I let my people sleep in the office to bond and grow together. And I do all of these things with joy hoping that it will be returned with enthusiasm.
For some people in the team, it is indeed a joy. However, for some… Well… They are not really as happy with the trust than with the supposed “benefits” they should be receiving. As ironic as it sounds, the Bible says that failing to ‘have confidence‘ or, in other words, failing to trust in your leaders will be “of no benefit to you.”
I want all of us to know that SEO Hacker did not start that way. It started as a family – with no real regard to: “But what do I get out of this?”, “What’s in it for me?”, “Why don’t I compare my salary with my peers and see where I’m at?”
It’s really saddening how the “I want my benefits now” mindset has plagued our team for quite a while now. And while me and the leaders in the company have been working ourselves on client work, marketing, revenue generation and client acquisition, I’ve also been working my ass off trying to make the benefits happen through the incorporation.
The truth is, I never thought that people in my own team would someday demand to hasten this process – which I believe should be implemented on a right and proper time in our company’s history.
At this, I want to be completely transparent with you in saying that my trust in the team has been damaged. Trust is first and foremost given, and then it is earned. But trust is very delicate. There are some things that would strike trust in its foundation and it will come crumbling down to ashes.
It is a saddening picture. And while I can remove that trust from the team and implement rules and regulations to make our current state of freedom void, I will choose not to. I believe that in order to incur trust, it has to first be given. So as a leader, that’s what I choose to do. I will be giving it again and again.
However for those individuals who violate my trust, I will be less forgiving. I’m not really the type of guy to just turn the other cheek when I deem it improper. That’s not being a good steward. That’s being an idiot. And I believe, as a company, we should not be that way. As with all things in our company’s DNA, I believe the example should start with me.
There will be a lot more difficult times to come than this, and as I’ve always done before, I will choose to continue doing – I will trust my team because I want the team to grow in trust with each other. It is and will always be my vision and dream to have a team that is strongly connected with a bond of trust.
Unity in Diversity
You are unique. No one in this world will be exactly like you. God made your fingerprint to be yours and yours alone. And yet, SEO Hacker is a place where all of our uniqueness works together as a team. The perfect word in describing how we operate is “University” – Unity in Diversity.
This is an absolute truth that is realized in our team.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. “ – 1 Corinthians 1:12
There are people who are exceptional in writing, some in management, some in marketing, some in technical programming, some in analysis, and the list goes on. The talents in our family is diverse. Everyone has his/her own skill-set that is uniquely useful and powerful for work.
This is not to say that we want SEO Hacker to be autonomous in all aspects. There will be things in our company that will be absolute values whether you believe or agree with it or not. However we will respect opinions so long as it is not damaging nor slanderous. A person’s uniqueness is respected and upheld in our team.
We recognize that each has his own voice and that it should be heard. We also realize that taking those individual’s ideas and molding it to work for the team in driving the company forward is necessarily important.
This value works hand-in-hand with our Hacker Innovation – we learn from our diversity and we practice through our unity.
A team exists to fulfill a purpose bigger than themselves. As with all teams, it starts with the individuals that it is made up of. As a leader, I believe my team should be equipped and empowered to do meaningful and commendable work – without the supervision of managers.
With that, I believe that the common mindset of hierarchy should be abolished. Yes, there will be an organizational chart, but this chart does not need to dictate who has power over who, rather who is the subservient leader of which team.
And so me being the leader of the SEO Hacker team as a whole means that I am the subservient leader of everyone in the team. The fact of the matter is, I am at the beck and call of anyone who needs help, empowerment, equipping, coaching and guidance.
A person who can work without supervision is a person who has a high level of discipline. A person who can grow and innovate like a hacker is an unstoppable force in our team. If we all apply this then our company would be an unstoppable force in our world today.
Consider the opposite: each one of us needing supervision to work. It is a disaster! We would need to hire manpower just to supervise our work – and we would hate it. Who in his right mind would want to keep looking over his shoulders to see if he’s being watched?
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” – Colossians 3:22
So be disciplined in your work. I believe the best way to go about this is to have a raw passion for what you do. That is why we make sure to position you for the work you can be most passionate about in our team. Working remotely requires the highest level of discipline. It is something I want all of us to have, so that someday we may be able to go places knowing that we will still be able to accomplish the work set out for us – wherever we are.
It’s a beautiful world. Being kept up in an office for 5 days a week is not the best way to spend our lives.
God Above all
Ultimately, the reason why we live and breathe and work is because of our purpose in life – to glorify our God. Each and every value in this creed is reinforced with a biblical, absolute truth from the Word of God. And that’s because it is God’s truths that stands at the end of everything. At the end of every decision we make, every value we instill, every client we acquire, there is God to be acknowledge, and praised.
In SEO Hacker, I want the ultimate reason and purpose for everything we do or decide to be God. Our freedom? God. Our discipline? God. Our unity? God. Our trust for each other? God. Our growth? God. He is the person that binds all of our efforts and values together.
When there are things that me as a leader fails to do or deal with, remember that there’s a bigger leader that towers anything and everything I do. If I have wronged anyone, remember that there’s someone who will remember your cause and who will tell me of my wrongdoings.
It is the fear and love of God that drives me as a leader, manager, friend, mentor, husband and father. I hope and pray that He will be your driving force as well.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28
The only way we can work together is because God causes us to do so.
In light of the negative events happening in our team, I want this creed to be our guiding light. Our Bethlehem star. The one thing that would help us to realize who we were, where we are, and what we need to do. Perhaps it would be used by the Lord for other purposes than this. Perhaps not.
In any case, I want you all to put this in your heart. I will make a version of this that would be much shorter and that would be shown to each new team member before they are melded in the team chemistry.
So, until this creed is changed for the better… ACHTUNG!