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Our Core Values and Operating Principles

Hi all, Sara here with an update about our team and culture here at Reaction.

At the heart of Reaction Commerce is our team. Like any relationship, being part of a team requires regular tending and nurturing. It’s always been critically important to me that we have an explicit guide, that we can point to and reference, that speaks to what we value and how we operate. In the spirit of ‘Open and honest communication’ (one of our Core Values!), I’d like to share it with all of you.

Why company culture matters

  • A company is like a living organism, and every time someone joins or leaves the company, the organism changes somewhat. Finding a balance between flexibility  (because change is inevitable) and consistency (because without it, we have chaos) takes a strong, shared foundation of understanding.
  • Intentionally creating a company culture is about looking toward the future. It’s one of the ways we’re building Reaction for sustainable, long-term success.
  • I’ve seen (and done) this before. I’ve seen firsthand how positive and productive team members are when they feel connected to their company, when they feel supported, and when they believe the work they’re doing has a real impact. I’ve also seen the opposite, and it’s not pretty (for the employees or the company).

Core Values are meant to be part of everyday conversations. They shouldn’t just exist on a wall or in a wiki.

How we got here

Reaction is now five years old and since day one, we’ve had a company manifesto. We’ve also put in place an intentional and yearly practice of reviewing and updating these important documents as a team.

Late last year, Mathias and I started the annual review process where we stepped back and spent time reviewing, editing, and adding to these values and principles. We then shared these updates with the rest of the team for feedback and suggestions. Over the course of the following month, we collected comments and notes before finalizing for 2018. Here’s a bit of insight into some of the changes we made, and into how we use our Core Values and Operating Principles in our day-to-day work.

To make things more clear and concise (and align with our Operating Principle about communication being everything), one of the first things we did was rename the Manifesto to Culture Guide, which now includes our Core Values (that describe who we are) and Operating Principles (that describe and guide how we work).

As you’ll see, some of these changes reflect the new challenges we’re tackling as a growing team of almost 30 people distributed across four continents. Some reflect new knowledge and insights we’ve gained over the past few years. And some are simple clarifications to better convey what we originally meant. All of the documents are now published in our company wiki for every team member to view and respond to.

How we live our culture

I believe that Core Values are meant to be part of everyday conversations. They shouldn’t just exist on a wall or in a wiki. They need to be surfaced and referenced regularly. Here’s a recent example:

And another:

And one more for good measure:

It’s not always easy and we don’t always get it right, but we do our best to put these Core Values and Operating Principles into practice every day. So without further ado, here they are!


Our Core Values

Trust explicitly.

We believe in the reliability and capability of our teammates. We encourage everyone at Reaction to exercise leadership in our company and community.

Default to action.

Rather than sit on our hands and wait, we roll up our sleeves and take actions. Quick and informed decisions drive our progress. We own our decisions.

Focus.

We focus on fewer things and getting those right.

Always go forward.

The path forward is not always straight, but we keep iterating, adjusting, and continually improving.

Foster diversity through a culture of support and inclusivity.

We aim to help one another, to be open and transparent in our communication, and to spend time actively listening to each other.

Own our achievements and our mistakes.

We take accountability for all of our actions and encourage learning from our missteps. We pause to celebrate and acknowledge our wins, and we also look at how we can improve.

Empathy toward our community, clients, and team.

We are compassionate and understanding of each other and our backgrounds. We strive not to make judgements, but rather we consider the viewpoints of others.


Our Operating Principles

We’re quite remote.

  • We are a distributed-first team. We hire the best, no matter where they live.
  • When one person in the meeting is remote, everyone is remote (and at their own computer).
  • While we have an office in Santa Monica we don’t require everyone/anyone/you to work there all the time. You’re welcome to visit and work from the Santa Monica office.
  • Our default time zone is UTC. When sharing times with others, we always share in UTC and 24-hour. If we want, we also share other local times where we know our teammates are based. When possible, we link to a time zone converter to help (e.g. https://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/).

We’re all about docs, assets, and learning tools.

  • We strive to store information and knowledge so that it’s accessible to everyone, sharing documents in progress via Google Drive, storing permanent knowledge in Notion, or into our public documentation.
  • Different teams use different tools and process. The ones above are our goto places across all teams.
  • Every decision that impacts multiple people from the team should be documented.

Communication is everything.

  • We aim to over-communicate and share more rather than less, but with brevity and conciseness.
  • Communication should default to happen in public rather than in private.

We stay in sync via the following:

  • Annual team in-person all hands (1 week).
  • Periodic “some hands” topic summits (generally 1-3 days)
  • Monthly video all-team town halls (~50 minutes)
  • Weekly video demos and updates (~25 minutes).

We strive to maintain an inclusive work environment.

  • We use non-gendered and inclusive language. Prefer using "people," "folks," or "everyone" over "guys."
  • We use asynchronous communication wherever possible. Email, Slack, Notion, Carrot, Google Docs are preferred tools.

We’re flexible when it comes to when and where we work.

  • Make your own office hours. Whether you’ve got a long commute, you’re a new parent, or you live 8,200 miles away, we’re flexible. When we work from home or other locations, we are available via chat and accessible for calls/video, etc.
  • We’re big fans of blocking out hours in our days (or full days) for focus. We call these “focus blocks.” This is sacred time, and it’s kind of like a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
  • Some of us use the “working hours” feature in our calendars to signal to our teammates when we’re available for work.
  • Travel and taking time to recharge are encouraged. Go outside!

Time off and time away is critical to our creativity.

  • We stress, value, and encourage the importance of time off. Take as much time off as you need, no questions asked.

It’s all about the team.

  • Physical and mental health is important to us.
  • We offer paid medical, dental, and vision benefits. Our new parent leave is 100% paid.
  • Our learning stipend gives you room for personal development and growth. Read and learn! Attend conferences, meetups, and lectures.
  • We value and invest in your personal growth. We value networking events, applaud volunteer work, and encourage side projects and hobbies.
  • We value sharing and receiving honest and constructive feedback.

Keep it simple.

  • We value smaller, independent teams.
  • We aim to start simple and keep it simple.
  • No unnecessary acronyms. No stuffy jargon.
  • While we’re now venture-backed, we still aim to be lean, bootstrapped, and self-sufficient.

Open source is in our DNA.

  • As a company and a product, we default to open source where appropriate.
  • We believe in the ethos of open source and in open core business models.
  • We are stewards of our open source codebases, and we strive to be good citizens in the broader open source community.

Purposeful meetings.

  • Meetings should have a clear purpose and agenda. They should result in minutes that outline the topics discussed, key takeaways and decisions.
  • Meetings should be the exception rather than the norm. Discussions should preferably happen asynchronously and out in the open.

We’ll be reviewing these again at our 2019 All Hands meeting, and as always, I’ll keep you up to date on what we decide to change. Thanks for reading, and thanks again for supporting Reaction.

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