I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a great company. This is, of course, not an easy thing to answer. A lot goes into building a great company. There is product, culture, and community. In those there are promises, actions, and connections. In those there is integrity, authenticity, kindness, and the so on and so forth. Then there is a market, a need, real value. There are ripples that turn into waves that change lives.
Like I said, a lot goes into building a great company.
While I’m not yet at a conclusive answer, I can honestly say my year at Porch has brought me a lot closer to one. I feel so fortunate to be in the eye of this remarkable startup storm. We have so many great things in the works, and the team building all of this is just…so damn special. Sure we’ve got our challenges, but we’re better for it. We are dead set on trying to be a great company and I am learning as I go just what that means.
One thing that stands out to me lately is this concept of intellectual honesty. I read an article about how “great testing requires intellectual honesty” and it got me thinking – damn, that’s hard. Intellectual honesty means “you make arguments you think are true, as opposed to making the arguments you are “supposed” to make and/or avoiding making arguments that you think are true that you aren’t “supposed” to make.” Basically – it means you’re willing to rock the boat, shine the bright light, and say “that thing” that no one else wants to say.
This is…uncomfortable. Risky. Hard.
This is not…easy. Taught. Appreciated.
Well, maybe it is appreciated. I think great companies appreciate intellectual honesty. I’ve seen this at Porch. The past few weeks I’ve pushed on some big things and asked some hard questions. I’ve actually blown up a few email threads…not because I want to. Or even because I had to. But because I believed an argument needed to be made for the greater good. Greater good can be the customer, the team or even the bottom line. There are lots of “greater goods” that demand that sort of risk.
Lesser companies punish people for those risks. They shut you down. They ignore your concern. They silence it with sentences like “we’ll get to that later” or “good point, but we’re just too far along to rethink that.” Great companies stop. They pause. Acknowledge the point made and give it at least a few minutes to breathe.
It doesn’t mean that the argument made wins out. In fact, I’d bet most times it doesn’t. But there is something really special about allowing it to breathe. This sort of respect for intellectual honesty breeds empowerment. It reminds everyone in the room that we all have voices and bring perspectives and experiences that are valuable. It kills bureaucracy and rewards gumption.
With all of that said…it still isn’t easy. An old colleague of mine used to say “the best thing to do is shine a bright light on it.” It took me a while to grok what he was saying. Sounds so damn uncomfortable, but isn’t that how we grow? Through the discomfort. Not just personally but as companies. It all blends into the truest statement of great companies – “if it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Great companies don’t choose easy. They choose hard. And hard is hard.
I’m thankful to be embracing the challenges of intellectual honesty. It feels likes it’s stretching me in the right ways, and I’m always down for more of that.