Posted on 28 March 2013
For the past decade I have been focused on a bunch of things, but besides selling, my top two priorities have been:
1. To develop a web-based software that companies can use to grow their business.
2. To create a very special company culture that makes mobileStorm a sought after place to work.
My travel to India (still here actually), has allowed me to combine these two passions. I started mobileStorm, not because I thought mobile was going to be the next big thing (even though I knew it would be), but ultimately I didn’t want to work for anyone. I wanted freedom of choice. I cover “why” mobileStorm is in business, on our company page. At the end of the day, I wanted to hire I liked (not because I needed them), I wanted to focus my efforts on features I was passionate about (and thought companies would want to buy), and at the same time, I wanted to travel the world and learn about other cultures. Money is only the third reason people to go work somewhere. There is something much more important than money. I waited tables and delivered pizza for years to be able to enjoy the type of autonomy that comes with being your own boss. I knew if I just hung in there, eventually it would happen.
After being inspired by the book “Starts With Why”, and learning about how all of the best companies know why they are in business, I have slowly introduced into mobileStorm’s DNA, the freedom of choice. I realize that not only will this type of culture attract other like-minded customers, but more importantly employees will be highly motivated and loyal, which will circle back to client satisfaction. Everything starts with decision making. Our core value states “We believe decisions should be made by those closest to the issue or those most affected by it.
Top down management is old school; make decisions on your own, but ask the advice of others before executing it”. Even if someone makes the wrong decision, we try and never get mad.
We use these moments to re-enforce the importance of decision making, and help people learn from their mistakes. I always say that an A player is someone who can get hit buy a bus and the company can carry on without a blip. True success is when you can make yourself dispensable. When you never have to show up and the company can grow without you, I think that is when you can tell yourself you have made it. We have only just started scratching the surface of putting freedom of choice into our employees hands; there is still so much more work to do.
A few of the ways I encourage the team, is to live what I mean. For instance a few of us had to come to India to be with our fast pace growing team in Dehli. I told the company that my co-founder and I were going to go a couple of days early to Goa to see a different side if India we had not seen before. It was a mini vacation coupled with a week of work. As a CEO I don’t try and hide the fact that I am going to enjoy myself, after all, I have to go thousands of miles away from my wife and kids. To me that is one of the most difficult challenges when you have to travel. I might as well make the most of it and implement some balance.
We happened to be in India during the week of Holi, the Hindu festival of color where people throw, well, colors all over each other. The whole country shut down and so we took the day off and explored the city. The next thing we know we are drinking wiskey’s & cokes, eating chicken and mutton in someone’s house in the slums. It was a very humbling experience that will last a lifetime. You cannot have these types of experiences by sitting in your hotel room. And I also don’t think if mobileStorm celebrated a culture of freedom, that the two people I was traveling with, would have wanted to do something different.
I tell my wife all of the time, the moment I stop having fun, is the moment I pack up and do something else. I could run mobileStorm for another 10 years as long as I am enjoying what I am doing. The flip side to freedom is restriction. I know so many people in jobs they are just going thru the motions with. They do not have any time to do anything else but the task at hand. Freedom brings you the ultimate enjoyment because its all about how much time we have on this earth and when you are free, you get to choose how to spend your time.
I was talking with the CEO of our development team out here (Tarun Kohli), about culture. He mentioned how he tried to implement Google’s 80/20 rule where 20% of your time you can work on whatever you want. He said it was a failure for a few reasons, and we both agreed that sometimes just because it looks good on paper it doesn’t always work everywhere. With their revenues and size of company, Google could afford to let their employees do this. There have been a few things I have tried to implement that failed because it just couldn’t work for the size and type of company we were. Even being able to spend a couple of extra days in India costs money and I am sure if everyone at the company wanted to do something like this, it would take its toll and we might never make it to the finish line. So the trick with culture isn’t to implement a major policy all at once, you need to slowly move towards your ultimate goal. Maybe its the 99/1 rule and you go from there. Maybe instead of two days in Goa, its surprising them with a less expensive trip to the Taj Mahal. As the company grows, and the revenue and resources are there, then you can start to roll things out you might not have been able to do when you were smaller and with less money.