Years ago, when Terakeet was a fledgling company still trying to figure out the “whos” and “whats” of its business model, co-founders Mac Cummings and Pat Danial met with a business coach in hopes of uncovering those answers. Instead, they were faced with two even more fundamental questions: What are your goals? and What are Terakeet’s values?
The entrepreneurs looked at each other and then back at the coach. They didn’t have answers for either question — not unlike thousands of other aspiring business owners — but that was precisely why they needed to come up with those answers. They wanted to be different. They wanted to build a company that could one day make a difference.
These decisions, the coach explained, would provide the foundation for the future of their business and were necessary if Terakeet would ever become the type of company they envisioned. So they went back to the office and got to work determining their goals and values.
To hear Mac tell the story is to get the feeling that it might one day become part of the Terakeet folklore in the same way that Apple’s garage origin story has woven itself into the history of Silicon Valley tech. Who knows, maybe it already has.
Terakeet’s Core Values
That initial meeting and subsequent conversations led to a series of business goals and five core values that would provide direction for the coming year and beyond. Over the years the goals have changed, evolving to reflect Terakeet’s growth and changes in the marketplace, but the core values have not.
Upholding the highest standards of trust and character throughout the organization.
Listening to customers and providing the attention of an ambitious startup firm no matter how large we grow.
Continuing the legacy of actualizing the company’s first-to-market ideas and strategies.
Creating long-term return on investment for customers.
Empowering every individual, no matter their role, with the ability to control the destiny of the company.
True to their purpose, our values have remained a reliable and trusted source for what we stand for and how we’ll do it. They are equal parts promise to our customers and to each other.
Shared Values Equals Shared Success
When I started at Terakeet in 2014, there wasn’t an employee among us who couldn’t rattle off our core values on-demand. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for new hires to be “quizzed” on how well they knew them when introduced to the company at the end of their first week.
To ensure I wouldn’t draw a blank if I was asked about the core values, I rearranged them into an acronym that would help me remember. That acronym was I.R.I.S.E., and it conveniently was both memorable and offered a metaphorical connection to what I think is the purpose of core values at this or any other company.
If we buy into core values and hold ourselves and each other accountable to them, the idea is that individually “I” will “rise” up personally and professionally. And, when each employee is committed to performing well within the same set of principles, as they rise, so too does the company.
Walking the Walk
While we’ve since backed off a bit on putting new folks on the spot, the influence of our values has not lessened. Weekly company meetings, which we call Circle Up, serve as a platform to share important news. Each ends with an open call for “shoutouts” to recognize colleagues for work that goes above and beyond what’s asked of them.
Our core values are more than just words in an employee handbook, but rather ideals that we share.
There are no rules for giving a shoutout, except that whenever possible, the work (and worker) being celebrated should be tied back to one of the core values. This does two things: it directly connects the value (which might otherwise be seen as an abstract idea) to tangible results that move our business forward. And it reminds the team that these are more than just words in an employee handbook, but rather ideals that we share — things we truly do value.
Knowing Who You Are
Throughout my career, I’ve noticed a trend with organizations that have core values and keep them front and center compared to those that don’t. Those who are truly guided by their values perform better, have happier workforces, and keep their people longer. Those who don’t, don’t.
I doubt that’s a coincidence.
It doesn’t surprise me that Terakeet’s core values have lasted as long as they have, unchanged. Nor am I surprised we continue to hear shoutouts delivered as proof that our collective work still reflects them.
These days, we’re much more confident in the “whos” and “whats” of our business, and our values serve to keep us on track. Now an integral piece of our culture, they’ll continue to guide us into the future.