After pulling the trigger on closing Brickflow, our previous venture with Tamás Kökény, we decided to stick together. "We stood there and knew where we messed up, and there was a team with whom we liked to work. What’s next?" - as I’ve stated in our recent Forbes interview. It was spring of 2015 and we had to reset our professional life.
Since we had just crashed a company, we had no money to be invested and decided not to raise external funding for the kick-off. This meant two things: we needed a business model which could generate cash in a short time (weeks), but moreover we needed to find a venture with a very low barrier to entry. Since the core team of Brickflow was going to stick together, we had all the know-how of an end-to-end digital product agency targeting software startups. This also meant that the first team members would have to take almost the same risk as the founders.
Based on our previous experience, we aimed to bridge the motivation and commitment gap between owners and employees as the sense of ownership and risk-taking wasn’t satisfying before. A desperate need appeared to create an environment which attracts and supports growth mindset, entrepreneurial, and full-stack minded people.
*Or at least, as a secret as shared sauce can be.
We had a gut feeling about possible solutions, but unlike with Brickflow, we started with an in-depth validation process. First, we interviewed about 50 IT professionals, founders and CEOs, then I dived into the alternative models of ownership and management.
There are numerous different models that companies use to distribute profit and/or ownership among employees.
We aimed to build a company with strong autonomy for our partners by distributing the power and making decisions with consent (no, we are not a democracy!), but without the unnecessary bureaucracy and Taylorian management. Why? To scale freedom, which we all love at small, early stage companies.
There are various models of self-management which have been pretty well described in Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux, in Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo and in many other works. (**See a full reading list at the end of the post.) I do not aim to dive into these concepts and practices, but if the below visuals inspire you, please go ahead and read these books. Like Zappos, we chose Holacracy to support our transformation towards a Teal organization. Adam Banko facilitated this from day one. Holacracy provides an operating system-like sets of rules to kick-off which facilitated experimentation. The power of the CEO is placed into a decision making process, based on the Holacracy Constitution. For our team, it brought the same mindset change as switching from waterfall to agile software development so we could work on our governance in small iterations. By defining these policies together, we were consciously improving the way we worked. Because of that, we now have our own apps on the operating system in the form of a public governance document.
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