What is a good company?

Viktor Kurochkin
7 min readJul 11, 2020
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Lately, I’ve been thinking what does a good company to work in looks like? I guess that this might be different for everybody, because everyone has their priorities and preferences. But I want to define this, at least for myself and maybe you will agree with me on some points.

I would highlight a few things that are important for me in the company: people, accountability, and trust.

People

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It is important who you work with. At the very least you should be neutral about them, but it will be better if you like them as you are going to spend a lot of time together and also you need to be an effective team. It may sound like a “lucky thing” in some way, but quite opposite.

Culture and recruitment are the main factors that influence what people are working in the company and you can’t underestimate it. Today there are many talks about the culture and the importance of it, but it is not something you can just set and ask newcomers to sign. Culture is formed by the people you hire from the start of the company and is changed as you hire new people. Of course, a company can try to guide the culture development, while there are few people in the company, but on a big scale — it is very hard to do. So this is why recruitment is so important — you can hire one wrong person and spoil the entire team, that will affect other teams and so on, and in a few years found out that you screwed.

But there is another side of the coin there is competence. It seems like most of the companies are falling into one or another extreme. The first type of company is so serious about the culture that they forget about the competence or so-called “hard skills”, they don’t put the candidate’s skills to the test. The other type of company on the contrary is all about the hard skills, they have complicated interviews and forget about the cultural differences — the candidate is a professional so he/she will make it somehow. The first range of companies is often a great place to be in, while the second one is a great place to do the job. And of course there are companies that fail at any side. A high level of professionalism is very important as well as shared culture and nice people around. Joining a culture-focused place will soon get employees pissed-off redoing other’s jobs and realizing they can’t rely on anyone, while in a competence-focused place they will have no strong attachment to the place and the team. So both scenarios might lead employees to lose the desire to go to work every day, and opening their resume once again.

So balance is what companies need to seek. You need to find good professionals that fit into your culture as an employer and you need to find a place, where your hard skills are valued and the culture feels native. And this is hard as hell. It will make the recruitment process long enough to start doubting and look for compromises. Of course, it’s up to every company to decide, but the consequences are also all theirs. Probably, as a workaround, a company can have multiple sub-cultures in teams, so that a wider range of candidates can fit into the company. And this is even something they probably won’t be able to avoid, so need to be aware of. The least you can do as a company leader is to observe, be aware of the culture that was born in your company and make decisions considering it.

Accountability

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Accountability is one of the most effective ways to preserve the best people. And as I see it, it’s simple — recognize people’s achievements and reward them, as well as recognize their failures. People need evaluation not only to be effective, but to be happy — it is all about good and bad things. And going through the “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott I understand that talking about bad things is so much underestimated comparing to talking about good things right now. In the end, it is not about how does the manager “feels” about the employee, it is about how the employee influenced the business and people that work with the person. So, if someone gets promoted — the team should understand why. Working on the Skill Matrix project and creating indicators to assess people’s hard skills and contribution opened my eyes to how it makes the process more effective and transparent. No more “seems like an employee copes” — now it’s “the employee is doing great because did that and this on the appropriate level of quality and achieved x in t time” and on the contrary “the employee is failing minimum quality requirements, doing A and B tasks”, etc. Plus I can be sure I am on the same page with my teammates — the expectations are declared and regularly followed.

For example, if an employee is leading some team — management needs to evaluate the performance of the team and employee’s contribution. If the person wasn’t there for the team and just happened to get a self-sufficient team, will it be reasonable to promote that person? It is also so common to give all trophies to the manager, like if the team is not that important in so many companies still. And how will you know the person’s performance if you won’t ask the team?

I saw a few times the consequences when the company neglected recruitment for crucial positions, just taking the person close to the hiring manager without asking anyone for the feedback about the candidate, just because it is convenient for the hiring manager to move the person there. And then the performance and the actual results of the person were also not evaluated. And this is exactly what makes good people go. They see that their diligence and dedication as well as actual results do not impact their career, while others get promotions just being public enough and this means that the company simply doesn’t care, and this is the worst.

Trust

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And last but not least is trust. If you want your employees to trust you so you can trust them, you need to earn their trust in the first place. It is a very broad topic because it applies to everything — people, accountability, and almost every other aspect of a company’s life. I will give you a few examples of why.

If you as a company leader communicate culture values or key behavior indicators to your employees — you need to be the first to follow them. It does not work otherwise, cause if you do not follow your own rules — you are perceived as a hypocrite and all principles you try to set up in the company would be taken hostile or as empty words. This is all about true leadership and there are a bunch of texts on this topic.

The same is about accountability. If you promote people who do not deserve that in the opinion of the company’s employees — they will doubt you as a leader and every next your decision will be put to the doubts. If the promotion is not careless and you do have your reasons — be transparent about it. It’s also about leadership and the difference between being a “boss” and a “leader” (don’t blame me for the words). You need to convince your people that your decisions are the right ones and you believe in them, not to expect them to have faith in you just because you pay the salaries.

In other words — you need to show your employees that you care for them.

Conclusion

It is not easy to create a healthy good company — it is hard work. I believe it is much easier to raise money than to create a good company. Because a company is a place people invest so much of their time — it is a community and people are the most important thing. And if you are the head of this community, you need to be aware that it is not only about the money, it’s about the people. I mean, to realize this. Because so many companies claim that “people are their greatest asset” but what do they do to show that they value that asset? And when accessing the company to join as an employee, you should pay far more attention to their actions rather than slogans and “website principles”.

In the end, what is you company without people? And how good will be your product if your employees hate to implement it? And also, if you have influence on so many people, why not focus on making the life simply better? After reading through the “12 principles of life” by Jordan B. Peterson I decided to write down a few of my own and one of them is “Money is not a goal”. Hope I will never forget that myself.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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Viktor Kurochkin

A game developer, frontend architect, PhD. Desgining and building games, playing also. Wanna be an indie game developer, but lets release something first.