Captain's log, stardate d47.y38/AB
We're right now well into our fifth year running MarsBased. The company culture we shaped at the beginning is now shaping us.
Our principles are paramount to understanding our business. We believe that simpler is better, in giving the best conditions to work to increase productivity and happiness, in transparency with everyone and - most of all - in never compromising quality in whatever we do.
That's why we believe in taking #noshortcuts.
Photo by Jannes Glas on Unsplash
We live and breathe our company culture and values, as we think it cannot be otherwise. We lead by example.
Running a business is never a walk in the park. It is, indeed, an emotional rollercoaster, with its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and many many many turns in the road which can drive you off course if you're not focused and don't think long term.
When things go wrong, one might be forced to take drastic decisions in order to achieve quick wins, which might not necessarily the best for the long-term game.
Similarly, when things go too well, one might be tempted to step up the game by speeding it up, or changing the course too dramatically by raising funds, try too many things at once, or even splash the cash in a pet project which might not go anywhere.
At MarsBased, we've always believed in the long-term plan. As a specialised high-end development consultancy, we are known for being a solid, stable and reliable company, despite our youth.
The three founding partners have a few things in common. One of which is we love driving, and therefore, we are ready to face every turn and bump on the road.
Dreaming big or small?
Self-funded, organically-grown, ethical and healthy businesses, as it is the case with ours, are perceived as amateur or even unambitious nowadays. This is mainly due to the VC funding bubble we're living in: virtually every company you read about is raising funds, growing very fast, and aiming for the almighty hockeystick curve in their financials.
Self-funded, profitable and healthy companies like MarsBased, Nomadlist, Ghost or even Basecamp are facing these questions often: why don't you raise money? why don't you acquire another company to speed up your expansion in other regions/countries? and the like. As Pieter Levels (founder of Nomadlist) put it on Twitter, healthy businesses with a healthy work ethic and good relationships are themselves pretty big dreams instead.
In our case, we wrote about it in our blog post We're Not a Startup: We're a Lifestyle Business (and We Love It), where we explained that we're a lifestyle business, not a startup.
That's why we don't believe in cutting corners. That's why we take #noshortcuts.
As mentioned before, we never compromise quality in anything we do. Quality can be compromised by excessive speed, loss of focus or just not prioritising it high enough.
When one does too many things or works too fast, chances are that the quality of the outcomes will not be optimal.
If I had to break down the #noshortcuts mentality, it'd be something like this:
We don’t want to put anyone’s money at risk. Not even our own: we just invested the mandatory 3000 euro to found the company at the beginning. Why investing more, if we're a consulting company that charges for its services?
The company has been profitable from day one and in almost five years now, we have never ever considered raising funds for anything.
Also, having no investors means less people telling us what to do and how to run our business. In the VC-backed world, they say that it's better to own a 10% of something than a 100% of nothing, but that does not apply to all companies.
We know we might have grown faster and bigger if we had done things differently, but would that still be the company we envisioned in 2013? I don't think so.
Since very early we understood that we are a purely inbound company. That is, we don't actively seek out clients by cold calling or cold emailing, hiring sales reps or applying the traditional sales playbook.
Rather, we want people to find us when they need us. We can’t and won't force anything.
That's why we work long term by growing and contributing to communities like that tech & startup communities in Barcelona, we write a blog or we help first before helping others, pay-it-forward style.
No one likes receiving another email or another unsolicited meeting request from someone trying to sell you his services. We don't want to contribute to this toxic tradition.
Rarely, if ever, you will find MarsBased ads, and if you do it’s mostly for hiring purposes.
Growth must be natural in order to be sustainable in a company like ours. We like it organic because we can adapt it very rapidly when needed.
Life is enough complicated as it is, and unexpected changes are always around the corner, even for calm companies like ours: clients shutting down, big sales opportunities crossing our path, someone leaving the company, just to name a few.
We're good at solving these problems because we're doing it at a normal speed.
The faster you go, the more complex it is to adapt to changes without them driving you out of the road.
Like the famous The Doors song says: keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel and enjoy the ride. Don't speed.
In general, this applies to everything else: can’t release a blog post every week? readjust your strategy or prioritise better. Client won’t allow you to spend time on testing? speak to him/her about the potential risks and issues of not having test coverage in the project. Can't meet a deadline? Don't wait until it arrives for letting us know that you won't make it, and most of all, don't deliver a half-assed patch which will bite you or the client in the face in the short run.
Very few situations in life require cheating, but certainly, none of them apply to companies like ours, where trust, transparency and long-term thinking are required.
All of the above might be perfectly valid strategies for other business, so feel free to consider them and even apply them. We just wanted to say that they just don't align with our values and, in general, we try to avoid them as much as possible.
If setting a business that feeds 15 people with an annual revenue of USD 1M, focused on work ethics, giving the best conditions to work, and to reinvent consulting is not ambitious to you, what is?