A few months ago in May 2019, we had a team offsite to Bainbridge Island. Although our team was just 14 people, we invested time to define the important and unique aspects of our culture. Together, we selected values that we believe are critical to achieving our mission of helping everyday Americans attain financial health. Today, our team is 30 people and we’ve already noticed how these values influence our culture as we’ve grown quickly. Below is a written version of our cultural values, and they represent a social contract between all of us at Possible.
Empower with Trust
Trust is incredibly empowering. Our customers are often denied by financial institutions because of their low or non-existent credit scores. When you get repeatedly turned down, it can feel humiliating and powerless. By providing our customers with money, we empower them with our trust when no one else will. We show them that it is possible to improve their financial situation in life, and that’s empowering.
Similarly, we empower each other with trust. For example, each of us is responsible for impactful projects where we get to make decisions and control outcomes that affect the organization. There’s a deep sense of accountability because we depend on one another to deliver on commitments. By trusting each other with ownership, we make work more meaningful and productive. Additionally, we rely on each other to provide candid feedback to one another since that is often the kindest thing we can do. In turn, when we receive feedback we know that it’s shared with the best of intentions. Our trust in one another becomes the foundation of our teamwork. Only then can we share honest discussions, produce accountable results, and genuinely enjoy working together.
As a company, Possible empowers our employees with trust. We have flexible work hours and we don’t keep track of vacation days or sick days. Each person has the flexibility to work in ways that they deem most productive because we trust our employees to spend time on the right things. We also empower every team member with unhindered access to the company’s resources, and we trust that every person will treat company resources & money as if it were their own. When everyone is empowered to make decisions, we are able to move faster as an organization.
It’s worth noting that trust is very delicate and easy to erode. We are grateful for the trust that customers, financial regulators, and our teammates have placed in us. We take these responsibilities very seriously, and we will always act with transparency in order to protect that trust. Similarly, we expect our employees to protect the trust that the team and the company has placed in them. So long as that trust isn’t broken, we can accomplish great things together.
Serve with Empathy
We are here to serve everyday Americans who come from all walks of life. In order to do that, we need to be empathetic to their unique situations and circumstances. We’re not here to judge why our customers came to us or what got them in that predicament in the first place. We recognize that everyone’s life is filled with unique complexities. Our goal is to provide help to every customer to the best of our ability regardless of his or her situation, attitude, or history with money and financial institutions.
Similarly, we believe in servant leadership internally and we strive to serve each other as teammates. We value people who are selfless and who consistently put their team above themselves. We know that we will succeed as individuals only when the team is successful. We seek to always understand each other’s responsibilities and challenges so that we can be helpful to one another. After all, we share the same mission of enabling everyday Americans to attain financial health. When things don’t go smoothly (as they inevitably will in a fast-scaling startup), we approach the situation with understanding rather than judgment. We always treat each other with respect, and we don’t tolerate jerks even if they are geniuses.
Servant leadership and empathy are so important to us that they are key characteristics we look for in every new hire. As a result, our team today is comprised of amazing individuals who care deeply about our customers and each other.
Succeed with Grit
Our customers are some of the grittiest people we know. They have dealt with issues that are difficult to even imagine. Yet, they persevere through thick and thin, and that’s a quality we deeply respect. Their resilience is something we hope to emulate.
While success requires many ingredients, such as skill, timing, and luck, we believe grit is the most important. Grit means pressing on through difficult situations even when resources are limited or when the odds seem slim. We gravitate to people who, like us, are attracted to tough challenges. They understand that nothing in life worth pursuing is easy, and they believe in their own ability to persevere.
If we want to succeed with grit, then we first need to learn to fail. At Possible, it’s okay to fail. In fact, we expect to fail because we’re tackling very hard problems. We celebrate failure because it often means we pushed the limits and we discovered something new. Grit is learning from our failures and persisting until we no longer fail.
It’s not easy to create change. When one believes in something, one needs to pursue it relentlessly and be prepared to run through brick walls to turn it into reality. At Possible, we believe that financial health is something all Americans deserve, not just the elite. We believe that micro-lending is needed right here in the US and can be done without being predatory. We believe that the current status quo in our financial system needs to change and that technology is going to play a major part in financial inclusion. It’s a long path to achieve our mission of helping everyday Americans improve their financial health. We’ve already run through some brick walls to get this far, and we’re prepared to run through more.
If you are an existing team member or customer, please hold our team accountable and let me know if we’re ever drifting away from these values. If you are not an existing team member but these values are aligned with your own, then you’ll really enjoy working here. We’re hiring so let’s chat!