Twelve years ago, Agathon Group launched as a small lifestyle business. For us, it was a way to get paid for work we loved, helping fantastic organizations solve interesting problems. As we like to joke – win / win / win! In our own small way, we build and host websites that make the world a better place.
We’ve grown orders of magnitude over the years, with staff across six timezones developing and hosting not just small mom-and-pops but also Fortune 100s and some of the most respected non-profits on the planet. Over the years, as we’ve undergone that scary, exciting, and rewarding growth, we’ve gleaned truths that have helped maintain a consistent Agathon Group core identity. Conveniently, there are twelve:
(1) The best client relationships are like marriages. That’s a good thing, and a reminder to invest in them and tend them gently.
(2) Sometimes clients insist on bad technical directions. Our job is to listen, push back when appropriate, and then do everything we can to help them succeed. Bad direction often hides a core truth we need to pluck out – clients know their own businesses better than we do!
(3) Relationships trump profits. When we have to choose, we honor the relationships (and the profits eventually take care of themselves). We value clients we can work with again and again, even if there are specific projects where we have to say, “you’d be better off going to someone else for that piece.”
(4) No two clients are alike, and therefore no two clients will need the exact same solution. Our job is to to help sift through priorities and tailor our work to the specifics. Like a tailor, we prefer certain fabrics and styles, but each cut will be a perfect, unique fit.
(5) The best results come from giving individual staff a sense of purpose, helping them achieve mastery, and then staying out of the way. (Hat tip to Dan Pink for expressing this so well.)
(6) Telecommuting is awesome for cranking out projects, yet face time is needed for the chemistry. We prefer to brainstorm together, then execute whenever and wherever works best.
(7) Mastery can be taught. I’m not sure the same can be said for attitude. Hire for heart then hone any additional skills still needed.
(8) People are not interchangeable cogs. More often than not, we’ve discovered that the things our staff are best at aren’t precisely the same reasons we hired them. We want to be flexible enough to spot these opportunities and adjust.
(9) Not all web developers and hosts out there are good at what they do. (There are some!) The best way to ensure we keep working on interesting projects with interesting people is to always strive to be among the best.
(10) You can’t stay in business without understanding your financials, but the finances are a means to an end, not the end goal itself.
(11) It’s all about the people: our own team, our clients, their users. While we like building websites, it’s ultimately just an opportunity to work with people we like and grow together.
(12) Our unofficial motto is Do Right, and we’ve never gone wrong by heeding that.
I have no idea if these truths apply as profoundly to other situations outside Agathon Group. Hopefully a few of them will stick with you as they’ve done with us over the past twelve years (looking for twelve more). We’ll change and learn new lessons, but the Agathon Group core abides.