10 Questions with the CEO
9Grids takes pride in its safe and unique culture. From the way we work, the way we conduct ourselves, and our relationships here at the office, it is already evident that the culture we are building has the potential to take us places. Recently, I sat down with our CEO and asked him 10 questions to better understand his perspective and vision on the growth of the company, its culture, and its employees.
1. What do you think of the start-up landscape here in the Philippines and how it is different from overseas start-up companies? How do you think “Culture” can affect the success rate of a start-up?
The start-up community here in the Philippines is still young. Most are focused in tech, trying to be the next “unicorn.” That’s normal as that’s the sexiest and trendiest millennial thing to strive for. As for our company, no we don’t want to be the next unicorn. We don’t strive for explosive growth, we want to build the correct foundations that will make the company last centuries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_companies
Culture is important but in our experience that’s not an easy thing to get. First, you need to have cash. All that “kumbaya” will mean nothing if employees aren’t paid. Once you have the business rolling you’ll realize that not everyone fits in to your culture. For some of them, you need to make them buy in, for others, you need to get rid of. That’s just how it is. But once it’s been set, then that important foundation will lead you to an easier path in the future.
2. What culture are you cultivating in 9grids? Who are the types of people that you are looking for?
Do things right. Approach work the right way. This is important so colleagues can trust you to do your job and not hold them back. I’m a fan of the Navy Seals and an example of someone who’s undisciplined that I show is Gopher Pyle from the movie Full Metal Jacket.
Yes, and… When everyone trusts each other to reach the common goal then it’s a beautiful sight to see. The opposite of this are selfish agendas, politics and bad vibes. When I get a sense that a person isn’t in line with how we want to work, then they don’t last long in the company.
#3: Fail Fast
The idea here is for everyone to just fail at the quickest time possible to check if the direction of the output is correct. It’s about making sure that both parties understand each other. We don’t want potato to be heard as tomato. A is A, B is B. It’s about communication. Another thing about failing fast is to just get the ball rolling and to not care about the early mistakes. It’s important for a startup to be agile and smart enough to understand that failing is still learning. The faster we fail, the faster we learn. It’s also best practice to fail small. You don’t want to work on something for the whole month only to find out it’s not going to be used by the company. That’s very deflating. So, fail small and fail fast!
I like humble people. To hell with all those who think they are the best when they’re only 20 and they start proclaiming themselves as such on social media. How can you learn when you already think you’ve reached the pinnacle? Approach everything the right way. The company is going for the world stage. If you think you’re already the best but only have a few accolades under your belt then, boy… you need a reality check!
I like everyone striving to be the best versions of themselves. I like a winning culture. I like people who are intelligent enough to understand that we are going for a common goal and that’s to be a world class company. If you feel that you just want to come in here and be spoon-fed, given praises for mediocre work and expect a raise or a promotion then buddy, here’s your reality check: it’s not going to happen.
3. Do you believe that attitude is more important than talent?
In terms of hiring you have to look at their immediate impact first because you don’t want to be a start up with 20 trainees under you. You’ll end up being in the business of developing people while disregarding the growth of the company itself. When we find the talent, we’ll evaluate the attitude. It’s a longer process now than before since we’re looking for more experienced people. It’s critical to do this so we don’t waste each other’s time. We don’t want to end up hiring and firing someone after a month, because we do that here if we think there’s a mistake with the hire.
4. 9Grids, Inc. seems like it has a fun environment. From the videos, I can see that people are having fun while working. Do you guys really work? Or how do you manage that?
I make sure it’s a fun environment when we’re doing things right. People here usually feel the opposite when we are wasting time and not being efficient. Everyone gets tense and quiet. They watch all of what I do and they get paranoid. The truth is I just don’t like the inefficiency of companies out there where they end up being in the office for 12-14 hours a day but only working half of that while lazing around for the other half. I want everyone to have a proper work-life balance. So, when I ask for 8-9 hours work be sure to bring it. If you’re going to be working and playing at the same time, then what will that be? 4 hours of work a day? I call that a half-assed work-life balance. It’s not fair for the company. Go do your part and enjoy the rest of your day after a job well done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWy-V-EuavQ
5. I can see that you have a lot of benefits inside the company. From free lunch to free workshops. Other companies can easily copy that. What do you think can differentiate you in order for potential employees to choose 9Grids?
I’m on a personal mission to eliminate fluff in the company. Meaning it’s all about being better so you can add value to yourself and the company. We guide you on approaching work the right way and we’ll help you grow. We do this under a safe environment ONLY if you have the right attitude. If you’re negative, if you’re a “me first” person, or if you try to bring people down, you can’t be part of that safe environment.
6. How do you think the culture in 9Grids will evolve in the coming years? (Or how do you make sure the culture will remain the same even if the company starts to grow?)
People who will move up are those who authentically believe in the culture we’ve set. If they are the ones who also promote continuous learning and push people to be better, then they will be the leaders of the company. Simple as that. I’m not the type who flatterers can easily bootlick their way to the top. That’s crap. I hate politics.
7. Other start-up companies have problems with a high turnover rate of employees. Why do you think employees stay or go in 9Grids?
We’re not for everyone. We’ll always try to raise the standards here while we continuously push people to be better. If they are full of themselves and we don’t see that we can grow with them, then there’s no reason for them to remain in the company. Yes, there’s always going to be a learning curve if you’re new, but without the correct approach and attitude we’ll just be wasting our time on you. Might as well find others who are talented and easier to work with.
8. What are your expectations for the employees of 9Grids?
I expect them to strive to be the best version of themselves because that also gives me additional motivation to be better. I like the pressure of needing to grow so I don’t get left behind and become obsolete.
9. What are the lessons/attributes you want the employees to carry if ever the time comes that an employee moves on and leaves the company?
Approaching things the right way and understanding it takes a lot of work and commitment. Be humble enough to understand that the world is big and you can go get whatever it is that you want to do as long as you have the proper mindset. Hopefully they learn that here.
10. How do you define 9Grids’ culture now? How far is it from the company culture that you first envisioned?
We are starting to approach work the right way, but we’ve still got a long way to go. I really like the “lightness” of the company vibe when we accomplish our jobs without sacrificing our personal lives. Sometimes there’s still tension but I believe it’s necessary and normal to have that so we can all grow. All growth starts by being uncomfortable. We just need to be able to trust each other that it is for everyone’s good. Nobody is coming to get you or criticize you in a way that will go overboard. Everything will be about work and we’ll stay professional.