This article was updated on Jan 17th, 2022.
This month, the Legacy executive team got together to discuss, among other things, the kind of company we were building together. The values we stood for — not just what we stood against — and the type of culture that we wanted to be deliberate about building over the next ten years.
If you’re here to learn about Legacy, then I write this to share with you the kind of company we’re trying to build, the values we hold one another accountable to, and the team that I hope you’ll consider working with.
“Companies tend to reflect everything about [the founders] — their personality, strengths, weaknesses… 80% of your culture is your founder” writes First Round.
But when a company culture only reflects its founders, it creates blind spots. In my view, a successful culture starts with a strong foundation that comes from the founder(s), but is built up and created together by the entire team to be reflective of the company you are today and the company you hope to be in the future.
Company culture exists whether you define it or not. It’s defined as what people do when no one is looking. So if you are not deliberate about defining your company culture, then you can’t solve for blind spots.
Before I hired Legacy employee #1, I wrote out an employee handbook. I wanted to memorialize from day one the company I hoped to build, and to be explicit about the kind of company I hoped others would build with me. Here were the first 5 values:
- We should not become beholden to shareholder value creation.
- We should not define our success by funds raised.
- We should not spend frivolously while ignoring our community.
- We should treat our employees like family.
- Giving back must be back into our DNA.
Many of these were inspired by examples I had seen from successful companies. Like Amazon, with its factory workers having to ask for permission to use the bathroom. Like Mylan hiking the price of life-saving Epi-Pens by 400%. Like Nestle convincing African mothers to buy powdered milk instead of breastfeeding, or siphoning water aquifers to bottle and sell back to local populations. Like Facebook, with its ice cream sundae bars, ball pits, and private employee shuttles skipping through San Francisco’s battered streets.
The challenge with trying hard not to become like other companies means that you are not defining your own path strongly enough. There were too many “should nots” and not enough “shoulds”. After all, “We don’t want to become like Nestle” is not the same as “Here’s what Legacy stands for”
And so over the past year, we’ve gone through several iterations of our company’s values. This December, we sent the entire team a detailed survey. We spent hours discussing the kind of company we hoped to be — in a year, in five years, and in ten years. And we pushed ourselves to question what we were already doing well, and where we could do better.
For those who are considering joining the Legacy team, here are the values we hold dear, and here are the values we’ll expect you to uphold:
- Customer-Centric. Know Thy Customer.
- Reliability. When a lot is given, a lot is expected.
- Kindness. How do you feel right here?
- Openness. One step forward every day. 37.783 vs. 0.0255
- Winning. There’s always a reason to clap.
I’ll share a little bit more about each.
- Serve thy customer. We only succeed when our customers get what they need. To do this, we need to understand what they want. Everyone on the team helps with customer support, getting customer feedback, and suggesting improvements.
- Be an advocate. When the customer wins, we win. Be an internal advocate. Bezos famously has his “empty chair” in team meetings to represent the customer. We need to be that proponent for what our customers care about.
- Delight the customer. Even when expensive. Put customer happiness over profit. Go the extra mile. Here, we were inspired by Zappo’s commitment to “go to extremes for customers”. If they want us to research specialists in their area, we’ll do it.
- Bias towards action. We are a team that loves to “get shit done”. When in doubt, GSD. Don’t let your time get sucked up in meetings or things that don’t lead to action.
- This is your company now. We are generous with equity for all employees. The goal is for everyone to share in the upside as we grow, and for everyone to have a shared incentive to behave in a way that puts the company first.
- We’re all adults. Trust your judgment — we will. We will celebrate your process, not your outcome. Bad decision making can have good outcomes, but good decision making can have bad outcomes.
- Emotional check-ins every week. It started as a light-hearted joke in the early days. Pointing to the heart and asking how do you feel right here? But we are building a truly empathic company. And the emotional stability of the company is dependent on the emotional stability of the individual.
- Practice empathy. If a person is behaving differently — why? Put yourself in their shoes. Assume good intent. Be empathetic.
- Be a habibi. An Arabic word for someone you care about; go out of your way to do something nice for the team. Ask about them when they’re sick. Send them some cookies on Christmas. Buy them their favourite coffee, even if it’s an organic chai latte with almond milk. Wish them Shana Tova. Learn a few words in their language. It’s the little things that count.
- To feedback. Being honest and transparent with one another is the key to our professional growth. Have a “habibi talk” with kindness and openness.
- To growth. Be ready to “give away your Legos”. Accept the discomfort and uncertainty that comes with it, and embrace the excitement of newer and bigger responsibilities.
- To development. Make sure you have a personal board of directors. Tap into your mentors. Talk to your colleagues. And take advantage of your executive coach — at Legacy, every single employee gets unlimited access to their own executive coach. We want you to be the best version of you.
- Failure is learning. Learning is winning. We’re here to win, and there is no better feeling than winning together, so get ready to fail, get ready to learn, get ready to win.
- When we win, society must win. Keep the bigger picture in mind — we should be aspirational for other companies in the future. At the very least — give to charity, and we’ll match you $2,500 each year.
- Celebrate often and with wild abandon. The path to winning will be paved with challenges and failures. But there is so much to celebrate, and there are so many little wins. So enjoy it — even if it means embarrassing your colleagues with a team-wide clap!
I know that each year, we will revisit, refine, and improve these values. But I also know that we have laid the foundation for a company that will survive and thrive for the next decades. And I hope you will be part of that journey.
(Check out our available job postings here)
Legacy is changing outdated views around fertility and family planning with a digital fertility experience for men to test and preserve their fertility from home. Legacy is a Series B company that is a graduate of Y Combinator and the Harvard Innovation Labs, and has been funded by leading investors including Bain Capital Ventures, FirstMark Capital, and Section32.