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Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Year Management Thoughts

Took a bit of a blogging break over the holidays, a blogacation? Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to the full Tutor.com staff as the New Year started:

I like to take a step back at the start of the year from all the things we are planning to accomplish in the coming months, take a deep breath, and put some big picture thoughts down so we are all working towards the same goals in similar ways. A little bit of vision setting, a cup full of clarifying our culture and way of doing business, mixed with a dash of expectations for this year and beyond...

Since I started the company, I have tried my best to run it in a way that

1) makes people proud to work here, keeps them learning, and brings out the best performance out of them,
2) gives the investors who trusted me with their money a great chance to get a great return on their investment, and
3) delivers the best service we can muster for our customers and users of our services

Here's my list of what makes us tick. OK, we don't do this all the time -- people get busy and stressed, some managers' styles sometimes conflict, but on the whole, I want to see our company driven by this way of doing business and working with each other:

1) focus on the needs of our customers and our users. every minute and every dollar you spend on managing internal conflicts and friction is a minute and a dollar that is not spent on figuring out how to best meet the needs of our customers.

2) hire smart people and give them the authority and autonomy to do their jobs well, within our resource constraints.

3) encourage information to flow freely and give people the tools to understand what that information means. the more you know about our performance and financials, the more you understand, and the smarter your decisions will be.

4) encourage everyone to think like owners, and give them a real stake in the long-term success of growing the value of the company

5) encourage people to take chances, calculate risks and knowingly take them even if it means there's a chance of failure. accept and admit mistakes, learn from them, and don't make the same mistake again. better to ask for forgiveness than for permission if you have to make a fast decision.

6) take personal and individual responsibility. if you see a problem, fix it or figure out when is the best time to fix it. if you make a promise to a colleague, a customer, or anyone, keep it. if you can't deliver when you said you would, tell the person who's counting on you as early as you can, and always before they are expecting it.

7) we are many people with different life experiences, different styles, and different responsibilities. Different perspectives make us better and make our decisions wiser, but the differences always create conflict. expect the conflict and handle it professionally, focused on the goal we are trying to reach. respect others' time and priorities. if you have a problem with a person, deal with it directly with that person (see #1 above).

8) treat people fairly. listen first, try to understand the perspective of the other person, then talk.

9) respect what we do not know. building a company and serving customers is a constant learning process. what you read about other companies in the press is often exaggerated or wrong. listen to your customers and listen to your instincts to make good decisions and exceed your goals.

10) spend the company's money like you spend your own (if you are as frugal as I am). if we spend carefully and make our customers happy, financial success and increased company value will come.