Turning Values Into Vision: How 4 Austin Companies Strive For the Future – Built In Austin

“We strive.” “We connect.” “We’re improving, growing and learning.”
Teams have a plethora of responses when asked why their companies do what they do. But at the heart of it, a common thread runs through each of them — the universal “we.” The use of this pronoun indicates that team members are united behind their organization’s core values in order to make a difference.
However, deciding precisely what those values are and how they contribute to a company’s overall vision is not so cut and dry. At digital transformation company Cognite, for example, values are chosen with input from every employee and regularly reevaluated to ensure they remain consistent as their teams expand.
“We hail from more than 60 countries and bring a wide variety of backgrounds and professional experiences to the table,” VP of Human Resources Cara McCarty told Built In Austin. “Diversity of perspective is a huge asset to us.”
In contrast, organizations can also rely on their long-established set of values — like exhibiting empathy or striving for open communication — to continuously guide employees on the path to achieving a shared vision that never wavers. Leaders at financial software company Q2 believe this approach can best help them serve their communities at large by relying on employees to directly embody the company’s mission.
“For 18 years, 10 core values have shaped how we treat one another, work with our customers and support our communities,” SVP of People Kim Rutledge said.
At the end of the day, every company’s values and long-term vision looks different, whether it’s taking care of internal teams displaced by the pandemic or helping elevate their users’ social media strategies. In particular, Built In Austin discovered that what unifies four local tech companies is their commitment to drive their businesses forward by making a difference for the better.
Looking to take your company’s vision to the next level? Read on.
 
First, what are your company values, and why did you choose these values in particular?
At Cognite, we have five company values. These values were chosen with input from all Cogniters and recently reevaluated to ensure they evolve with us as a growing, global organization.
 
 
How does your team live out your values?
Team chemistry is a huge asset to our ability to grow, learn, iterate and move so fast at Cognite. In our startup phase, we prioritized physical presence in the Cognite offices because it enabled our unmatched speed of innovation. We did it so communication could be clearer and collaboration could happen quicker. Plus, our phenomenal people got to know and enjoy each other as colleagues and friends.
From this early experience, we know that our social capital is priceless. It’s why “togetherness” is a Cognite value. We cannot overemphasize how important a strong, positive culture is to Cognite’s success in the past, present and future. We want to meet, discuss and challenge each other while continuing to build a global company.
When the Covid-19 crisis struck, Cogniters rose to the challenge. We learned a lot about what’s possible and positive when everyone is distributed, and as a result CogFlex was created — a set of work guidelines created specifically to support increased workplace and workstyle flexibility at Cognite.
 
What is your company vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?
Industrial technology should be as convenient and connected as consumer technology. Everything that can be powered by software should be powered by software. This requires industrial data to be as available and reliable as oxygen in the air to the applications that need it. Our vision is: “An industrial world powered by data, freeing human creativity to shape the industrial future.”
Cognite’s role in achieving this vision is all about data. We create software for oil and gas, power and utilities, renewable energy, manufacturing and other asset-heavy industries. Our products turn industrial data into customer value by liberating it, contextualizing it and making it actionable for users.
We hail from more than 60 countries and bring a wide variety of backgrounds and professional experiences to the table. Diversity of perspective is a huge asset to us. We’re out to do something brand new! And the values we have in common are important too: curiosity, openness and the desire to make the biggest impact we can on the future of the industry.
 
First, what are your company values, and why did you choose these values in particular?
Our PLANOLY core values are: “Be Transparent,” “Empower Others,” “Never Be Content,” “Create The Future,” “Have Empathy,” “Promote Positivity,” “Own It!” and “Build Smart.”
Our core values are centered around being human. At PLANOLY, we strive to build a culture that recognizes everyone as uniquely impactful — a collaborative contributor included in the company’s vision and strategy. We have a mix of values like “Have Empathy” and “Promote Positivity” that serve as our guiding light to be kind to one another. We also have values that celebrate the fast-paced tech culture like “Own It!” and “Never Be Content.” Having values in both categories feels balanced.
 
How does your team live out your values?
We’re never content. As a tech company, we are always thinking of ways to stay ahead of the curve. Our product and engineering teams are constantly iterating on our products to meet user needs, our marketing team is always seeking new ways to reach our expanding audience, our support team goes the extra mile to offer optimal customer experience and our people team never settles on status quo culture. Together, all of these efforts keep our day-to-day fresh and invigorating.
We strive to create the future. We are constantly thinking about how we can alleviate the pain points for our customers as they plan their social media strategies. With a laser-focus on customer needs and user experience, we build scalable, robust and easy-to-use products that empower businesses, brands and creators to cultivate an online community. This is so they can spread their ideas, foster meaningful relationships with customers and grow their business. We pride ourselves in creating the future for our loyal community.
 
What is your company vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?
Our vision is to create a comprehensive digital marketing platform, enabling users of all backgrounds and levels of expertise to successfully market their brand or business digitally from start to finish. We want to be the catalyst for users to plan their social marketing with PLANOLY today so they may build their future for tomorrow. We do our best to bring the needs and goals of our users into our everyday conversations. I go home happy if I see our customers are finding value in us.
My motivation is to live out the values each and every day.
 
First, what are your company values, and why did you choose these values in particular?
For 18 years, 10 core values have shaped how we treat one another, work with our customers and support our communities.
One of these values revolves around empathy and exhibiting the kind of behavior that reflects how we’d all like to be treated. But that’s just part of the equation. Another core value is centered on the importance of communication. We enthusiastically encourage curiosity —  even friendly disagreement — to push past the status quo and get real about the needs we see and solutions that make sense.
It’s how we embrace yet another of our fundamental values: We believe that change is good.
 
How does your team live out your values?
As the realities of the pandemic started to become apparent, it was evident we needed to find ways to enable our employees to be successful in the new environment. As a result, we’ve executed the following programs: Designated pandemic-related mental health days, created team member stipends to support wellbeing and initiated company-provided home office furniture. Then we focused on what would make the most significant difference for our team members long-term.
Our employees want flexibility. For some of our employees, that means working from home indefinitely or several days a week. For employees who want to work from the office, they want to do it in their own way — avoiding rush hour, working in the office part-time and having flexible workspaces. We’ve found that we can support this.
We still see in-person collaboration as helpful, and we find that many of our employees enjoy that, too. Our team members can embrace working with flexibility because we’re building a culture of trust that upends the traditional 9-to-5 workday model. In turn, this has opened talent markets and allowed us to think more creatively about how we work. We’re excited to see how these approaches will assist us in recruiting talent in the future!
 
What is your company vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?
Our company’s vision revolves around communities. We’re dedicated to our mission of building strong and diverse communities by strengthening their financial institutions. And it’s a continuing effort that starts with our community of Q2 team members.
I mentioned our belief that change is good. During the last 18 months, we’ve fully embraced the importance of change. By pivoting to an entirely remote workforce during the first months of the pandemic, we had to take a hard and fast look at how we did things and quickly set our global teams up for success. We always had a supportive culture, and now that support includes empowering team members to work in the way that best fits their life. In turn, it’s created an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the momentum of change, thinking differently about the expectations we have of one another and about new ways to keep delivering at an extremely high level to meet the needs of our customers.
 
First, what are your company values, and why did you choose these values in particular?
At Reibus International, our company values are courage, curiosity, grit, ownership and honesty. We chose them after working in a variety of poor corporate cultures and reading cautionary tales from other startups. We analyzed these cultures to find the common values that were missing among them.
 
How does your team live out your values?
One of my favorite examples is when we first showed our marketplace to a customer. This customer thought it was neat, but it didn’t solve the problem he had. Instead of trying to convince him he was wrong, we asked him about his problems. We were curious about what problems he was having and not focused on selling him our solution.
From that, we learned that the customer needed a way to request a quote from many sellers instead of just scrolling through our marketplace listings. This led directly to us creating the RFQ feature that exists on the marketplace now that helps thousands of customers per week find the materials they need.
 
What is your company vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?
Our company vision is to improve the entire global industrial materials industry. To have the impact we want on this industry, we need great people who share a common set of values. Each of our company values helps create the right foundation for our teams to work with each other and for our customers to have material impact on the industry.
One of our team members challenged the CEO and asked if a decision he made was truly living our values. John thanked my team member for challenging him and agreed that he was wrong. This took real courage to tell the CEO you thought he was not living our company values. The CEO was both thankful for getting the feedback, but also proud of the individual for having the courage to tell him that he was wrong.
We are all in an industry where there are tons of things we don’t know; we must be curious and ask teammates and customers questions to get to the heart of problems. Our founders each have more than 20 years in the steel industry, but they are still constantly curious about our customers’ problems. They do not assume they understand our customers. They ask questions to get to a greater understanding. We are a startup trying to change a 100-year-old industry.
 

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