It is hard to say much about Semafores’ corporate culture today. We are a tiny enterprise and our culture could be summed up as three friends working together to found a company. There is little need for formal structure or policy in our daily working environment. It is sufficient for us to meet regularly and keep lines of communication open. Beyond that we make our own hours and keep our own schedules. Everyone in the company is a co-founder. We all have an ownership interest and there can be no division between management and labor.
To be successful, however, Semafores must grow. There will come a time when the team is larger and not everyone is a founder. Company culture will become a key part of our corporate identity. It will be critical in attracting and retaining talented people in our organization, and it will also be reflected in our relationship with our customers, especially with our end users.
Semafores’ first product, Curi™, is intended to help families help each other stay well. The importance of family and of wellness to our users can’t be overstated, and the same values have to be applied to the relationship of Semafores to its employees if we are not to be hypocrites. We expect our future employees to be committed, dedicated, and hard-working, just as we need to be. Hours may be long, and sacrifices may need to be made, but we understand that there will be times when our employees need to put their family first. We will support them when that need arises. We will do the same when it arises for us. As much as we can, we hope to offer flexible hours, opportunities to work remotely, and time off to attend to caregiving, whether it be occasional personal days or extended family leave. Time off for caregiving will be paid to the extent that our finances allow it, and we will encourage our employees to use these benefits, taking care not penalize them or hold them back if they do.
We will also try to support our employees own wellness. We will provide the best healthcare coverage we can, but this is only a start. As important is a work environment that measures the value of an employee based the value of the work that they actually do, not on the hours they spend in the office. Occasional overtime may be necessary to deal with emergencies. When overtime becomes a regular occurrence it is simply the result of poor planning, and leads to work taking more hours to get the same effect than if done by well rested workers. The same flexible working hours and time off available to those taking care of family members will be available to employees who need time to attend to their own wellness needs. We will try never to reward people for working when they are sick. While that may show admirable dedication to your job, it won’t make you more productive in the long run and may make your coworkers sick in turn.
We believe that helping our employees take care of their families and themselves properly is not only the right thing to do but will make Semafores a stronger, more productive, and ultimately more valuable company.
There are other values which must be expressed in Semafores’ successful corporate culture. Among these are teamwork, diversity, equity, and initiative.
Teamwork is another value that is inherent in Curi™ which applies it to family caregiving. It is equally important at Semafores, where we have found that we work best when we work together. When we work in harmony on the same project, rather than in isolation, we often make more progress. We want to replicate this as the company grows, even though we will no longer have only one team. We think it is important that the team members share the credit as well as the responsibility for getting things done.
Diversity is another important value for Semafores. We are already diverse for a company of our size and we hope to stay that way. We are committed to not discriminating in hiring or promotion based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or age. Not only do we think this is the morally right way to do business, but we also believe that diverse employees will help us make better products and market them to a diverse customer base.
Equity means that we want our employees to feel that they are being treated fairly. Every permanent employee in the company will be paid a living wage. We will strive to keep the difference in base pay between the lowest and highest paid employees relatively small. A significant part of executive compensation should be based on the long term performance of the company. For all employees, bonuses, raises and promotions should be given considering individual job performance and the performance of the employee’s team. We will always regard employees as people first, resources second, and costs last. The relationship between the employees and the company should be one of partnership, not exploitation.
Finally, initiative is the value that distinguishes entrepreneurs from everyone else. It is essential in a startup, but is just as valuable in an established enterprise if it is to continue to grow and adapt to a changing market and a changing world. At Semafores, we will empower our employees to make decisions relevant to their jobs and encourage initiative, rewarding it when it leads to valuable results but accepting that mistakes may be made.