Ask for Forgiveness, Not for Permission - Being Proactive

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Earlier this week, in my latest blog series I discussed our second value, Trusting. We dove into what it means not only to the Founders but also to the rest of the Breathe Life team and I gave some examples of how we work towards it on a daily basis. You’ll recall that for us Trusting means to always respect one another, to communicate openly and to be accountable. We practice this in how we hire, how we communicate as a team and in how we publish content to hold ourselves accountable.

We’re now ready to jump into Being Proactive.

This is a value that you’ll find repeated at many a startup. It’s one that’s at the core of that hustle mentality. In the early days of Facebook they had the motto — Move Fast and Break Things. This is essentially what Being Proactive means. For Breathe Life, it’s about asking for forgiveness, not for permission. When thinking about how we build our products, Arach, our CTO, says,

we’re a startup, we hire brilliant people and get out of their way. We want our team members to feel empowered to make decisions and supported when they make mistakes. We need everyone to drive innovation and create impact — ultimately it won’t matter if we make a few mistakes along the way.

When you’re growing as fast as we are, everyone we hire needs to be able to act independently, but of course, there is always someone there if they need support.

Although we encourage team decision making and try to achieve it as often as possible, sometimes a call needs to be made and, as mentioned last week, we trust the team to make decisions. Marty, our PM, lives this every day,

a lot of work goes into figuring out how to prioritize what brings the most value to our clients in the short term while making sure we never forget the long term vision. As is typical in a startup, things can sometimes get down to the wire and when they do, I need to make certain calls myself.

Marty is exemplary of the type of people we try to hire. He’s confident enough to make the decision, analytical enough to be sure he has the full story before he does, and he trusts us enough to know that if he’s wrong, there’s always a solution. There will always be times in a growing business when the wrong decisions are made, but we deal with this as a team and work to ensure we always come out on top. The worst decision is to not make the decision.

Being Proactive is such a crucial value because without it we wouldn’t be able to move at the speed that a startup needs to. Our success depends on our ability to move fast, iterate quickly, ship regularly, make mistakes and learn from them. And we need to be able to do all this without impacting the quality of our product and brand. It’s a tricky line to walk, but it’s one of the things that makes working for a startup so exhilarating and rewarding. And this is why we knew that Being Proactive had to be a value. We had to take a stand and show potential hires and new team members that we wanted them to take risks, to test new ideas and to build what people want, not what they are expecting.

Stay tuned next week for the final two blogs in this series. I’ll be digging into what Resourceful and Playful mean to us.

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