When I started Foxbox in 2018, I wanted our team to be intentional about everything we do. I didn’t want to leave it up to chance or let the culture have a life of its own. In many ways, the culture of Foxbox is an extension of how I operate.
I needed a way to communicate this to our team and prospective customers. I wanted our outside to match our inside. Meaning, a potential hire or customer should be able to have a consistent experience before and after joining us.
So, there are two things we set out to create.
- Internally-facing company handbook: Create an employee handbook that dictates exactly what our company culture is, so new hires and existing employees have a frame of reference for how to succeed.
- Externally-facing tagline and “core beliefs”: We wanted to let our customers and the public know how we operate as a company. It’s kind of like giving them an inside look into what it’s like to work with us and what we stand for.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to talk about how we created our employee handbook. If you want the details of the behind-the-scenes of our tagline, Move Purposely, go here.
When we started down the journey of creating an employee handbook, we looked for public examples of companies that shared theirs. We looked at Netflix (who was the original inspiration for this), Basecamp, and Tesla.
Basecamp released their handbook around the time we started creating ours, and I thought it was great. It was in-depth and used extremely straightforward, transparent language.
The reason I loved it so much was because there were zero possibilities of an employee “reading between the lines.” The handbook wasn’t a blanket “do the right thing” statement that would mean multiple things to many people. It gave every employee direction on how they should communicate, how they should be working, and how they should be making decisions. It covered everything from A to Z. It’s perfect.
We also looked at Tesla’s leaked “Anti-Handbook Handbook,” which I thought was interesting because it wasn’t supposed to be viewed publicly. Of course, Tesla’s handbook is the exact opposite of Basecamp’s in terms of expectations from their employees. But, the one thing they both have in common is their direct language. There was no chance someone could misinterpret what was expected of them, especially how to work and communicate.
Now, on to our handbook, which we call the Foxbox Way.
After analysis, we all agreed that the Foxbox Way needed to accomplish the following:
- It will be used for new hire onboarding. We have an organized onboarding process, and this is a perfect part of our new hires’ first day activities.
- It should be clear and direct—no fluffy marketing jargon.
- It shouldn’t be about how wonderful Foxbox is but focus on the realities of our business. Basically, it should be a real representation of how we work, not a magical unicorn representation.
After that, we went to the races. After many meetings, several edits, and re-writes, here are the 17 core principles we came up with:
- Move Purposely
- We have something to prove
- Take calculated risks
- Speak clearly, not technically
- Love the problem, not the solution
- The client isn’t always right — challenge them gracefully
- Leadership isn’t always right, either
- Treat every client like you’ll be eating Thanksgiving dinner with them 5 years from now
- Client Satisfaction > Our Profits — make decisions accordingly
- See an opportunity for us to improve? Take it and own it
- Give, and you shall receive
- Quality > Speed
- The thing about the office
- There are some meetings you absolutely can’t miss
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
- How you work and communicate with the team is up to you
- Kindness matters. No jerks, please
Each principle was broken out into further clarification. The Foxbox Way serves as a framework for our culture and values at Foxbox Digital. Every single piece of code we write, every interaction we have with our clients, and how we communicate with each other are all part of the Foxbox Way.
It’s what we stand for. It is unique to us, and that’s why it’s the Foxbox Way.
As planned, we used this document for our onboarding process, and it was received well. Many of the new hires commented that they’ve never been part of a company that was this direct on expectations, and it gave them a much better understanding of how we work.
One note: we view these as a set of guidelines, rather than rules. We respect that everyone has their own individual personality, and these principles are the common thread that ties us together.
We’re only a few months into this, and so far it’s been great: new team members feel instantly connected to the company and we all seem to be working more cohesively.
And yes, this is supposed to be an internal document, but similar to Basecamp, I thought it would be a good idea to make this public for other founders or leaders who are considering being intentional about their culture.
So, if you would like to see our culture handbook in its entirety, read The Foxbox Way.
Rob Volk is Foxbox Digital’s founder and CEO. Prior to starting Foxbox, Rob helped Fortune 100 clients, including Pfizer, USPS, and Morgan Stanley build and scale enterprise apps. He was the CTO of Beyond Diet and implemented technology that scaled to over 350k+ customers, and was the CTO and Co-Founder of Detective (detective.io), a venture-backed intelligence platform that amassed 200k+ users in a short time frame. Read more