PandaDoc Mission Statement & Culture Code
Develop products that allow growing businesses (“Davids”) to compete against established industry leaders (“Goliaths”) and win.
Why are we here?
Here are the reasons why we (Mikita and Serge) founded the company:
- We wanted to learn as much as we can, grow personally, build a career.
- We wanted to make an impact, build a large company.
- Help many organizations to operate more efficiently and cut the paper trail.
- Help many people to learn and build a career.
- We wanted to have fun while we’re doing all of the above.
- We were empathetic to the needs of companies with limited resources available.
We share common goals with the people we hire, so we believe that the majority of Pandas should have a collective vision. People work really well together if their goals align. And they don’t if they’re not.
Why do you want to join PandaDoc?
PandaDoc’s main value is that you’ll learn a lot.
We don’t want you to get stuck in one role for many years. Be creative and curious. Learn to be the CEO of your own domain and then build your own business in the future. Or become a master at what you do, build a career.
Some of our former employees run their own companies now. Some sold their companies to the likes of Facebook. Aim high. We want to help you get there.
Merriam-Webster defines “culture” as a way of thinking, behaving, and working that exists in organization.
When people say that culture at their company sucks, one or both of these statements are true:
- They dislike the people they work with
- They dislike the way the work is done
When people say the culture at their company is amazing, one or both of these statements are true:
- They like the people they work with
- They like the way the work is done
So, we thought… why wouldn’t our team have a short document on what we value and how we love to work.
That is our culture code. When recruiting, we’re only hiring folks that fit “The people we love to work with” profile. When setting up a new process, we’ll make sure it follows “The ways we love to work”.
Mikita and Serge
What kinds of people do we love to work with? They are:
- Organized and geeky
- Humble team players
- Direct and straightforward
Let’s dig into this a little bit more:
|Definition||Someone who proactively finds solutions to individual and team problems.||Someone who needs constant attention or hand holding.|
The thing about startups is that there will never be enough resources, enough onboarding materials, enough manager’s time. People that typically become successful at PandaDoc require little guidance to do their job.
That said, it is totally OK to ask for support. Just try to do as much research as possible prior and always have a clear objective.
|Feature||Organized and Geeky||Disorganized talking head|
|Definition||People who read the internet/manual/FAQ/etc. first and then ask questions. People that document processes and create agendas for every meeting.||People who drain the resources (e.g. time) of others instead of trying to figure out processes or software applications themselves. People who are unorganized at the expense of others.|
|Examples||Creating scripts, playbooks, onboarding guides to help new team members to get started.Self-discovery of new tools, data sets and features.||Demanding support or training in order to get something simple done.Never touching FAQs and manuals.|
We work at a software company so every team member has to be technical. Not everyone needs to code, but every team member has to:
- be able to set up a business application
- be proficient in every tool used at work
- know our own product in and out
Otherwise, this lack of knowledge is going to slow the whole team down.
|Definition||People that back their point of view with research and data.||People that always rely on their intuition and argue with others on this basis.|
|Example||In X% of deals last month customers didn’t buy because of B, which represents a loss of $XYZ in revenue. That is why we should eliminate B.||“XYZ said that in the deal A the customer didn’t buy because of B. That is why we should eliminate B.”|
PandaDoc is a volume business. Intuition is important, it helps us to choose a direction. However, intuition alone doesn’t help to make wise decisions. It needs to be backed by data, analysis and research.
|Definition||Someone who can figure out creative ways to add a lot of value while spending very little of resources.||Someone who wastes resources on things that don’t add value to the business.|
|Examples||Someone who acts as a CEO of own their part of the business.||Someone who treats the company’s resources as not their own.|
We’re not afraid to invest as long as there is a chance the return is greater. However, we always remember that PandaDoc is a startup, which means that the resources are scarce.
|Feature||Humble Team Players||Entitled Mercenary|
|Example||I’ll do whatever gets us to the goal.||“I’m overqualified to do XYZ…”|
We (founders) have no problem cleaning the office after a party is over. We did it a bunch of times. There are no “low” jobs. Everyone should be respected and every contribution counts.
We should always put company and team first. There is a huge difference between being a part of a successful startup and being a part of a mediocre company that didn’t work out. At a startup, everyone’s actions have a tremendous impact on the company and every team member.
|Feature||Direct and straightforward||Political, indirect|
|Definition||People that get straight to the point, say the way things are, communicate openly about problems and are not afraid to deliver the bad news.||People that go around other people’s backs, gossip, etc.|
Any startup has problems, every teammate makes mistakes. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re moving too slow. We (founders) are not afraid to admit we screwed up. Being vulnerable when needed creates trust.
Trust is hugely important for any team or company. It enables people to argue passionately. No one will ever commit to something if their opinion hasn’t been heard. And when there is no commitment, there are no results. Thus, we prefer to talk openly behind the closed doors regardless of ranks and say things the way they are. Avoiding arguments and difficult conversations kills companies and careers.
Every mistake and every difficult conversation is an opportunity to learn. Winning in the software business is impossible without learning. Winning in life is impossible without self awareness. At PandaDoc, we’re passionate about helping our peers to do and be better.
|Someone who not only rebounds from failure, but most importantly learns from failure.||Someone who is easily distracted, distraught, or otherwise intimidated by failure of any size|
We work hard and always keep trying. We don’t quit. It is only a real failure if we fail to finish whatever we do. There is no such thing as ‘failure’ as long as we finish whatever we do learning a valuable lesson.
How do we love to work?
- Ask smart questions
- Focus and measure our work
- Have a bias towards action
- Try new things
- Be hands-on, player-coach
- Optimize for customer success
|Feature||Ask smart questions||Show up to meetings unprepared|
Is there is an issue with any system we use internally that is relative to your function? They do have FAQs and tutorials 🙂 By reading those everyone can become a super-admin of these systems. It takes an evening or two geeking out, but, hey, you’re learning! And you’re also setting yourself up for success in the future.
When learning new software, process, or anything else yourself, you usually cut deeper. You get a first-hand understanding and you develop your unique perception, which is critical. Once you have a foundation, your questions will get smarter while the collaboration with colleagues will get better.
|Feature||Focus, iterate, and measure||Run busy work/projects or architect sand castles|
|Examples||Do research — Try — Fail — Measure — Learn — Try again — Succeed||Run projects based on intuition, guess impact topping it with anecdotal evidences. Take on huge projects with no end destination in sight|
PandaDoc is a lean startup (must read!). If we have a large project that requires a bunch of resources, we try to break it into a bunch of small ones. Smaller projects fail faster, which helps to adjust course early. In contrast, it’s harder to predict the outcomes of large projects that fail. When they fail it is difficult to determine why.
At PandaDoc it is OK to fail. It is not OK to sit still. Move fast. Break things. Try unconventional approaches. Learn. Hack.
But always stay focused. When an individual has more than 5 concurrent projects running at the same… That individual is usually in trouble… stress, absence of learning, and poor results are some of the consequences.
|Feature||Try new things||Be averse to change|
|Examples||All kinds of hacks. We love ‘em!||“This is not how things are done around here,”|
Not everything we do at PandaDoc is right. We’re far from being perfect. Challenging status quo is welcomed, this is the only way we learn and get better.
|Feature||Be hands-on, Player-coach||Be hands-off, Theory sessions|
|Examples||Managers that lead and show how the work needs to be done instead of running endless meetings.||If you can’t do the job, you can’t manage people doing the job.|
We believe that leadership is better than management. Leading by example is the best way to make people inspired and excited about doing things a certain way.
Importance of learning and being T-Shaped
That is, people who are both generalists (highly skilled at a broad set of valuable things—the top of the T) and also experts (among the best in their field within a narrow discipline — the vertical leg of the T).
This recipe is important for our success. We often have to pass on people who are very strong generalists without expertise, or vice versa. An expert who is too narrow has difficulty collaborating and therefore will likely be a poor candidate for cross functional leadership. A generalist who doesn’t go deep enough in a single area ends up on the margins, not really contributing as an individual.
Why is learning so important?
We choose to grow people and promote within any time this opportunity is present over hiring externally. We’re looking to promote everyone joining PandaDoc in the next couple of years. That is why a constant personal growth is vital.
PandaDoc is a software as a service company. What that means for engineers, is that the more you understand our business, the more valuable you become.
We’re a business with revenue goals. Every decision, including engineering decisions, should be driven by our business goals. Be T-Shaped.
For Non-Engineers: Program or be programmed
PandaDoc is a software as a service company. What that means for non-engineers, is that you have to be technical. You have to know our product and tools in and out. The more technical you are, the more valuable your business input is, and the more value you will add to the team and company. Be T-Shaped.
Our Learning Programs
Words should be supported by action. Therefore, we have a number of initiatives to embrace learning within our organizations:
Pairing up with advisors
PandaDoc allocated a significant number of stock options to advisors and mentors. Every employee within PandaDoc can suggest a mentor/advisor for self or their team. We’ll do our best to get good advisors on-board as long as they’re qualified and committed to spend time coaching Panda up-n-comers.
Bringing in consultants
If you see that there is a knowledge gap we can fill in with an outside consultant, let us know. Every team has a dedicated budget for learning and self-improvement.
Moving around departments and the globe
We want every employee to learn and progress as much as possible. We also want the PandaDoc journey to be really fun. We have multiple offices around the globe and want to encourage the cultural exchange. Every employee at PandaDoc gets to travel and work out of another office for at least 2 weeks. We also highly encourage moving across departments to learn about the other wings of the business. Sometimes developers do support, sales help product managers, etc. We believe that becoming a generalist helps individual’s career on the long run.
Books, trainings and conferences
PandaDoc will buy whatever books you need to get better. There is also a budget for trainings, master classes and conferences, which we’re increasing every month. Bring the ideas to your manager.
And if you go to a conference or just read a book, help others on your team by sharing the learnings with them.
Building your personal brand
We want to support every employee in building their own personal brand. After a few years at PandaDoc your LinkedIn should look like you’re an absolute superstar, guru, ninja, industry mogul, etc. Here are a few ways we can make that happen:
- Google “Mikita Mikado” and you’ll find a bunch of links from Forbes, Techcrunch, etc. Our marketing team will do the same thing for you as long as you want it and are willing to write.
- Google “Jared Fuller” and you’ll find a bunch of links to webinars done with big brands in the likes of HubSpot, InsideSales, etc. Our marketing team will do the same thing for you as long as you want it and have interesting content to share.
- Speak at conferences and events. We will cover your airfare and hotel as long as you’re speaking in front of our target buyers or prospective employees.
Organizing and hosting events
We encourage employees to use our space to organize meetups, tech crawls, hackathon and focus groups to network with the best in class talent and learn from these experiences.
360 Degree Feedback
We conduct bi-annual 360 degree feedback survey for everyone in the company to help each team member grow both professionally and personally. The 360 view provides a balanced feedback mechanism from everyone you work closely with which includes managers, direct peers and peers from other teams. The benefits of this type of feedback are to promote self-awareness, increase accountability and most importantly, open dialogue across different teams.
Hiring is everyone’s job
People and only people make companies great. Building a great company depends highly on our continued vigilance in recruiting/hiring.
If we start adding people to the company who aren’t capable operating as high-powered, self-directed, senior decision makers, then lots of the stuff will stop working and PandaDoc will not be a fun place to be. We have to keep the hiring bar very high. And we should only hire people we all love to work with.
Who we hire affects the most people that are already here. That is why recruiting, interviewing and hiring is everyone’s job.
Hiring well is the most important thing in the universe. Nothing else comes close. So when you’re working on hiring—participating in an interview loop or innovating in the general area of recruiting—everything else is secondary.
Bring and hire your friends
One of the most valuable things you can do as a new employee is tell us who else you think we should hire. Assuming that you agree with us that PandaDoc is a fantastic place to be, then tell us about who the best people are on Earth, so we can bring them here. If you don’t agree yet, then wait six months and ask yourself this question again.
How do we choose the right people to hire?
Here are some questions we always ask ourselves when evaluating candidates:
- Would I want this person to be my boss?
- Would I learn a significant amount from him or her?
- What if this person went to work for our competition?
Across the board, we value highly collaborative people. That means people who are skilled in all the things that are integral to high-bandwidth collaboration — people who can deconstruct problems on the fly, and talk to others as they do so, simultaneously being inventive, iterative, creative, talkative, and reactive. These things actually matter far more than deep domain-specific knowledge or highly developed skills in narrow areas. This is why we’ll often pass on candidates who, narrowly defined, are the “best” at their chosen discipline. We love hiring future CEOs. We love hiring people that have cool hobbies. We hire interesting people.
We’re looking for people stronger than ourselves.
When unchecked, people have a tendency to hire others who are lower-powered than themselves. The questions listed above are designed to help ensure that we don’t start hiring people who are useful but not as powerful as we are. We should hire people more capable than ourselves, not less.
In some ways, hiring lower-powered people is a natural response to having so much work to get done. In these conditions, hiring someone who is at least capable seems (in the short term) to be smarter than not hiring anyone at all. But that’s actually a huge mistake. We can always bring on temporary/contract help to get us through tough spots, but we should never lower the hiring bar. We’re aimed to grow. We need to hire superstars to promote from within.
The Fun Part
Learning, making an impact and having fun are our top priorities. So… how are we having fun? We believe that building something from nothing is fun. But we also know how to party. Here are a few examples of how we partying lately 🙂
- Our 2017 sales kick-off was done in Las Vegas with a hell of a party at Marquee at the Cosmopolitan.
- Minsk team celebrated 2016 Christmas in Prague.
- SF team plays basketball every second week to stay in shape.
- Board games, poker, surfing, wakeboarding, skiing… we even have our own version of Catan Championship League!
- We run Spartan races to keep the camaraderie and wellness intact.
- For Halloween – Star Trek, Crayons, Iron Man, Minions we had it all and they were wild!
- For Potlucks, we relish cuisines from 7 different countries.
- And Panda ladies are ruthless when it comes to Go-Karting!
Frequently Asked Questions
Will you sell the company?
As founders, we’re asked this question a lot. Here is how we think about a merger/acquisition: it could be a way to achieve goals, but not the goal. Here we listed our goals. If a merger helps our team to get there, we’ll consider selling.
Why do you choose to target small businesses vs. enterprise?
We love helping a small guy making a real impact on a business. We like high-velocity, short sales cycles, and product-driven businesses. We always wanted to build a horizontal product, not something narrow and specific. That is why we’re focusing on small businesses.