Episode title with photo of Jon and Natalie

Revisiting and Refreshing Our Company Values with Jon MacDonald and Natalie Thomas

In this week's bonus episode, Jon MacDonald, Founder and CEO of The Good and Natalie Thomas, our Director for CRO and UX Strategy, joins us once again to talk about the process of evaluating and re-structuring the core values at The Good using the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System).

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About this episode:

What makes a company different from the rest? The core values at The Good reflect who we are and what’s important to us. In this special episode, Jon and Natalie return to discuss how they came up with our core values and why they’re critical in our day-to-day operations.

In this episode, you’ll learn things about: 

  • What being a B Corp-certified company means for us 
  • How The Good came up with our core values
  • How our core values affect the direction of the company and its employees
  • Why EOS was a good fit for us and how it helped us implement the core values 

Learn more about Jon and Natalie here

Want to be a guest on our show? Have feedback or ideas for how we can improve? Send your thoughts over to podcast@thegood.com. We’ll be keeping an eye on that inbox. 🙂 

The Ecommerce Insights Show is brought to you by The Good, a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) consultancy specializing in helping ecommerce businesses accelerate their growth through better research, testing, and design. Learn more about our team, our work, and our services at www.thegood.com.

Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] James Sowers (Director of Marketing): So here’s the question. How can you, commerce leaders make sure that they are producing a great product, providing a world-class customer experience responsibly managing the finances and still reserve time, energy and resources for marketing their products. My name is James Sauers, and you’re listening to the e-commerce insight show.

[00:00:16] The podcast that gives you a specific, actionable advice for growing your e-commerce business. Every Monday, you’ll get a conversion rate optimization tactic that you can implement quickly to make your business 1% better. Every single. Every Thursday, we sit down with industry experts to go deep on a specific aspect of running a successful e-commerce business.

[00:00:34] It’s the perfect blend of learning and application, which means that you maximize the value of every single minute you spend with us. We’re just as committed to growing your business as you are. So if you’re looking for a partner to help you crush your revenue goals, you’ve come to the right place, roll up your sleeves and grab a notepad because it’s time to get to work.

James Sowers: Um, all right, so let’s just dive right in. I think the purpose of our conversation today is to talk about, you know, an exciting new change that we’ve had here at the good and rolling out some new core values.

And we’ve been talking for awhile about doing a little bit more content around, you know, our organizational culture and how we think, how we run our business, how we collaborate as a team now, a distributed team, which is a relatively recent development as well. So. Um, you know, a lot of good stuff we want to cover today, but maybe the best place to jump in is kind of like starting at the beginning.

Right? The origin story of the good. And I know one of the big things that we like to talk about and, um, promote is our status as a B corporation. I know that comes with a whole host of upsides, but also a whole host of maybe not obligations, but commitments, right. That we’ve made to, um, satisfy the requirements of being a certified B Corp.

So. I, I don’t know what your timeline is with the B Corp designation, uh, Natalie, but maybe I know John was there for it obviously. So how did that come to be? Like, when did we decide that we wanted to pursue becoming a certified or registered B corporation? And what was that decision making process like?

Jon MacDonald: Well, it was one of the things where we were already doing a lot of the tactics that get deployed for B corporation. And the more that. I looked around at, you know, it’s one thing for a company to say, we do all these great things and we care about the planet and our people more than profits essentially is what the sane is for B corporation.

But it’s one thing to have that verified by an independent third. And to get that certification. So as we’re interviewing more people, the, in looking to grow our team, the more I realized that they’re hearing the same things from all these companies. And I was looking at how do we, how do I, can I go to somebody, look them in the eye and.

This is, this is real, like it’s been verified by a third party and we’re held to these standards and they’re going to check in on us every couple of years to make sure that we’re improving that we’re not just saying this is what it is, and we’re never going to touch it again. So you have to live it.

And that’s what I really liked about B corporation, um, being in Portland, of course, um, it’s, it’s, you know, fits really well with the Portland culture overall and they have a very big, uh, B corporation. User group here, if you will. And that was something that, you know, I knew a handful of people in that group and, you know, I started talking to them about what we could do and how that worked, and then, you know, ended up going to get certified.

Now that process took us nine to 12 months just to get certified. The process is pretty deep. You have to go through a massive question. Several it’s like a hundred and some questions, and then you have to provide proof for each of your answers. And then they have an audit where they randomly you seemingly randomly anyways, pick out some questions that you answered and ask you to further verify that, or they’ll verify it with third parties.

So it’s not something that you can easily. And it’s something that you do have to live. And that was what we really liked about it at the time. Um, and you have to consistently recertify every two years, I believe two to three years. And, um, they want you to improve your score every single time. So not only do you get certified, but you get scored and you earn points for a whole bunch of different categories.

And so they really want you every time you recertify, you have to add additional points. 

James Sowers: Interesting. Uh, anything to add on there finally from, again, I don’t know when you came in, if we were already kind of firmly established and certified and evaluated at that point, or if you were part of the, kind of the decision making process, um, what was it like from your perspective?


Natalie Thomas: When I joined the good four years ago, we were already a certified B Corp. And I asked the same question that I now get asked in interviews all the time, which is what does it mean to you to be a B Corp? And for me it means, you know, we actually have made commitments and we stand by those and we continue to live by them.

Um, and actually if you go to the good.com you can see in the footer around our B Corp certification. Um, we get scored in certain areas and we score really high on kind of the quality of life stuff for our employees. So things like offering maternity, um, paying a living wage, having benefits, things like that.

Um, as well as, you know, just little things that we do around the office. So, you know, we have a recycling bin that seems like really small, but it’s a commitment. Other people haven’t made. We haven’t. For trash, we don’t have staplers in the office. So there’s all these little things that kind of stack up.

And what I love about being a B Corp is that like attracts, like it really attracts, um, mission driven companies and mission driven individuals to us. And I hear all the time kind of on the same topic in, um, you know, everything from cover letters, to interviews with potential candidates that they’re attracted to our B Corp status and they’re attracted to our core values.

So I think it really helps us be. You know, surrounded by people that we want to surround ourselves with and work with the kind of clients really appreciate not just what we do, but our approach. 

James Sowers: Awesome. Uh, yeah, I can say as somebody who just did the hiring for a new marketing coordinator or a marketing manager that was universally among candidates, one of the first things they called out is I, you know, why you’re interested in the position I saw, you’re a B Corp.

That means a lot to me. Um, and some of them have wants so far as to look us up at the school. The scores are publicly available and you can see like where somebody is at and maybe, uh, even historically like where they’ve been in the past few years. So candidates right now on the, in the talent pool are doing their homework.

And, um, this is something. Uh, I hate the term moves the needle, but this does make an impact on their decision making process. And it can be the difference if you have two equal opportunities, um, maybe the B Corp status could be something that pushes somebody over the edge to accept your offer. So, and that works with clients too.

I’m sure we have clients come through the door who will also be corporations or just mission-focused organizations. Uh, the commitments that we made resonate with them. So, um, really cool. And, you know, I, the first time I remember hearing about a B corporation was on pat Flynn, smart, passive income podcast, and I had to be on how old the B Corp thing is, but it was a few years ago, at least.

And, um, he was interviewing somebody who was basically one of the first, like few dozen B corporations to be certified and was very, uh, early to that trend. And I just remember thinking this is so cool, right? Like it’s different from being a nonprofit. It’s more like a for-profit organization with a social mission.

And that’s really cool. And someday I’d love to work for one of these companies. And then you fast forward, like six or seven years and get to interview at the good and like, it was a big part of my decision making process too. So, um, really cool part of our history. And I think that’s like the broader mission.

And I don’t know the sequence of events if like we already had core values established before we became a B Corp or vice versa. But I think where that ties into our conversation today. Okay. That’s one aspect of how we want to do good in the world. Um, another aspect of how we kind of. Put these things into practice is through the core values that we have at the organization.

And I know recently, um, we rolled out a new set of core values, but we did have some that served as a foundation for let’s call it like the first chapter of the goods life cycle. Right. Um, so I’m curious, like John, going back to that day where we came up with that original set of core values, what was that experience like?

Um, you know, maybe what precipitated the need for core values. You hear about it a lot in business school. If you went to business school or case studies or something like that, like. Um, but it seems kind of like lip service in a lot of ways. And I’m sure that, you know, we had a different approach to it.

So if you go back to that day, we were setting up that first set of core values who was involved, you know, why did we feel the need to put these things on paper? And then how did you kind of come up with that first handful of, of, uh, you know, ideas that we really aligned with and want to embody? 

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, this is a great question because.

One of the joys over the past year has been working on these new core values. It was really enlightening. Um, and it really did help think about where we want to be moving forward and who do we want to attract and even more. So who do we want to repel and, you know, start looking at who’s applying and do they align with these core values or do they resonate in the same way?

We have folks who are applying and are mentioning the B Corp status. One of the things that we always look for is do they mention the core values? Did they do their homework? We put them up on our website publicly. Are they interested in those core values at all? Do they resonate? And you know, a lot of our questions that we asked during interviews along the way are framed around the core values.

And so that’s something that, that is become a valuable. I don’t know. I don’t know a gate for us, if you will, was hiring. When we originally did them, uh, it was years ago now probably a decade ago, sat down and said, okay, where do we want to go? Who do we want to have on our team? And what are some things that we want to make sure resonate with the team moving forward?

And one of the things was we really want folks who are going to. Think bigger, but we didn’t want to say something like think big. It was really around, um, finding opportunities in all of these challenges that come up every day and work situations and then taking actions to make those better. And so the more we looked at that, the more we decided on, on be a force for change as one of our core values.

And so the process was really more. What are the sentences that we want to imbibe, you know, to have, uh, our team and body. And, you know, we thought about each of these. And then we came up with the term or the slogan that goes around with that. And we wanted to keep it to three or four most because the challenge is that so many people have these little quippy.

Core values that nobody remembers or, you know, I’ve known and businesses that, that have 10 of them and they stand up a daily huddle and make people recite all 10, or they just do like pop quizzes on it. And it’s like, you know what? That’s all BS. And the reality is if you don’t, well, if your team can’t remember, then you have too many or they just aren’t meaningful.

And. Really wanted to keep it to a handful. Um, so our old ones were be a force for change, make improvements, not excuses and inspire by example. And these were all things that, you know, we had, um, really wanted to, as a leadership team at the time, made sure that the team that builds up around us, uh, you know, it could be an example.

James Sowers: Yeah. Um, I love that. And I’m glad you pointed out because I’ve been in organizations where they literally make somebody like recite a core value or something like that. Part of the mission statement at the beginning of the meeting, or cite an example or something like that. And it’s like, yeah, I can see how that feels like a tangible representation of, of culture.

But ideally I think the more important point is you use them as kind of that gate or that filtering system during the hiring process. And you find the goal is to find folks who naturally embody these core values who already have that ingrained in their DNA. And then when they come inside the organization, Presumably they operate that way naturally.

And then, um, to steal a phrase from a little bit later in this episode, maybe you hire fire promote based on kind of those principles, right? The ones that really stand out, um, are more likely to be elevated into a higher position, get a raise, get more responsibility, whatever the incentive is there, the, the reward system.

But, um, yeah, I think it’s less about like, can we all hold hands and recite the core values together and more about like, Are we the type of people who already embody this and are we holding each other accountable to doing that day in and day out? Because it’s easy to kind of lose your way when life gets busy or hectic, or you have a tough day, like, um, can we, can we help each other out through that?

Um, Natalie, where did you come in in terms of the, I know you were here for the first set of core values, obviously. Cause those just recently changed, but like how much exposure did you have to those and were they part of, um, you making the decision to join the team? Cause it was sometime after those were established, you came on and then, um, started full-time here.

So what was your exposure to that first set? That’s a good 

Natalie Thomas: question. I don’t know if I, if I was one of those people that mentioned them in my application or cover letter. Um, but they definitely made an impact when I first started. And, um, I think, you know, there’s something that we have on posters all over the office that we really embodied.

Yeah. We mentioned, um, at meetings and, you know, it’s like an opportunity to bring them up any opportunity to bring them up in, uh, a client meeting. We do, um, because you know, if we get feedback, that’s really hard to hear. Um, Hey, one of our core values is making improvements, not excuses. So we’re able to really quickly say like, you know, there’s a checklist for how we should handle things.

And we’re always kind of checking against that. Like, does this match our core values? What is the way. Best way we should respond. So we had them created, um, they were created before I got here, but we had them, um, kind of succinctly shared in physical paper and we would just move those around our desks. I think everybody had it on their desk or taped above their desk or floating around somewhere.

We also have posters in the office and. I’ve heard this rumor. I don’t know if this is true. That means vendor row used to have his simplicity mantras, like somewhere around the studio and he would move this one poster here or there. So you never got used to it being in the same place. We kind of have the opposite where they had been on one wall since we got into the new office.

And I think it was just really comforting to kind of walk by those every day and be constantly reminded and, um, just have them right up on the wall. Like we’re not trying to hide them from anyone. We all have agreed to kind of live by the standard. 

James Sowers: Yeah, really cool. So if we, if we fast forward a little bit, well, not really a little bit a decade, right?

We’re we’re here sitting here in the last, uh, maybe six to nine months and we’ve kind of hit. Um, turning point, maybe this kind of evolutionary step milestone in the, in the business where, you know, we want to raise the bar, um, grow in a lot of ways, right? Uh, maybe that involves head count revenue number of clients we serve impact in the world, whatever, uh, you know, toward that B Corp mission, we kind of realize it sounds like that, um, where we want to go and where we’re at today, like what got us here will not get us there.

Right. And so there are a bunch of conversations that happen. Um, one is around kind of like managing the organization and the team here and breaking down our goals into bite-size steps that we can achieve. But part of that was kind of like, Hmm, maybe we take another look at these core values. Right. And, um, is there.

A similar evolution that needs to happen with these because, uh, as you change kind of the, the goal or the objective, there might be different people that you need on the team to get you there or different types of people or people with different types of predispositions. So, um, my recollection is. Uh, we first realized that in order to get where we want to be, we’re going to need some kind of structure and operating system, um, around making that happen.

And, um, we fell into one that had kind of this core values review built into it. So, um, I know I kinda came in midstream to that process. It seemed like it was kind of already underway. So maybe John enlighten us in terms of like how we got involved with, um, w with Ellie, if we want to give her a name and everything and the, the EOS system, and then how that led to revisiting the courses.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah. So one of the things I’ve been really conscious of as we’ve continued to scale and grow and move very, very fast is to, um, have some organization to that. And one thing that can kill a business fast-growing business very quickly is to, um, a run out of cash because you’re moving so fast. You’re not keeping tabs on things and you’re, over-investing.

And B it’s just how, you know, I always tell the team here, if there’s one constant, if the good it’s change and the problem with that can be that it can overwhelm some folks when you change things so quickly. So wanted to make sure we had some organization and structure for that change and that we were doing it intentionally.

It wasn’t just a, Hey, look, this week, this is not working out. So we’ve got to make some changes here. I really wanted to have some structure to that and. Well before the pandemic. So we hit this at a perfect time. Um, you know, we came in and was okay, but there was a bunch of different systems out there.

I’ve used scaling up in the past, but I, you know, in talking to a bunch of folks, um, through different business communities, EOS or entrepreneur operating system is, is really the way to go. And, um, it really brings scaling up down to earth if you will, right. Scaling up is great for corporations. VC backed, you know, with a hundred folks maybe are bigger, uh, EOS is better for, for service businesses for smaller companies.

And it really seemed like a good fit for us. So, uh, you know, went out and I hired Ellie, um, who is our implementer for EOS and kind of coaching us through that process. Uh, had a lot of, uh, history with Ellie over the years through EO, which is another. Same letters almost but different it’s entrepreneurs organization, which is a, a business group.

So both Natalie and I knew Ellie through that and had been coached by Ellie through different training, et cetera in EO. Um, so after we met with her and she was like, look, I’m not going to be the person who is like, you have to check every box with us. We’re going to check the boxes that make sense for you.

And we’re going to mold it into what, what makes sense for your business and what you, where you want to go. And so we went through that process, uh, part of that initial process of her six months or so of, of onboarding EOS is to take another look at your core values. After you’ve done a lot of the upfront work of defining where you want to go.

And we, as a leadership team, the three of us sat down and said is our current core values going to get us where we want to go? Or is it time to refresh those? And. In my opinion, you know, were they good core values? Yes. Um, where are they going to get us? You know, everybody be bought into them and get us where we need to go, maybe not.

And so, uh, it was a really interesting process of us all sitting down with LD coaching and, um, and I really tried to take a back seat and just listen to what everybody else’s opinion was there. So, uh, because I knew what I wanted, but I wanted to make sure it was, uh, uh, Something that that involved everybody and that everybody was.

James Sowers: Um, Natalie, did you have any reservations or any thoughts in the back of your mind? When we first sat down and said like, okay, we’re going to take a look at the core values that you’ve known for four years and are well-established and people are naturally, like, parenting’s not the right term, but they’re, they’re saying them in meetings naturally.

Right. Because it’s been kind of ingrained in us and even just the idea of kind of like potentially wiping those out, replacing them with something totally new. That’s not what Ellie was suggesting, but that’s a feasible outcome. Right. You could end up with something totally different. Um, you’re out the organization much longer than I was when we started having that conversation.

So did you have any like gut reaction, you know, that before you kind of filter it for political correctness or try to like adjust it for the audience, which you need jerk reaction? Like, no, don’t touch them. They’re so good. Like, my team loves them or like, was it the opposite? Was it like, oh, this is such a needed change or was it somewhere in the middle, right.

Natalie Thomas: Yeah, I think you’ve probably heard a mix of both from me and those meetings and our facilitator, I will say to her credit early bird, like she. Came, she, she brought us into that room with an understanding that like, these don’t have to change. We’re just going to evaluate what’s on the table today and take a look at whether or not these even need to change.

And I think there have been exercises in the password. John has asked the team to revisit those when they weren’t changed. And so we knew that these, you know, they are working for us, but when I really thought about it, I thought. I realized that make improvements, not excuses was the biggest thing that people reference on a regular basis.

Um, and I think the process of looking at them and evaluating our core values was really intuitive to me. And it was basically for better or worse. Like you look at some of the qualities that your team embodies that, um, you know, are helping them do their best work. Like what about them is. Making sure that they can just leverage their skills to the best of their ability.

And they really fit in here and they produce an amazing quality of work. And, you know, we brought in elements from our team that we love so much and looked at them. Skills distilled them or qualities, if you will distill them down to a really small list and then compare those to our core values. And we felt like there were some things missing.

And I will say, like, there was definitely some consternation, it feels like kind of, I didn’t want the team to get the sense that they were having the rug pulled out from under them. But when we really looked at it, we said, look, these are aspirational core values. The core values. Crafted at the end of that experience, weren’t things that we wanted to live up to.

They were things that we were already doing it. And so I felt like it was a really great practice to just explore. What about our culture and what about our community ethic? Good. Do we really value? And we want to help raise up and say, this is our standard. Um, so. I definitely had reservations, but at the end I feel like we came up with something really strong, um, that really speaks to where we came from as well.

We didn’t lose a lot of the elements that we loved from the previous core values, but the current ones, I think just have a little more specificity to them. And, um, they ring true in the Workday, Dan and yeah. 

James Sowers: Yeah, I think it’s worth noting that we kind of ran the same process with every aspect of the business.

It’s like you have an arbitrary revenue goal. Okay. Where did that come from? Is that even the right target or is that too ambitious or not ambitious enough? Right. So we’d looked at that and then we look at it. Right. We look at our ideal client profile and like, we think we know, right. But do we actually know, let’s talk it out.

And like, your interpretation is different from mine. And like, maybe we need to come to the middle or maybe I realize I’m wrong and you were right. And let’s get that on paper. So we’re all on the same page. Like lots of healthy debate around various aspects of the business and core values was just one of them.

Um, I think one thing we knew if nothing else, right. We knew that going to a distributed team probably required a little bit of a refinement of the core values, just because you’re going to have to, it just layering in an element. Independence ownership, autonomy. Like I don’t know that that was necessarily in the first set is probably really important to have in the next set.

Um, you know, a lot of organizations are going remote right now. And so I would say like, if they don’t have that aspect, they may want to consider it because it is something that, like I said before, you can hire based on to find the right person. Um, and I think that’s part of the exercise is like who’s already on the team.

That’s an A-player, who’s crushing it. And what are some of their characteristics activities that they do? What makes them stand out? That we like and want to embody, like, how do we find more of that? And then who are the team members that contractors full-time, whatever that didn’t work out. And what are some of the personality traits?

What are some of the decision-making aspects? What are some of the things that like made that negative outcome happen and how do we filter for that? How do we avoid that happening again? And you kind of put those two things together and that’s, that’s kind of the recipe, uh, for coming up with some core values that hopefully, um, do the right thing, but.

Your point is very astute in that, like it’s easy for the team to say we’re getting new core values. That means like, what if I don’t like them? Like, what if I don’t align with them? And it’s like, well, if you start from first principles and you say like, what are the best reflections of the team we already have and what makes us great then it’s very unlikely that that’s going to happen unless somebody has like, perhaps an inaccurate interpretation of themselves or something.

I don’t know. I don’t know how that works out. Um, but let me think about this. So w what I remember from the process was basically, um, we had the past core values. In the back of our minds, obviously, but from what I remember, it was like, we were almost encouraged to start with a blank page and just start to kind of like brain dump.

All right. Let’s all take 30 minutes to ourselves. Go off into a room and brain dump. All the things that we think are values that we have that we like in the workplace, what our coworkers, I think we even put names to coworkers in the past. Right. And like what made them a great coworker and what made these people over here?

A not so great coworker or manager. Let’s just dump all those on the page. Then let’s put those things together in one Google doc, let’s see which one gets mentioned the most let’s keep that or whatever. Like, let’s see which one’s an edge case. Maybe that’s just a John experience or a James experience or Natalie experience.

And then we kind of see some trends and then we try to start to bucket those things together and topical area, I mean, is that you guys remember Glenn? I think it was kind of like a step-by-step process, right? It was like word vomit and then filter into categories and then kind of refine that until you get to a manageable set of just a handful of Corvette.

Yeah, that’s 

Natalie Thomas: what I remember. And I love taking a really messy list of things and then categorizing them and then forming neat and sentences about them. I would say that like, if you had to define strategy by just one practice, that would be it. So this was an exercise that I really enjoyed. I think it would probably make it.

Other people uncomfortable, but for me, yeah, it was just, um, really intuitive to go through the process of creating a list of, you know, desirable and undesirable activities or traits you could have, um, in a colleague and putting those all out on paper and defining like what we do and don’t want. And as we went through the process, again, our facilitator was so great.

She said, yeah, Um, she really guided us into understanding like that we were unique and that we were defining what was unique about us. Cause I felt like, oh, well, if anyone goes through this process, they’re going to put the same things on the good and bad list that I would. And that’s of course going to turn into really similar core values between our company and another.

And she said, that is absolutely not true. And that every industry and business has unique challenges. And a unique culture and that’s why these never turn out the same. And I was pleasantly surprised at how, yeah. These didn’t stack up. Um, you know, one for one compared to some of the other, uh, examples that we looked at as part of our

James Sowers: John, you have anything to add to kind of that. I dunno, making the pottery, you kind of thing. You put the clay on the thing, you spin it around, you kind of shape it until it turns into something usable. Right. That’s how I describe the experience. It’s more like a 

Natalie Thomas: 3d printer. Ceramicist 

Jon MacDonald: it’s just every time somebody describes making the pottery like that, I just think it ghost that movie.

Um, so yeah, I’ll do John’s. Yeah. So I think it was a good opportunity for us to. Work in a fourth one, which we did, which was impact over income. And the goal there was, if we’re really living these values around B corporation, et cetera, kind of tie that together. We need, we need to mention it somehow on our core values.

Um, and so we came up with, uh, impact over income and our company exists to eliminate bad online experiences, not just to make a profit. Our success allows us to invest in people and communities. And so I think that that’s something where if you. Want to be part of a greater good than that. You’re going to resonate with that.

If you are all about yourself and you’re working here just for the money, then likely not gonna resonate. Um, and that doesn’t mean that, you know, again, part of that is we invest in our people. So, you know, taking some of that profit and making sure that it goes back to having the team who’s the right team.

Okay. Well, and, and able to invest in their lives otherwise outside of work, too. And so I think there’s a lot of ways to look at this, but I do believe that it was key that we, I found this fourth one and ended up here and that, um, we were able to identify this hole in our prior quarter. 

James Sowers: Yeah, I think one element of that particular core value that stands out to me is the part, the sub component, basically where we say we’re advocates for people who aren’t in the room.

And I I’m always reminded of, I think it was Jeff Bezos at Amazon who always has like an empty chair in the meeting and that’s supposed to represent the customer. And so like the customers in all these conversations and part of this decision making process, I think we have some element of that where like our, our role working with our clients is to kind of be the advocate for the customer, the end user of the site, and maybe steer away from.

Strictly financially motivated things like maybe it does make more money, but maybe it’s a very poor user experience or something like that. And, and try to be an advocate for the customer in that regard, but even outside of the workplace, like being advocates for underserved communities, um, and demographics that maybe don’t have as much opportunity or access as others can we do well in our role at work so that we can do good in the community, both in the Portland area and anywhere else that our team members get involved.

So that, that kind of sub-component of impact over income was really important. Uh, to me personally, I’m glad it made it through to the, to the final version because, um, I do think it is something that’s like, it doesn’t all have to be about work, right? It’s about who you are as a person and what you stand for and what you identify with, and that makes you more effective at work, right?

Like that’s, that’s something you can draw from when, uh, like I said, maybe you’re having a bad day or you’re just not feeling super inspired. It’s like, okay, well, at the end of the day, I get to make somebody’s life a little bit better because of what I’m doing here today. So, um, that’s all you need to kind of like put on a happy face and keep moving.

Right. Um, I don’t have anything to add. I know this is a very impactful core value from the final four, which I’ve never called it, that it sounds kind of cheesy, but, uh, the final four that we came up with, uh, anything on impact over income you want to add, and then maybe we’ll just go through the other three and we can, we can close it out there after reviewing the.

Natalie Thomas: Yeah. And kinda over impact over income. Let me start that over. Yeah. Impact over income. My gosh, I can I say it right? Obviously we need to remember our core values in order to be able to talk about them. Um, impact over income to me is really about that, that person who’s not in the room, right. I think, you know, we’re all coming up in the age of user centered design and the experience economy.

And this really just speaks to making sure that we’re not designing deceptive user experiences or dark UX as it’s called. And it’s funny that you mentioned the Amazon example because I think they are a great example of, you know, that they got sued. I think for they’re like a nine step cancellation process that has a lot of.

Different kinds of buttons that might confuse you along the way. Um, and it probably does make them more money, but you know, it’s not something we would advocate for us though. We’re always trying to find the outcome that, you know, treats users with dignity and respect and that I would want my mom to use while she’s on the internet, you know, and she’s the person who doesn’t feel comfortable in a lot of online spaces.

And so for me, that empty chair is my mom and, um, a lot of other people and that impact over income. Just really drives home that, um, there are people who need support from people like us and tech. Isn’t just about getting the users and keeping them engaged and then, you know, squeezing every last drop out of them that you can, it’s really about making sure that we’re approaching this, um, in a way that matches our value.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, that’s a great point. One thing that’s not really said explicitly in this core value, but I think is there is conversion optimization could be used for evil in a sense that, you know, you could really have a view. Um, optimize site by making it a pain to unsubscribe, like you mentioned, right. Or, you know, having all of these, um, I guess we’ll call them like black cat techniques that you could use.

Right. And I think that, uh, one thing I love about this core value is it, if we’re living this core value, we’ll never go to those tactics. And that’s a, I think that’s a nice safeguard. 

James Sowers: Yep. Totally agree. Okay. Let’s go. Let’s go through the other three that we came up with. Current day version of our core values.

And, um, if you have anything to share, feel free to jump in, but, uh, the first one would be around owning your experience. And, um, to me, the most impactful statement under this one is, is, um, we all carry our own weight and we seek to inspire others by example. Right. Um, I think that kind of touches on the earlier point I made about if we’re going to be a truly distributed workforce, we’re going to have contractors and full-time employees spread all around the world.

Um, we’re going to have to have some. Ingrained, you know, sense of autonomy and ownership over the overall success of the business, or at least our area, our team, wherever we, wherever we live day to day between nine and five. And part of that is like, you need people who naturally want to take ownership over kind of their focus area.

And, you know, when they see something that could be improved, Take action and improve it. They don’t necessarily need like permission within reason, you know? And, and so, um, I think at the end of the day, it’s like, Hey, if you want to have professional development work, if you want to make a big impact in the work that we do, if you want to serve clients, um, to the best of your ability, like the person ultimately who owns that outcome is is you.

And so, um, that, that’s what jumps out at me about this one. I don’t know if you guys have a different perspective or, um, if you kind of want to take a different angle on it, but that’s the one I think is most impactful for me here and own your expense. 

Natalie Thomas: Yeah, I can jump in on that one. I think the most interesting and important thing to me about the own, your experience core value is that we find opportunity in every challenge.

And I think as a team, we seek out others who. Look at look for problems, but then approach them with a solution oriented mindset. We just got feedback today from a client that said really appreciate your solution oriented approach. And I think what that means is we don’t really invite people into the room just to call out the negative or bad experiences or the holes and the flaws and the way we do things, we invite that kind of criticism.

For sure. But the essential aspect of own your experience to me is that we look for opportunities, not just issues. 

Jon MacDonald: Yeah. I’ll add to that, that, you know, it’s really about taking ownership when, when there’s a challenge and if, you know, you see there’s a problem to fix it and that’s where it’s, you know, carry your own weight.

Right. It’s if, you know, You know, if you see a leaky faucet, fix the faucet, don’t let it drip. Right? Like you’re there just take the extra two minutes and turn it off. Right. Um, and I think that it’s, it’s one of those things where it’s really easy to. Have team members who are just there and are, are following everybody else and are doing a great job at their, at their role and what they should be doing on a day to day.

But they’re not taking that extra step to make things better. And. To me, this is all about if you’re having a challenge, find a way to, to, to, you know, raise the issue, but raise the issue with, Hey, here’s some ways I think this could be resolved or if you don’t know how to fix it, raise the issues of this is the outcome I’d like to see.

I would like, you know, to change it in this way. Um, and then the team can gather around and help you figure out how to get from, from a to B. But it’s really about that taking ownership and, uh, making sure that people are taking steps to, to positively influence that. 

Natalie Thomas: Yeah. And I think that just shows how much we respect our employees.

They rarely ask for permission, but regularly asked for strategic feedback and folks are really willing here to take problems into their own hands. And we really value peer review. So we’ll bounce ideas off of each other left and right. But ultimately nobody really needs to ask permission to make a decision here.

There are a lot of, um, uh, really smart people in the room and. Love when they can use that to the best of their advantage and make decisions that positively impact others without needing to stop and wait. 

James Sowers: Yeah. And I think that the best people know where their scope of competency is. Right. And they know when they’re like comfortably outside of that, like they’re stretching and they know when like, okay, if I make a wrong call here or I experiment too much here.

That could potentially result in a negative outcome and they know to reach for help. Right. That’s, that’s kind of this, um, humble kind of personality that I think a lot of us bring to the table naturally at this team, at least I’ve always referred to the good as the quiet professionals. I mean, I’ve only been here for nine months now or whatever, but like that’s, that’s kind of the, the character that I picture in my head is like, that’s the mantra of the Navy seals too.

Like, you don’t really see too many of those guys on TV doing a bunch of interviews. In movies, whatever. Um, they’re just kind of going about their business and, you know, they’re really good at it because everybody in the world talks about them. Right. But they’re not necessarily out there talking about themselves.

I think the best team members that embody this kind of like, um, you know, own your experience aspect are people who are extremely talented. No, where they’re extremely talented. No one they can stretch comfortably, but also know when to ask for help or when to get a second opinion or when to seek out more information.

If they don’t have access. To that end. I think that’s why this became a core value because we want to hire more folks like that. We want to hire more folks that can be autonomous, but within safe guard rails so that they don’t compromise the experience for our clients or their end users, I guess, is how, how I would describe.

Um, maybe the next one I’ll kick over to you, Natalie. Cause I know you said it was tossed about most often in, um, like team meetings and you have the biggest team of here inside of the organization. So we carried over pretty much, um, almost word for word, make improvements, not excuses. And you know, I think there’s the one aspect of that that I’ll call out is this 1% better everyday concept because we liked it so much.

We put it on a t-shirt. Um, but I do think it is. It is a really strong kind of like sound bite. Um, that kind of embodies what we’re going for here is like, let’s just get a little better every day and let’s help our clients do the same, but what’s your personal interpretation of make improvements, not excuses and, and how it’s been, um, you know, displayed by the team throughout the years and how we hope to see it continue to be displayed, like going.

Natalie Thomas: Yeah, well, we have a few favorites sayings here at the good and one of them is it could be further optimized. So I think part of that is just, again, looking for opportunities. We look at mistakes, not away from them and look for opportunity to improve. I think, um, You know, that’s the nature. And the spirit of optimization is that our eyes are really open to opportunities to prove ourselves wrong.

And so I really value working on a team that feels like it’s okay to say, I don’t know, but let me find out. And I can’t tell you how many rules. I’ve been in, whether that’s a college classroom or a meeting, and someone says, some says an answer to something that feels a little off the cuff and maybe not right.

It just to close the issue down. Um, we don’t do that here. You know, we’re always looking to find kind of that, that next truth that helps us open up our perspective and improve on the work we’re doing. And we stay really curious, which is what I think this is about.

James Sowers: Anything to add to that, John? 

Jon MacDonald: Well, for me, the biggest part of this is, uh, that we hold each other accountable to grow through practice, not to perfection. And this really does go hand in hand with that 1% better every day. Right? And if you’re not familiar with, with that, uh, looking to James clear and atomic habits, great book, um, great principle there.

And we did put it on a t-shirt. So if you’d like a t-shirt let, let James know and we’ll get, but the reality, they are very soft. Yes. Uh, the reality is that it’s really easy to be a perfectionist. Um, it’s draining on everybody around you, but it’s easy for. Me as the leader of a company to, to manage perfection and people idolize that Steve jobs type of asshole leadership, I don’t have it or put it, uh, it can get things done, but then everybody is afraid of you or, you know, are they really getting things done because they think that’s the right way or it’s just what you told them to do.

I would rather the team here be. Uh, non, uh, autonomous in, in getting their jobs done. And what I mean by that is that, you know, I want to hire the, you know, the best person for the role and let them do the best work of their career and not get in their way. I don’t want to be like, Hey, here’s exactly what you need to do every minute of the day.

And when, what that means is people are going to mess up. There’s going to be issues, and we’re going to have challenges around that. As long as people are looking to make improvements and not excuses. I’m good with that. If somebody messes up and then they say, you know what, that did not work out how I wanted it to work out, but I now learn something from that.

And I think this goes back to the culture of optimization in general. There’s really no loser test. Every test that happens that that doesn’t meet the metrics that you were hoping to out of that test or that optimization, you still learn something. And you learn, you know, to go down a different path at the very least.

Um, but there’s always, uh, a lot more takeaways there. And so I think it’s the same thing for, for the culture here, which is just hold, hold, people accountable to growing and outside of that, um, know that things aren’t going to be perfect. People are going to mess up and that’s okay. Things aren’t gonna go to the way we thought they’d go.

Uh, and we just need to roll with it and improve it. So it does it better now. 

James Sowers: Yep. One of the points you just said there, that, that jumps out at me is. Getting better through practice, not perfection. I think like part of the exercise we did here was I think we self evaluated, um, against these values and we’re like, okay, how would we score it?

Right. Did we end up in the right place? Uh, and one of the things that I know I need to work on is that perfectionism almost where it’s like, I don’t want to put anything out into the world until I think it’s like polished and pretty and sparkling. And I know that. People in this conversation and outside of this conversation, I’ve said like, James is good enough, right?

Like ship it. We have, we have like the ship at pear emoji in the slack channel. It’s like ship it, man. It’s good enough. Let the world see it. And you can continue to get better, but it doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. So, um, I just say that to say, like, if anybody’s listening to this and they’re like, okay, if you don’t satisfy all four of these requirements, you can’t be hired here.

Like that’s not necessarily how it works. It’s, it’s a spectrum. Right. And even me sitting here looking in the mirror, I’m like, yeah, I don’t really check the box for that one yet. But the point is. That’s why you have people around you, right. Who are good in that better in that area than you are to help you improve.

And then there’s somewhere else that somebody else is struggling that maybe I can bring some experience to the table and help them improve. Um, so I just caught that from what you said there, and just wanted to call that out. Cause like, yeah, it’s not, it’s not about, um, a hundred percent checking the box when you’re hiring or trying to find a new team member or anything like that.

It’s more about. Do we did we cover most of the bases here. Right. And, um, in general, are we the type of person that will contribute to the mission and be a positive addition to the team and not a distraction or, um, you know, a drain on the energy or anything like that? Um, yeah, so they’re 

Jon MacDonald: not looking for perfection, right?

Right. We’re not looking for somebody who’s perfect in all four of these that’s, that’s unattainable, not realistic, but we’re looking for somebody who strives. No, and I think that’s really the thing. 

James Sowers: Yeah. Um, your team me up there. So we’ll get into the last one here. Strive for clarity, right? Keywords strive, strive.

We’re just going to transition right into this one. Um, admittedly, when I was going through the process, this one was the messiest one for me. Cause I interpreted it a bunch of different ways. I was like, okay. Is it strive for clarity amongst team members? Right. And is this like a communication thing or is this strive for clarity in terms of understanding a problem before you recommend a solution or some kind of an approach?

Maybe it’s a blend of the two. Right? Um, but, but I really like this one at the end of the day. Mainly for this phrase, like we’re not afraid to say, I don’t know, but let me find out. And that’s kind of, Natalie touched on that a little bit. Like you have somebody who answers a question in class and like, they just kinda want to sound smart or they’re afraid of like, not answering the question, thinking people will think they’re dumb, but really like the mature person says, you know, I’m not well-read enough on this subject.

I haven’t done my research. I don’t have an informed opinion. So I can’t really share anything with you right now, but I’ll get into it. I’ll ask my friends, I’ll ask my coworkers and I’ll get back to you. Um, that’s just one aspect of this, but that’s the one that jumps out at me as like being humble enough to say.

I don’t have an answer for you now, but I know where to find one and I’ll bring it back to you as soon as I can. Okay. 

Natalie Thomas: Yeah, I agree. I think, 

Jon MacDonald: go ahead, John. Well, I was gonna say one thing that, that you brought into this, Natalie, um, was that we have strong opinions, loosely held and. That is something that I see, uh, our team act on every day.

It’s, you know, especially an optimization, you may have a, uh, a variant that you’re cheering for, but it’s probably not going to win. I mean, I think that’s, you know, the reality, uh, that you don’t determine what wins in a scientific process. Um, you know, the data does, sorry to cut you off, Natalie, what were you, what were you going to add?

Natalie Thomas: think it answered a meeting. Can you. No. Okay. Um, what was I going to say about this? I think strive for clarity as a core value really feeds into everything else we do. It’s hard to make improvements without being really clear about what went wrong the first time you did it, or what needs to improve.

And so really just that mindset about being proactive rather than reactive and looking for ways to get ahead of issues before they become one. Um, again, it’s just super gratifying and liberating. To be among a group of people who say, I don’t know, but let me find out. And that strong opinions, loosely held bit is really enables us to defer to the expert in the room.

All of us come from really different backgrounds from, you know, teaching to marketing and human computer interaction and user experience research. We have someone from an applied clinical research background. There’s always someone in the room who might know a little bit more on a subject. That’s not your area of expertise.

So we have those strong opinions, but we defer to the experts when appropriate. And in order to do that, we have to be really clear about what we’re seeking. So I think it’s that strive for clarity bit really empowers us to do the rest of them. Great. 

James Sowers: Awesome. Uh, totally agree. Um, maybe, maybe, uh, kind of wrap things up and put a bow.

And, um, we went through the four new core values. Um, Give me a two minute overview here, John, of like, or Natalie, if you want to chime in how, how are we going to continue to like walk the walks in terms of not just these core values, but our B corporate commitments and stuff. We’ve done a lot, uh, to date over the last decade, but now that we’ve kind of made this step forward and we’re ready to pursue those big lofty goals, how do we embody these values?

How do we incorporate them in the day to day operations here at the good, how we’re using them to, um, evaluate new team members and performance of current team members? What do you take into your teams as you, as you go back and leave here today and implement these things? 

Jon MacDonald: I think just to start with the simple stuff I’m having new posters made with all of these, um, to, to have them up in our office space, um, and be able to, to share them in a graphical format, not only on our website and, uh, do some more t-shirts perhaps things of that sort.

So that’s the easy part. Um, one thing is we’ve also, um, continued to work on our hiring process and ask questions that are, that are based around these so that, you know, we’re always improving that and always refining it and making sure we’re finding people who match and align with these. And, uh, we also do something here called the good cop.

And this is a quarterly award that the team votes on each other and they nominate a peer. And when they nominate a peer, they have to nominate them, uh, with examples of how they’ve lived, the Corvette. And each quarter that person gets to, um, hold on to the cup, if you will, it’s an actual trophy and their name gets engraved on the, on the trophy.

So eventually we’ll, we’ll have a Stanley cup looking trophy here. And then in addition to that, um, you know, they get, uh, $500 in cash. And so it’s just a nice little extra bonus, but the goal here is so that the team. Recognizes when others are living the core values and that kind of helps bring it through every quarter and bring it back up.

Oh yeah. You know, I have to nominate somebody or I want to nominate somebody. I’m trying to think about what happened to her last quarter. That was my team members and my teammates that, uh, would really make a lot of sense to, to be nominated. 

Natalie Thomas: John. I know you got to go. I can add to that in the two minutes after.

James Sowers: Yeah, go ahead. And, and then I can do like a wrap up, like voiceover later. Yep. 

Jon MacDonald: All right. Awesome. Thank you both. Yep.

James Sowers: What are we doing to get shirts, but you know, we’ll do whatever we can do. 

Natalie Thomas: Uh, we need that empty chair in 

James Sowers: the room. I know. Yeah, we do. 

Natalie Thomas: Um, okay. What are we doing to continue to square valleys? Um, we’re making a series of commitments. So, um, we’re looking at the commitments we have made and how we’re trying to improve our processes.

I think, you know, one of those big things is removing bias from the hiring process by using these core values as a rubric. Um, we’re also involved with Portland means progress, which has asked businesses to make a series of commitments to racial equity in the workplace. And, um, I think, you know, just looking back.

The Ms. Van der Rohe example, like finding little ways to interject these in areas that surprise people, um, and kind of break them out of their element and remind them in maybe a new context is a way that you can bring core values into the workplace in a way that’s really creative, strong, interesting, and makes people kind of think about them differently and push the boundaries there.

So always looking for opportunities to inject these into the regular work. 

James Sowers: Awesome. Um, you know, I think in my seat and marketing director, I’m going to try to also get them out into the world in some ways. And so taking some of these key messages that we believe in, and we, we try to embody and, and putting them into our marketing messages or landing page, copy our ads, whatever we’re going to do, and maybe start to communicate some of our products and services in a way that’s like, Hey, let us help you get 1% better every day.

You don’t have to be perfect tomorrow. Let’s just get a little bit better every day or, um, Posting something on social media that kind of debunks, one of those dark patterns and says, Hey, you don’t have to have a discount. Pop-up just because they work. Right. Like they do work, but you can still win in in other ways and grow your list this way.

That’s more, um, morally sound, maybe right. Or a better end user experience and kind of respects the customer instead of just holding their attention for ransom for a 10% discount coupon or something like that. So, um, doing the best we can over here, but, but we’ll see, we’ll see, um, I’m excited to see where it goes and.

Yeah, I guess I’ll do the voice over wrap up at the end, but thanks for, thanks for taking the time out of your data to record this. And I appreciate your thoughts and perspectives.

James: Hey everybody, this is James again. And before you go, I just wanted to invite you to join one of the coolest things I get to work on. As director of marketing here at the good it’s called the e-commerce insiders list.
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James Sowers

About the Author

James Sowers

James Sowers is the former Director of The Good Ventures. He has more than a decade of experience helping software and ecommerce companies accelerate their growth and improve their customer experience.