The Values That Drive Us
By Casai CEO Nico Barawid
Thousands of guests, tens of thousands of nights stayed, hundreds of employees, and a global pandemic later, Casai is a totally different company than the one Maricarmen and I envisioned a year ago. When we first drew up our company values, it felt like a theoretical exercise. What did we hope the company would be? What aspects of our own value systems did we want our team to prioritize? What parts of our old companies did we want to import?
Fast forward to today and our culture is not at all theoretical. Hundreds of micro and macro decisions are made every day. And what are values if not a set of criteria teammates use to make decisions (consciously or not)?
So we embarked on an exercise, that at times waxed philosophical, to determine “what is Casai?” We did this in three parts.
First, we benchmarked companies and studied the latest OD psychology to see how we could create a high-performing culture that was also supportive of our teammates’ goals.
- What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz
- The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
- Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock
- High Output Management by Andy Grove
- Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
And more, but those are the ones I would recommend every entrepreneur to read
Second, we surveyed the team and held interviews across 10+ functions. As we built the survey, we tested behaviors along the axes defined in The Culture Factor. We presented scenarios to the team with two possible scenarios and went through several iterations, ensuring there was a clear right answer. We wanted to understand how aligned the team was in decision making and how it differed among teammates that had been at Casai for one day vs. one year. We were pleasantly surprised to learn how aligned the team’s responses were and that they were almost universally what us founders would have chosen as well
Finally, we combined the learnings from the theoretical benchmarks with the actual surveyed behaviors and made adjustments to our pre-existing values. So with that context, I’m excited to present the five values that drive our company today!
1. Love our guests by creating unforgettable experiences.
- We only exist because of our guests, so treat them like royalty.
- Getting to five stars is a collective effort and everyone’s individual responsibility.
- When it comes to anticipating our guests’ needs, ask for forgiveness, not consent.
- “No” should never be the final solution.
- Create meaningful connections with guests.
2. Trust the team and lose the ego.
- Love our team as much as we love our guests and trust others to do the right thing.
- Highlight wins and show gratitude.
- There’s always another side. If you have questions or concerns, be transparent and ask your teammate directly.
- Feedback is a gift, so seek it constantly.
- Roll up your sleeves; no job is beneath anyone or outside anyone’s scope.
3. Enjoy solving problems.
- Casai is a marathon. Enjoy the journey.
- Many challenges will arise daily, so prioritize ruthlessly and communicate.
- Instead of getting frustrated, take control and solve problems.
- Be proactive, raise your hand and propose solutions.
- Go the extra mile to deliver excellence.
4. Experiment and celebrate trying.
- Encourage creativity and always question the status quo.
- Prioritize agility over agonizing over a wrong decision. Most can be corrected.
- Accept failure as part of the journey. Pick yourself back up, learn fast and move on.
- Debate with data and facts, not opinions.
- Always pursue knowledge. Self-improvement is a constant exercise.
5. Leave the world a better place than we found it.
- It’s not enough to avoid doing bad; we should actively do good.
- Have a bias toward sustainability.
- Be open-minded and actively seek diverse teammates and opinions.
- Actively call out injustice.
- Play the long-term game.
Candidly, coming up with the values was the easy part. Every company can put corporate platitudes on the wall, but living them is the real challenge. In order to put actions behind our words, we’re implementing “quick wins” and embedding these into our people practices.
The quick wins include:
- Choosing a “guest story of the week” and presenting it at our weekly team meeting.
- Every Friday, teammates posts in two Slack channels:
- the #obrigracias channel, where teammates give shout-outs for above-and-beyond work, directly relating to our values.
- the #fuck-up-fridays channel, where each person shares a personal story of a fuck-up they had that week, followed by a GIF 🙂
- In a practice we learned from the Navy SEALs and Pixar, we’re going to normalize post-mortem meetings for every project to openly debrief and give collective feedback.
- In a practice we learned from Google, we’re going to implement a “Bureaucracy Buster” survey where teammates can volunteer procedures or policies they view overly onerous.
- We’re starting a sustainability committee and a diversity committee of volunteers to drive action for our fifth value.
- We have implemented weekly, 5-question surveys designed to measure workplace satisfaction and engagement.
- We created icons for each value, then made them Slack emojis, so we could highlight behavior that exemplified a values.
We’re revamping all of our hiring, performance evaluations, and promotion criteria so they are more aligned to the values. While we can’t expect all teammates to spike on all values, we do want to build an organization of spikey individuals and a well-balanced team. We are beginning to build a team similar to Google’s People Innovation Lab to augment our existing People & Culture team’s capabilities with data science and PhD-level rigor.
As you can tell, our team is one that is distinctive: customer-and team-obsessed, egoless, proactive, data-driven, and, above all, committed to making the world a better place. We have benefitted immensely from studying (and experiencing!) organizations we immensely respect and can only hope to combine the best of all of them and join their ranks.