Thursday, August 11, 2022

Evaluating a Company to Join, Culture: Mission & Values

If you’ve been trying to break Into Health Tech (or the start up world in general), hopefully you’ve been so productive that you have a list of companies you’d like to find a way to join.  So how do you evaluate a start-up?  

Taking a job is a prospective investment of your future time for a combination of daily experience: learning & doing, and financial rewards for success. Contrast this with monetary investments, which represent the past commitment of time.  For some reason or another, we seem to be much pickier at avoiding losses than seeking gains.  

I have come to strongly emphasize how my time is spent because “how we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.”  Before we get into specifics of the role and title, let’s look at how you might evaluate a company as a whole, starting with it’s Culture.

The culture of an organization is a product of the mission, values, people (with heavy emphasis on senior leadership) that determines how a company is going to choose to solve problems.  It is said that Culture eats Strategy for lunch, so you better pay attention.  The culture created by company leadership, often the founding leadership, will determine the bounds of your experience– how each day will unfold, what is acceptable vs. forbidden, how you celebrate the highs and your experience during the lows.  

Here is one of the many, many great examples of culture at Iora Health.  While building the amazing Culinary Extra Clinic (CEC) in Las Vegas, Iora secured an apartment to ease the weekly commute from Boston (this all made sense at the time).  On the eve of my final trip to provide patient care and attend amazing farewell parties, my impatient son decided to come out early.  The entire company rallied around my family and CEC, covering patients, hopping on flights, missing spousal birthdays, inventing reverse telemedicine, etc.  The ever unflappable Rushika, Iora’s Co-founder, CEO and my Vegas roommate, came to visit us at the hospital and requested a duffel bag so that he could pack up my end of the apartment and bring my stuff home.  This time is only one of the many acts of kindness that defined Iora’s culture– empathy for each other especially in the hard times.  May each of you be as lucky as we were to create and work in such a wonderful place. 

Mission & Values
The mission of the company– what it sets out to do and why, combined with its values, how it chooses to behave in pursuit of that mission– are ultimately the most important thing in evaluating a company to join.  The reason is, these are the least likely to change over any period of time, so it is best to be inspired and in agreement with them up front.  Everything else– leadership teams, business models, products, markets, may change over time and each change will impact the mission, but in general the conditions and decisions made at the beginning tend to be very sticky.  Remember that later when we talk about stage later on.  

Mission alignment carries you through the hard days and directs you on the easy days.  Mission conflict will make you a very annoying member of any team, just go do something else. Values alignment grows you as a person while generating skill, confidence and calm.  Values misalignment creates irreducible friction that will spill over into every area of your life as you try to avoid it.  

Understanding the true mission and values of a company is challenging because a company may not know itself (this is bad). First, read any materials the company has published.  Second, ask!  Ask your interviewers, employees you meet, investors if you can about the mission and values and look for harmony or disharmony.  A company that says one thing and does another is a painful place to work, you can expect chaos and disappointment.  Spend time with the links above to learn more.  Needless to say, a company that lives its own mission and values that happen to match your own is a company you can stay at pretty much forever. 

Next time we will round out Culture with a look at the People that matter most inside an organization.

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