How our core values helped us grow in 2020
March 11th is a day I’ll never forget. My cofounder, Alexey, had arrived in the US from Kyiv, and our team was scheduled to join us for a weeklong project kickoff with a new client. Shortly thereafter, our respective governments (and many others) announced national borders would be closing.
Our first priority was our client(s), whom we met with immediately. We also cancelled the flights for our team, and quickly brainstormed plans to conduct the new project kickoff remotely. Meanwhile, we were trying to schedule Alexey a flight back to Kyiv, as well as planning an all-hands meeting to inform our team that Transcenda would be shifting to a fully remote work mode. I like to think I’m tough, but I was terrified we’d lose everything we worked so hard to build, and I knew we couldn’t make any false promises to the team given the unprecedented situation unfolding.
When I co-founded Transcenda in August of 2019, I knew the path to success would require grit, however, I never anticipated what was to come. Someone recently asked if I would do it again knowing what I know now – that a once in a lifetime global pandemic would spread around the globe impacting every facet of life while sending the world into a massive economic recession. My answer was an immediate and resounding yes.
My “why” is simple: our team, our clients, and our mission. I couldn't let down our client that day, the same way I knew I couldn’t let down our team either.
I was committed, and commitment isn’t easy (especially during a global pandemic), but when I commit, I am all in. In some ways, the pandemic really helped Transcenda, in that we experienced intense growing pains and setbacks, but my resolve only strengthened. I have to say, the pandemic galvanized my focus, drive, and vision for Transcenda.
Since that day, we’ve quadrupled in size and exceeded our 2020 business plans. This success was achieved through people: our clients and our team. I believe our core values allowed us to retain our client base and our team, thus empowering us to continue our growth trajectory.
Our survival and success can be explained through our mission statement ”We put people first and strive to be a changemaker by building a better future through technology.” The “people first” component is critical to who we are at Transcenda, and this mentality is something we embrace in its relation to the products we build, the clients we work with, and the team members who make us who we are. As part of this “people first” mentality, we’ve focused on living our core values since day one.
I believe that focusing on Transcenda’s basic company tenets is what has gotten us through the proverbial pandemic storm, and, in turn, has led to surviving, growing, and now thriving. We lead with our values in everything we do, which is the reason we are where we are today, and why we’ve been able to achieve our 2020 growth goals. Thus, I’d love the chance to elucidate on our core values, and how I believe they helped contribute to our success.
Customer First Mindset
At Transcenda, a customer first mindset encourages us to put the needs of our customers first. While simple in theory, this takes a concerted effort and even bravery at times. There are occasions when what a customer asks for may not actually be what is best for their product or their own customers, and it’s our responsibility to strike the delicate balance of telling our customers what they need to hear versus what they think they want to hear. We believe in ensuring we understand not just what we need to build, but also why we need to build it, and what business problem it is solving. In doing so, we align ourselves to our clients’ needs, both spoken and unspoken, to ensure the solutions we build will be wildly successful.
As our clients were faced with the challenges brought by Covid, which necessitated the re-evaluation of their roadmaps, we provided recommendations around technical tradeoffs and product feature prioritization. Furthermore, we acted as both a guide and sounding board versus a heads-down team awaiting orders. We put the needs of our customers first by proactively anticipating their needs. For example, when we determined that one of our clients could benefit from usability improvements of their product, we offered complimentary design services knowing that budgets were limited. In doing so, our client was able to gain new customers to their product which strengthened our relationship as their trusted partner.
By doing the right thing and always putting our customers’ needs first, we all benefit from their product success.
Always Finding a Better Way
My daughter is 6 and has the unique experience of attending school virtually this year since in-person school has closed. Due to this, our once adult basement bar has been transformed into a first grade classroom, and I’ve subsequently learned that much of what is taught in first grade can be applied to business. We have a wall in her classroom called Always Finding a Better Way with examples of how she can strive to always do better, which is modeled off of our approach at Transcenda.
At Transcenda, by promoting our value of Always Finding a Better Way, we strive to always improve and deliver beyond expectations and find new and better solutions for our clients. Good enough is never good enough; therefore we have expectations for high quality products and processes. For example, in a recent end of year conversation with our VP of Engineering, Joe Chereshnovsky, I shared how well I felt he did over the past year, and highlighted some of what I considered his key achievements. In classic Joe fashion, he immediately launched into all the areas he believed he could have done better, and his action plans for 2021 related to the opportunity areas he identified.
As our clients faced uncertainty and fear during Covid, and then braced themselves for the new normal, they were able to count on our team to Always Find a Better Way.
Embrace and Embody an Ownership Attitude
Our clients faced tough decisions as the world shut down. Many were facing revenue shortfalls, and, as a result, tough financial decisions. We managed to maintain every client engagement throughout the year, and I believe this is in large part due to our team’s ownership attitude. There is no “that’s not my job” mentality at Transcenda, but rather “what is the problem, let me see how I can help.” We are proactive when something goes wrong, we keep our promises, and deliver results. We practice “we” in accomplishments, “me” in commitments and responsibilities, and we’re all willing to pitch in wherever we can in pursuit of a common goal regardless of our role.
What does this mean to me personally? This means, when needed, I am happy to fetch the coffee, personally work on resourcing, and do whatever hands-on work I can in support of empowering our team to deliver for our clients. I frequently join team calls at 4, 5, or 6 am EST as I know that it’s best for both our team and clients if any internal meetings take place prior to our client’s workday. And when things get tough, instead of haggling over the minimal “contractual obligations,” I work with our team to ensure we deliver to expectation and go above and beyond, whether or not that means Transcenda absorbs the cost of additional resourcing or overtime hours.
To reiterate, our clients were facing revenue shortfalls and tough financial decisions as the world shut down. Still, we managed to maintain every client engagement throughout the year. I believe this is in large part due to our team’s ownership attitude.
Respect and Promote Diversity and Inclusion in all Facets
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion benefits our clients in primarily two ways. Our clients care about working with people and companies who do the right things and a commitment to diversity and inclusion is one of those mandatory things. So firstly, we are decent people trying to do the right thing who wholeheartedly believe in ensuring we uphold our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Secondly, we build better products because of diversity and unique viewpoints. There’s a reason the ideal innovation team is a diverse team. By bringing together different people with different viewpoints, our clients are empowered to better serve their own diverse customer base. Diversity in perspective is key, especially when building products for and with a global clientele.
Keep It Fun
Smile, don’t take yourself too seriously, and find the humor in the everyday all while doing great work. Keeping things fun creates a happier and more productive team, which in turn leads to better business outcomes for our clients, as well as a more enjoyable working experience with Transcenda. Let’s be honest, we’d all much rather attend a meeting with happy, energetic people who can find humor even during stressful times.
At Trascenda, keeping it fun means taking time to make small talk, smiling, saying something nice, and finding ways to laugh, even if it leads to a little self embarrassment. As the CEO of Transcenda, I strive to promote our values which means I’ve been caught in all sorts of semi-embarrassing, yet fun, situations including: leading a game of “I am a Tree” in the middle of a bowling alley or crowded elevator in Kyiv, or wearing a cat mask to a recent Zoom meeting. I take my work seriously, but I believe in promoting fun at the same time. I have learned that a little levity can go a long way, especially in times of crisis.
In summary, we put people first and strive to be a changemaker in building a better world through technology. By putting our team and our clients first through our values, we’ve been able to flourish during the most challenging of times. Transcenda’s core values became our lodestone during 2020, and they guided us to success. I’m sure there are plenty of surprises ahead, but I know that by adhering to our core values and mission, we’ll be able to continue to grow and feel proud of who we are and what we do.