Let’s talk about trust
People start businesses for multiple reasons. Some start them to become rich, some start them in the urge to build their very own thing from the bottom up, and yet again some people start a business because they are tired of traditional management and want to be their own boss.
When I started out on the entrepreneurial path, I had several agendas. I was sick of what I believed (and still believe) to be a rigid and meaningless school system. I did not want to end up with someone managing me. I wanted to do my own thing, create my own future.
Today, I still feel the urge to be independent, but my overall goal as an entrepreneur has changed quite a lot.
Let’s talk about trust.
Trusting in definition means relying on someone else. For a passionate entrepreneur, letting go of control can seem very counterintuitive. For the Volt founders, this has been no different. How can one be sure that an employee, partner or customer shares ones perspective? The truth might very well be, that one never truly can. Rather, what we can do is increase the chances by trying to build a common vision for where we want to go. Feeling you have established a shared view of where you are all heading, trusting becomes easier.
Clever organizations do this. They do mission statements together with their employees to heighten buy in.
So at Volt we started to do this too. I remember I did a slideshow in spring 2014, where I presented what was supposed to be the vision for Volt. Today, I have forgotten what I wrote on those slides. I don’t remember this first attempt to build a company vision very well. And I can’t even find that slideshow anymore in our chaotic internal cloud storage.
Recently, I had the feeling, that the vision of a company is something you should sense in the office air at all times. I felt that company visions like “creating a better tomorrow” and “building the best technology products” did not really say anything about a company at all. At worst, those words seemed to be hollow shells, covering up for all sorts of potentially unfair stuff happening in the engine room.
I felt that a vision would soon vanish if it was made up by a string of words.
Vision in Volt started to take shape with a transparency exercise we did recently. In the team, we began sharing information about everyone’s salaries. We began talking openly about company revenue and profits, ownership, and we have begun discussing different warrant programmes for employees. We introduced an employee board to have company strategy decisions taken as a group of employees, and not solemnly by investors and founders.
For me, this has led to further thought about the financial assets that Volt is accumulating. What is the fairness of its distribution? How do we distribute it in a way fair not only for formal owners – but also for other contributors – employees and customers?
It might be that true vision springs from belief in each other. In humanity, even. That we all want the best for the person next to us, and that no one in their roots has a true intention to be unfair. Maybe vision is achieved when structures of fear is broken down, and when we dare to become vulnerable. When everyone knows what is going on everywhere, in all layers of an organization there might not be anything left to fear.
In Volt I sense that a shared feeling of fairness, openness and honesty is gradually becoming more important than anything else. It is making us more productive and focused, because increasingly less energy is spent on speculating. This vision attracts like minded people and organizations, for whom creating a positive impact on the world is much more important than absurdly big financial returns. I feel how it eases the way we talk, discuss and negotiate with partners, customers and fellow employees. It is becoming our new common ground. I see rigid and formal structures dropping away as trust in each other is achieved.
For Team Volt and contributors, there is still so much to do. I hope that this will keep expanding and that we can continue to build something far beyond a financially successful company.
We’re just cracking it open.
Tobias Aabye Dam
Co-founder and CEO @ Volt