Teraflow Is A Staff First Business! But What Does This Really Mean?

I would contend that the point of business is about people, not profits. I know that’s contrary to the prevailing belief, where profit is the holy grail. But stay with me here!

We both know that a business grows through people! There is this cycle where your staff create and deliver the value that your customers are looking for! A positive process is profitable.

At teraflow.ai, we call this our staff first principle. This means we put our customers second, but the irony is that this approach creates better customer value that translates into solid repeat business and credibility through word of mouth!

But like any core business principle, you have to walk the talk and lead by example! We can’t say we are staff first and then do the opposite, which sends the wrong cultural signals to both staff and clients.

So how do we walk the talk? How do we make sure we are building this principle? I have listed several vital approaches that guide us.

We Trust Our Staff

This one kills me: Corporate hierarchies are bloated with middle managers, typically driven by politics, where decision making gets abdicated from the lower parts to the higher parts.

This leads to the boss being right, often when they are wrong, and the abdication of responsibility and accountability. Very little value is created.

We fix this process by:

  • Employing very well and we have a rigorous recruitment process that allows us to find staff that are technically competent and culturally aligned
  • Replacing managers for mentors. This kills corporate politics.
  • Focus on decentralising our decision making to where out needs to happen and trusting our staff to make the right decisions.
  • Building a culture of learning, and we learn through mentorship and daily experience.
  • Building meaning in the small things.

Let’s look at some of these in more detail:

Empowering Decentralised Decision Making

How effective would your decision making be if you could only see 4% of the problem? Not good and is the idea behind Sidney Yoshida Iceberg of Ignorance that I first read about on the Corporate Rebels website!

The idea is simple: information flows up the hierarchy, reframed to appease the executive’s teams politically motivated expectations.

Most decisions need to happen at the coalface where our staff are working rather than through a centralised leadership structure or committee.

This is why we empower our staff to make the decision at the point of contract. It is relatively easy to employ qualified, capable staff who know they have the company backing to make decisions.

Conceptually this is easy too ay, but very hard to implement!

Focus on Small Micro-Moments of Value and Meaning!

Singularity University sells the idea of building your business around a Massive Transformation Purpose. It’s a great concept, and an excellent example is Elon Musks mission to solve the energy problem with Tesla and SolarCity. Inspiring stuff!

Our mission at Teraflow is not as close to blowing your socks off as Elon Musk. Our purpose is to Make AI Work. Nothing sexy and no great idealised purpose – but it solves most companies’ real customer problems.

The purpose is connected to creating value, and the more value we make, the more meaning we get out of our work. Value sits at the heart of everything we do as human beings, reinforcing our staff first principle.

By approaching purpose differently, we focus on creating individual purpose through the small micro-moments of value creation.

To Thrive As Social Humans, Not Individual Politicians.

Teraflow grows through projects, and everything we do is built as a project. This means we work in teams rather than as individuals. Understanding this allowed us to create a very different business model.

By placing projects at the centre of our business, departments become disciplines, managers are mentors and social cohesion, collaboration and learning are built through teamwork.

As CEO, a big part of my job is breaking down power-plays, political groupings, and centralising control. These all fit into the traditional business model and centralised hierarchy and take away from our staff first approach.

To summarise the above – it may seem a bit idealistic in parts, but I think that’s a good thing. And what I can say is that I have spent the last two years working on this project; it’s not easy. But culture never is – and is something we are always working on!

No two humans are the same, and humans are complex, creative and independent. And that’s a beautiful thing that keeps me inspired to carry on focusing on building out these micro-moments of value. It’s just plain, good business sense.

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