Things We Think Matter

Tim Flannery
Tim Flannery
February 18, 2022

Inspired by Google’s “10 things we know to be true”, this essay outlines the 10 things that we think matter. We developed it because we were growing so quickly. We were a team of 3 founders in September 2021 and will be 25+ team members soon. We needed something to guide people on how to make decisions at Passthrough.

An image showing the things that matter at Passthrough

These things influence everything we do.

  • We screen candidates based on how they’ve exemplified these traits before meeting us.
  • We dedicate time during our employee’s first day to go through them one by one.
  • We evaluate performance based on how the team’s living them at Passthrough.

Some things are individualistic traits, others about our relationships with our customers, and still more about how we work with each other. The only difference between the version that you see here and what we share internally is we have real-life examples from Passthrough to show how these work in practice. We expect these to evolve over time.

If making the private markets more efficient excites you and these values resonate, please reach out or check out our open roles.

Do the right thing

Good and bad customer experiences have large ripple effects at Passthrough because we’re a network-based business. Customers trust us with sensitive information for their firm and investors. Be stewards of their data and never take risks with it. Provide exceptional customer service. Understand that the experience of their investors and providers like law firms impacts the customer experience too. Don’t take shortcuts when you know there’s a better solution.

Learn from our mistakes

We’re going to make mistakes, so let’s take advantage of it. Postmortem Culture: Learning from Failure is required reading for all employees and our postmortems can be found in #postmortems in Slack. The post was written for software engineers but it’s applicable to all teams. Postmortems take time, so our criteria for needing one includes (but isn’t limited to) a service disruption or poor customer outcome. We assume everyone involved in an incident had good intentions and did the best they could with the information they had. We don’t assign blame to the people or teams involved. We avoid pointing fingers and keep it constructive. We share our lessons so everyone can benefit.

Encourage excellence

We believe that for an organization to achieve excellence, the people who work there need to be able to say yes to the following questions:

  1. Am I treated with dignity and respect regardless of pay or title?
  2. Do I receive the resources I need (training, tools, etc.) to excel at my work?
  3. Do I receive encouragement and recognition for my contributions?

People can get by putting in 80% effort in most jobs. We want people putting in 100%. We can't expect you to put in 100% unless you are treated with respect, you have what you need to succeed, and you receive recognition for what you do. When an organization has 100% of its people putting in 100% of their effort, it can achieve excellence. 

It’s on all of us to make sure our colleagues can say yes to these questions.

Trust the process

John Wooden was the most successful coach in US college basketball history. Part of his success was because he understood you can’t control outcomes. There’s randomness to it. But you can control inputs. The first thing he taught his players each year was how to tie their shoelaces. We do care about winning outcomes, but we know the outcomes are the result of a repeatable process. Focus on improving processes and you’ll find outcomes break your way more often.

Own the outcome

One of the best compliments that we can give is “that person just gets stuff done.” Owning something means taking responsibility for the overall result. Whether we’re 15 people or 1,500, we need to trust that when someone says they’re doing something then they’re on it. When there are real, unmovable deadlines, that means getting things done on time. Whether things are going well or not, you communicate progress to avoid surprises.

Act with urgency

Great teammates understand when something needs to be done quickly. They’re responsive and easily communicate what’s going on. They know that sometimes, you have to stop what you’re doing to focus on something more important. They recognize that there are trade-offs. They understand that their actions can block teams or speed them up.

Ask for advice

You’re bound to get into a situation that’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable. While you should take a crack at solving the problem, don’t do it at the expense of time or outcomes. Someone else might have solved it before and can point you in the right direction. Reach out to your manager and colleagues to see if they can help you think about things in a different way. Managers are here to help you succeed. Go to them instead of spinning your wheels. If possible, learn to do it on your own for next time.

Have backbone; disagree and commit

Amazon said it best: “Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.” Leader doesn’t mean management. Leadership is something everyone is capable of, regardless of role or title.

Be direct; ask for the same

When you challenge a decision or need to provide feedback, be direct and unambiguous. If you avoid or dance around the topic, the other person might not hear you. The problem may fester and lead to a negative outcome. Directness leads to better outcomes quicker. To be blameless and direct, we must have the best intentions and assume that others do as well. We’re direct to be helpful, not to bully or be unkind. Bullying is unacceptable.

Always be helpful

Startup outcomes are binary: we succeed or fail as a team. Selfishness isn’t rational in this context. Instead, you should be looking for opportunities to pick your teammates up. It’s especially important when you consider how fast we’re growing and how many new people we have at any time. Always also means always, not just when it’s convenient. Your first priority is to support the team. Your second priority is everything else.

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