10 reasons my team hates working for Saleswhale

Gabriel Lim Avatar

Gabriel Lim | 24 June 2020

My name is Gabriel, and I'm the co-founder and CEO at Saleswhale.

Now, there are many reasons why people hate working at Saleswhale.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you the top 10 reasons based on our operating principles.

Operating Principle #1 - Bias for action

We frown upon people who like to talk about raw ideas, but are tentative about execution. They spend their time over-analyzing and drafting proposals. They wait around for their managers to give them permission to run with an idea.

We appreciate people who tell us, "I tried two things last week. One bombed, and this is what I learnt. The other seems promising. Here's the data. I'm going to double down on it."

We value calculated risk taking.

We believe in the tenet - "Ask for forgiveness, not permission."

We believe that speed matters. We think that most decisions in business are reversible anyways. And we should look to test cheaply, rather than indulge in extensive deliberation. 

Ideas are cheap. The rudder only works when the ship is moving.

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The first-order effect of this operating principle is chaos. Seriously. There are dozens of initiatives and experiments running at any given point in time.

People who love to draw up extremely detailed plans before executing, will hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #2 - Ship weekly

“Real artists ship.” - Steve Jobs

We ship weekly, no matter how small the scope. We maintain that every project can be broken down into small, weekly wins.

We are OK with shipping before it’s perfect.

We believe in iteration. Shipping weekly allows us to start the customer feedback loop as quickly as possible so we can learn how to improve.

This is not an excuse for us to be sloppy, or deliver shoddy work. Conversely, this allows us to ship even more thoughtful and high quality products / projects.

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Most people are initially embarrassed by the first iteration of work they put out at Saleswhale. People feel latent pressure to deliver weekly wins. Some don't operate well with such a fast-paced cadence. Others find it liberating.

People with a perfectionist streak, will hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #3 - Seek feedback, not consensus

We want people to have conviction around their ideas. Break some glass. We don't believe in kumbaya or false harmony in our teams. We believe some level of debate and disagreements is healthy.

What are we optimizing for? The best idea.

We seek feedback to get to the best idea, not to create agreements or consensus. Consensus only leads to mediocrity.

Every project, initiative and sub-bet has a directly responsible individual (DRI). This DRI owns the final decision. They are expected to choose the best idea, over social cohesion, every time.

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Some people prefer to have consensus around decisions. Or to make decisions by committee.

This may include taking everyone's feelings into consideration when making a decision - such as giving a neglected team mate a "win" for an idea proposed, even though it's not the best idea.

People who would chose social cohesion over breaking glass in pursuit of the best idea, will hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #4 - The customer informs everything we do

We put the customer at the center of all our decisions, instead of what’s best for ourselves or our team.

We practice empathy for the customer. And we do so by talking to customers.

Marketers are expected to listen to sales Gong calls. Engineers are expected to do customer support duty. We are obsessive about the customer experience.

We seek to understand the customers’ problems and goals so well, that we can anticipate their wants.

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Leaders at Saleswhale always start with the customer, and work backwards.

People who resist talking to customers, or seek to deeply understand them, will find it hard to contribute in meetings - because their intuition and taste for customers' needs, start to drift off-course over time.

People who don't enjoy "getting out of the building", and talking to customers - will hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #5 - Be scrappy and resourceful

Four words commonly uttered by people who rise quickly through the ranks at Saleswhale: “I’ll figure it out.”

We don’t always know how we will make something happen, but we know we will figure it out.

Keith Rabois summarizes the perfect archetype of an early-stage startup employee here -

“You need people who are tenacious. The tenacity of going over a wall, under a wall, through a wall, making friends with the wall, figuring out why the wall doesn't matter. That’s a core skill most startups need.”

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Sometimes, it may feel like one is pushed to achieve the impossible, with a shoestring budget, and with barely any resources.

e.g. Being playfully challenged to deliver 1,000 webinar registrations, for one's first webinar, with $0 budget.

People who prefer working towards easy, achievable goals would probably hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #6 - Play to win

Corollary to the above, we hold each other to uncomfortably high standards, and set big goals as a team.

There’s not going to be comfort.

When we start to get comfortable with something, it’s a signal our goals are no longer big enough, and we should raise the bar.

When we take big swings, we risk big disappointment. That's OK.

We ask hard questions:

“How can we take this to the next level?”

“How can we 10X this?”

"Is this really the best idea we can come up with?"

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Saleswhale operates with an intense cadence.

We are not content to eke out a win. We want to sweep the board.

We want to build an enduring franchise, and fulfill our mission of placing an AI assistant in every company.

People who are at a stage in their career where they are happy to coast, and/or have nothing to prove anymore, would probably hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #7 - Reject conventional wisdom; always think from first principles

There’s nothing we hate more, than to hear things like, “This is what we did at Zendesk / Salesforce, this is why we should do it too. And that's that.”

We are an early-stage startup, occupying a unique niche, in a nascent category, selling to a differentiated audience, operating in a very noisy landscape.

What works for others, most probably won’t work for us.

We expect our team mates to have the intellectual rigour to reason from first principles.

This doesn't mean that we reinvent the wheel every time. We just don't follow dogma blindly.

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An easier way to describe this operating principle is to "always be truth-seeking".

We constantly seek the ground truth. We are willing to be wrong. Sometimes, we contemplate things that seem improbable, divergent or surprising if true.

People who prefer to follow established processes and "industry best practices" would probably hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #8 - No shitty meetings

We detest pointless, long meetings. Zoom fatigue is a very real thing.

Saleswhale has a culture of writing. This means lots of memos.

We believe that writing things down forces you to clarify your thoughts.

Any meeting with more than 2 people & longer than 20 minutes, requires a thoughtful memo to be circulated to the participants before.

Meetings always start with reading memos.

It's OK to tell your team members and managers, “Nothing much to discuss this week. I’ll update what I shipped in our shared memo. Unless you have any burning things to discuss, let’s cancel the upcoming meeting.”

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People who join Saleswhale, will soon get used to doing a lot of writing. And reading.

We have literally thousands of memos in our company-wiki -- from data infrastructure, to marketing campaigns, to sales playbooks. 

People who (a) hate writing; (b) hate reading; (c) derive a power trip from large, long meetings, will probably hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #9 - Extreme ownership

We take extreme ownership of our results, of both the success and failures.

When something doesn't work out the way we want it to, we don’t point fingers, make excuses, or sugarcoat. We tell it as it is.

Our CEO likes to say, “If you wait for your manager to give you responsibility, Saleswhale is the wrong place for you.”

If we don't understand our mission or strategy, it's on us to get clear and ensure our plan supports it. We are empowered to ask questions and debate if we need clarification.

We are all on this mission together, but we are responsible for our own understanding.

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We believe a lot in autonomy at Saleswhale.

We want to empower our people to be self-starters, and create/run projects they believe in. But this doesn't work without the right people.

People who prefer for their managers to tell them exactly what to do, will probably hate working at Saleswhale.

Operating Principle #10 - Be a relentless, curious, learning machine

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up, and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.” - Charlie Munger

We bring a spirit of learning to everything we do.

We avoid being intellectually comfortable and stuck in our ways.

We are curious. We read, listen, and are not afraid to ask (seemingly stupid) questions. We are shameless about approaching external experts for help. We are comfortable to admit we don’t know something.

We are also curious about our customers, and we seek to understand them deeply.

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As an early-stage startup, Saleswhale is growing and changing rapidly. Things evolve significantly month to month.

People who don't have the hunger, and resourcefulness to learn and get better everyday, will soon be left behind. And, you guessed it - will probably hate working for Saleswhale.

PS. Does the above sound fun to you? Are you a sadist?

If you are marketer that's looking (or even somewhat looking) for a new adventure - Saleswhale is hiring for our first U.S. Marketing Director - Check it out here!

PPS. We are building a free tool to help you increase webinar conversions dramatically - the industry's first Email Webinar AI Assistant. Check it out here.

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Gabriel Lim Avatar

Gabriel Lim

Co-founder & CEO at Saleswhale


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