Awesome Culture-Building Tip from WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg

I had the privilege of presenting at True Venture’s Founder Camp last Wednesday on building a Values-driven Startup and Scaling Culture.  (As a quick aside, I should mention that everything that happens and is discussed at Founder Camp is confidential by default, and I’ve received explicit permission from Matt and True Ventures to share this.) In one of the discussions that followed, Automattic (and WordPress) founder Matt Mullenweg shared a brilliant, simple tactic that he’s used to help strengthen and scale Automattic’s culture:

Put your Values in your Offer Letter!

Importantly, Matt didn’t use those words exactly. He realized that for his team, words like ‘values’ and ‘culture’ would sound more like buzzwords than a framework for vital business practices.  So he and his team codified their values in the form of the ‘Automattic Creed’, and inserted it into every new employee’s offer letter.

When a new employee copied him on an email with their signed paperwork, Matt noticed that “the offer [letter] didn’t reflect who we were, how we worked, and certainly not how we thought about design and user experience.”  They created the Automattic Creed as a way to clearly answer those questions and ensure that new team members know exactly what’s expected of them and what the company values from the moment they join the team. Now, every new team member is asked to sign on the bottom line and thereby commit to operating in accordance with the Automattic creed.  Talk about commitment to values!  Here it is:

The Automattic Creed
“I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.”

After reading this, you get a clear sense of what Automattic values as a company:

  • Learning
  • Embracing Change
  • Helping Others
  • Humility
  • Impact
  • Open Source
  • Communication
  • Long-Term Focus, and
  • Perseverance.

(For more of the background story on the Automattic Creed, check out Matt’s latest post.)

Imagine the impact of having every one of your employees sign an explicit contract committing to uphold your company’s values from day one (whether in the form of a creed, stated values, principles, or groundrules) and knowing everyday that they’ve made that commitment as part of their agreement to join the company.

If you haven’t inserted your values, creed, principles or groundrules into your offer letter yet, I have only one question for you:


2 Comments on “Awesome Culture-Building Tip from WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg”

  1. Or just keep your values taped to your screen, so you don’t forget or get confused.

  2. Ben Ross says:

    Thanks for sharing Dave – fantastic idea which cuts through the gumpf that is usually in offer letters! I would also add that this set of powerful commitments should be put in front of a candidate way before the offer letter stage also.

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