1 The Must Win Way A Guide to Surviving the Revolution Copyright 2015, MustWin, LLC All Rights Reserved.
2 The All Star Web and Mobile Consultancy Founded by early Yammer developers to provide All Star product design, development, and project management services. The All Star Web & Mobile Consultancy This is who we are and this is why clients pay a premium to work with us. Our jobs as All Stars is to amaze our clients with what we can do, how well we can do it, and how fast we can deliver it. The more urgent the project the quicker we want them to think of us. We ve hired you because we think you can help us deliver on this ethos. Every single day we expect you to strive to be clutch for our clients. That is the mindset we live in. Mistakes will be made, things won t always go as planned, shit happens. We get it, we really do. But more often than not we win. When we don t we don t dwell on it. We learn from it and do it better next time. Must Win is a bootstrapped company The founders, Mike Ihbe and Wil Everts, own the company 50/50. MustWin, LLC has no investors because they feel strongly about being free to run the company as they see fit. They also have no plan to exit. Because of this our company offers healthy bonuses, competitive compensation, value-based raises, and benefits. We reward additional effort with additional upside you feel immediately rather than a potential future pay day that may or may not arrive in the form of stock options. Photo: The Must Win team and guests enjoy a day of zip lining ( shaka brah! ) in Costa Rica as part of our Summer Hack Week in 2014!
3 Why Companies Want to Work With Us For Mike and I, this is a passion, not just a profession. We ve spent years cultivating unique and game-changing combinations of skills from scaling enormous apps to reconceptualizing an entire product. We exude passion and excitement for our customers and their products, we seek ways to help even where we weren t asked to, and live for challenging deadlines. When customers decide they want to work with Must Win they do so because they want to work with the fastest, the best, the most driven people they can find. Just talking with us they understand that we want to win for them, not just for us. The Yammer Legacy Mike and I were both part of the first-100 members of the Yammer team. Yammer was famous for having a unique, forward-thinking, style doing things like Saying no to clients and releasing new features and A/B tests every week was unheard of in Enterprise when they came on the scene. Their product development team was eventually purchased by MSFT for $1.2 billion not because of the product s value, but because they expect Yammer to teach them how to be a modern product organization as MSFT shifts into the cloud-based SaaS arena. Because of this, a radical, forward-thinking, splinter cell from Yammer is really attractive if you re looking to build a product. Why not use the guys MSFT went to to save their company? The Triangle Offense When I left Yammer it was because as we got big the whole thing became this really boring assembly line. There was little autonomy, and it became routine/uninspiring. Before this, at another company, I had worked on a team that stumbled on the basis for what I think is the absolute fastest, highest performing, leanest possible product development team, the Triangle Offense. The gist of it is this. You build a large team of multi-talented people. Then you break them into groups of threes that combine to include product management, ux design, front-end development, back end development, and any other skills a project or feature might require. You define the end result as lightly as possible, making the business objective clear, and let this team decide what to implement, how to implement it, and how to judge its success. As we ve grown we ve looked for people that could eventually replicate the combination of tools and work ethic Mike and I do. People that we can entrust the same confidence to be able to run the Triangle Offense for themselves. It works incredibly well, but it s super demanding of the team. So If you like to be pushed to grow, to learn new things, to find ways to make products better, to take more on, and to own every aspect of your work then you re at the right place! If not RUN NOW!
4 1 Our Ethos I will not lose. - Jay Z Our Ethos is pretty simple, get the job done well and fast. Here s how we define success for client projects: 1) Did the client get what they needed? There s more to this than building what they asked us to build. Anyone can do that. Our customers don t come to us for a Bob the Builder employee. They hire us to help them deliver what their product needs to succeed. If you see a better way to do something your job is to speak up, early. Then deliver what everyone agrees upon.
5 2) Did we deliver it on time? One of the things we pride ourselves on is being FAST, which brings in quite a bit of fixed-timeline business to the company. Delivery can sometimes get away from us due to unforeseen circumstances, product changes, etc. But, in light of those issues our job is to manage expectations and set a new target date as early as we can, and then deliver it on time. Speak up when you know you re behind so we move the timeline or throw additional firepower your way. 3) Did we deliver it on budget? Barring agreed upon work additions that increase the budget we should always come up under budget. If we don t then we either failed to estimate properly (a cardinal sin at Must Win) or we fell down on the job. Once again, the key is to manage expectations when the budget increases due to a new feature or when it becomes apparent that the project will go over budget. Clients hate surprises. 4) Will they wear our T-Shirt in public? The key to our future success is reliant upon thoroughly satisfied customers. Customers who like and respect us enough to refer us to their personal acquaintances. We must make every effort to build a strong rapport with the clients while also delivering on Time, above expectation, every time. When we can t deliver on that promise it s our job to make sure we apologize, reset expectations, and make it right. Image: Our First Tee Shirt, illustration by Tom Gatewood based on one he made for the original Mustw.in website (our original domain name.)
6 2 We Are Stars You can never quit. - Ted Turner There are a few essential traits we look for when we're adding new talent to our team. Every position's needs vary, not all things are equal in the decision making process, and a strength in one area can overcome a deficit elsewhere. But, the following are some of the traits I look for first when evaluating All-Star Designers and Developers. 1) They re good communicators and set realistic expectations At a distributed company, communication is a potential hazard. Because we have to work collaboratively and
7 asynchronously, we have to put in the extra effort to ensure we re communicating well. Most important to this is setting realistic estimates, and if an estimate turns out to be unrealistic, we need to communicate that the expectations have changed as quickly as possible. 2) They re experts and have wide skill sets We're looking for the kind of people who are always learning new things, pushing themselves, seeking out challenges. Multi-functional professionals who can thrive in multiple roles. Clients come to us for a wide variety of reasons, so the more hats our talent can wear (be it as an expert or as a role-player) the more valuable they are to our team. Both our founders are end-to-end engineers, but Mike s specialty lays in software design and back end engineering while Wil is known for front-end development, design, and product conceptualization. 3) They have a "Let's Do" attitude It's one thing to be willing to do what someone tells you to do and another altogether to see what needs doing and do it. We're looking for someone who embodies the latter, a "Maker." They enjoy solving problems and then shipping the fix. They always have a project they're tinkering with on the side, and a list of stuff they want to build. 4) They are irreverently creative problem solvers Creative problem solvers tend to have a playful nature, a penchant for mischief even. They aren't beholden to convention, often find the simplest solution to a problem, and aren't afraid to be themselves. These kind of people not only have some of the most amazing ideas but are also a riot to work with. 5) They have the tenacity to finish "Tenacious people are self-starters who won t quit until the job is complete. This trait allows us to delegate tasks and trust that they ll get completed. That is so important to our success and truly makes it wonderful to work with our team." - Mike Ihbe (Maintaining Velocity) From 5 Traits of All Star Startup Talent by Wil Everts We believe that it s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you're willing to hire and fire based on them. If you're willing to do that, then you're well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build. Tony Hsieh Founder of Zappos
8 3 Our Manifesto And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is found. This is it... this is where I belong " I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again... I know you all - The Conscience of a Hacker (AKA The Hacker Manifesto)
9 Article One: Make Your Own Conclusions Hype rolls onto the shores of the valley like a never ending set of waves, some more rideable than others. Greatness comes from having the audacity to challenge the status quo. We aim to be a pragmatic respite from the hype. There s no cure for the common cold, just a billion dollar industry in making it more bearable. There is no best cold medicine. Truth is one might be good for sinus pressure while another is good for breaking up phlegm, etc. Similarly technology, programming languages, frameworks, and management methodologies all evangelize themselves as the best possible solution when in fact they might just be a good solution for a particular brand of problem. Test things out, play with them, hack them, and make your own conclusions. Things are rarely as black and white as the hype would have you believe. A Gawker user upon seeing the Twitter MVP in 2007 commented, Twitter is well on its way to [taking] the Overhyped Crown away from Second Life. While down quite a bit this year, Twitter is now worth $22.61 Billion (market cap.) Article Two: Why not ask, Why not? Assumptions are just that. They are in no way true. Anything you assume is usually a half-truth or a generalization that once served a useful purpose but now acts to hinder truly creative solutions. Richard Laermer In 2005, Must Win founder Wil Everts was offered a job at Facebook. At the time, MySpace was enormous, everyone was on it and Facebook was like MySpace for college kids. I skipped college so, MySpace-U seemed uninteresting. It appeared that social media was locked down. So, I turned them down. A stupid, close-minded, seven-figure mistake.
10 Article Three: Embrace Chaos Startups are chaotic environments. Things change rapidly, products and features pivot, client feedback and testing force you to rethink things, etc. A certain amount of chaos is inherent in this business. We also have a certain amount of organizational chaos built in to our recipe. But, in our chaos there is calculation. We re huge proponents of eradicating wasteful processes. Doing things like dropping paperwork (like high-detail tech specifications), cutting meetings, working remotely, using more crude wireframes before moving to HTML (rather than doing sketches, detailed wireframes, PSDs, & then HTML), and even at times not specifying something at all beyond a vague feature title. We trust the product sense and technical capacity of our boots on the ground. Why specify something for a dev who knows this tech better than I do when a github issue with a pair of sentences could do the job. Seems silly. We do this because it makes us faster, but also because we believe strongly in allowing people to own their work. So we hope you view this independence, autonomy, and ownership that our chaos provides as a blessing for a talent like yourself it should be! Article Four: Stand on the Shoulders of Giants Reinventing the wheel never made a project run quicker. Today, in the era of GitHub and Stack Overflow, there are millions of libraries and snippets one could use as a starting point for just about any job imaginable. How much time can this save? On a given MVP project we use anywhere from open source libraries. Most of these are ones we use often (think Ruby, Node, Bootstrap, Angular, Devise, etc.), others are libraries we use for feature-specific needs (charting libraries, API integrations, etc.) Imagine how much time you can save if you have the choice between writing libraries or using ones written by thousands of contributors over the course of the last five years. What are the odds you can reasonably write something better than they could, more quickly? Even if their library doesn t do everything you need it to it will most likely be better to extend it than start from the ground zero. Article Five: Simplicity is Sacred It s extremely important to avoid gold plated features and overly complex code. The more simple you can make your work the easier it will be to maintain in the future. Saving not only cost today but going forward. Speed today
11 at the cost of tomorrow is not what we re after. Simple, maintainable, and reusable code is what we re after. Embrace simplicity in your engineering. The best engineering usually isn t showy or intense-looking. Given the same result, the simpler code is more valuable to your organization. This will often be unsatisfying to people s egos, but the best engineers have nothing to prove. When I actually became a real engineer, I realized the simpler I could build something and the less it needed documentation and illustration, the better off my coworkers were the faster we could all build the thing we were hired to build. Kris Gale, VP of Engineering, Yammer MustWin tends to optimize for delivering the maximum scope in the shortest time given a fixed budget. This means that we tend to make choices that maximize our output, even at the possible expense of other things. So we choose tools for these criteria: Effectiveness, Expertise, Expressiveness, and Ecosystem. Because we work on lots of projects we have lots of opportunity to experiment. If you have something you want to test, tell us! At the end of the day our and our clients companies ability to survive might just depend on every advantage we can muster! Hypothesize, test, measure, repeat Article Six: Measure Everything When you re running an experiment, how do you measure success? These are things we need to understand going in to everything we do. There are tradeoffs with any process or lack there of, but have you measured them? We like to think of ourselves as technology agnostic at Must Win. All too often a programmer s career is defined by the flavor-of-the-week tools they adopt. Suddenly they are the Ruby on Rails expert and in order to preserve and elevate their own position they become evangelists, they write posts about their tool s superiority, etc. Photo: (from left) Employee #1, Jeanette LeFevre, and Must Win Founders, Mike Ihbe and Wil Everts, straight thuggin in April 2014!
12 Article Seven: Know Who You Are As we mentioned in Chapter 2, we are stars. We ve worked with a lot of people over the years and we ve chosen to work with you because we see a star in you. Even if you re junior we still see the core traits within you and think you have talent or we wouldn t be working with you. You belong here. Beyond the swagger that should come with knowing we believe you have a bright future, knowing yourself what makes you tick, what your goals are, how to get the best from yourself, what life and productivity hacks work for you is also an enormous competitive advantage in life. Don t be afraid to turn the machine back onto yourself, either. Embracing the chaos of everyday life, being open minded, seeking out simplicity, learning new things, and experimenting with new ways of doing things are all great ways to live your life and learn who you are as well. Article Eight: Set Your Own Standards Part of the power of knowing yourself is coming to your own conclusions about what you want to achieve professionally. The standards set by the average shop in our industry and developers in the community are by no means the end all be all pinnacle. Strive for a level of speed, professionalism, and quality that will amaze people. Either via simplicity, ease of use, scalability, or aesthetic beauty seek to delight our customers and end users at every turn. Article Nine: Expose Yourself Don t be afraid to show work before it s done. Show it early, show it at every stopping point and turn. Hoarding it longer until you think it s perfect doesn t help, actually. If somethings wrong with it early it ll only get more wrong, better to know quickly. Likewise, in your career it s important to be open. Write on a blog, be active on social media. Who would you hire? A creative problem solver who is super-passionate about your product or industry and writes poignant thoughts about it on their blog or a self-proclaimed 10x developer who just wants to collect a pay check. It s not good enough to just be good enough. You need to make it obvious to the world who you are. What are you passionate about? Snowboarding? Cool. Dubstep? Okay. Doing what we re hiring for? Perfect! If I was hiring a new guitarist for Bon Jovi, and you wanted to be that guitarist, you better be able to tell me who your influences are (it wouldn t hurt if Richie Sambora was on that list somewhere.) Skinny cooks can t be trusted, fatten up.
13 4 Company Policies Photo: Must Win does two week long trips with the team every year. This is a selfie founder Wil Everts shot in Costa Rica of the crew rolling deep on ATVs.
14 Remote Life We provide an immense amount of flexibility to our team because we believe in allowing people to function when they re at their best. Because we re a remote shop we don t have an office, set work hours, or other face time style policies. With this flexibility comes the responsibility to show you re worthy of it by delivering on time and being responsive to the team as needs arise. Working Hours, Check In/Check Out Because you could technically be anywhere on a given day (Barcelona, Tokyo, Hawaii, or where ever else you decide to travel at your leisure) we only ask that you spend 4 hours per day intersecting with our core business hours (between 9am-7pm Pacific time) delivering ~8-10hrs a day Monday - Friday. When you log on for the day we ask that you check in by posting a message to our #daily-standup channel on slack to check in for the day, set expectations around what you ll accomplish, and to mention anywhere you re blocked by a coworker or need help. At the end of the day you should check out by finalizing all your billing timers and bill all your time for the day in Scoreboard. Work Week We expect hours a week from all our full time employees. This shouldn t be too ambitious, but we re a start up and we need all the utilization you can give us without burning out. Company Holidays When given the choice between giving you a lot of meaningless Mondays off or just giving you lots of vacation time, we decided to give our team the latter. Because of this there are only a few days every year that we observe: New Years Day Martin Luther King Day Independence Day Thanksgiving & Friday after Thanksgiving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Vacation Time We give out a bunch of Vacation time (20-26 days!) These are multi-purpose days. You can use them for sick days, personal days, to fill in for holidays we don t take off, or to go on vacation. We ask that you request days of a month or more in advance so we can plan our project assignments and workload. If a full-time employee reaches their bonus 2 of 3 years they earn an additional 1-month paid sabbatical in the 4th year.
15 Depending on how many in our team have already taken that time off your request might be declined so, try to book your time as early as possible. We might also be trying to start a new project with as little as a week of notice. So, knowing availability in advance is vital. If you run out of days and need a couple days to keep from burning out just ask. We might just say yes. Hack Week Trips Hack week is a chance for the whole team to get together, go somewhere fun, party, hack, and recharge. This is a lot of fun but it isn t a complete vacation. Everyone works during the week on hacks, intended to improve our company, it s products, our process, or technology choices. At the end of the trip everyone presents their hacks from the week (new project alphas, new features for internal projects, and fun experiments) with the hopes of winning the Hack Week Grand Champion trophy. While you have free reign to work on anything you like you re still being paid for this trip. So, remember, whatever you create that week is owned by MustWin, LLC. We re not paying you your salary, not working on client projects, and flying you to a fun locale to get a head start on your personal side projects. ;) Photo: (left to right) Must Win s founders, Mike Ihbe and Wil Everts, do their best Life Aquatic pose in the Mission. Free Domestic Conference Every FTE is given a free flight, hotel, and ticket to the domestic conference of their choosing. Free flight and hotel for any they get in to speak at as well. Payroll Schedule We pay full time employees on the 1st of every month via direct deposit. Contractors are paid Net-30 after submitting an invoice on Scoreboard. Past Company Trip Locales Salt Lake - 1/2014; Costa Rica - 7/2014; Tahoe - 2/2015.
16 Roles & Base Compensation WINtern We hire apprentice-level talent and college students to work on internal projects. Those we think are future stars get hired! We have two WINterns who are now working with us. Salary: $20/hour, contract-based Bonus: 1 company trip Growth: promotion to Junior Junior These are usually former WINterns. Their role is to work on internal projects, do QA and help with light lifting on client projects. Salary: $60k/year Bonuses: $5k for 1600hrs worked $10k for 1200hrs billed to clients Growth: promotion to Expert Expert These are people who aren t yet Senior Developers or Designers but are still incredibly valuable for their versatility and sharp skill-set. Base Salary: $75k/year 2nd Year Salary: Base + Bonuses Earned Bonuses: $8k for 1750hrs billed $16k for 2000hrs billed Growth: promotion to Senior Expert Senior Expert These are our Senior Developers or Designers. In this role you could be leading a project, playing a vital project role, and will be working with our most important projects. Base Salary: $105k/year 2nd Year Salary: Base + Bonuses Earned Bonuses: $10k for 1750hrs billed $16k for 2000hrs billed Growth: promotion to Lead. Lead These are Developers and Designers who lead projects. They interface with the clients, manage the project team, and play a vital role on the project team as well. Base Salary: $140k/year 2nd Year Salary: Base % of Base Bonuses: $10k for 1650hrs billed 5% of Client Re-Engagements from projects you lead. Growth: Junior Partnership
17 Junior Partner We don t yet have any of these at MustWin, LLC. A Jr. Partner has some combination of these attributes: Is the most senior lead in their expertise Business Generation Business Development Sales Marketing Conceptual Expertise needed to run a solo Hack Week Has worked for MustWin, LLC at least 2 years and 9 months Growth: Senior Partner Founding Partners This is Mike and Wil. They re not making any more of these. Base Salary: $115k/year Bonuses: Profit Dividends twice yearly Image: Our Fourth Tee Shirt, illustration by Tom Gatewood based on one he made for the original Scoreboard Launch website.
18 5 Required Reading Must Blog Some choice selections from the Must Win blogs Operate at Maximum Velocity by Wil Everts Losing Religion, How Must Win Weighs Our Tech by Mike Ihbe The Remote Opportunity by Wil Everts The Deep End: Identifying Winning Developers by Mike Ihbe Why must I win by Wil Everts
19 Canonical Books While we definitely trend towards tech and process agnosticism there are a few books that Mike and I were both fans of that were at the core of the Must Win experiment, or have come to influence us since. Start Small Stay Small, A Developers Guide to Launching a Startup by Rob Walling Video: David Sacks on Unicorn Ideas: What Elements Are Needed to Create a Billion Dollar Success? by David Sacks, Founder and CEO Yammer (COO PayPal) The One Cost Engineers and Product Managers Don't Consider with Kris Gale, VP of Engineering at Yammer Unmanaging Change by Drew Dillon, Product Manager at Yammer Rework by Jason Fried and David Hienemeier Hansson I Have 21 Radical Ideas by Kris Gale, VP of Engineering at Yammer Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Hienemeier Hansson Suggested: Pricing on Purpose, Creating and Capturing Value by Ronald J. Baker Tips for Entrepreneurs from Yammer Co-Founder Adam Pisoni with Adam Pisoni, Co-Founder & CTO of Yammer Click Here to Kill Your Product by Drew Dillon, Product Manager at Yammer The Yammer Foundation Mike and Wil met at Yammer, as you know. It was an incredibly fertile environment with an extremely talented and fun team. When Must Win began working on projects they naturally defaulted to Yammer-ish workflows, making it their own via homegrown hacks/experiments since.
20 6 Project Basics We ve gone to great lengths to eradicate wasteful process, keep our teams light yet powerful, tighten our feedback loops, reuse code, and simplify our approach wherever possible. This has resulted in the unprecedented velocity that companies have come to count on when calling us. - Operate at Maximum Velocity by Wil Everts
21 The Three Keys There are three keys to a successful project. They are: velocity, quality, and simplicity. We re going to discuss indepth how to achieve this. A Lead s Primary Responsibilities As a lead you re twice the weapon for us on projects. We trust you not only to perform a vital project task like design or development but also to ensure that the project goes off without a hitch and that the client comes back for more! Process and Velocity Each project will have differing levels of process. With some projects we have very tight constraints, client PMs who are establishing the process, and varied team configurations that can necessitate more or less hand holding. This means if you have a super-senior team that is used to working together you get by with a limited specification, brief issue descriptions, etc. If not, probably not. The let s get it done mindset Stuff is going to come up where we have a bug or we ushered the apocalypse. Shake it off, we just have to make it right and shipped ASAP. Blame is inconsequential, the deliverable is all that matters. If you break it you fix it, if the person who found it can t figure it out first! Just get it done. Our Base Process Load Our standard process looks something like this. It can be more or less rigid depending on the team s skill and communication skills: Scoreboard Hour Reporting Google Docs for Notes; G Drive for Files Google Hangouts Periodically with the Team Impromptu Hangouts as need arises Slack Communication Daily Stand Up Project Channel Chat Github Integration Circle CI Integration (Tests) Deploy notifications GitHub Issues, Milestones, and Repo Standard GitHub Issue Repo and PR Flow Create a branch with the issue number as its name Make changes aimed to solve the issue Submit a Pull Request Lead or Senior Expert Sanity Check and Accepts/ Denies Daily Automated Client s via Scoreboard Bill your hours by 1am Pacific to ensure clients see your hours Lead Generated Weekly Updates via Scoreboard Custom Markdown Body Scoreboard Generates Numbers Scoreboard Sends a pretty with both bits
22 Quality and Simplicity Getting the job done so that it works and looks right isn t the job here. The job is to write high quality code that is reusable, extendible, and simple to understand (or at least well documented.) This sets the project up for success in the future as well as today. README Document the development environment explicitly so the most junior of developers could get an environment up and deploys working. Document useful information like API Keys, Base Users, Useful Rake Tasks, Acquiring Seed Data, etc. Embrace simplicity in your engineering. The best engineering usually isn't showy or intense-looking. Given the same result, the simpler code is more valuable to your organization. This will often be unsatisfying to people's egos, but the best engineers have nothing to prove. I remember early in my career reveling in the documentation part of my project. It was an opportunity to brag about how clever the code was, how much it could do, and how easily it was to extend for anyone who took the time to read all this great documentation. When I actually became a real engineer, I realized the simpler I could build something and the less it needed documentation and illustration, the better off my coworkers were -- the faster we could all build the thing we were hired to build. Beyond making it awesome, it s also very important to USE IT. RTFMP! Quality Assurance The project team has to be our best QA team members. It s vital that everyone tests things in every scenario not just the most convenient. Bugs happen, but people who consistently fail to test their code properly are costing us time, customer budget, and customer trust. Writing Tests We tend to err to the side of least amount or process necessary. If there s a vital feature or a feature that is brittle it s important to write tests to ensure they are working as they should before deploying code. - Kris Gale, VP of Engineering at Yammer, Cofounder at Clover Health