A lot has been written about SumAll and our commitment to being a totally transparent company. A lot. But we’re certainly not the first nor only company to reveal how much every employee makes or to have a flat organizational structure. Valve, the world-famous video game company, is renowned for not having job titles, and our friends at Buffer have a page dedicated to revealing things like salaries, equity, and a real-time revenue dashboard.
So the question becomes why we chose to structure (or, deconstruct) SumAll in such a radically different way from the majority of established, successful businesses. The reasoning is best explained by SumAll CEO Dane Atkinson when said, “The usual corporate doctrine can be configured poorly for employees. It’s almost designed to enable evil to happen. You can tell an employee they have 10,000 shares, but it doesn’t mean much if I just give myself 100 million shares or whatever. Their stake is going to be worthless. Most of the engineers out there have no idea what their ownership stake really is.” Transparency for us comes down to making sure every employee is happy and knows they’re being compensated fairly. Happy employees equals better employees.
But actually putting this level of openness into practice isn’t always a smooth process. Constant and open communication is the most important thing to maintain to make sure everyone is on the same page at all times. To facilitate communication, we use a number of tools on a nearly daily basis that helps in coordinating tasks, making company-wide announcements, or just figuring out where we’re going for happy hour after the day’s done. Here are the top tools we use to promote transparency within SumAll.
HipChat – Like AOL Instant Messenger but for the more business-oriented folks (and for people not still living in 1999), HipChat is in constant use throughout the day at SumAll. With the ability to create groups, share files, and private message every employee, HipChat allows everyone at SumAll to communicate quickly and easily with the added bonus of being able to create custom GIFs and emoticons.
Wrike – A work management tool, Wrike is the go-to app we use to manage all of our projects, big and small. All projects are visible to everyone so it’s easy for employees to see what’s going on and who’s working on what. There’s a lot of similar tools out there like Asana and Trello, but we’ve found Wrike is the most versatile and works best for our purposes.
Google Drive – Probably the most essential tool we use for transparency, Google Drive is a repository for almost all of our documents. Employee salaries, the cap table, and company vision are all stored and shared within Drive.
Wiki – The company Wiki is a central, meticulously organized place for all internal SumAll policy information. Things like our company values, the culture at SumAll, and the best employee quotes live inside the Wiki. While it is integrated with Google Drive, having the Wiki allows us to create an intuitive hierarchy for information that allows for transparency and it’s extremely useful for onboarding new employees.
Getting up and talking like human beings – While technically not a “tool,” there’s really nothing that beats in-person interaction. We work hard to create an environment where teammates can bond and collaborate together in an informal setting. Having a more relaxed office environment where people can decompress allows for a more organic flow of ideas. We also host events like company-wide hackathons and game nights where people spend time together doing things that aren’t SumAll related. In the end nothing replaces talking in real life, and makes all of these tools actually functional.