When BizStream started in 2001 it was small and made up of mostly friends and family. We were all on the same page and everyone knew what BizStream was about. But as we grew and as we brought on more people, we slowly began to realize that maybe our vision wasn’t being seen by everyone. The “BizStream way” was becoming blurred. As much as we hate to have a bunch of rules in place and things in writing, it became pretty clear that if we wanted to keep our unique culture and [kick-ass] work ethic, that we needed to lay it out in black and white for our people. Because, as much as we aren’t about a bunch of rules, we are about complete transparency, setting our team up for success, and keeping BizStream an awesome place to work for hard-working people. As our team continues to grow we want to make sure we’re bringing people on that are a great fit for BizStream, and on the flip side, that they can somewhat easily determine if this is a place that they want to be a part of before they even walk into an interview with us.
It became pretty apparent that we needed to do a few things:
The first thing our leadership team wanted to define was BizStream’s Core Focus. We started by asking ourselves questions like, “Why do we get up in the morning? Why does BizStream exist?” And after a fairly quick discussion, most of us came to a very similar reason. We finalized our Core Focus as:
Build cool shit, with cool people, and have a positive impact on others.
We feel it really hits the nail on the head. We love technology, we love building cool things and we also know that the majority of our waking hours are spent at work. So, if we are spending that much time at work, we better enjoy it. We believe it is our team that makes us WANT to come to work versus the majority of the workforce, that DREADS coming to work. I’ve said it in the past, “I want to go to work every day and write code with my friends”, that’s why I started BizStream, and it’s really important to me that we keep it that way. The last part of our core focus, “have a positive impact on others” is because Brian (co-founder) and I want to work with people that are not just here for themselves. It’s a big world out there and we strongly feel one of the best things we can do as a human is to positively impact as many other people as possible. It also means doing as much in the community as we can. This is why many of us at BizStream are coaches, scoutmasters, youth group leaders, robotics team advisers, BizStream Academy mentors and so much more. Many of us especially love working with youth, education, and technology.
Now it was time to define what we do, what we are the best at, how we are unique, and the kind of projects we excel at. We’ve always excelled in using software to find solutions to unique, complicated problems. It’s what we love to do. Our team gets excited from digging into complex issues and discovering new ways to solve them with programming. One of the common phrases you’ll hear around here is “We are experts in things we’ve never done before”. Of course, that only refers to the world of programming. I wouldn’t ask our team members to land a 747 or do brain surgery. But when it comes to programming and complex integrations, “we got this”. After all that, we landed with this as our niche:
Solving complex problems with code.
We enjoy working on the hard stuff. We love it when we hear that a different vendor told the client that “it’s impossible, or too complex, or just too hard”… hah! Bring it on. We aren’t really into making yet another simple, static brochure site that has nothing complicated going on in it. However, if it is e-commerce, multilingual, multi-site, tapping into multiple 3rd-party APIs, pulling data from an ERP, CRM or 10 other systems … our ears are perking up, and we are already thinking about possible solutions to propose to the client. These are the types of projects that our processes and teams are optimized for. Honestly, we are overkill for the smaller, simpler problems that Wix or Square Space are much better suited for.
Our niche not only explains what we specialize in, but it also highlights what we DON’T do. We are very much the IMPLEMENTERS of a project. Already have a great design agency or marketing department, or you want to use one of our design resources? Great! We have worked with many scenarios where we leverage our internal resources as well as external resources that specialize in high-end design, graphic artistry, content writing, marketing strategies, and UX, and we know how to implement their concepts and bring them to life. We know enough to know how to implement a good marketing strategy, but we are not the ones that will come up with it from scratch.
The last step for us was to define our Core Values. While we’ve always lived by these values, we never actually stopped to take the time to really think about them and put them down on paper. It was a great experience to think about each of our team members and clearly define which qualities and characteristics stood out. We pretty much laid out the model of what we wanted all future employees to look like. So, these are the Core Values that our team lives and breathes:
Update October 2021 – I’ve recently realized two of our core values, whatever it takes and work hard, play hard, have picked up some negative connotations within the industry, so I wanted to clarify what these 20-year-old core values really mean to Team BizStream.
What it may mean to other companies: At some companies, whatever it takes means literally doing whatever it takes to accomplish a task, complete a project, or land a big sale. This may mean working long hours at the expense of time with your friends and family, sacrificing your mental health, or doing things you’re morally uncomfortable doing.
What it means to BizStream: At BizStream, however, whatever it takes means going above and beyond for the good of the team because we are stronger when we work together than we are working with only our own interests or our own projects in mind. We don’t want anyone getting left behind. It’s not just at the employee level either. Whatever it takes means the owners take care of our employees, their families, and our communities. Leadership will do whatever it takes to ensure our team members have what they need to succeed – extra help on a project, a last-minute mental health day, maybe even an advanced HSA payment when unexpected medical issues arise. When we do whatever it takes for each other, we are a stronger unit. Whatever it takes also means that our clients are well taken care of. To us, it’s not always about the bottom line. Yes, we are a business; we need to make money, but giving a little extra here and there is ok too, especially if it is impactful to our client.
What it may mean to other companies: Your boss expects a 60-hour workweek out of you while they frequently head out of the office early. You have an extremely stressful deadline, but your leadership team is nowhere to be found and leaves you feeling unsupported. YOU work hard, while THEY play hard. Does that sound familiar to you?
What it means to BizStream: At BizStream, work hard, play hard doesn’t mean working long hours. Actually, if our managers see one of their team members consistently putting in more than 45 hours a week, they will meet with that team member to understand why and make a plan to them get back to their standard 40-42 hours. We make it a point to monitor hours for many reasons – One, we want our people to spend their non-working time with their friends and family and hobbies. Two, we want to avoid burnout and unneeded stress.
Nevertheless, we expect our team to put in a SOLID, productive 40 hours (not a half-assed 40); that’s what work hard means at BizStream. We don’t want our people spending 60 hours at work where 20 of those hours are unproductive. At BizStream, we take on challenging projects with tight timelines. So when our team is on the clock, it is GO TIME. The owners and the leadership team live and breathe a strong work ethic, and we expect the same from the rest of our team. We like to get stuff done. When our whole team is working hard, we are unstoppable and can accomplish anything, including having a fun environment. Our play hard time is just as important to us (a quick foosball match, organized social hours, office parties & outings, etc.) because it allows our team to decompress and get to know each other on a personal level. I believe our team works better when they are confident that everyone is pulling their weight; It also makes our playtime that much sweeter – because the team knows we all crushed it to make our fun times happen. Because of this, I believe working hard and playing hard go hand in hand.
Now back to the original post …
*Shout out to a local dev shop in Grand Rapids, MI Atomic Object. While we have Care as one of our main core value, one of our sub-points of Care is “Give a shit”, which is one of AO’s values that we’ve always admired. We tried and tried to word it differently, but the statement “Give a shit” is just so perfect and true. AO is another company with great Core Values.
I want to make it clear that although we’re all following the same core values, this doesn’t mean we lose our individuality. There is a ton (some would argue too much) of individuality at BizStream. We all have different backgrounds and ideas. But with all of us following the core values, we know we are a team, and we truly care about each person on our team and the work that we deliver to our clients. Having core values allows us to take a step back and ask ourselves if what we’re doing is in line with the BizStream Core Values and Focus. Essentially, for the greater good of the company. If it’s not, we need to re-think what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We can have very strong yet healthy discussions and still come up with great solutions because we are not afraid to say our viewpoint or disagree with someone else’s. It’s all good, as long as it’s done in a positive and constructive way.
Okay, so, if you are reading this blog post, and you are interested in working at BizStream, here is the part where I am going to try to scare some of you off.
If you are the type that wants to come to work, punch in their 40 hours, and never think about work during your off time, that is great … but you probably won’t fit in well at BizStream. There are plenty of jobs out there where you can do that, just not here. Part of BizStream’s DNA is to do Whatever it Takes, Work Hard and Play Hard, Be a Team and Care. So, that means, after-hours or on the weekends, we might be hanging out together doing something cool, or working out together at the local CrossFit gym, helping someone out at their house, or occasionally staying a little late at the office to get something done. You’ll also find a lot of us doing community work or volunteering to teach kids how to code. But we’re doing that because we care and because … we give a shit.
If you follow our social media, you’ve probably noticed that we have a ton of fun. Because we DO Play Hard here. From parties (while most other companies are working) to having mini coolers all throughout the office stocked with microbrews, to team backpacking trips, and a ton more. We have a lot of fun. But the flip side to that is when we are working, we work really hard. If you are the type that likes to go to work, and kind of pretend like you are working, do half social media, news, online shopping, chatting, whatever other non-working stuff and half kinda pretend you are working … you are going to stand out like a sore thumb and BizStream is going to be very uncomfortable for you.
We do this job because we love it. Those of us that are programmers love programming, we talk about at work on the clock and off the clock. We are always looking for the next new thing. Is every project in the building the most exciting thing in the world to work on? No. But do we make the best of it, and try to balance the fun, cool technologies with the older, legacy stuff? Yes. And it’s not just our programmers. This mindset carries on throughout our QA, PM, Marketing, Sales, and IT teams.
We’ve spent a lot of time recently re-visiting why BizStream was started in the first place and how to keep it that way. BizStream was and will always be a place where awesome people come to do kick-ass work, celebrate their accomplishments, and help others along the way. Not everyone is into that style of work, and that’s okay. They just aren’t for us, and hopefully, now we (BizStream) and the person interested in the job can realize that much sooner, saving everyone time and frustrations. The team members who are a great fit for BizStream now have everything laid out for them; core focus, niche, and core values. They can apply any or all of those ideas in their day-to-day to help them be the best they can be at BizStream, which helps BizStream be the best it can be.
If all the stuff above didn’t scare you but got you excited, you might want to visit our careers page.
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