Every company, organization, or team has a set of values – they may or may not be codified and written down, but they exist in the way the people behave and treat one another.
The most successful companies take the time to be purposeful about their values. They discuss and debate them, write them down, agree on them, and most importantly live by them. Your values shouldn’t be truisms – they should describe the things that make your company special and unique.
Intercom’s company mission has always been to “make internet business personal”. That North Star hasn’t changed since Intercom began. A North Star tells you where you want to go but it doesn’t tell you what to do to get there or how to do it. What you do to get there is your strategy. How you do it is more difficult to measure, but just as important – and is guided by your values.
“Our values guide how we work, how we interact with each other, the decisions we make, and how we put them into action”
It’s usually easy to live by your values in good times. The measure of your true values are what you do in tough times. We used the last few months of 2020 as a time to go back to our values and refresh them, tighten them up (who can remember 11 values?), and put down on paper who we are. Our values guide how we work, how we interact with each other, the decisions we make, and how we put them into action.
Our values guide us
Values are vital on every big journey. We’ve gone back to basics and refined our values to focus on six that reflect the essence of working at Intercom.
We thought about the most important qualities that we’ve seen in our team over the years and the practices we keep coming back to. Spotting common traits, attitudes, and approaches made our six values obvious. We’re growing fast, and our values help us keep sight of the core of who we are as a company, focus on where we want to go, and represent our best selves on the way there.
These reflect language and priorities that are embedded in our team and company, and form part of our DNA. We’re confident that Intercom employees – both present and future – will see these values in themselves and the people they work with everyday.
So, here are our values – along with stories shared by people who put them into practice everyday.
We’re optimistic and positive
We believe that anything is possible, and that we can do incredible things. We believe we have an exciting future ahead. We enjoy this journey that we’re on together and we look for the fun in what we do. We always assume good intent, and we deeply value kindness and empathy.
Catherine Brodigan, Business Development Partnerships Manager, sees this value at work across the sales team. “As we’ve grown from a tiny team when I joined in 2016 to the 160 or so folks we have today, there’s still this incredible empathy, kindness, and desire to lift each other up and see each other succeed.”
Her team is hiring, and her experience watching the team grow fuels her enthusiasm when she talks to potential candidates. “Thinking about the incredible people at Intercom, and how amazing the last five years have been, it’s pretty easy for me to talk to new hires about how optimistic we are about the future, and it’s really exciting to think what conversations with new hires will look like five years from now.”
We think big and start small
We love to tackle big problems and break them down into solvable pieces. Our ambition drives us to go beyond what’s thought possible. We start with the problem to be solved in everything we do. We invest in building for the long term and we learn from experimenting in the short term. It’s summed up in our “start with a cupcake” philosophy – take small steps towards a large goal.
Jordan Neill, Senior Director of Engineering at Intercom, points out how this value is foundational to how we build product. “This is core to how we work in R&D and there are so many great examples.
“One I really love is Series. We had this big, ambitious vision grounded in a deep understanding of a problem that really mattered to our customers. It took a long time to launch that complete vision, but we iterated and learned and delivered value every step of the way. With the long term in mind we’ve built a foundation that made it easy for us to keep improving the product. We brought things like Banners to market faster than we’d ever thought possible – around six weeks to beta and 12 weeks to release, with full feature support.”
We obsess about our customers’ success
We love solving our customers’ most important, most urgent, and most valuable problems. We measure and obsess about delivering meaningful results and value for our customers, and continuously improving our capabilities to do this even more in the future.
This value doesn’t just apply to customer-facing teams – everyone at Intercom puts customer success at the heart of their work. As Abde Tambawala, Senior Director of Sales Operations, says, “Obsessing about our customers’ problems is not just a customer-facing team’s priority. When R&D does it, we get something as glorious as our interrelated Conversational Support features or Series. When Accounting does it, customers get billed seamlessly. When Analytics does it, we understand customer problems even better. So no matter what hat we wear, or where we sit in Intercom, we have this amazing opportunity to impact our customers positively every day.”
That positive feedback loop is something we’re very proud of – our Built for You podcast series explores more ways our customers’ feedback shapes our product.
We go further together
We work as one team, we win as one team. We hold a very high bar for ourselves and others. We respect one another and we seek out different points of view to find the best path forward. We look out for each other, we lift each other up, and we ensure there’s equitable opportunities for all to succeed.
I believe in the proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We aim to create an environment and culture where we can do our best work, and creating an inclusive, equitable workplace is important to us. We have regular discussions (like this podcast on the role of allyship) to continue to get stronger as a team.
“I think about things like the amazing communities built by our Employee Resource Group leads, and the work they do to share and support the experiences of their members”
As Jasmine Jaume, Director of Product Marketing shares, “I see examples every day of Intercomrades lifting each other up and supporting each other. I think about things like the amazing communities built by our Employee Resource Group leads [Inter-Amigos, Inter-AZNs, Inter-Melanin, Inter-Parents, Inter-Proud, and Inter-Women], and the work they do to share and support the experiences of their members. And I also think about our tradition of Show and Tell, which gives the opportunity for anyone to share their work with everyone in the company, and to get the resulting support and encouragement from their peers.”
We’re confident, yet humble
We believe in ourselves and genuinely love to learn as individuals and as a team. We are curious by nature and we ask a lot of questions – we never assume we have all the answers. We give and receive feedback openly and honestly. We embrace a growth mindset and we constantly look for ways to be better.
Ruth O’Brien, one of our Customer Support Managers, shared her experience of receiving feedback the Intercom way: “In my years at Intercom, I’ve pushed myself to strike the balance between confidence and humility, and watched my teammates embrace belief in themselves while striving to learn by asking questions, and exchanging honest feedback.
“A story that comes to mind is when one of the Senior Customer Support Engineers on my team, Andy, asked if he could share some feedback on a recent rollout I had led. We’d had to deliver the rollout quickly, and my goal had been to reduce stress by figuring everything out before announcing the plan to the team. Because of this, I hadn’t solicited feedback on the new process from those it would affect most.
“Despite my good intentions, there were numerous issues that could have been solved by pulling in a Customer Support team member before the rollout. Andy professionally and directly let me know that he felt our leadership team was moving too quickly without gathering enough feedback – and it was starting to feel disorganized.
“Intercom [has a] culture of strong opinions, loosely held: valuing decisiveness, but not allowing ego to get in the way of embracing better”
“I’d be lying if I said my confidence didn’t take a bit of a knock, but Andy was completely right. He had both my and the team’s best interests at heart when he delivered this feedback. He did so in a kind and considerate way, offering to help reshape the process and provide insight from the rest of the team. I needed to dust off my ego, embrace a growth mindset, and look for ways to make quick rollouts better.
“Because of Andy’s feedback, I now try to incorporate team feedback into as many decisions as I can, making me feel more confident about how they’ll land. I’m so grateful to Andy for being confident enough to give his boss’s boss tough feedback, and for Intercom’s culture of ‘strong opinions, loosely held’: valuing decisiveness, but not allowing ego to get in the way of embracing better – and receiving feedback not as criticism, but as a gift that helps us grow.”
We make every day count
We start every day with a clear purpose, an intention to make an impact. We don’t wait for the right moment, we create it. We fight to unblock ourselves, we push to make progress, and we work hard with a sense of urgency and focus.
For Brian Donohue, Senior Director of Product Management, this value is always top of mind for him and he talks about “always finding the best way to make today count,” whether it’s achieving a work goal, or even taking a break to recharge.
“We have a pervasive focus on goals: at the company level, at the team level, and at the individual level… We have a daily discipline to fight for impact, to have that bias for action.
“But it’s important to recognize that what makes a day count doesn’t always look like focused productivity. Sometimes the best way to make a day count is to get oxygen to the brain, create space for creativity, to have a fallow day to absorb and digest.”
These values are at the core of everything we do
These six values seem simple, but there is a lot within each one. They reflect the behaviors that have brought us this far, and most importantly inspire us going forward. As Des Traynor, our co-founder, said to me recently: “The reason I love Intercom is because of what we’re going to do, not what we have done.”
We’re growing fast – these values are at the very core of everything we do, and everything we’ll do in the future. If you love building the future and these values resonate, we’d love to talk to you.