Tech has long had a reputation for “growth at all costs”; it’s no secret that Guru itself is a for-profit, venture-backed company. We chose to raise venture capital to help us grow faster, meet amazing talent, gain expertise and resources to help our company thrive. This decision to raise venture capital means Guru is designed to be a fast growth company.
For some, that growth can mean:
Disregarding the communities around us, and the people who make the company possible.
Leaving whatever is going on in your personal life at home.
“Go to war” with our teams and burn ourselves out sprinting from one thing to the next. And hey, maybe once we IPO, we’ll “give back”.
But at Guru, this growth doesn’t need to come at a cost - it’s not a tradeoff for us. In order to do our best work, we must recognize the communities and people around us where Guru, our team members, and our customers exist. Our belief is this leads to a better performing company.
We don’t believe you can separate societal impacts from your lives the second you start working. As a company and as a leadership team, we believe that attempting to prevent people from having conversations of this nature at work is anathema to inclusion, and it actually breeds divisiveness by telling people to go elsewhere to have those discussions.
Life happens with little to no regard for working hours, and work-life integration is at an all time high. If you’re going to bring your whole self to work then you bring whatever life you have with you. By bringing that life with you, and having healthy discussions at work about them, it gives you the freedom to process everything together and even find solace in the people you spend an inordinate amount of time with. Dare we say that it could make you “more productive” if you’re able to discuss these things together instead of spending energy worrying about what you’re allowed to say or feel at work? Yes, we dare say that.
These discussions will test companies and their Core Values. In our experience, if these values are not clearly defined, they’ll define themselves. For Guru, our six values are publicly displayed on our company’s website, and include tenets like “Give First” and “Embrace the Journey.” Both of these values exist to reinforce the idea that we believe the best performing teams are those who feel energized, included, satisfied. A company alone can’t create these emotions for an employee, but we can certainly design systems that foster these states of being whenever possible.
We have no interest in being a fast growth company at the expense of Embracing the Journey and Giving First. Our path to fast, sustainable growth is not independent of these values. It is built on them.
Embrace the Journey exists as a company value at Guru because burnout is real, and constantly working long hours does not lead to the best outcomes. We must be intentional, finding balance in work and in life because building great companies is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s not a “project.” It’s an opportunity to build something enduring, and that takes a long time and therefore often prompts thinking with a long view.
One of the behaviors underpinning this value is to encourage our teammates to bring their full selves to work. Beyond fostering a deeper, more meaningful relationship across our teams, it prevents teammates from having to spend energy they do not have on trying to tiptoe around very real things happening in their lives - and the feelings that may come from them. We don’t expect Guru, the company, to solve societal issues. But Guru is made up of people, and we hope that those people that make Guru so special can have a positive impact on those around them.
To be clear, none of these things makes our job “easier” at Guru; in fact, quite the opposite. Yes, we must sprint along the way, and we must act with urgency when it is needed. We must recognize that we are in a fast-growing market with more and more competitors, and the need to continue to innovate for our customers is as critical as ever. It’s a balance. We measure accomplishments not hours worked, but we must accomplish a lot. This means we spend our time wisely and master the ability to prioritize our work so we focus on what will lead to the best outcomes.
But none of this is possible without cultivating an inclusive and transparent culture.
Give First is another company value our team has displayed in spades this past year. Being a for-profit company does not mean we achieve profit at the expense of the communities around us. We will achieve this fast growth while building up the communities around us along the way.
So it's a hard ask, but we need to be amazing at both. We need to move thoughtfully fast. We need to continue finding innovative solutions to our customers' problems. And we need to be aware and responsible of where we are doing this. Places where we choose to grow Guru like Philadelphia and San Francisco. Those places should consider Guru a friend. Lending our expertise, our time, our money. We have to do all of this. It will be harder, but we promise it will feel good along the way.
So much of this has been inspired by all of you. Watching you work and accomplish amazing things, embodying our values along the way. Thank you for that and we are as excited as ever for what lies ahead!
Rick & Mitch