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Chapter 7
United States

Back in the USA

A bittersweet feeling washed over me when our airplane’s wheel squealed upon landing back in the U.S.A. at San Francisco International Airport. After covering thousands of miles, conducting over thirty interviews, and creating an awesome collection of memories, our careercation was nearing its final chapters.

Alice’s mom picked us up on a brisk, beautiful day in SF. My mother-in-law’s trademark smile and laugh cemented the reality of coming back and nearing the completion of our journey. One of the first things I enjoyed was a long run in the fresh clean air. After Asia’s megacities, I knew not to take public green spaces and clean air for granted anymore. On that same note, we decided to take Keira to visit U.C. Berkeley, where Alice and I had roamed almost twenty years ago.

It felt poignant to come full circle to our stomping grounds with a new family. Alice observed that the college campus had seemed so big when she was a student but now didn’t appear that large at all. Time, age, and experience definitely altered our perspective. It was fun to see Keira running around Sproul Plaza and the big green space behind the library.

When weighing college options during my final high school days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I did not enthusiastically enroll at Berkeley. I had doubts and didn’t feel fully comfortable with the huge campus and large number of students. But like most things in life, including starting a business or taking time off to travel, I just had to jump. Within one month of arriving on campus, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Berkeley opened my eyes and my mind. Without coming here, I don’t think I would’ve studied abroad for a year at Peking University nor would I have discovered the burning desire to embark on a life-changing careercation.

It was great to live with Alice’s mother for a few weeks. She was amazed at how much Keira had grown and how much she could eat and speak! As for Alice, she loved our travel experience so much so that at night, she would discuss the merits of where our next careercation should take us. South America? Europe? Middle East? Or Asia again?

It’s funny how we went from harboring so much angst at the start of our travels to even more angst at the end. We were already daydreaming about the follow-up hit! In our minds, another trip wasn’t a question of “if,” but “when.”

Setting Mission and Company Values

If the next careercation was burning in Alice’s mind, my mind was obsessed with TINYpulse. I decided that TINYpulse would be the first “TINY” offering that TINYhr would put out. I decided that TINYpulse’s mission would be simply “To make employees happier.” When that happens, magic occurs in the company culture.

I liked our clear mission, and now I wanted to set our company values. It came through loud and clear during my interviews that company values are essential underpinnings for a strong, robust culture. Furthermore, reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh also inspired me into action.

So I set out to be intentional about creating corporate values. In my journal, I wrote on one side names of all the people I’ve loved working with. I also listed why I loved working with them—their characteristics that stood out in my mind. On the other side of the paper, I did the opposite, listing names of individuals who drained my energy and whom I didn’t enjoy working with.

On a separate sheet of paper, I outlined potential values for the organization. I then took these values and superimposed them on the people I loved working with first. I then asked, do these values enable these people to thrive? I also superimposed these values on the people who drained my energy and asked, do these values help weed out these folks? The first answer was no. So I edited and drafted new proposed values. I repeated this until the answer was yes on both fronts.

The following are the values we hire, fire, and make decisions based on:

D elight customers

E lect and spread positivity

L ead with solutions and embrace change

I ncrease communication with open engagement

G o the extra mile with passion

H old oneself accountable

T reasure culture and freedom

We made these values into an acronym to make it easier to remember. Today, we include this in all of our job postings (thanks for the tip Kwangsug) and ask interested candidates to provide two examples of how they’ve exemplified this. If they don’t relate to these values or don’t have the time to share, then I know they won’t be a great fit for our culture. Better to get it out in the open sooner rather than later.

In fact, if the values of a business are crafted well and lived on a daily basis, then people will make decisions based on those values, reinforcing their meaning. As Andrea of Unimail shared, you can’t just have values written on a sheet of paper and hung in the breakroom for people to look at without really knowing or understanding them.

Vision Impaired

San Francisco was a relaxing and welcome respite from being on the go. We had so much time to reflect and cherish our memories before embarking on the last leg of our careercation, which was a visit to my family in Dallas, Texas.

While in Dallas, I conducted one of my most favorite interviews with Ches Williams, the founder of Frontera Strategies. During our interview, he mentioned how he crafted his company’s vision, mission, and values with the help of a renowned expert, Ari Weinzweig, a founder of Zingerman’s Deli.

I had never heard of Ari, but after our interview I drove back and immediately devoured all of his writing and videos. In short, he helped me discern the difference between a company’s mission and vision. For some reason, I felt great about our mission and values, but I didn’t know where to start with our vision.

Ari simply states that the mission should be what the organization is trying to achieve. The vision should be what the future looks like if the company is accomplishing the mission. His exercise is envisioning himself five or ten years down the road in vivid, detailed “vision.” He goes to great length to detail how the business looks, smells, sounds, and feels, in order to tickle and enliven all the senses. I loved it! I’m still not doing Ari justice, so please check out his site: www.zingtrain.com.

I now had my vision of where I pictured the business going next. I didn’t include it here, since it’s long and detailed, but I promise you that every detail that comes to pass at TINYhr helps affirm the big picture.