Doing What Is Right, Even When No One Is Looking

Doing What Is Right, Even When No One Is Looking

January 19, 2017 | Posted by Dan Purvis

At Velentium, we hold to three Core Values:

• Honorable
• Results ++
• Humble Charisma

When we founded Velentium, we spent a lot of time talking about our values. This wasn't just a rote exercise because all of the business books told us to do it (though, they all do!) We knew that if we could get the values down just right—simple, clear descriptions of who we are—it would give us a solid foundation on which to move forward. We came up with three: Honorable, Results ++, and Humble Charisma. 

Last summer, a young golfer named Jason Millard found himself taking an important step towards the fulfillment of his personal dreams and goals: he had qualified for the US Open and would get his first chance to compete in one of the most prestigious tournaments in professional golf. Young golfers go to the Open every year, and they almost never win, but making it to that first big tournament means that all of their hard work is pushing them along a good trajectory. It is a crucial opportunity.

For Jason Millard, though, the opportunity was short-lived. As was widely reported at the time, in thinking back over his qualifying round, Jason had a niggling doubt about the status of one of his shots. Had he actually grounded his club in the sand as he attempted to get out of a hazard? He wasn't sure, not 100%, either way. There had been no obvious divot, but something about the shot was bothering him enough that he felt there was a chance he had brushed the sand before his actual shot. That should have been a penalty, and that penalty would have meant he actually didn't qualify for the Open. So, as he was driving to the tournament with his caddy, he pulled off the road, called the US Open officials, and disqualified himself.

Golf is famously self-monitored. There are no referees, no judges. Players are expected to know the rules, play by them, and self-report if they have broken them. Now in reality, with big name golfers there are often a lot of people watching them in the rounds that count—live spectators or a camera sending the images to thousands, if not millions, of viewers. But what do we make of a young golfer who few people have heard of, playing a qualifying round with little scrutiny, down in a sand trap that is hard to see even if you are watching? He had a choice to make about how he was going to respond to his growing conviction that he had committed a foul that meant his disqualification. His choice: to be Honorable.

I like the story of Jason Millard because it describes what we mean by Honorable: "doing right for Right's sake."  The only thing that compelled Jason to disqualify himself from a tournament he had been working for years to get into was an inner conviction that it was the right thing to do, that he hadn't played 100% by the rules, and that he shouldn't benefit from less-than-upright play. This wasn't doing right because of societal pressure, or fear of getting caught, or attempting to build some sort of PR buzz; it was doing right just because it was Right.

At Velentium, we seek to hire people who do right for Right's sake. You may wonder why I keep deliberately capitalizing the R in Right—it would make English teachers cringe, I know. But we do this to indicate that for us, doing right means that we compare our actions to a standard that is greater than our own personal whims. For us, these standards are threefold:

• Documented expectations—We work very hard to make sure that there is an overflow of communication between Velentium staff and the client. Good project management is not just an afterthought for us; we want everyone involved in a project to know exactly what user needs will be met, how that will happen, and when it will occur. We document all of these expectations, from the very start of the project; this gives everyone a "standard" to refer to in determining what is Right on a given project. We do what we said we were going to do, or the project is not finished.

• We want raving fans—Our desire at Velentium goes beyond "Customer Satisfaction". We don't just want satisfaction—which sounds pretty "bleh" to our ears—but raving fans, who are astounded by the way that we met their needs for technological solutions. We got into this business because we are passionate about using technology to solve problems that no one else can. We are consummate puzzle-solvers. And we want each client to be thrilled with how we do that.

• It's more than opinion—For the founders of Velentium, Right is not an opinion. While admitting that there are many things in this world that are open to discussion, for us there are some things that aren't: honesty, integrity, kindness, respect for persons, and trustworthiness. We have worked to build a staff that shares these values, which makes for a team of Honorable people.

The work that we do is important; we are often involved in high-reliability, safety-critical projects in which our software is crucial. However, how we do it is what makes us stand out. We strive to approach every project in an honorable way, which means that in the end, everyone is happy.


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