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Benefits of Organizational Transparency

Company Culture
Leadership
Meetings
Internal Communication
Collaboration

28 August, 2020

Anoosh Mostowfipour
Anoosh Mostowfipour

Founder at ReferralsLink

Anoosh Mostowfipour, Founder at ReferralsLink, recounts his experience developing and implementing operational software that helped him achieve the much-desired transparency and improve coordination and collaboration across the company.

Problem

Our company works with a number of clinics and we are accessible 24/7. With shifts that don’t allow you to meet all people, accomplishing full visibility is nothing but easy. In the early days, I would go out and visit people in several locations, but soon it became physically impossible. We were considering for a while creating a layer of management that would work at different times and at different locations, but that was not financially feasible. As we continued to grow, it was becoming increasingly harder to accomplish visibility. In addition, I didn’t take a vacation for the first five years and I had to be physically present to not miss a thing.

Actions taken

I set a goal to be able to run the company from anywhere in the world and the solution to that was to develop an operational software that would allow me to do so. Nowadays, there are a great number of operational software that could easily be customized, but back then operational software was widely considered a novelty of its own. What I knew from the very beginning was that it had to be decentralized, Web-based, and cost-effective.

Though we could find software that would solve one problem or another, the integration between them would give rise to a new problem. Luckily, my technical background helped me understand there was a better way to deal with it -- I should build an infrastructure that would outlive me.

My idea was to first prototype something, hand it over to the team, get their feedback, and build on that. However, when you are growing fast, trying to put an infrastructure in place would be like changing tires on race cars during the race. You can’t just stop, reflect for a while, then go back and take a break again. Instead, I had to incrementally integrate changes into the process. I started by thinking about the functional areas that I wanted to get visibility into and I identified around 10 or 11 functional areas I cared the most about.

The first functional area was account management; I wanted to have visibility into what the account managers across the Bay Area were doing and moreover, I wanted to be able to measure their performance. That piece of software was hugely successful and I was able to get much more visibility into the business that was coming in and who was bringing it in. I was also able to get the same amount of work with far fewer resources. That was the first data collection we as a company set up which made me think about how I could feed it into everything else. Then, I started to incrementally add different functional areas from administration to marketing until it became not only a web-based software designed for me to get visibility but everyone in the company to see what was happening. However, by doing so, it enabled not only visibility but coordination and collaboration.

It took a lot of work -- somewhere around half a million lines of code -- to make it the way it could serve the company. I remember running the first version that was still very buggy; I was on a vacation and I could still see what was happening at the company. Though at that point I thought I was done with it, I kept working on it for another four years and it was evolving over time to eventually include the financial side of the business too. While my initial idea was to develop something to help me with operations and visibility it morphed into something much bigger.

People across the company felt empowered and there was no need to meet people face to face and listen to presentations because what they could see, I could see and vice versa. I didn’t need any status meetings; reports were automatically generated and sent out to everyone. If we needed to get informed about some critical thing(s) we could put triggers. I was able to run the company with people who were empowered and without a whole layer of management. I could see at any given moment what was going on and if I would meet any new person that would be to tell them how to use the system. I have staff that’s been with me 10+ years that are using it in more creative ways that I could ever imagine and they are constantly bringing to me ideas how it could be improved.

Lessons learned

  • Initially, I wanted to create something that would allow me to travel and that eventually became the reason why our company was expanding so fast.
  • Having a 100 percent visibility along with coordination and collaboration is crucial these days. Today, many people are working from home, and Zoom and Google Docs are becoming collaboration platforms, just as our efforts were pioneering in that regard.
  • I would walk around with my iPhone and information would come to me. Everybody knows that if there is a problem I could see it and they don’t have to report it to me and we don't need to have meaningless status meetings. Those same managers could also see what everyone else was doing and be alerted when other people would encounter any problem.
  • Performance is easily measurable and we have staff working remotely that I’ve never met. Also, the knowledge of how the company is run is captured in that software and no one can derive any power from keeping the knowledge for themselves. The knowledge belongs to everyone in the company.
  • I realized that only we could create a tool that was able to address all of our needs. Furthermore, if we would pay for something similar it would be worth around three million dollars. Evidently, it paid for me financially, but what I got out of it was even more valuable. I would advise other companies to build a team of two or three people who would write operational software to be used in-house and then create a culture that would require everybody to use that same tool.

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