Creating the Transoft Culture
When we started writing about the corporate culture of Transoft, it was difficult to know where to start. What does having a great business culture mean? Business gurus like Jim Collins have developed insightful analogies to describe how companies like Transoft move from the start-up phase to building lasting success. In this case, the one that fits best is comparing a leader like Milton to a bus driver. Here’s what Jim Collins wrote in Fast Company Magazine in October 2001:
“The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you're going, how you're going to get there, and who's going with you. Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they're going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision.
“In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.”
“To me, defining corporate culture is about the ‘spirit’ in the work environment – one that can, and at the same time, cannot be fully put into words,” notes Milton. “It’s about respecting your co-workers, having a competitive and winning attitude, working hard to develop the best product and delivering top notch customer service. As well, it’s about finding staff with an alignment to and a belief in the corporate vision and embracing each and every one of our diverse staff. It’s amazing to think that over 50 percent of our staff represents 26 different nationalities.”
In the mid-to-late 1990s, the bus was moving at a good steady pace for Milton Carrasco and Transoft Solutions. Many companies have similar early success, but then go on to make major mistakes that halt their progress or even result in their demise. Milton was determined to avoid them. With a steady stream of orders coming in for AutoTURN, the company needed to grow while maintaining its relatively flat corporate structure.
“In the late nineties, we added one technical support staff person, a software developer and one or two marketing support persons, all of whom are still a significant part of our company,” says Milton. “At the time, we didn’t need sales help as orders were rolling in with little proactive efforts. But I recognized there was the need for technical support and content creation, along with the development and marketing of our products.”
As current employees know, to be part of Transoft today is to be known as a Transoftee. While that is a relatively new term, Milton had a good idea of the types of people he was looking for to grow the company. To paraphrase Jim Collins, he knew the kinds of people he wanted on the bus.
“One of my philosophies included hiring compatible people who would work hard, be empowered to the extent possible, while at the same time truly enjoying their work and interactions with others,” says Milton. “I believe it is better to hire people who share in the vision of the company and have passion than to hire the brightest, me-first, drag-down-the-operation type. In the building people side of the business, the analogy of an oak sapling growing into a mature tree comes to mind – you need to be sure that you start with a strong core of individuals on to which you add like-minded and passionate people. We were fortunate to make great picks early including Noel Dolotallas, our VP Corporate Marketing, Steven Cheng, our VP of Technology and Software Development, and Byron Dyck, our lead product specialist, who have been with us since the mid to late nineties. These folks embody the Transoft spirit and culture and have in turn brought in others who continue to be with us!”
To quote Jim Collins again, “the real path to greatness, it turns out, requires simplicity and diligence. It requires clarity, not instant illumination. It demands each of us to focus on what is vital—and to eliminate all of the extraneous distractions.”
It would have been easy for Milton and Transoft to become distracted. The company was just beginning to gain some traction in the marketplace when the “Dot-Com Crash” hit as the calendar turned to 2000. After several years of huge investments in these speculative companies, the bubble burst in 2000 and many of the start-ups went bankrupt. But Milton and his newly formed team kept their focus on building the business and continued selling AutoTURN to the transportation engineering market.
"In the years leading up to the dot-com crash we were experiencing double digit growth year over year,” says Milton. “The temptation to go public, seek investors to grow the company rapidly was all around us. I vacillated between these and staying the course and decided on keeping our course, because any other option would mean falling into the stereotypical western business operation where the drive to meet shareholder returns are the raison d'être.”
In other words, Milton didn’t want someone else driving the bus. He knew where he was headed, and wanted the right people on the bus and in the right seat.
What were the Vision, Mission and Values that put Transoft on the right path? Read about them in the next installment of Our Story in the link below.