Lighthouse’s Culture – In the Beginning, There Was a Vision

Long before he founded Lighthouse, President and CEO Jeff Van Fleet scrawled down the values that he believed made up the ideal workplace culture.  Written eight years before we opened our doors, his words remain as true today as they were then.

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Photo courtesy of Newfrontiers (Creative Commons)

Our Culture Purpose

This was written to convey our vision of the company values and culture. It was originally written in 1992, when we first began to entertain the idea of starting Lighthouse. Of course, it took until 2000 before we started the company. This description of our culture, although it was just a dream in the beginning, aligns very well with whom we are today.

-Jeff Van Fleet
President & CEO,
Lighthouse Technologies

What kind of culture do we want to provide for our employees and ourselves?

We want the company to provide flexible procedures for conducting our business. We want these procedures and “rules” to not only assist employees in performing their daily tasks, but also ensure that actions are in line with company goals. We need to provide information about the company’s “big picture” items. We need to provide employees with a “structure” they feel comfortable with and an active part of. We believe a united, team atmosphere is one of the most important things we can provide or encourage.

In addition to the business structure and work atmosphere, we want to try and provide a sense of job security and faith in the future of the company. Preferably we can provide sufficient near-and long-term work: that moves us towards our business goals; projects, tasks, and goals that are of interest to the employees; diversification in company interests/projects, challenging work that keeps our employees interested and motivated.

People need to feel that they can grow within their chosen field. We don’t want unsuitable people forced down a certain career path, taking a job they despise and/or don’t do well just to “get ahead” or make more money. If people are valuable to us in the jobs they are in, we want them to know it.

We will have a positive optimistic culture. Lighthouse will be open to the possibilities, changing as life changes, and thinking outside of the box. We will not fear the unknown, but rather look forward to its challenges. There is a fine line between excitement and fear and we will definitely enjoy the excitement.

How should our software testing company conduct itself in the business world?

Integrity and honesty are the guiding principles of our company. We want to project the image of ethical principles and personal integrity to our clients and our employees. We want them to know any dealings with us will be honest, and we want them to trust us.

We want to follow through on all aspects of customer relations and business situations. If we say we will do something–we do it!

We should regard the client as “THE CLIENT”. We recognize that we are a service organization and we serve our clients with enthusiasm, energy, and pride in our work. We are here to help them become more successful. We should regularly survey our customers, always striving to do better.

Furthermore, we want to be known for quality work and to strive for the highest quality in all of our products and services. We want our quality, pride, and professionalism to be obvious to everyone we do business with.

What about our relationship with our clients?

We like to use the word “client” over “customer” because it conveys to us and our clients that we are here to support them in a long-term relationship rather than a transaction. We want our clients to know that we are committed to their success.

We bring our best and brightest to each engagement and we always have reach-back to Subject Matter Experts who have deep business knowledge and mentor our teams and our clients to ensure we provide world-class value to them. We will invest our R&D dollars to develop products and services that can grow our clients’ revenue and make them more profitable.

It takes a certain cultural alignment to be really successful, so we seek those clients who align with our vision, mission, and values. We envision a waiting list of clients because we are really good at what we do and they want the best. We want our clients to know that we will not risk delivery on a current software testing project just to start a new project early. We know they would want the same when we are delivering to them.

We continually strive to be easy to work with and have fun with our work, and we look for clients who are of like-mind. Our relationship with our clients is about trust – we work together on the same side of the table for the good of our companies. We are open and honest with each other. We communicate at least weekly, if not daily, and we recognize up front that things don’t always go perfectly, but that when we both have the right intentions, we can work through any issue. We enjoy what we do and we have fun with each other. It’s exciting to us and we bring that excitement and passion to all of our clients.

What will be our business base?

We want stable, exciting, challenging work–a balance of offerings in different markets. We expect to be high-end technology and high-end quality, therefore, higher cost. Clients will pay higher cost for highly efficient and more maintainable software development solutions. We will provide the best solution for the given situation.

How should our company treat its employees?

The commitments to our clients must, at a minimum, extend to our employees. We want our employees to have a similar sense of security and trust in our motives, actions, and decisions. We want them to know that they will be dealt with honestly. We expect people to believe what we tell them because it’s the truth.

We want to build a company that is attractive to people. It will be a company that everyone would want to work for, but that not just anybody can. We expect people will want to work with us a long, long time. Therefore, we expect a low turnover.

We want to follow through on all aspects of employee interaction. If we say we will do something–do it, or explain how the situation has changed. Don’t just blow it off!

We want loyalty, trust, and respect from our employees. These things aren’t free. It has to be a two-way street. To receive these things from our employees we have to give them (and convey them) in return. We want employees to appreciate the jobs they have and know that we appreciate them and will treat them fairly.

We want to improve the employees’ quality of life. We not only want to take care of employees, but also their families. We want them to know we appreciate them and their sacrifices on our behalf. (Remember spouses and families when someone has to work late or go out of town…these things put a strain on employees’ personal lives. This is important to the employee and should be important to us.)

We want to build a company where each individual feels appreciated, involved, and part of “the plan”. We believe that if the company treats the employees well, with respect and openness, that the employees will enjoy their work, do a good job, and be open and honest with us.

We think it’s important to promote open communication and discussion about company “big picture” issues. Everyone should feel informed, involved, and part of the process. This promotes a team atmosphere by showing everyone how we each fit into and help fulfill the “big picture” and near-term company goals.

Employees are professionals and should be treated as such. We will probably have need for time tracking, but we want the real numbers. Some people are more effective in 40 hours than others who work 60. The company should not explicitly or implicitly imply to the employees how many extra hours they must work. However, we should define tasks that must be accomplished in a specified amount of time. Trust is important here. We want a commitment between employees and management up front about the time it takes to do a task and a commitment from both to do what needs to be done … to get the job done well.

What do we expect from employees?

Likewise, we want honest, straightforward employees. We believe that the strength of this company will be the people of which it is made and we don’t want anyone in our company that can’t be trusted.

We want secure employees, not insecure ones. We want them to be happy when other people get raises, awards, and promotions. Teamwork and synergy are the key concepts.

Employees need to follow through on their commitments for each other as well.

We would like all employees to understand and believe in “The Vision”. Employees are the company. They help define where they’d like to see us go. It is their ideas and commitment that make this company.

How should our company view its employees?

We want to build a company that views people as assets and investments, preferably in a personalized way. We value education, training, experience, and maintaining skills. We want to show our employees we view them as investments and our key to the future. This will demonstrate our long-term commitment and loyalty to the employee.

We want to “grow” employees into innovators – the kind of people who want to see their dreams become reality and would be likely to start their own companies, or better yet, use their innovation and entrepreneurship to continue building our collective success. We want the company to promote and feel good about the success/growth of employees.

What type of behavior do we want to promote/reward?

We want to build a software testing company that promotes creative thinking, new ideas, and innovations. It can always be better, stronger, faster! People should get “points” for effort, not knocked for “rocking the boat”. We want people to know that we will/are listening to them, but they must understand that we cannot always do things their way.

We need a system for rewarding employees for ideas. They need to feel ownership. If there is a product line/job that they are interested in and have the initiative to do something, we need to reward it (i.e., royalties, incentives).

We want a company that discourages information hiding or creating niches for “job security”. We won’t reward our employees for building walls. We want them to open doors – for themselves and others. We want to create and reward team players! We want to promote interaction across projects/ teams/individuals for updated information, technical exchange, and general assistance. We expect employees to share skills, knowledge, and experience.

What kind of environment do we want to provide?

We want to provide a clean, smoke-free environment. We don’t want to strive for an adequate office environment, but a superior one (i.e., hard-walled offices, windows, excellent hardware and software, fresh air, workout facilities, place to take a walk and clear your mind, etc.)

To succeed, the company must continue to invest in itself. Modern equipment, research, and product development will be key components.

What about our community?

We need to give something back to the community–maybe we could learn some lessons from Ben & Jerry’s. Instead of putting all our profits back into the company, we will provide a portion back to the community.

We definitely want to give something back. Do we pick a special project every year to benefit the community and provide a product/service at reduced or no cost? Do we designate profits from a project or a percentage of profits from several or all tasks to be donated to worthwhile non-profit community service organizations? Do we sponsor poster children, provide food and clothing for poor families, and/or set up scholarships?

What is our ultimate goal?

Our end goal is excellence and balance. Balancing our clients’ needs and desires, our employees’ needs, desires, and careers, and balancing community service and profitability. We have no desire to pursue the quick buck regardless of the price incurred or methods used. The ideal is to do something we like, the way we feel it should be done, and with people we enjoy working with. If we can do these things, we will truly be successful.


Everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten

-Robert Fulghum

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