Brad Feld: My first company – Feld Technologies – was a transformational experience for me. I started the company in 1985 out of my fraternity at MIT. My first major client was a 100 person dental practice in California (run by the step-father of one of my fraternity brothers) – I wrote their office management and insurance billing software that is still in use today. I recall sending out invoices at the steep billing rate of $25 / hour. You’ve got to start somewhere.

By 1992, we had a company that was doing around $2m a year in revenue and had about 20 employees. We were self-funded (we originally funded the company with $10 so we could split up the ownership of the company – we had 10 shares of stock at $1 each.) We never raised any other money – the business grew based on our cash flow.



We were always a pretty thoughtful and introspective group – especially since most of us were in our 20’s and had absolutely no experience creating a company. We were idealistic about a lot of things, but fortunately very good at what we did – at least relative to all the other folks in Boston that were doing the same type of stuff we did at the time (custom database software and network integration services) .



My partner – Dave Jilk – and I had a long standing tradition of taking a day off during the week each month and going on a “retreat.” We’d often go to a bed and breakfast within a couple of hours of Boston and spend 24 hours together talking about the business (both long term “strategic issues” as well as immediate tactical stuff), life, our relationships (we had both gotten married shortly after graduating and subsequently divorced), and our aspirations. We usually finished the day with a nice long dinner and plenty of booze, at which point we stumbled back to wherever we were staying, got a good night sleep, and drove back to Boston (and work) the next morning. We tried to do this every month – we probably got in about nine a year – which in hindsight is something that clearly helped us keep our business – and our relationship – from going off the rails.



In 1990 when we had about 10 employees, we decided to start going on an annual retreat. One of our clients had a family summer house at Lake Winnipesaukee – we’d haul up the entire crew for a long weekend (usually Friday and Saturday as folks would start peeling off Sunday morning.) I recall these retreats with great fondness – these were some of the best times I had at Feld Technologies. We always did these in October – so in addition to all the normal bonding rituals that a retreat like this entails – it was often cold – which created a whole new category of potential entertainment and “experiences.”



In 1992 – on October 6th to be precise – we decided to spend the day coming up with the “mission” for Feld Technologies. When we started this process, there was plenty of scoffing – we were a young crowd and we all thought the “mission, vision” thing – which was very in vogue at the time – was a load of horseshit.



After talking about it for a while, we decided that we could define our mission with a set of precepts. We all thought this was both more intellectual as well as more rigorous. This appealed to everyone so we got after it. A few months ago I sent Dave a note to see if he had a copy of these precepts (I was two hours into a long run when they popped into my mind – clearly I had something stuck in a brain crevice somewhere that really wanted to get out.) Since I don’t keep my email or files past a few months, I didn’t expect him to have them, but lo and behold, “three zip files later” he’d dug them up.



I didn’t remember the precepts, but had a fantasy they would pass the test of the passage of time. They do – and while they apply to Feld Technologies – I thought they were worth repeating and commenting on. While I don’t think any company should have the same set of precepts that we did, I think it’s valuable to use this approach to define the mission of your business. It’s a different approach than the standard mission, vision thing (which I still think is horseshit even though I’m not nearly as idealistic as I was a dozen years ago) – but I think it can be useful at the right time in the development of a company.



Following are the 10 precepts that – in our words “defined the mission of Feld Technologies.” The precepts are in italics – my commentary follows.



More here.

0