Getting to Know Canvas - Our Culture, Structure, How We Get Things Done (aka New Candidate Tips)

By James W Quigley on March 5, 2013

"We believe that by helping organizations, groups and individuals dynamically share their experiences / the data they collect it radically transforms how we all connect." - The Canvas "Why"

Beyond the external images that people see when they first come to visit us our offices including the typical elements of start-up culture (Video games strewn about, music or movies playing in our lobby, comfy couches, free drinks... people not just sitting at desks but collaborating in the hall and writing on tables) working at Canvas requires active corporate citizenship. 

Working at any start-up has its own unique challenges and opportunities and working at Canvas has its James Quigley CEO Canvasown defining elements that make us even more unique.  We know this uniqueness is critical to assuring we make our own dent in the universe.  For some people working at Canvas will be the answer to what they are looking for, it will give them ways to make an impact like they never had before within a company it will provide them a way to to unleash their innovation and creativity doing so with other team members who are equally passionate about putting their own fingerprint on change. 

For those people applying for a position at Canvas we thought it would be helpful if we provided you some insight into our values, what we look for in our team members and what is important to us... and in turn help you figure out if you will thrive and make an impact at our organization.

Here are a few key things you should know about us.

1) Wait where is my boss? The short answer is: You are!    What may seem like chaos at times is actually what we call the Canvas Canvas Flat StructureWay our innovative and collaborative flat organizational structure.  It is our way of making sure we scale as a company but still protect our values.  One of which is ongoing innovation where EVERYONE can make a difference and do so efficiently.  That means we all work for our metrics and each other as a team - not for our "boss".   If you crave a position where you like to check off the boxes on supervisor provided to do list... that is not Canvas. 

Multi Tiered CompaniesWhen our newest team members join Canvas, the team bringing them into the company will work with these individuals in developing their own personal metrics as well as explain how those metrics relate to the company's overall metrics.  When they have their metrics, our team members will then work with those within the company that have similiar metrics in order to get things done.  Their metrics along with everyone elses are open information within the company (as well as nearly every company metric) and it gives all of our team members the right information to either get help, research what they need to know as well as to determine how their actions will impact the company.

In this type of structure, the most important reviews our company will have are not by team leads, but by peers.  Your boss won't be telling you that you are not performing, your peers will and you will feel it by your measured impact.  For some this is to much freedom, they truly need to have far more structure so they can go home feeling like they finished everything they were given to do.  For those who want empowerment at every level, Canvas is perfectly designed for you. 

Q: Yea but can this structure work as you scale?
A: Yes!  It can work in scale and it isn't for us a short term "start-up" solution - this is part of our culture!

Be prepared to tell us what you can do to add value to Canvas and not vice versa. 

2) Want to get something done?  Do it!  Everyone has worked at a company where people complained about something that was Great Ideasbroken, something they wished the company did or wasn't doing.  Maybe they felt their hands were tied, "Besides I am just an employee here - what can I do?"   At Canvas we enable everyone...  EVERYONE to take their best ideas forward and turn it into impact.  There are several ways to get things done here at Canvas and none of them include just going to your "boss" and trying to convince him your idea deserves merit to be heard.  One of our most liberating paths to creating impact is to pull together those team members who have those key metrics your idea will affect and convince them your idea will make a difference.  Our designers and developers are all given a significant amount of time to work on those things of their choosing that will best impact the company's goals, create rapid innovation and in turn move our metrics.  So they are waiting for our team's best ideas to inspire them.   With this structure no one person can block a good idea from going forward.  On top of that our team members are reviewed on their impact to the product and the company as a whole and not just their own personal metrics. 

Be prepared to champion your best ideas forward and convert potential energy to kinetic energy.  Good Ideas without impact or action are just that... ideas. 

3) Management vs. Productivity : Processes vs. Content.  Know the difference and which one is important for us.  At Canvas management is not a career path it is a skill set.  Being good at management means you help make those around you more productive.  Our most junior people can be great managers - they can be fantastic at making those around them more productive.  To move up in Canvas means you are looking to take on more of the company's metrics and your peers agree.   A key essential truth of Canvas is that what will make us a great company will not be great processes but great content. 

Canvas dos and donts.

Canvas Dos and Donts

 

4) Lots of benefits working for Canvas - Salary and Title probably not one of them. Start thinking Like an Owner.    There Act like an ownerare lots of great benefits working for a start-up like Canvas - in our physical offices we have unique collaborative work spaces, free drinks, snacks, and places to let off steam and play games and be creative.  All of our team members  work hard and long hours and are very passionate to help each other and the company in hitting our goals.  One of the key aspects of success for Canvas is that our team members act more like owners then employees. 

All of that being said, for those looking to join our team, we are always most skeptical by those that want or need the best job title, want to know when they can get a bigger title and in turn are more focused on how much they will be paid in salary versus how they can become a bigger owner.   We will never be accused of paying the highest salaries so you can imagine what happens when we interview those people very focused on just salary and title. 

When we interview people here, I am always asking myself could I work on a team led by this person? Could they run their own company someday?  No matter the postion within our team think like an owner.

5) Passion - You Will Need It!  In most cases we are asking our subscribers to either consider doing things the way they have Passion at Canvasalways done it (and in many cases have for generations) or make a dramatic change to their businesses and go mobile and digital and in turn change how they connect with their employees, partners and customers.  We believe that the reason why we do something is more important then the what and that filters through everything we do.  To survive in this environment and to champion this type of change,  we need people who have the determination of 10 normal people.  We will need people who have an intense belief in our vision and success.   Quick tip, for those who come in to meet us seeking employment or to partner with us- sign up for a free trial, build apps, do some research into our markets and offering - know our "Why" Statement and not just what we do.

Canvas is looking for A Players to join us on this game changing ride - if you are one of those people we would love to meet you. 

 

Footnotes:

"Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal" - Some of our best ideas come from our mentors, industry leaders and those companies and individuals we admire.  We openly admit to taking the best ideas from others and making them work for Canvas.  Here are just a few of our inspirations. 

Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple, NEXT, Pixar) was a big believe that content and not process was key to a great company. 

Gabe Newell (CEO of Valve) is a big believer of Productivity being one of the key indicators of value.  Want to learn more about Valve, his views and their flat structure?

Comments

Karl
March 05, 2013

Great Post James. Love the Why…. http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

Currie Russell
March 06, 2013

I love this - and have shared it with our CAO who just yesterday at a management forum showed the Simon Sinek TED talk video.

Byron Hayes
October 16, 2013

This is great! I am glad I read this. Words of wisdom that I can actually apply and I’m sure it will help me with my interview too!

James W Quigley
March 11, 2014

Karl - we use that video as part of new hire training.  Way to read our minds!

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