November 1, 2012

Job 1

Job 1 The first “new” post in my series of posts about Return Path’s 14 Core Values is, fittingly, Job 1:  We are all responsible for championing and extending our unique culture as a competitive advantage. The single most frequently asked question I have gotten internally over the last few years since we grew quickly from 100 employees to 350 has been some variant of “Are you worried about our ability to scale our culture as we hire in so many new people?”  This value is the answer to that question, though the short answer is “no.” I am not solely responsible for our culture at Return Path. I’m not sure I ever was, even when we were small.  Neither is Angela, our SVP of People.  That said, it was certainly true that I was the main architect and driver of our culture in the really early years of the company’s life.  And I’d add that even up to an employee base of about 100 people, I and a small group of senior or tenured people really shouldered most of the burden of defining and driving and enforcing our culture and values. But as the business has grown, the amount […]


October 11, 2012

Return Path Core Values, Part III

Return Path Core Values, Part III Last year, I wrote a series of 13 posts documenting and illustrating Return Path’s core values.  This year, we just went through a comprehensive all-company process of updating our values.  We didn’t change our values – you can’t do that! – but we did revise the way we present our values to ourselves and the world.  It had been four years since we wrote the original values up, and the business has evolved in many ways.  Quite frankly, the process of writing up all these blog posts for OnlyOnce last year was what led […]


December 20, 2011

Return Path Core Values, Part II

Return Path Core Values, Part II As I said at the beginning of this series, I was excited to share the values that have made us successful with the world and to also articulate more for the company some of the thinking behind the statements. You can click on the tag for all the posts on the 13 Return Path’s core values, but the full list of the values is below, with links to each individual post, for reference: We believe that people come first We believe in doing the right thing We solve problems together and always present problems […]


December 20, 2011

Transparency Rules

Transparency Rules I think each and every one of our 13 core values at Return Path is important to our culture and to our success.  And I generally don’t rank them.  But if I did, People First is a leading contender to be at the top of the list. The other leading contender would be this last one in the series: We believe in being transparent and direct The big Inc. Magazine story about us last year talked a lot about our commitment to transparency and some of the challenges that come with being transparent and direct with people. I’d like […]


December 8, 2011

To Err is Human, To Admit it is Divine

To Err is Human, To Admit it is Divine Forget about forgiveness.  Admitting mistakes is much harder.  The second-to-last value that I’m writing up of our 13 core values at Return Path is We don’t want you to be embarrassed if you make a mistake; communicate about it and learn from it People don’t like to feel vulnerable.  And there’s no more vulnerable feeling in business than publicly acknowledging that you goofed, whether to your peers, your boss, or your team (hard to say which is worse — eating crow never tastes good no matter who is serving it). But […]


November 22, 2011

B+ for Effort?

B+ for Effort? Effort is important in life.  If Woody Allen is right, and 80% of success in life is just showing up, then perhaps 89% is in showing up AND putting in good effort.  But there is no A for Effort in a fast-paced work environment.  The best you can get without demonstrating results is a B+. The converse is also true, that the best you can get with good results AND without good effort is a B+. Now, a B+ isn’t a bad grade either way.  But it’s not the best grade.  In continuing with this series of […]


November 10, 2011

Protecting the Inbox

Protecting the Inbox We only have one out of our 13 core values at Return Path that’s closely related to the content of our business. But as with the other values, it says a lot about who we are and how we approach the work that we do. That value is: We believe inboxes should only contain messages that are relevant, trusted, and safe We occupy a pretty unique space in the email universe – we serve senders and receiving networks, but aren’t directly in the mail stream and therefore don’t directly touch end users.  So much of our business, […]


October 27, 2011

More Than 1/3 of Your Life

More Than 1/3 of Your Life When I was a kid, so my parents tell me, I used to watch a lot of TV. For some reason, all those episodes of Gilligan’s Island and Dallas still have a place in my brain, right next to lyrics from 70s and 80s songs and movies. I also tend to remember TV commercials, which are even more useless (not that JR Ewing or Ferris Beuller had all that many valuable life lessons to impart).  Anyway, I remember some commercial for some local mattress company which started out with the booming voiceover, “You spend […]


September 29, 2011

Challenging Authority

Challenging Authority My dad told me a joke once about a kid who as a teenager thought his father was the dumbest person he’d ever met. But then, as the punchline goes, “By the time I’d graduated college, it was amazing how much the old man had learned.” The older we get as humans, the more we realize how little we know — and how fallible we are. One of our 13 core values at Return Path gets right to the heart of this one: We challenge complacency, mediocrity, and decisions that don’t make sense I will note up front […]


September 15, 2011

Why We Occasionally Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Why We Occasionally Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day No kidding – next Monday is September 19, and that is, among other things, International Talk Like a Pirate Day. We’ve done a variety of things to celebrate it over the years, not the least of which was a series of appropriately-themed singing telegrams we sent to interrupt all-hands meetings.  I can’t remember why we ever started this particular thing, but it’s one of many for us.  Why do we care?  Because We are serious and passionate about our job and positive and light-hearted about our day This is another one […]


September 1, 2011

A Community of Employees

A Community of Employees One of the most memorable moments in a valedictorian speech that I’ve heard or read was at my sister-in-law’s graduation from Northwestern about 10 years ago. The speaker’s closing line was something like “Most of all, when you go out into the world, remember to be kind to other people.  It’s one of the best things you can do for the world.” It’s not as if people are generally trained or predisposed to be UNkind to each other. But respecting other people and being kind to them is sometimes elusive in our busy lives. I think […]