Oven Bits is a Family in More Ways Than One

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, recently wrote an article and book explaining that a company can never be like a family. I respectfully disagree.

He preaches that the employer-employee relationship is broken in a fast-paced business environment of change. Is it true that a family-centric culture is inherently based on unrealistic loyalty? Will it really leave at-will employment with an inevitable feeling of hurt or betrayal? No. It doesn’t have to.

Our first core value at Oven Bits is to put ‘People Over Profit.’ We take a genuine interest in the person next to us. We get to know each other inside and outside of ‘the oven.’ Beyond the person-to-entity relationship, this speaks to the bond of interpersonal relationships formed.

Have there been tough moments when people left or didn’t work out? Yes. Does that dissuade us from pursuing this value? No. Does that relegate our future relationships to being arms-length? Not a chance.

Even the best analogies break down at some level and the ‘company family’ is no different. Of course, most companies and people won’t maintain a lifelong marriage. But have you ever known a literal family whose members aren’t even friendly, let alone seem to be related? Can humans share a bloodline but never be a family? Sure.

That’s why it’s about a dynamic. A trust. A state of mind. A belief.

Here are a few small ways I feel we’re more like a family than a unit of strategic allies:

  • Personal Relationships: Many of the ‘bits’ are close friends. We get to know each others’ families. We share food. We share dreams. We do life with one another. Not everyone in the company is best friends outside of work with everyone else, and that’s ok. What’s important is that we know enough about one another to respect those around us, know where they are coming from and how to best do great work with them.

  • Group Before Self: Our culture emphasizes a collective ambition. Everyone is allowed to speak into any facet of the business. This flat-meets-light-hierarchy approach manifests through empowerment, routine company-wide chats and an alignment around shared victories.

  • People Over Profit: From a company point of view, we’ve been blessed to help employees pay medical bills, repair vehicles, provide for family trips and much more. Our unlimited paid-time-off policy is another way we keep the focus on what matters.

  • Values Driven: Much like a household we aspire to live by a set of core values that support the DNA of our belief. It’s more than workplace etiquette. It’s a set of ideals that are upheld for how we connect, communicate and relate.

To his credit, Reid Hoffman is on to several principles that address clear expectations and enable employees for clear paths of personal growth. Oven Bits believes in pursuing those without distilling its internal relationships to “tours of duty.”

…In More Ways Than One.

I added this phrase to the title after another, less discussed yet related, topic came to mind: Finances.

Many families encounter hardships related directly or indirectly to financial management. Abused debt, frivolous spending, speculative risks and paycheck-to-paycheck living are but a few examples that plague many families. These often contribute to relational tension, persistent worry, off-base priorities, missed opportunities and heightened stress.

Oven Bits is 100% management-owned, debt free and cash based. The company’s financial philosophy is much like that of a family. We live within our means, follow a budget, maintain a rainy day fund, progressively save, invest in opportunities and share in success.

I believe this has served us well. Oven Bits members don’t have to live in constant fear of layoffs, pay cuts, flat wages or declining benefits. Much like a family that has a healthy grip on money, we believe that the end result transcends monetary value. It spills into the peace of mind and future outlook of everyone onboard.

Just as actual families face life challenges, potential falling outs, selfish ambitions and shared hardships, Oven Bits encounters similar situations. We struggle and grow together because of these situations. And we do so from the attitude and belief that we’re a family.