CR- Work Principles

Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life. - Ray Dalio

Courages Continuous Constructive Feedback

At CR Rail & Fence, ongoing positive and constructive feedback is a daily practice, not just a yearly activity. Providing and receiving meaningful feedback can be difficult, but it becomes more natural with regular practice. We support our team in mastering this skill through coaching and by exemplifying the behaviors we value company-wide. It requires courage and selflessness to seek feedback on your own performance or to share constructive thoughts with a colleague. Both depend on trust and positive intentions, underscoring our commitment to building strong professional relationships. We recognize the challenges this level of openness can present, particularly for new employees, those from cultures where direct feedback is rare, or in situations with a power differential. However, this practice is vital for our individual and collective growth, as it drives the excellence of our dream team.

Freedom and Responsibility

In some companies, people overlook litter on the floor, expecting others to clean it up. But at CR Rail & Fence, we aim to cultivate a culture where everyone feels responsible for the collective well-being, much like they would in their own homes. Picking up litter symbolizes addressing problems, big or small, and rejecting the mindset of "that's not my job." Fostering a sense of ownership encourages this proactive attitude.

Examples of litters in CR Rail & Fence:

  • Customer Service noticing a typo in a product listing
  • Media Buy Specialist noticing an incorrect data in our data software
  • Logistics noticing an inventory might go out of stock
  • SEO Specialist noticing when a listing is linked to the wrong MasterSKU

Our approach focuses more on inspiring our teams than managing them. We strive for a culture where everyone acts in the best interest of CR Rail & Fence, fostering responsibility, accountability, and self-discipline, leading to exceptional work. The ultimate aim isn't just freedom, but nurturing a deep care for CR Rail & Fence, motivating everyone to do what's best for the company.

In many organizations, there's an overemphasis on rigid processes, limiting freedom. These companies often start flexible and responsible, but as they grow and face challenges, they increasingly rely on processes, losing their original spirit. Initially efficient and informal, they may become chaotic with growth, prompting calls for more structure. As rules multiply, creativity and questioning the status quo are stifled, leading to an environment optimized for a specific business model but inflexible to change.

To prevent this, CR Rail & Fence is committed to sustaining excellence among our employees and keeping our operations as straightforward as possible, despite our growth. We aim to be a company filled with self-disciplined, accountable individuals who proactively identify and resolve issues without needing direction.

Here are some examples of the exceptional freedom we grant our employees at CR Rail & Fence:

  • We practice the Great Game of Business and we adopt an open approach to sharing information internally. This includes widespread access to documents, allowing employees to read and comment on various topics, such as performance reviews of titles, strategic decisions, and product testing results. While there are occasional leaks, the benefits of well-informed employees far outweigh the risks.
  • Our policy for managing expenses like travel, entertainment, gifts, and others is succinctly summed up in five words: “Act in CR Rail & Fence's best interest.”
  • Our approach to vacations is straightforward: “Take vacation.” We don’t set a fixed number of vacation weeks per year. We often blend work and personal life, like answering emails at odd hours or taking an afternoon off during the week. Our leaders set the tone by taking meaningful vacations themselves, returning with new ideas and encouraging their teams to do the same.
  • For parental leave, our policy is simple yet supportive: “Take care of your baby and yourself.” 

It might seem that a high level of freedom could lead to disarray, but in reality, it has shaped a highly effective business model. This proves that not every aspect of operation needs rigid policies. Exceptional innovation can arise in an environment of freedom. However, without a strong sense of responsibility, freedom could indeed result in chaos, which is why they are complementary at CR Rail & Fence.

Having this freedom doesn't mean management is disengaged. In fact, input from leaders, colleagues, or subordinates is crucial for better decision-making, exemplifying that freedom and responsibility are mutually dependent.

Our philosophy of minimal rules and maximum freedom has a few critical exceptions, particularly regarding ethical and safety matters. There is zero tolerance for employee harassment or insider trading, and we enforce strict measures to protect our members’ payment details. These are rare but necessary deviations.

Overall, we prioritize the freedom to act swiftly and recover from mistakes rather than focusing solely on error prevention. In our creative industry, the greatest long-term risk is the absence of innovation. Therefore, we are generally tolerant of errors, except in matters of safety, and aim to ensure that our preventive measures do not stifle creativity. Effective and rapid recovery is achievable with sound judgment.

While there have been instances of misuse of this freedom, these are outliers, and we strive not to overreact. A few cases of abuse don’t undermine the trust we place in our team.

Finally, some of our processes aim to enhance productivity rather than just prevent errors. A prime example is our approach to meetings. We carefully plan these with a clear agenda, discerning between topics that require live discussion and those that can be managed offline. Our meetings are designed for learning and productivity, not just as a means to avoid mistakes or for routine approvals.

Informed Captains

At CR Rail & Fence, for every major decision, we appoint a knowledgeable 'captain' who has expertise in the relevant field. Their role involves considering the opinions of others before making an informed decision. We steer clear of committee-based decisions, which can lead to delays and dilute accountability. Determining who will be the 'captain' for each project is crucial, though it can be challenging.

For significant strategic matters, the 'captain' actively seeks out differing opinions and alternatives to ensure their decision is well-informed. Encouraging dissent is not easy, which is why we foster an environment conducive to open debate. While group discussions are common for deliberation, the final decision rests with the 'captain'. Our approach avoids seeking consensus or resorting to committee voting, and we equally avoid hasty, ill-informed decisions. Smaller decisions might be communicated via email, but larger ones warrant a detailed memo explaining the various viewpoints and the rationale behind the 'captain's' decision. The more critical the decision, the more rigorous the debate. We also conduct post-decision reviews to understand the outcomes and explore how we can improve our decision-making processes in the future.

Disagree Then Commit

When an employee has a disagreement on a crucial issue, it's their duty to articulate their concerns, preferably both verbally and in writing. Engaging in discussion helps illuminate the varying perspectives, and succinctly capturing the essence of the disagreement in writing aids in considering the best approach. This practice also facilitates open and broad sharing of opinions. The 'informed captain' responsible for the decision is expected to actively seek out (farm for dissent), understand, and contemplate these differing viewpoints, even if they don't align with their own perspective. After the decision has been made by the 'informed captain', it's expected that all employees, including those who initially disagreed, fully commit to the decision and contribute to making the outcome as successful as possible.

Context not Control

At CR Rail & Fence, we focus on nurturing strong decision-making skills throughout the company. We take pride in the minimal number of decisions made by our senior managers, not the quantity. However, this doesn't equate to a laissez-faire management style. Each leader's responsibility is to provide guidance, set the overall context, offer advice and feedback, and stay well-informed about their team's activities. Instead of micromanaging minor details, leaders delve into various project aspects. This knowledge helps them provide clearer context to their teams, enabling more effective decision-making at all levels. We believe CR Rail & Fence thrives on innovation and efficiency when decisions are made and owned by employees across the organization.

We also value a lean management structure for increased agility. Our "context, not control" culture is most effective when leaders oversee numerous direct reports, granting each individual ample autonomy to excel. While there are cases where smaller teams are necessary due to specialization or unique circumstances, these are exceptions rather than the rule. Leaders typically find managing six to twelve direct reports strikes the right balance between too many layers and insufficient time to be impactful.

"Context, not control" has its exceptions. For instance, in urgent situations where there isn't time to develop or disseminate context; when a new team member is still acclimating and lacks sufficient context; if the wrong person is temporarily making decisions; or in cases of clear ethical or compliance violations that must be immediately addressed.

Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled

As companies expand, they often become overly formalized and rigid. This manifests in several negative ways:

- Senior managers getting involved in minor decisions.
- Frequent inter-departmental meetings to gain consensus on tactics.
- Prioritizing internal group satisfaction over member satisfaction.
- A highly coordinated organization that's less error-prone but slow and cumbersome.

At CR Rail & Fence, we counteract this by cultivating an environment that is highly aligned yet loosely coupled. We dedicate significant time to debating and documenting our strategy and context. Then, we rely on mutual trust to allow each team to implement tactics without needing prior approval. It's common for two teams working towards the same goals to be unaware of or not need to approve each other's specific actions. If issues arise, we engage in frank discussions to determine if the strategy lacked clarity or if the tactics deviated from the strategy. These discussions are focused on how we can improve moving forward.

The effectiveness of this approach hinges on the ability of talented individuals to collaborate effectively and the establishment of clear context. Our ultimate aim is to expand our business impact while maintaining our agility and flexibility, ensuring we remain quick and adaptable even as we grow.

Ethical Expectations

In addition to practicing straightforwardness in our everyday interactions, we uphold integrity, even in situations where our actions aren't observed. A guiding principle we follow is to consider whether we would feel embarrassed if our actions were publicly disclosed. If the answer is yes, we avoid such actions.

Moreover, we handle a considerable amount of commercially sensitive information that needs to remain confidential. We trust all our employees to safeguard any company information, regardless of whether it's explicitly labeled as "confidential".

Employees Direct our Philanthropy

Rather than having our leadership select specific causes, we empower our employees through a 2 types of matching program. For every dollar an employee donates to a charity, CR Rail & Fence contributes an 1:1 or 2:1 to the same organization. This approach democratizes our philanthropic choices and encourages employees to actively support causes they are passionate about.

2:1 Match From Any Bonus 

1:1 Match From Salary

Seeking Excellence to Drive Success

At CR Rail & Fence, our goal isn't merely to maintain our culture, but to continuously enhance it. Each new team member contributes to shaping and evolving our culture, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives. This diversity and dedication accelerate our collective learning, enabling us to excel as a dream team.

This pursuit of cultural excellence is a key driver of our business success, leading to increased member satisfaction. This, in turn, fuels our long-term growth and positively impacts our stock price. It's through this process that we build an exceptionally successful company dedicated to entertaining audiences worldwide.