Karbon’s values in action (part 1): Connectivity and openness

Values without action are empty promises, doing more harm than good.

Stuart McLeod, Karbon CEO and Co-Founder, sitting with 6 other Karbon staff members. They're in deep discussion in their office. There are monitors, they're sitting in office chairs, and there's a brown exposed brick feature wall that makes up most of the background.

Karbon’s leadership team recently took a deep dive into our company values, evolving and framing them with actionable insight to reflect the company (and group of people) that we have become. After all, if the Great Resignation has taught us anything it’s that finding a good fit is essential. And how can we expect the right team members to find us if we don’t take the time to articulate what we stand for? 

The exercise gave us clarity in how to communicate our culture and it also resulted in an intentional revision of our values. The end product makes me proud, not only because our revised values spell out the how and why that moves us as Karbon people, but also because it sets the tone for where we’re headed. 

I’m offering my personal take on each of our five values in a mini-series celebrating the critical components of Karbon’s culture.  

First up: Champion connectivity and embrace openness 

"Our product is 100% focused on open communication, connecting colleagues, and removing information silos. As a company, we work with the same value top of mind, always. We embrace visibility and open communication. We expect it from each other, express it through our actions, and enable it through our ways of working."

Let me be frank, full transparency to all people regarding all things isn’t for us. 

That’s true for many reasons, but efficiency is one of the biggest factors that comes to mind. 

Instead, we focus on ensuring we’re open and transparent about the information that is most applicable and useful to our various constituents. How open communication, connection, and transparency is leveraged depends on the individual. Let me explain. 

Our employees

We are nothing without our team. And cultivating relationships and trust is paramount to the success of our company. How we communicate and how we provide feedback to our employees is done with transparency at the forefront. 

We believe in rigorous honesty, ensuring that all information and resources are available and accessible to those who need them. Our metrics, funnels, and KPIs can be viewed by any and all Karbon employees, which means our team knows where we’re headed, how we’re doing, and how they can contribute to our growth. 

Trust is an inherent part of openness, which requires us to believe in the expertise and insights of our team, empowering each individual to bring their strengths to the table and support our overall mission and operations. Simply put: if you’re hired, it’s because we see you for all that you offer and we welcome you into the fold. 

Connectivity has been, arguably, challenging since the onset of COVID-19, but we’ve found new ways to foster relationships in our hybrid structure. 

We don’t insist on working in-person five days a week, but when we get the opportunity to bring people together, we take full advantage. 

Take our recent customer leaders summit, Karbon X, for example: This wasn’t just an opportunity for our customers to gather, but also for our team to spend time with one another.  

Connection also soars when our team is aligned on purpose. We aren’t curing cancer at Karbon, but our work does have a ripple effect. By making life easier for accountants, we’re able to play our part in the success of our customers’ clients. 

By helping accountants to better-support those they serve, we’re part of the chain—and that’s a purpose worth coming together for and supporting. 

Our partners

For too long, some of our competitors have strong-armed the accounting industry into adopting specific solutions and platforms. 

We believe that accountants should be able to pick and choose. And we want to be the connection between accounting firms and other technology. Our strategy is not to have our customers so entangled in our platform that they’re locked into specific services, but for our customers to work with us by choice because they, too, can choose from a long list of integrations.  

Yes, we want to be our customers’ primary platform, but we also want to extend their functionality with open APIs, allowing us to connect with a broad range of vendors in mutually beneficial relationships. I see it as a win-win-win: for accounting firms, for vendors, and for us. 

Our investors

Trust and openness is the foundation for a successful relationship with investors, but it can feel uncomfortable. Having an honest and open conversation with investors about a bad month, or a big customer churning out isn’t easy, but it’s the best path to a long and prosperous relationship. 

We’ve always been transparent with our investors, for better or worse. That may result in a slightly lower valuation from time-to-time, but it also allows us to build a strong foundation. Many spin numbers, we do not. 

Why? Because we value openness, and also because we believe it’s essential for a positive working relationship to move forward without surprises. Closing a deal is just the beginning. The real work begins after signing on the dotted line. 

Our customers

Openness manifests with customers through our Karbon roadmap webinars, our roundtables, our conference, and our communication efforts about anticipated downtime for the platform. 

Our Karbon Community is another opportunity for us to be open with our users and facilitate connections within the accounting industry. 

Not only does our openness and commitment to growing connections allow us to support the growth of the accounting industry, but it also helps accounting leaders self-identify whether or not we’re a good fit for them. We aren’t for everyone, and that is okay. We understand. Finding the right product is just as valuable as finding the right employee, or finding the right investor. 

When we understand and accept that we can’t be all things to all people, we better-position ourselves to successfully serve our niche. 

And when we surround ourselves with customers who believe the same things we do, we begin to build a tribe.

Embracing and expecting go hand-in-hand 

Just as we’re committed to actualizing our promise of openness and connectivity, we also expect it in return. Taking values and transforming them into an actual company culture requires living those values, modeling them, and inviting others to follow suit. 

One of the most exciting things we’ve discovered by living our commitment to openness and connectivity is the ROI—and not the quantifiable kind. What we put out into the world, comes back tenfold. 

The partnerships we’ve formed, the investors we’ve gained, the team we’ve built, and the customers who’ve come on board are all thanks to this commitment to staying true to ourselves. 

As a result, we’ve not just strengthened our company culture, but we’ve also formed a community of forward-thinking, passionate individuals hell-bent on transforming the future of accounting.