April 29, 2009

At Percona a lot of vision aspects come from what we as a founders and later as a team consider good from the position of the other party.  With Employees/Consultant – the question is what would  I value working for the company ?   This is interesting because our job desires come a lot from personality aspects – some people love challenge others would rather have relaxed work with no challenges.  Some right success based payments other would rather have smaller steady guaranteed paycheck.  So I do not expect our approaches and values to be right for everyone but we expect you to love them if you’re person we would like to see as member of the team.

  • Consultants are main value creators. We do not see  consultants as “cost”  but rather as the true value creators which deserve lion share of consulting revenues, with rest – sales, administration being the overhead which has to be controlled and minimized.   When we just started Percona someone suggested me the good way to have a good business to hire some cheap labor force in India and get great gross margins billing customers 10x what is paid to the people actually doing the job.  I thought that was wrong and unfair and this is not the road we took.   We have employees in high cost and low cost countries but we pay them the same way based on the share of the true value they bring.    In particular with remote work the country where you live becames similar choice to the local neighrborhood.   We’re able to pay some 65-70% of gross billings to the consultants in average (as salaries, benefits and payroll overhead) which is a high number considering we do a lot of small jobs which has significant overhead.     Percona is a business and we as a founders took the risk of starting the business expecting some payout. We have not however planned to sell the company for quick turnaround or rip off consultants pocketing 50% of their billings. We expected a lot of fun and some fair profit share from our labor. Working for MySQL I did not feel like my contribution were paid well both in terms of value and equity compensation. And really if you look into the people who were paid best and who made a killing when Sun bought MySQL these were mainly  sales and marketing positions which in my opinion are responsible for the preseption and packaging rather than true value.  I think it is very intresting excersise for anyone to fairly assess how much value they are bringing to their current employee and who really profits from it.
  • Consultants are Enterpreneurs. If you’re consultant you usually have couple of choices – either you’re doing your own stuff as independent consulting business or you go work for somebody else.   Working for yourself can be well paid but is risky and makes engineer to do a lot of things engineers often do not like to do – such as sales, dealing with contract negotiations, collections. At Percona we wanted to provide something in between – we have people doing all this boring stuff such as sales, contracts, collections, insurance so engineers can focus on the stuff they like the most.  Plus working together we can be more efficient dipping into each other experience as well as have better life quality – if you’re lonely consultant your clients may well call you on vacations or in the middle of the night and you may have no one to cover you.  Working together allows to work more efficiently as well and shared client pool allows better utilization and less risks  which often means you can be paid more as consultant at Percona than being independent.  We also go further allowing consultants with good leadership coaching and management skills profit not only from their own work but from the work of people they supervise, so you can be running your small consulting business inside Percona.
  • Success based compensation. We strive to provide personal service for our clients which means each client gets lead consultant and the group assigned to them.  Lead consultant would mange most of the client needs while the group will be well understanding customer envinronment and following on all the issues so more people can be involved if needed as well as lead consultant can take vacation or a sick day off.  As customer typically stays with consultant and the group for long time this means  if you’re doing the good work for the customer there is more work to come your way. Good consultants typically can have better utilization and they get larger cut of the revenues too because of the pie. We also bill clients based on efficient time only – we do not think it is fair to have customers to pay for consultants learning general learning (not specific to their envinronment) or for making mistakes which again converts to great opportunities for great consultants.
  • Employees come first. We love our employees and want them to have a great life. I know everybody says that.  Though I believe we can do a lot in this area as we do not need to sacrifise employee needs to please shareholders.  We engage in the businesses our employees are comfortable to deliver. We make sure they work comfortable hours and can spend time with their families or themselves.  We allow employees to put their family needs first, hence if there is any emergency with your family you just do what you need to do and the team will cover you.   As a good example I would say why do not we sell a lot of long onsite work – this is mainly because many of our consultants to dot want to travel away from their famility for weeks in the row.  I personally like to get out and visit customers in the Bay Area for the day or too and so we sell these services.     What is about customers when ?  Should not they come first ?  I think they should be happy on the second place because we ensure our consultants treat customer needs very seriously.  If customer has an emergency and his system is down and he is loosing thousands of dollars every minute I share his feelings of pain and urgency and a lot of other consultants do too.
  • Team Work. Nobody is as smart as the team.  We are seen as a team so we succeed as a team or fail as a team.  It is important our consultants are not working alone and there is always their team mates to help them.   We believe the team work is very important both to provide great quality of services to customers as well as to have great joy from work for human being – in particular while working remotely active team involvement is very important.
  • Openness/Integrity/Participation. When I was the part of management team of my first startup we  were far from open with our employees. They barely knew about company plans and deals came to them as a surprise, furthermore we were dishonest to them and our customers about what true intentions of various decisions were. I was a junior partner at that time and though that is a way to do business.  When I came to MySQL I was shocked by how much transparent the company was.   Many things like company revenue were open to everyone and active participation of everyone was encouraged – meaning you could really get your opinion heard.  A lot of these things were lost in the corporate MySQL of recent years.   So back to principles – we are very open with our team about what we’re doing and why and we do not want to trick our employees clients or partners missleading them about facts, plans or visions. We actively welcome pariticipation of all the team in decision making process as reasonably possible.

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