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The Seven Qualities of World-Class SaaS Companies
For nearly ten years prior to joining the product team at Percolate, I was at Workday. I started as Workday’s first product manager, helped grow the team from one product manager to 45 across 12 product teams, and watched the company hit a $1 billion annual run rate. It’s the powerful combination of great product, innovation-centric philosophy, and culture that ultimately makes a world class SaaS company.
Recently joining as VP Product, I see many similarities here at Percolate. As we continue to grow the team in San Francisco it’s a natural time to reflect on the qualities that make a world-class SaaS company.
Quality 1: Company culture wins
Company parties are fun, but they aren’t what ultimately amounts to a company culture. The key to culture is what I’ve dubbed “The Circle of Three”. The Circle of Three comprises three behaviors that dictate how we treat each other: respect, importance, and listening.
However simple they sound, they underscore that culture is about how we treat others and how we expect to be treated. That’s what lets great companies attract, keep, and energize people, whether they’re employees, customers, investors, or partners.
Quality 2: Belief in true innovation
We naturally tend to look at obstacles as reasons not to do something, but world-class companies see every obstacle as an opportunity for innovation. They ask, “What would have to be true for the obstacle to not be there any more?” They break down the challenge and get to work building the solution.
Quality 3: Technical badassery
Most people outside of product focus on features — but it’s the backend systems and architectural features that make things run. At their core, world class SaaS companies must have technical badasses. System performance, large volumes, automated testing, infrastructure, redundancy, security, data privacy, integrations, and common feature frameworks — none of those sound particularly sexy outside of an engineering team, but it’s this “boring” stuff that enables the product to sing.
Quality 4: Everything is customer experience
User Interface isn’t the only customer experience when it comes to software. Every detail is experience, from how clean your office bathrooms are to the conversation a customer has with a client solutions manager. Sales, customer service, marketing, facilities, HR, recruiting, finance, and product all contribute to customer experience, because the details matter.
Quality 5: Design is omnipresent
Design is intentional, not accidental. Purposeful design always returns to the user need. By taking a first principles approach, you achieve simplicity, order, and beauty in design. The best software, products, and brands win with thoughtful, intuitive, and user-centric design.
Quality 6: Think big, then think bigger
It’s tempting to think small. Achieving big things requires big thinking: aiming to answer big questions with even bigger solutions. The size of your organization today shouldn’t stop you from pushing your employees, your teammates, and even your managers to think big.
Quality 7: Tactically strategic
Detailed long-range strategy plans don’t work. Thinking big feels like stepping into uncharted territory most of the time, but it’s made doable by operational thinking. World-class SaaS companies don’t lose sight of the tactical. They execute with urgency, and let their actions, plans, and teams remain fluid.
Clay Tingley is the VP Product at Percolate. Interested in how we’re building a world-class SaaS company? Reach out to us: we’re hiring.