The Zero BS Manifesto
We believe that there is far too much bullshit in business software.
We believe in entrepreneurs as empowered people, small-teams as savvy crews. We are product-hackers and building is in our genes, we suspect that if you’re here, you understand.
We believe we can make software that helps us be exceptional entrepreneurs, and mindful humans.
Sustainably crafting software in a way which empowers thoughtful, effective business and organisation; along the way slaying toxic entrepreneurship myths, and helping fellow entrepreneurs refine our culture in a meaningful way.
Our Guiding Principles:
Minimum Effective Dose
Broad Hybridising (no boundaries)
(Read on to see how we got to these principles, or skip to their explanations)
“…We kept seeing it”
As we built out lifestyle-businesses, we kept seeing it. We’d get a new app for this, or a SaaS account for that, and sooner or later we’d hit the point where one of us called it…Bullshit!
So much of what’s sold to us is soulless, designed primarily to make the seller money. So little is craft-built, well thought out, and refined for the user.
We wanted to use tools which made us better business people, not “click machines”. Yeah sales figures are important, but what about the actual human I’m trading with?
The Software we use Every Day has a Secret
Every time you load up software you are getting exposed to someones perception of “how this should be done”. Spend business hours logged in to a system, 30 or 50 hours a week, and in no time at all, you’re used to the style of the software. You’ve absorbed their operating methodology.
The sad fact is, much software was written from a development list dictated by sales people, who add features based on market desire, above pragmatic need.
“Yes it has AI, loads of it!”
That’s “okay”… but what we found is that you end up with soulless software which leaks bullshit from its edges. It breeds bad business habits, often leading to overwork or faulty workflows which strain the user and the business.
Great software should make you better. It should help you be more conscious of the information which matters. Over time good software should reduce the time you need to spend “operating” it.
Features are not as important as efficacy (effectiveness is king).
We work to make software which empowers exceptional entrepreneurs. To make software for builder-innovator humans, where the ingrained intent is to improve things for everyone. To (correctly) see customers as humans. To build better products. To foster community. To remove the business/ego language and make things straightforward. Zero Bullshit software built in a Zero Bullshit way.
Unconventional Guiding Principles
We’ve lived remotely and earned our money solely from building craft software for years now. (I write this next to a wood stove in a cabin (Woody) and Mike’s on a 1 year world-spanning “honeymoon”.) We have designed our lifestyles with intent.
But even with autonomy, life without meaning is joyless.
We first built Zero BS as a side-project to help out a family business.
Then it stuck.
Then we found our meaning.
Software should make us better humans. It should do this by taking the computable bit off of our desk, and by enriching the human elements. CRM’s before Zero BS CRM focused on digitising people – changing them into ID numbers, (even the users), and squeezing them for cash.
But that’s actually just adding; 1) ideology that’s dysfunctional to personal happiness for the entrepreneur, and 2) overall friction to human relations, (and oh so often, 3) inflamed monthly costs).
When we realised this, we saw our goal.
From this desire to cut the crap, we started building. From the
trial and error experiments so far, we have discerned principles which we could all aspire to fulfil, (backed, as we are, but the biggest technology wave that history has ever seen):
Truth and simplicity as a rule (never being false, indirect, or manipulative, trying to take as much forced ideology out of a software as possible and communicate humanly)
(to borrow Bjarke Ingels’ phrase) – the idea that we can make things which initially seem ‘unviable’ by sticking to our principles. Daring to dream, but then building the thing! (e.g. We’ve started with a full CRM in a small, effective, affordable plugin)
Win-win-win-win business (Win4)
No-lose business. This means empowering awareness of all effects of our work, capped scaling & epic communities. We’re prepared to shut this down if we can’t make it good for everyone. Good for Us, Clients, Communities, and the planet: Win4
Minimum Effective Dose
Entreprenur focused. Learning healthful boundaries and keeping effective in the face of “everything”. Value over profit, every single time
We seek to actively learn about successful approaches from a broad range of industries, hybridising bleeding edge experience into our work wherever we can. Down with unhelpful boundaries!
How this all plays out day-to-day
Grand schemes and principles are all good, but how does this play out day-to-day?
While we’re constantly refining our operations, here are some examples of how ZBS seeks to stand apart and stay true to this manifesto:
– Founders schedules: Mike & Woody both schedule some time in the morning, before opening email or jumping in to support, which is just for improving the overall business. There needs to be space for refinement, and though it’s not urgent, it is important. We never hide this fact and will gladly tell any customer/explain why we have this allocated time.
– Weekend support coverage: We know a lack of support can be frustrating, but we have still have clear rules. Weekdays support requests are usually answered within 24h, often sooner, but at the weekend this may be more like 48 hours. Sundays nobody works. This isn’t religious, but it is important. We’re clear about this everywhere.
– Saying goodbye to customers: Life is a complex soup of interactions. Sometimes a customer will come along who doesn’t agree with our manifesto, it’s sad, but we get over it, we hope they do to. While we do maintain a zero-bs cancellation policy, there’s no point in forcing a bad relationship!
– Sick Days & Well days. From our point of view work is not this painful slog that we ‘have to do’. We love signing in and helping out, and if that ever changes, we’ll stop. Part of delivering highly efficient craft software is being reliably innovative. Nobody can be reliably innovative if they’re full-throttle chained to a desk. We occasionally take days out, which occasionally delays feature releases, but we believe this to be valid, and will continue to do so. We never hide this fact.
– Unrestricted innovation – Because we’re clear with everyone how things work, and because we give ourselves enough time to deliver consistently, we have a near endless list of innovational ideas for our software. In time these will be delivered via new bleeding edge features.
What this means for our Community of Entrepreneurs
Yeah yeah, great, we live well and focus on consistent quality, so what? Here are the benefits as we see them for those who join our community of entrepreneurs:
– Reliable high-level development, we consistently fix bugs and refine features
– Your feedback makes a genuine difference, we listen to everyone and steward the product toward it’s best use
– Human business, we’re here most days of the week to help you (founders reply to support tickets)
– Join a growing community of likeminded, no-nonsense effective entrepreneurs
– A complete lack of bullshit. No secret prices, tied-in data, (hidden) small print policies or features for the sake of billing you!
One Last Analogy…
In the end, Entrepreneurs are like Ship Captains.
You know where you’re headed… And we’re crew – looking to be good ship-mates on interesting ships. We’re in this for the adventure, and the service. Let’s disrupt & deliver!
Mike & Woody of Zero BS CRM – September 30th 2018