This post is the fourth in a five part series celebrating Test Double’s five-year run on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies:

  1. Widen the Goalposts for Success
  2. The Customer is Usually Right
  3. Profits are Good, Actually
  4. Do Right by Everyone (this post)
  5. Find your Leading Indicators

By now, you might be picking up on a theme: being a good person gets you half of the way to being a good businessperson. And if your goal is to grow a company that will stand the test of time, it’s worth considering the influence karma can have on your success. While it’s obvious that financial capital brings security, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that social capital can be every bit as valuable.

Consider the alternative: no matter what you do for a living, it’s easy to find people who view their relationship with work as zero-sum—for them to win, others have to lose. This manifests itself in all sorts of ways:

  • The hyper-competitive entrepreneur who burns bridges whenever they lose
  • The stingy customer willing to go to war over every line item of every invoice
  • The self-centered coworker who tears down others to get ahead

These are common tropes, because they work… in the short-term. But every industry is a lot smaller than it might initially seem. If you treat others poorly, your reputation will catch up with you sooner or later.

The good news is, the inverse is also true: treating others well tends to pay dividends. Back when we started, I didn’t realize just how important moral fiber was to long-term business success, but it’s probably no coincidence that my cofounder is one of the most honest, principled people I’ve ever met.

Ethics 101 aside, orienting your company to systematically arrive at positive-sum outcomes in which all parties win makes good business sense even if you’re entirely selfish about it. The visual that we’ve always leaned on is that of a three-legged stool, requiring a balance between what’s best for our people, our customers, and our company. When an otherwise viable business is struggling, it can often be diagnosed in terms of favoring one of these legs at the expense of the others. There are companies I love as a customer but I’d hate to work for, and companies that treat employees well but routinely take advantage of their customers.

It may sound quaint, but by intentionally framing each decision as a balancing act of these three interests—company, employee, and customer—it’s surprising how often there’s an opportunity for everybody to win. And when you get in the habit of basing decisions on what’s best for all parties, it creates a virtuous cycle that fuels future growth.

As a leader, when you view everybody’s success as your responsibility, you’ll find yourself helping others even when there’s no apparent benefit to yourself. But eventually and in aggregate, we’ve found that going out of your way for others will pay off in spades. These are all things that have actually happened:

  • We know interviewing is stressful, so we do our best to provide candidates a good experience. By leaving a positive impression, even candidates that don’t pass our interview process will often encourage their friends to apply
  • When an employee is looking to change jobs and they trust us enough to talk about it, we always do our best to find them a great role at a new company. I’ve lost count of how many of these “sleeper agents” told their new employers about Test Double and wound up working with us again as clients
  • When prospective clients can’t afford our rate, we always take their call anyway. By listening to their problem and leveraging our experience, we’re often able to identify more affordable stopgap solutions that can work within their budget. It’s not uncommon for leaders at these businesses (who we never actually worked with!) to become a major source of sales leads when they tell their friends and colleagues about how we helped them

Not every company is situated to benefit financially from doing the right thing, but when you see a company like Facebook whose profits depend on somebody being short-changed, know that they bear the responsibility of painting themselves into that corner. When a company commits to the principle of doing right by everyone from day one, their business model will necessarily adapt itself to accommodate that constraint.

It’s pretty amazing to be part of a company that grows and succeeds in proportion to how much it helps others succeed. Why do we want to grow? Because the more we grow, the more people we can help and the bigger impact we can have on our broken industry. There are worse things a business can optimize for than helping as many people as possible.

[Continue to part 5: Find your Leading Indicators]

Justin Searls

Hash An icon of a hash sign Code Name
Agent 002
Location An icon of a map marker Location
Columbus, OH