Employee Handbook

At Porter Software, we try to be as transparent as possible in everything we do. Therefore, our company culture and internal policies are posted below for all to see. We encourage prospective employees to read through these sections before applying, so that you have an idea of what it will be like working at Porter Software.

Comments and Feedback

We maintain this document internally as a Google Doc so that it can be commented by anyone in the company. We are constantly looking for feedback and suggestions, so all members of our team have access to add comments to this document to suggest changes to the process, the company, etc. No idea will be ignored, and there will be no negative repercussions for making a suggestion.

Our Mission

Our mission is to help empower people to do what they thought was not possible. Whether that is through software we build for our partners (i.e. what we call our clients), or through the apps we build and distribute ourselves, we are constantly striving to make the impossible possible. Computers and software are the closest thing we have in this world to magic, and we try to use this magic to transform people’s lives to make the world a better, more connected place.

We are a mission-driven company, and every decision should be measured against this mission. Continually ask yourself “Is what I’m working on bringing us closer to the true north our mission strives for?”

Who Am I?

Throughout this document, you will occasionally find the use of first person - “I” or “me”. This is because I, Jonathan Porter, wrote this document. I am the founder of Porter Software, and spent years studying entrepreneurship, engineering, and business principles to devise the most optimal working environment. Therefore, anytime you see first person in this document, know that these words come directly from me.

Who Are We, And Who We’re Looking For

We are a group of high-achieving, hard-working individuals who like to get things done but who also understand that life happens. We diverge from the traditional “work hard, play hard” mentality that corporate America has developed. Instead, we’re a group of people who love what we do and love to make magic happen.

We look for three primary qualities when we bring on new employees: being persistent, being curious, and being interesting. First, you must be persistent - willing to work hard to get the job done right, and resilient to setbacks and negative feedback. Second, we look for people who are curious about the world - a natural wonder about how things work, and a desire to continually learn and take on new challenges. Finally, be interesting - unique experiences contribute to a new way of thinking, and an uncommon life story helps shape the quality of the ideas you bring to the table.

We are excited about hiring people who are better than us, because that is the only way we grow. And we only hire people who we would work for ourselves - because one day, we might! We have an unconventional management structure that focuses on only employing high-contributing people. Instead of permanent “managers”, we simply have employees, and at the beginning of each project, a Project Leader (or Project Manager) is chosen to drive the project based on who the best person is to accomplish the goals of the project (be that external partner projects or internal initiatives).

Diversity is also very important to us at Porter Software. Not just cultural, racial, or sexual diversity, we look for a diversity of thinkers. We strongly believe that a diversity in personalities makes us better. We’re looking for lots of people with a diversity of ideas to help us think in new ways. We believe that a diverse workforce made up of people from all different backgrounds, cultures, belief systems, and lifestyles helps us achieve our vision.

Our Culture

We foster a culture of innovation by bringing together the smartest, most capable people and creating a safe space to challenge ideas so that collectively we put our best foot forward. We encourage people to not criticize ideas and tell each other they are wrong - instead, we ask you to apply your unique perspective and experience to challenge your ideas and the ideas of your peers. Instead of saying “You’re wrong, I’m right” in response to someone’s idea, you should say “I would like to challenge that idea because of x, y and z” (give real, meaningful reasons why you think the idea needed to be challenged).

In this way, no one should feel down if your idea gets challenged - instead, give pause for consideration of your peers’ ideas, and response with your own real, meaningful reason behind your idea. In fact, I relish in my ideas being challenged, and give you direct permission to challenge any of my ideas anytime. With each of us contributing our ideas based on our own experiences, we can craft the best version of the idea to present to the world.

How Decisions Are Made

We encourage the open exchange of ideas. However, as a result of that, we need an objective way to make decisions - particularly when it comes to deciding whether or not to move forward with an idea. All ideas must first be tested before we collectively make a decision. That test may take an hour or a week to complete - it just depends on the idea. While “It just feels right” can be a valid reason for testing an idea, all suggestions must have measurable metrics used to make a decision.

Specifically, when an idea is suggested and the team decides they like the idea, a test must first be devised to confirm the idea is sound. Before the test begins, measurable metrics must be defined to be used to determine if the test passes or fails. For example, if someone suggests new wording or colors for the landing page of a new app, the team must start by saying “we will test this by changing the wording for 4 weeks, and we should see a 25% increase in the number of signups in those 4 weeks”.

These metrics should be based on business requirements. To continue with the example, if the effort required to complete the idea equates to $1000, the measurable metric should result in at least $1000 in payoff - e.g. the 25% increase in signups should result in at least $1000 additional revenue for the company over those 4 weeks. After the test period is over, if the number of signups has increased by more than 25%, the test passes and the change can be fully implemented (despite our simple example, often there will be additional work required more than just the test to fully realize the idea).

If the test does not pass, that is not a failure! We take every opportunity to learn from our tests! Do not be discouraged if a test does not pass - debrief with the team and instead of pointing fingers, take the opportunity to understand what lessons you have learned, and document those lessons so others can learn from your test as well.

How Work Is Assigned

At Porter Software, we take the assignment of work and turn it on its head. Instead of work being handed down from the top to the bottom and you being told what you have to work, we put you in control. When new work comes in, or a new project is started, one employee will be put in charge of the management of the project (the Project Leader or Project Manager). That manager must then convince other employees in the company to work on their project. You read that right - managers have to convince employees their project is worth working on. This technique was made famous by Google, and is considered one of the primary ways that Google remains innovative.

When an employee agrees to work on a particular project, they must make a commitment to stay on that project for a certain amount of time (in order to avoid resources constantly hopping between projects, and to avoid managers losing employees when the project is at a critical point). This amount of time on a project can be fluid, and this commitment can constantly update as the project evolves, but we put this control in place to ensure that projects receive the support they need, especially when the work gets tough (as it inevitably will with software projects).

Enrollment (i.e. When You Join Us)

We are excited for the value that you can bring to our company and our partners! When you first start working at the company, we have a rigorous onboarding process to get you into the swing of things. You can expect around 2 weeks of training to get you acquainted with your processes and systems. After that, you should be up and running to start contributing to our projects.

PS Number

When you first enroll, you will be assigned a Porter Software Number, or “PS Number”. This will serve as your unique employee identifier throughout our internal processes (time tracking, expense reporting, etc.). For example, I am PS101. PS Numbers are assigned sequentially based on when you start, and numbers are not reused when an employee leaves.

Introductory Period

When you first enroll at Porter Software, your first 90 days is considered your “Introductory Period”. We understand that it takes time for people to adjust to a new company, a new culture, and a new way of doing things. After your first 2 weeks of onboarding, you should be ready to start working on projects, but we know it can take much more time for you to really hit your stride and be the best contributor you can be.

Therefore, during your Introductory Period, we give you extra time and resources to help you succeed. It is, however, up to you to take advantage of these additional resources. The Introductory Period also gives both you and us the chance to gauge the success of our working relationship. If things aren’t working out (on either side), we push additional resources to you to help us both try to figure out what isn’t working. If during the Introductory Period you feel that things are not working out for you at the company, you are welcome to move on to another opportunity, no hard feelings!

Weekly and Monthly Check-Ins

We encourage regular check-in meetings between employees and Project Leaders, to get and give feedback in both directions. This includes me - I have weekly check-ins with the people I work with directly. Regular meetings help everyone get ahead of challenges before they arise, and it helps us all improve by getting consistent feedback from our peers and mentors.

While we understand it may not be feasible to have a check-in every single week, we encourage you to try and have a meeting with your direct peers as many weeks as possible - and at the very least, once a month. These meetings should review current project goals, timelines, and progress, as well as focus on personal feedback in both directions. Feel open to propose suggestions that you think may help improve the project - and know that if someone challenges your idea, that’s okay, be ready with real reasons of your own for why you believe in your ideas.

20% time

We’re taking another page out of Google’s book here. In your time at Porter Software, you are free to take up to 20% of your time and work on anything that you want. Perhaps this is an internal pet project to streamline a process, or maybe you want to do pro bono work to support a local organization that means a lot to you. You have the freedom to apply your time however you want.

We would prefer this work contributes in some way to Porter Software, but we don’t make that a requirement - feel free to use your 20% time in the best way you see fit. If, at any point, your manager is asking you to work harder or work more, it is a totally acceptable answer to say “I will give you 100% of my 80% time”.

Life Balance

I think every company I have ever worked for has said they had a great “work-life balance”, but in reality that turned out to just be marketing talk. So here at Porter Software, we just call it “life balance”, and we’re serious about making a way that your life and work can fit together. At its core, we believe if you can get your work done, you should have the freedom to make decisions about how to organize your day and how to fit your professional and personal life together.

For example, most every day I take a 1.5 - 2 hour break in the middle of the day to work out. Why? Because that’s what makes me the most productive employee. How do I justify taking that time off in the middle of the day? I start earlier and work later to make up for the time. Some days I work longer than others, but in the end, I get everything done and meet all my obligations. If you do the same, you have the power to decide how your work and life fits together.

Our Policy of Honesty

Honesty and truth-telling are at the core of everything we do. We ask you to never suppress bad news, because that just leads to more things going wrong. Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell the truth! Even if it’s something you’ve screwed up, if you are up front about the mistake and have a solution to fix it, there will be no negative repercussions. We’re all humans, we all make mistakes. What sets us apart at Porter Software is our ability to learn from our mistakes to grow better because of them.

Graduation (i.e. When You Leave Us)

Whenever it becomes time for you to move on to your next opportunity, that is a time for excitement! In a departure from the traditional model, you set your “graduation date” - and we celebrate the work you’ve completed in your time here. We will obviously miss you, and will be sad to see you go - but we embrace the modern workforce and understand that sometimes, people want a new challenge. Before you decide to leave, we encourage you to talk to your manager (or come talk to me directly) and ask for more of what you want. We will do everything we can to get you into a role that better fits what you’re looking for. But don’t worry, if you do end up deciding to leave, there’s almost always an opportunity for you to re-enroll if you want to come back!

Last point here - if you’re thinking about leaving to start your own company, congratulations! Come talk to me, and I’ll give you candid advice about what it’s like to start a company. My door is always open, and you are welcome to pitch me your idea - I may just become your first investor.

What Can Get You Expelled (i.e. Fired)

We try to be as transparent as possible, and while we never want to expel someone we’ve hired, it’s better to go ahead and address this. First and foremost, no one can be expelled for challenging an idea. If you disagree with your Project Leader, or even if you disagree with me, that is not grounds for expulsion. On the contrary, as I’ve said before, I welcome a challenge to any of my ideas.

You can also not be expelled for life happening. We all have things come up - doctor’s appointments, cable installations, etc. As long as you properly coordinate with your project(s) to ensure work gets done appropriately, you cannot be expelled for needing to take some time to deal with life.

There are a few specific things that constitute expulsion:

  • Not performing up to standards and/or not getting necessary work done

  • Any inappropriate or improper conduct - lying, cheating, stealing, anything like that

  • Divulgence of any company trade secrets or partner confidential information

Vacation and Time-Off Policy

We have and will always have an unlimited vacation and time off policy. That will not change. The expectation at Porter Software is that you get your work done, no matter what. If that means you can take a vacation, great - enjoy it. But that also means if you have to on a vacation to get everything done, that’s also within expectations. We will not track days taken off, so feel free to take as many personal days as needed (i.e. sick days, half days for doctor’s appointments, etc.). But be warned, as soon as you start to abuse this policy and your work does not get done, that becomes grounds for expulsion (see the first bullet point in the above section).

When an employee goes on vacation, you need to set a vacation responder on email, as well as to update your status on Slack to “vacationing”. As expressed above, it goes without saying that all partner and internal work must be taken care of while you’re out, and your work must be transitioned for the extent of your time off (i.e. escalation points/replacement resources clarified with the partner, internal tasks transferred to other team members, etc.). Internal Project Leaders and partner contacts should be notified of your time off as early as possible to avoid work disruptions.

Working and Meeting Hours

We are primarily a remote company. We encourage as much digital and in-person connection as possible to get to know your teammates, but we also understand that everyone has a different personal clock. We want to enable everyone to work in the most optimal setting for them.

We therefore define “meeting hours” vs “personal working hours”. Meeting hours are defined as 10 am - 3 pm, Tuesday - Thursday. Any and all meetings required of the team(s) must be scheduled during these times (with the exception being partner meetings that require additional flexibility).

Studies show that condensing meetings into chunks of time allows people to be more productive in their personal working time, and results in happier employees. Personal working hours can be whatever works best for the individual, keeping in mind the requirements of the project/client. The expectation is that employees are working 40-50 hours minimum per week.

Communications Protocol

Slack is the primary form of communication internally within the company. Email is the primary form of communication externally with our partners. If you need to reach someone within the company for any reason, we ask that you send a Slack message as opposed to sending an email (even to me - send me a Slack message any time). This protocol allows everyone to keep their email inboxes focused on external partner communications. If it is possible to use Slack with an external partner for a particular project, we will do what we can to facilitate utilizing Slack - however, the typical partners we work with will prefer to communicate via email.

It is expected that, unless there are some extenuating circumstances, any communications received from a partner should at least be acknowledged (if not resolved) within 8 working hours of being received. Ideally, quickly acknowledge a partner’s email when first received, then follow up when the action has been completed later that day. For internal communications, the expectation is acknowledgement within 4 working hours and resolution within 16-24 working hours.

Dress Policy

We are a pretty casual bunch at Porter Software. And we think that comfortable employees are the most productive employees. Therefore, we let you choose whatever you want to wear. Feeling fancy today? Three piece suit. Bit of a case of the Mondays? Athleisure it is. Average day? Somewhere in between. Whatever you feel most comfortable in and makes you the most productive employee is what you should wear.

A few small caveats:

  • If you are meeting with a partner, dress appropriately for the specific partner. Obviously different partners have different expectations on how their company dresses, so we ask that you be within one degree of separation from their attire. For example, if the partner wears business formal (i.e. suit and tie), you should at least wear business casual (i.e. button down shirt and khakis). If alternatively, the partner wears jeans and t-shirts, we ask that you at most wear business casual (we don’t want to overdress in this situation and make the partner feel down about themselves).

  • Another caveat, all work clothing must be appropriate from a professional standpoint, even if it’s very casual athleisure-wear. No inappropriate logos or messages on the clothing, nothing overly revealing. If there’s ever a question about is this appropriate or not, ask yourself if you could wear it in front of your parents.

Expense Policy

As a general rule, the company can cover costs related to anything you need to effectively do your job.

Ideally, if the item you are needing to purchase falls in the category of software, supplies, etc. the item would be purchased by the company directly and provided to you (as opposed to you purchasing independently). We do this because if you are needing access to a new piece of software, equipment, etc., chances are someone else at the company could benefit from that product, and we can typically get better pricing purchasing it as a team rather than as an individual. However, we understand that is not always feasible, so if you need something to do your job, buy it and expense it. We would rather not hold up productivity for the sake of bureaucracy. Just be ready to defend the item on your expense report with a solid reason for needing the item.

Costs for company-related travel are addressed in the subsequent Travel Policy section.

Costs related to company-sponsored events (i.e. happy hours, potlucks, etc.) may be covered only for events specifically put on by the company. For example, we host a number of company events to encourage camaraderie, such as weekly Friday happy hours, monthly “potluck” meals, etc. Any costs incurred related to these events may be expensed to the company. However, in contrast, if a group of employees gets together for a happy hour outside of a company-sponsored event, while we highly encourage these types of get-togethers, these costs are not eligible to be reimbursed.

Travel Policy

It is not typical that you will need to travel for work while at Porter Software, as we are a primarily remote company, and we conduct as much of our work and meetings with partners as possible remotely. However, in the event that you do need to travel, we have addressed it here.

All costs associated with your company-related travel are eligible for reimbursement by Porter Software. You must keep detailed receipts of any items purchased (both an itemized list as well as proof of purchase) in order to receive reimbursement. (Don’t worry, we use a simple, modern app for processing expenses).

We ask that your accommodations overall fall into the category of “intermediate level”. What we mean by that is we don’t expect you to take the budget flight, rent the smallest car, or stay at the Motel 6. We do, however, ask that you be cost conscious when you travel. Try and stay at one of the cheaper large chain hotels. Take a flight with a carrier and at a time that offers lower fare options compared to prime time. Rent only as big of a car as you need, and try to share a car with other employees traveling with you at the same time.

Food and meals during your travels can also be expensed to the company. Again, we ask that you use good judgement here and only expense a reasonable amount. While we are typically not picky about things like bottled water, snacks, etc., we will raise an eyebrow at that $200 bottle of wine (unless, of course, it is to celebrate closing a massive new deal). While that’s a somewhat humorous example, it is for that very reason we don’t put hard limits on your food expenses while you travel. Every situation and travel scenario are different, and we simply ask you to use good judgement for the situation when submitting expenses. If you end up spending more money than expected, no problem, simply only expense the reasonable portion and you can cover the rest out of pocket (submit the entire receipt with your report but only request a portion of the cost and add a note describing why). Be aware, we do enforce person-specific travel limits if certain employees abuse this liberal expense policy.

Media Policy

Employees are not permitted to discuss any internal decisions or projects with the media. While we encourage you to express your thoughts and feelings openly within the company, it is important that we present a common, unified message to the outside world about our business, our partners, our projects, and our products. Therefore, we publish official statements to the media anytime we feel we need to share information with the outside world, and we ask you to defer any media requests for comment to our official statements.

Social Media Policy

In line with our Media Policy above, we ask you to similarly not post publicly on social media about the inner workings of the company. You are welcome to post about the fact that you work at Porter Software, and you are free to post about how awesome of a company we are, but we ask that you refrain from sharing details regarding our projects on social media. Any social media posts that come from our official social media accounts may be liked and shared, and text appropriate with the message being shared may be included in your posts.

Salary Policy

We strive to be as transparent as possible here at Porter Software, and that extends to our salaries. Employees are absolutely not forbidden to discuss salaries. In fact, we encourage it! We want to break away from the traditional model that makes salaries a taboo topic. However, be aware that “So-and-so makes more money than me” is not a valid reason to ask your manager for a salary increase. If you feel you are being undercompensated for your work, please come talk to me directly, and we will work towards a compensation plan that better fits your needs.

App Usage Conventions

We maintain a separate document that defines usage conventions for the various applications we use internally within the organization. Refer to that separate document for additional details.

Required Readings

In order to more fully understand the methodology and processes we use at Porter Software, we ask you to read the following books (either prior to your starting work or during your onboarding weeks - you can expense the cost of these books):

  1. The Mom Test, by Rob Fitzpatrick

  2. Amazon Link

  3. A delightfully short read that puts you in the mindset of how to talk to potential customers to get real, unbiased feedback. Will probably only take you a couple of hours to read, and is a great introduction to the way we think about problems at Porter Software.

  4. Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

  5. Amazon Link

  6. Another fairly short read, this will help you understand why we do things the way we do here. Ries uses real-life examples from his startup experience to explain how he applied lean manufacturing principles to develop a successful idea (after many iterations and failures). This book will help you think like an entrepreneur.

  7. The Startup Owner’s Manual, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

  8. Amazon Link

  9. This is unquestionably not a short read, but don’t be intimidated by the thickness of this book (there’s way more detail here than you need at this point)! Steve Blank is considered the father of the lean startup movement, and in this book he provides a step-by-step guide to validating an idea and building a successful company. At this point, you simply need to skim through the book and familiarize yourself with the overall steps and concepts - in the future, you will probably refer back to specific sections of the book as you need them.