iwantmyname culture: The “one salary experiment”

On our blog we talk a lot about what happens in the industry we are in, what happens on the web and around our company but not too often about how we actually run iwantmyname.

We believe that building useful products needs a functioning team, a team that can focus on helping our customers, fixing bugs and shipping features. We work hard to get everything sorted that could get in the way of that for everyone in our team. Many companies talk nowadays about optimising for happiness, Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) often talks about it at conferences, Github has it as one of their core principles and we work towards achieving exactly that. But what does that actually mean?

I will write a few blog posts about what we do in iwantmyname and the experiments we run and how that pans out so far. I hope that we can be an inspiration to others that are looking for alternative ways to running companies.

One of the experiments that we are running in iwantmyname since we started is the “one-salary-experiment”. At iwantmyname everyone earns the same. This sounds strange to many and I get asked a lot of questions how this may work once we grow bigger and the honest answer is: “I don’t know, but so far it works” and I give that same answer since we started 5 years ago.

The underlying idea has two main roots. First, we really think that everyone is as important to the success of our team as anyone else in the team. We don’t believe in hierarchy or in more important people. If we hire you, we think you are valuable and want you to be part of our team as a level peer, not an underling that does the stuff no one else wants to do.

The second angle we looked at is incentives around achievements. Financial incentives work well for repetitive work but for creative work financial incentives are counter productive. If you are interested in backgrounds to that watch the TED talk of Dan Pink about motivation as a start.

To take the whole salary discussion out of the things to worry about we just increase salaries for everyone as we grow, automagically, no action required. It also means everyone knows what everyone else earns, full transparency for everyone.

This has a few positive side effects we initially did not think of. One is gender equality, we have a guarantee that there is no gender gap. Another is the stressful moment where we, the more introvert geeks, walk up to who ever we discuss salaries with and need to re-negotiate what we earn. It is never pleasant, for both sides.

This experiment is working really well for us so far and I really don’t see a reason why we can’t scale it up. It really helps us to not loose time with something everyone needs to live but also never quite knows how to negotiate. I think it is a very honest way of renumeration and it is at the core of our idea around how our team works, a group of peers working on an idea, together.

I’ll write a few more posts about other culture and company experiments at iwantmyname. If there is any topic you are more interested in or something you really want to know about us, please get in touch.

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This is part one of an ongoing series about the culture of iwantmyname.

  1. The “one salary experiment”
  2. The “work-from-anywhere experiment”
  3. On hiring and heirarchy