Why I’m Holding on to WORK

Slack’s leadership team at the company’s NYSE listing, in 2019. Photograph: Slack

I wouldn’t be able to do my job without Slack. Yet it isn’t Slack’s ease of use, its versatile communication features or the vast number of integrations that made me invest in Slack Technologies, Inc., a.k.a. WORK.

Yes, the polished product design combined with its funky, playful branding have undoubtedly given the company an edge thus far. But these are also the aspects of the product that competitors can most easily imitate and that most swiftly get axed by shifting trends in the society and technology alike. While nice to have, they are not enough to sustain a company in the long run.

Slack’s much more promising and potentially more defensible competitive advantage, its real secret sauce, lies elsewhere. Not in the product that the company has already built, but in the group of people that work there. Unlike a great deal of venture-backed, high-growth tech startups (anecdotally at least), Slack seems to have its priorities not merely on growing but on building a “human-first” company culture.

I say “human-first” and not “customer-first” because Slack’s company culture goes beyond being customer-centric. It is the humility of the founder and CEO Steward Butterfield, the leadership team’s advocacy for complicated social justice issues, the level of organizational support given to both employees and external partners. It’s a sense that at the end of the day, the company cares not just about its customers and shareholders, but about people, period.

Through my work on GreetBot I have had the opportunity to experience this first hand. From making small talk with various VPs to e-mail exchanges with the developer support team, I have always come out with the impression that “Slackers” had my back. That they are the kind of people that wouldn’t cut corners or compromise on their values when making difficult decisions. The kind of people I could trust.

The value of embedding this sort of corporate backbone in the way the company runs itself should not be underestimated. It creates incentives for open communication and personal accountability among employees and helps to orient the company around long term goals. I am convinced that this is what ultimately leads to better working relationships, better partnerships, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.

We may not know for quite some time how it all plays out, and whether Slack turns out to be as good of an investment as it appears to be. After all, even the best run organizations can stumble along the way and fall into decay. But judging by its company culture, Slack may very well have what it takes to thrive for decades to come. And that is why I’m holding on to WORK.

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