In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Mary Fiers, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer, and Tessie Hartjes, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All five contributors – sometimes accompanied by guest bloggers – are working on solving the problems of our time. Everything to make Tomorrow Good. This Sunday, it‘s Tessie Hartjes’ turn. Here are all the previously published columns.
I started writing for E52 almost a year ago. I have written blogs about energy poverty, extreme wealth, solar energy, and creepy / hopeful new technologies. But one of the subjects I keep coming back to is the enormous progress we are making at Lightyear. It gives me so much energy to see all the committed engineers, investors, ambassadors and business leaders taking the company to the next step, just a little bit closer to its mission of providing clean and affordable mobility for all. I really want to share a bit of this energy and hope with you by giving insight in what it is really like to work on a project like this.
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Imagine that you want to build a house in two years. But you start out with only a rough idea of the size, functionality and a vision for the building. You do realize that you will need people that can help as an architect, as a construction worker, as a plumber. Image the moment that the architect makes the first drawings, something that would have taken you a year to complete. That is exactly the relief that goes through the team when very talented people are added to the company. Since a relatively large company is needed to cope with the complexity of a car, Lightyear has been adding on average 4 great people to the company every month, adding up to about 35 people at the moment. Imagine the energy that gives you.
Working on culture
A great culture does not happen automatically. Values are behind everything you do, but it took us a while to recognize the importance of communicating them. We promote being ambitious, honest, equal, independent and sustainable. But just putting these words on the wall is not enough. People already working at the company have the responsibility to convey these values in everything they do. That means showing huge appreciation for someone taking initiative for organising a darting competition to boost morale or someone expressing their worry for the company deviating from the goals it has set.
Improvising, testing, learning: How to make things simpler?
As you can imagine, processes and structures are built along the way. For example, we don’t know yet what the best process for onboarding people will be a year from now. Should we ask candidates to work with the team prior to joining the company, should we organise presentations at the start of each month to get all the new people up to speed, should we make a 100 page book with all the information regarding Lightyear? And as the company grows, things become more complex, information flows need to be adjusted, systems need to be build. And perhaps most important of all: strive to keep things simple. If everyone understands the goal, strategy and philosophy of the company after reading a two pager, decision time will decrease drastically.
Dealing with perception and reality: ‘Oh you don’t have a prototype yet?’
Within a company that doubles in size every half a year, it is very hard to manage expectations. People often either think that we already have Lightyear Ones on the road or people didn’t expect to find a group of 40 people working at Lightyear, but just a couple of students. To make it even more complicated, much of our progress is happening in requirements, CAD and other documents, mostly hidden from the naked eye. It requires great communication through social media, in face-to-face meetings and presentations to give people an accurate understanding of the stage of the company. Underselling will hurt the company and does not unlock the potential that the company has, equally, overselling will hurt the company in the long term, when it cannot deliver on the expectations people have.
Moving into our huge new office
It is quite hard to convince people that the company really is on its way to reach 40 people while the company is still only 15 people strong. Only if the partners you are working with believe in this growth figure, they will help you to get to that new office on time. Only after the first evidence of growth did our partners realize that the timelines we communicate are really happening. Once that happened, we quickly reached agreement for renting a new office on the third floor of the Automotive Campus main building.
Finally, we can work in a place that communicates the maturity and spirit of the company. It completely changes the way people perceive the company when they step into our office. Judging by the sound levels during the friday afternoon drinks karaoke sessions, it was a much needed boost in morale for the team as well ;).
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