What Defines Faire: Sharing Our Operating Principles
November 4, 2021 | By Max Rhodes
Our mission at Faire is to empower entrepreneurs to chase their dreams. This mission underpins not only why we are here but also how we operate. As a startup still in the early days of building what this company will someday become, our entrepreneurial spirit defines us. These values and operating principles are designed to help our teammates uphold that spirit every day. Faire is built for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs.
We serve our community.
Great entrepreneurs at Faire are purpose-driven and customer-obsessed. We recognize that our customers always take priority.
- We start with the mission. Before starting Faire, we explored several promising ideas, but we couldn’t get excited about them because we couldn’t find a sense of purpose in the work. We knew as soon as we started working on Faire that it was the right idea because it didn’t just solve a clear problem in the market, but it also fed on our shared passion for helping small business owners. We woke up every morning energized to serve our customers. That same sense of purpose continues to drive all of us at Faire today.
- We help our customers succeed. We have intentionally designed our business model to align our interests with the small business owners we serve, so we succeed only when they succeed. By offering free returns and Net 60 payment terms, we only get paid if our products sell in their stores. Rather than charging our brands upfront fees, as trade shows do, we charge a commission so we only make revenue when we are driving them sales. Most of our customers have left behind jobs they found unfulfilling to take a chance on themselves and to create something special for their communities. These entrepreneurs employ tens of millions of people and contribute to the color and character of communities across the country. We want to make sure their courage gets rewarded. Their determination and drive inspire us, and we are humbled by the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on their lives.
- We fight hard for our customers. Our small business customers are up against competitors one million times their size. Juggernauts like Amazon and Walmart have been using their scale to dominate the consumer landscape for decades. We believe equality of opportunity is the bedrock of a free society. We are working hard to level the playing field for our customers by helping them become an unstoppable, global community of entrepreneurs. By 2030, our community of small businesses will generate more sales than any other retailer in the world; we are giving our community the scale to fight back and win. We also know that building this community and achieving our mission requires dedication. We are proud to go above and beyond, put in the necessary work to be trusted partners for our customers, and aim to match their grit and work ethic in how we operate at Faire.
Questions to ask yourself: Do you want to derive purpose from your work? Are you excited to work hard to protect and strengthen small businesses?
Words in action: Nothing encapsulates the principles of serving our community better than the core value props upon which we have built the company: Net 60 payment terms and free returns. Giving retailers the ability to try products from new brands for up to 60 days before buying them provides a superpower that previously was only available to the largest chain stores. The risk we took on also aligned our incentives with our retailers so that our survival depends on their success. And we had to persevere to make this work. Nearly every team in the company has fought for it to work – from data science to operations, from product to sales. We banded together over multiple years to make something that seemed impossible work because we knew it would help our customers succeed. We started with the mission, we helped our customers succeed, and we will continue to fight on their behalf to create more opportunities for them in the future.
We seek the truth.
Great entrepreneurs at Faire care deeply about getting to the right answer. We don’t try to find the answer that will please our boss or protect our ego. We always let the truth prevail.
- We dig to the root. Our curiosity about our customers and our business is pragmatic but insatiable. We love analyzing complex problems, breaking them down, diagnosing the root causes, and iterating on solutions through research and experimentation. We love asking why – over and over again, and we don’t let up until we get to the bottom of things.
- We think rigorously. We debate ideas and make decisions with open minds and disciplined, first-principle reasoning. We favor written prose over slides because we value the clarity of thought that writing demands. We state our assumptions to drive alignment or invite scrutiny. We follow the facts, even when the facts don’t align with what we want to believe; we aren’t precious about any of our ideas. We value diversity of thought, so we welcome ideas and challenges to ideas from anywhere.
- We are radically transparent. We believe most decisions are best made by those in the trenches every day, so we equip our teams with all the information we have to help them make sound decisions. At our weekly all-hands meeting, we share in-depth metrics on the performance of our business—good, bad, and ugly. We regularly bring in customers to tell us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong.
- We have a growth mindset. As believers in the importance of a growth mindset, both individually and organizationally, we are hungry for feedback and challenging opportunities to get better. We have high standards for ourselves, and we are eager to hear from our teammates and our customers how we can aim even higher. At every level of the organization, we are all apprentices still striving to be masters of our craft.
Questions to ask yourself: Are you intellectually curious? Are you a disciplined and open-minded thinker? Do you have a growth mindset?
Words in action: At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were confronted with a difficult decision: should we continue offering Net 60 to our retailers under lockdown? On the one hand, we feared that we could lose millions of dollars if we continued extending credit to our stores. On the other hand, we felt like we didn’t have enough data to make such a big decision that could negatively impact our customers in their moment of greatest need. Even though none of us had ever experienced anything like this before, we knew we could figure it out with our growth mindset. First, we dug to the root of the problem. We realized that our financial exposure was a function of our retailers’ ability to pay us, which would, in turn, be a function of their current balance sheet, their expenses, and their revenue under lockdown. So, we started collecting all the evidence we could find: we sent surveys, gathered publicly available GPS and cellphone mobility insights, examined epidemiological trends, and used our point-of-sale integrations to help us forecast potential outcomes in local retail. We examined all this data rigorously, debated the possible interpretations, and gradually the story started to become clear: our retailers were not using us as a lender of last resort. While sales and foot traffic were down, they were recovering quickly from the initial shock, and early repayment rates were far better than expected. By seeking the truth, we were able to serve our community by continuing to offer Net 60 to our retailers, and in the end, our default rates for this period reached historic lows. Our confidence in our retailers was higher than ever, and our curiosity was rewarded.
We are all owners.
Great entrepreneurs at Faire own their outcomes and take pride in their craft. We always find a way to get the job done with the highest standards of quality, even if that means letting someone else take over.
- We are relentlessly resourceful. As owners of the company, every employee brings a founder mindset to their work every day. We embrace responsibility and don’t externalize blame. When we come to a wall we can’t run through, we find a door. Or a window. Or we build a catapult and strap on our helmets.
- We raise the bar. We take immense pride in the quality of our work, in every function at every level. Our meetings start on time. Our interview process is disciplined and thorough. The production quality of our all-hands is world-class. When something goes wrong, we hold debriefs and reviews to understand what happened and how to prevent it in the future. The standards we set for ourselves and our teammates are exacting. Some may say our bar is unreasonably high, but our team won’t settle for anything less than the best when it comes to serving our customers.
- We share our LEGOs¹. We all start with our mission, so we are always willing to set aside our egos and do what’s best for our team and our customers. We recognize that success at Faire isn’t zero-sum; in fact, it’s just the opposite. We care more about making sure the work gets done well and less about the scope of our role. We care more about how we are going to contribute and less about our title. We care more about the impact of the work and less about who gets the credit.
Questions to ask yourself: Are you tenacious? Are you intrinsically motivated to do great work? Are you willing to set aside individual gains to achieve broader team goals?
Words in action: Faire Direct is one of the most successful products we’ve ever built. By offering a free wholesale portal, we’ve helped thousands of our brands grow and streamline their businesses and introduced hundreds of thousands of retailers to Faire. However, Faire Direct was far from an overnight success. It’s taken a Herculean effort with multiple teams and ownership changing hands several times over the years to get us to where we are today. In the early days, we had to be relentlessly resourceful to make it work. We scrapped ideas and iterated on the value props until we found the path to success. Even after the product started to take off, we kept raising the bar. We kept finding ways to make it even better. Everyone who has worked on Faire Direct has taken full ownership over the success of the product, from product managers to designers to engineers to our brand success team. That ownership is the reason why it’s been so successful and continues to drive meaningful volume every day.
We embrace the adventure.
Great entrepreneurs at Faire aren’t afraid to take risks and make things happen. In fact, we love nothing more.
- We dare greatly. Our growth mindset helps us see tough challenges as opportunities to either succeed and make an impact or fail and learn from it. We don’t shy away from the risks of invention. In fact, we celebrate them. Although we don’t like reinventing the wheel, we love innovating to find better solutions to old problems.
- We bias towards action. Our pace of execution is breathtaking. We move at a speed that isn’t for everyone, but we find it exhilarating because we know the faster we move, the faster we can learn and maximize our impact on the world. We eliminate unnecessary processes. We are eager to do whatever it takes to solve problems for our customers with a burning sense of urgency, even when the right path forward remains unclear. We recognize that rigor and speed aren’t mutually exclusive and that often seeking the truth requires iteration instead of analysis.
- We are resilient. When our plans need to change (as they sometimes do), we stay calm. We simply move forward with urgency in our new direction. While we run a tight ship and prefer a sense of order, we are comfortable operating during periods of controlled chaos.
- We laugh. Although we take our work very seriously, that doesn’t mean we take ourselves seriously. We have fun at work. We love to laugh. Sometimes we can be a little silly. In fact, it’s hard to find a meeting that doesn’t have a designated DJ.
Questions to ask yourself: Are you comfortable taking big risks? Do you bring a sense of urgency to your work? Are you able to adapt and stay agile? Do you bring a sense of humor to your work?
Words in action: In the early days of the pandemic, we had to reimagine and reprioritize every aspect of the business. There was no playbook for how to handle a pandemic that literally prohibited the majority of our customers from operating their businesses. And, we were doing this all remotely while our personal lives were in massive turmoil. We acted quickly. We took decisive action and supported our brands and retailers financially. We dove into decoding legislative red tape and helped them gain access to stimulus funds. We dared greatly by building Neighborhood (a consumer shopping platform) in a matter of weeks to help drive traffic to our retailers. And dared again, developing a livestreaming experience from the ground up that supported a new form of online wholesale shopping, an event that became the Faire Summer Market. All of this was accompanied by profound changes in roles and assignments for virtually every one of us, on top of the seismic changes going on in the world. What got us through this frenetic and uncertain time period was our resilience and focus on our shared purpose.
We are kind.
Great entrepreneurs at Faire are kind. We recognize entrepreneurship is a team sport.
- We assume good intent. We don’t shy away from disagreement and direct feedback—being kind doesn’t mean simply being nice; it requires open dialogue and space for difficult conversations. However, we always trust that our teammates are trying to do what’s best for our customers, no matter what. We take feedback well, and we are willing to disagree and commit. As an unusually high-trust organization, we excel at collaboration.
- We are inclusive. We are warm and welcoming to everyone who walks through our door (real or virtual). We value diversity, so we create an inclusive environment where anyone can bring their whole self to work. At all levels, we are open about our inner lives and not afraid to be vulnerable.
- We support each other. We are eager to help our teammates and our customers. We are willing to put in the extra effort to contribute to the success of our teammates. We love to celebrate the successes of others and don’t hesitate to show our appreciation for a job well done.
Questions to ask yourself: Do you like to see your teammates succeed? Are you excited to trust your teammates to do the right thing? Are you willing to be candid and direct to build trust with your team?
Words in action: There are so many spectacular acts of kindness we could describe here: when a retailer’s shop burned down, over half the company rallied to donate to more than $10,000; when teammates have faced illness and hardship, we’ve been there to support them; and the way we were there for our customers and for each other during the pandemic. But the kindness that defines Faire shows up most clearly in smaller everyday moments. For example, in early March of 2021, I received an email from a customer who was very upset because we had shipped a bug to our point-of-sale integration that had basically broken her POS system and prevented her from processing payments for the entire weekend. She’d lost thousands of dollars in sales, and her team had to spend hours fixing the problem. I immediately forwarded the email to our support team, our integrations platform team, and the team responsible for the POS integration. Within 24 hours, these teams had worked together to identify the issue, fix the issue, contacted all other potentially impacted customers, and issued a $4,500 credit to the retailer’s account. At every step of the way, everyone involved assumed good intent. There was no finger-pointing. We focused on supporting each other to ensure we did the right thing for the customer and all the other customers that might have been affected. Every week, there are examples just like this one. Kindness is so deeply embedded in the organization it’s everywhere.
- Yes, we know that this is technically supposed to say ‘LEGO bricks.’ With all due respect to the LEGO Group, we grew up sharing our LEGOs and continue to do that here at Faire. #seekthetruth #embracetheadventure