[Above photo taken before the height of social distancing]
From humble beginnings in CTO Young Moon Kim’s garage, Putti has significantly grown to an award-winning purpose driven business known for its innovation in digital transformation, excellence, and company culture.
Today, Putti turns 10 years old.
Making it 10 years as a business is a pretty good excuse to have a party. But with the current COVID-19 crisis, it is nearly impossible to gather everyone for a drink.
To mark the occasion, we virtually sat down with our founding members (Young Moon Kim, Charles Wang, and Jay Moon) and the key people in the organization (Bruce Howe, Sean Choi, Douglas Sheppard) who directly work with them to answer a few questions reflecting on the past decade, their experience, and the company as a whole.
Here’s what they had to say.
What has been the happiest moment over the past 10 years for you?
Jay: When we got partnership with Spark, got Usablenet contract signed, moved to a larger office, and when we executed our first profit share.
Young Moon: When we could execute profit share program for the first time!
Chao: When I won the pingpong championship (lol) and when we established a long-term relationship with UsableNet – a turning point proving this business is indeed sustainable.
What has been the biggest challenge over the past 10 years?
All: The last quarter of 2017 was one of the hardest times. Multiple challenges internally and externally came at once, bringing such immense financial pressure on the company that we had to restructure everything – including the team.
How have the past 10 years of work impacted your personal life?
Jay: I used to be a pure artist before starting the business but now the way I think and see things has changed dramatically.
Young Moon: I have realised there is no easy road to success. Success requires a lot of patience, time, and efforts.
Chao: For better or worse, my comfort zone has been expanded severalfold. Traded my then blissfully small comfort zone for a battered, but hopefully better ego.
What makes this business different?
All: We have people who we can trust. It is very rare to find people with tenacity, compassion, and a willingness to do the right thing over instant profit rewards.
Chao: And having Young Moon as the spiritual leader!
Top 3 lessons learnt over the past 10 years?
- Having good relationships with good people is the key to help a business keep moving forward.
- Teamwork is more important than individual skills.
- People first money follows.
- Always find an answer even if it means doing it yourself – don’t stop curiosity.
- There is a huge difference in being a leader versus being a boss – team members produce different results with different leaders.
- Make a decision and execute it – a bad decision is better than no decision at all.
- The people you have can make or break a business.
- Perseverance is key.
- Luck is also very very important.
Did you ever think you’d be running a company with other people under you helping you make your vision come true?
All: We never really thought of running a company since most of our backgrounds stem from freelancing. Some of us even dislike the concept of leadership.
Where would you like this company to go?
Jay: A brand which people understands its value and work with us with trust. Numbers of solid bonding customers. A place where everyone wants to work at. A proud business to show to my children.
Young Moon: I wish Putti become a famous company where people stays and wants to work.
Chao: A well-oiled, robust company that can withstand adversities.
How is it working with the founders from a team culture perspective?
Bruce: We all want to work with smart people, experts in what they do and committed to do awesome work. You get this from the Putti founders and in the addition the values to do what is right!
Sean: Working with founders, you realise they never really left the garage they founded the start up in. The passion and drive to solve problems is very evident. It’s great working with them because you feel that motivation. But at the end of the week, they’re very happy to huddle on the other side of the “garage” and grab a drink or two.
Douglas: Working alongside founders in a company of our size (roughly 20 employees) helps keep motivation levels high as you work on projects with them to achieve their goals. This is incredibly true in our company as all founders get their hands on the tools and pump out amazing work that unites the team and demonstrates their capabilities – encouraging us to work hard and produce quality outputs. Jay, Moon, and Chao specifically have a work ethic that is second to none. Their hardworking nature combined with a clear way of working makes it incredibly easy to work alongside or under them in order to achieve great things.
How is it working with the founders from a management perspective?
Bruce: A short term opportunity or chance to chase a dollar is not an expectation or desire of this team. They want to innovate, partner with the right customers and then take care of their team. They are a team of action. There is no room for sitting around and over analyzing problems or pondering on what could have been. The answer is in the next opportunity and the subsequent hard work and collaboration to get it done! The founders have very quietly made huge sacrifices in the interest of Putti being a success and keeping a great team. This selfless nature shows quality of character and the commitment to make a great business.
Sean: Leadership aspects and their priorities are what sets them apart from corporate executives I have encountered in the past. They don’t do it to aim for the $10m mansion, the lambo, and 100 year old whiskey. It’s not to achieve their targets for the bonus or to get ahead of everyone else. It feels like they do it to build things they can be proud of and to work with like-minded people.
How is it working with the founders from a product point of view?
Bruce: Our customers stay with us. They trust that we will deliver on a solution relevant to now but also fit for the future. The founders have skills that are world class and they also show the concern to have provide advice on the options open to our customers. Because our founders do their research, leverage their experience and are willing to have open conversations, we deliver amazing transformational outcomes
Douglas: Jay, Moon, and Chao are your typical founders in that they take an great deal of ownership in the work they do, meaning they put in the extra effort to make sure that it looks good, works well, and meets the expectations set out. What I particularly have enjoyed in working with them is their flexibility to change the way they’ve worked and the systems their using when shown a new and better way of doing things – this ability to adapt will see them continue to push forward the boundaries of excellence into the future.
What makes these guys different?
Bruce: These guys are different because they are the best at what they do, they want to keep learning, they care about their team, they want to do things right and they see a long term business supporting kiwi businesses with the delivering the best of tech!
The founders are purpose driven and were so before this concept was a widely known thing. They support projects like FreeForAll and OrganDonation for free. Other customers that are purpose driven receive conditions in partnership that let them breath and thrive. They give their time not with the expectation to receive back but because they have skills that are needed and they want to help!
Sean: It seems like all the founders never aimed to become who they are today. They just found themselves with the roles and responsibilities. When I first joined the team in 2013 they were a small team with great passion. Today, the company is 3 times older and their underlying principles are the same. They are an extremely capable bunch who are a pleasure to work with. They were at the core of why I decided to join the team again, and have continued to do so for another 2 years!
Douglas: Jay, Moon, and Chao all their own little quirks that make them immensely unique, and a privilege to work with.
Jay’s knowledge of design principles and methodologies makes him an incredible asset to the team, but it’s his love of Korean music that brings life to our office with some awesome playlists! He really shines creativity as his passions outside of designing apps and websites are to photography and drawing. His deep love for creative practices shows up all throughout the office’s physical space and all of the digital work we do.
Moon is a sedulous character who pumps out immense amount of work and does everything with maximum effort. This hard working nature helps him to project a presence that makes team members feel secure and on track as he guides them to their goals. From system architecture to leading standups to scoping documents to table tennis, Moon really goes all out and it shows in the quality of his work.
Chao’s reserved nature makes him an intriguing one to work with. If you weren’t working on a specific project with him you’d almost not know what he’s doing. But Chao is the backbone of some of our most successful international builds, often entirely by himself. Upon embarking on projects with him, I can attest that Chao has an incredible mind that not only emanates talent in the software world, but even has strength in the sales and humor realms!
Missed our Putti Episodes? Check out the latest cartoon EP here.