How Startup Able Health Developed a Culture Guide

Steve Daniels is the President and Co-Founder of the startup Able HealthAble Health helps healthcare providers earn incentives from insurance companies for delivering better care. Its platform tracks the quality of care delivered to each patient and simplifies reporting.

Able's Culture Guide on github

Able's Culture Guide on github


Steve Daniels recently led Able Health through a culture setting process to create a culture guide. Steve and his co-founder, Rachel Katz, understood that it was important to be intentional about their culture from the very beginning. Even though they only have eight employees, they just made their internal culture guide public on github. I asked Steve to walk me through how this process worked. Here's what he said:

"From day one, we've prided ourselves on being a bridge between Silicon Valley and Healthcare. We saw a real lack of companies stepping into this role. To us, this means being being a true partner in transforming the healthcare system, rather than 'disrupting' or undermining it. As we convened a founding team that reflected this mission, we naturally ended up with a diverse set of people—a mix of move-fast-and-break-things innovators and do-no-harm healthcare veterans. So we faced the question, "What's the Able way?" There's no off-the-shelf manifesto for a company like ours that wants to embrace and scale this tension. One poster on our wall reads sarcastically, "Move at reasonable speeds and don't break things."

The first step was send a survey to the team asking each member what their personal mission was at Able, what culture they wanted to see, and what they felt made a good hire. I distilled that input into a few themes and brought them to an offsite, where we had some hearty conversations about how we wanted to work, collaborate, and give feedback. My co-founder, Rachel, and I then drafted the first iteration of the Culture Guide and invited the rest of the early team to make comments and suggestions in a Google Doc. These days, updates are suggested and approved via pull requests on GitHub.

The document is often referenced in both day-to-day work and as a moral compass for some of the most difficult decisions we have faced as a company. Every time we have stayed true to our values despite all the reasons not to, it has paid off."

I love the level of detail in the document! Not only does Able include its mission, vision, and values, but also a comprehensive list of different team norms and several policies-- all of which help make the intangible and unspoken rules become tangible and spoken. Able will continue to add new material to the guide, including its new process for setting roles and goals.

I'm also impressed that Able shared the document on github for transparency and ease of editing. I'm curious if other companies will start to share via github, as it seems like a smart choice. Well done, Able Health!