Tour of one of best Silicon Valley service companies: Tiny Prints

What makes great service?

It’s something I’ve cared about a long time, since helping run consumer electronics stores in the 1980s to working at Rackspace (which regularly wins awards and praise for its quality of service).

I keep hearing about six-year-old Tiny Prints and how awesome its service is and have tried it myself. Their products are of the highest quality and the service I (and my wife, and other people I know who’ve tried Tiny Prints) get on the phone is exemplary.

What does it do? It makes custom stationery, greeting cards, and other printed goods.

Anyway, when I find a company that’s doing something extraordinary I want to find out more about them so I asked Ed Han, CEO, to give me a tour to learn more.

What did I find?

1. They are bootstrapped. They didn’t take venture capital, but started the company with $10,000 of their savings.
2. They hire carefully. I’ve seen this over and over again at great companies like Zappos or other companies (even Microsoft and Google hired very carefully at first and only got looser over time).
3. They have a mission statement.
4. They use technology ruthlessly. “We like to use technology,” Ed Han says.
5. They care about user experience before technology.
6. They, like Amazon, took on a business that’s existed for many many years before. Amazon took on books, Tiny Prints took on greeting cards and wedding invitations.
7. The management knows everyone (or seems like it). At Rackspace the Chairman Graham Weston walked me around the company and, despite having 2,000 employees, he knew something about every employee we met and personally greeted them. It’s an amazing skill I wish I had, but it said volumes about how the company is managed. I found the same when walking around with Ed. He obviously is fond of his employees and takes the time to get to know them on a personal level.
8. Their offices are open, no walls. Many of the world’s great companies are run this way. HP, for instance, had doors on the founders offices but they were never closed and were permanently open. At Zappos the CEO sits right in the middle of the building in a cube where everyone can meet him and say hi (his cube is even on the public tour, he encouraged us to sit down with him and eat peanuts).
9. They constantly learn and keep their skills and market understanding up to date.
10. They look for the best people and companies to partner with.

Anyway, watch the 30 minute tour and learn the details behind all of these points.

Oh, and Tiny Prints are having a 20% off cyber Monday sale today, so if you want some Holiday Cards now is a great time to try them out and see their great service for yourself.

Finally, thanks to Rich Bucich who both is a great photographer but also helped arrange this tour.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. I’m fairly sure that TinyPrints is not bootstrapped but instead has raised considerable cash from two of the largest PE shops out there — TCV and Summit

  2. Hey Robert – great post, really love the 10 findings. As the founder of my own boutique corporate law firm, I work with a lot of successful entrepreneurs, and the one other ingredient I would add to your list would be making the venture the number one priority in your life. As my old tennis coach Harry Hopman used to tell me: “it all comes down to one word – desire.” How badly do you want it? Indeed, I love the quote from Ratan Tata (chairman of Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate) in the Wall Street Journal last week: “I really believe that there is a great strength in American capitalism that cannot be destroyed. It exists in the ability of anybody to be successful if they have the tenacity to do so.” Tenacity – that’s the term. Keep up the solid work. Cheers, Scott

  3. You're indeed correct VC – we now have investors onboard, a decision we made for a number of reasons about a year and a half ago. But as the goofy guy/founder in the video, I can unequivocally say that we bootstrapped the company and operated it for over 4 years since its founding. Thanks for watching the video.

  4. I dont know why they hire so carefully.Lot many people not complete graduation but they become millionaire .They should focus on practical knowledge.

    I like the this post very much.

  5. Not sure about the “inspiration boards” – it looked like a pin board to me – isn't it supposed to be bigger and more colourful! Hey call me picky, but if i was an employee i would want an inspiration, inspiration board not a pin board.
    I know i know this comment takes from the video, forgive me, it is a great video, interesting etc etc, but for such a great 'oral' company visual was missing for me, including office layout, inspiration in office layout needed aswell!

  6. This is SO business school-ey. The “peer to peer award ceremony,” the mission statement, the stuff about “core values”…

  7. Woah very nice Youtube-video. At first I read recently a newspaper article in a German newspaper to various companies in Silicon Valley. Was also very interesting.

    Greetings from Germany