What it’s like here

Overview

Faith, Hope and Patience is a collection of companies that operate on the internet since October 2000. Our three core products are:

abbywinters.com (NSFW)

One of the largest, most highly rated, longest standing, unique, and high quality erotic websites in the world. abbywinters.com was started in October 2000 to provide an alternative to tacky, mass-produced porn – while being an exemplary and ethical leader in the industry.

We show that erotica can be produced while having integrity and being responsible, sensible, healthy and happy; we have excelled at every aspect, due to the unique and dedicated team of people we employ.

We call it “human-friendly porn”.

GMBill.com

A boutique internet billing facilitator, working with Clients to help them process credit cards online. A competitive industry, GMBill.com competes by being small, and working closely with new merchants, helping them achieve better rates, and providing a suite of features that tightly integrates billing processes with the pay-site itself.

Vision, Mission, and Goals

Vision

Changing the game.

Mission

Motivated by principles of social responsibility, we deliver provocative media by embracing imagination, creativity and emerging technologies. Our models, customers and business partners are inspired by our fervid passion.

Goals

We are always working towards our goals of Sexy, Frictionless and Profitable. Every process in the business is designed to ensure every piece of work we deliver  displays these attributes. These three goals are considered equal, meaning profitability may be sacrificed for sexiness or frictionless, for example.

Sexy: Producing media that is provocative. Employing game-changing technologies. Developing elegant software, that’s reliable, robust, scaleable and easily maintainable.

Frictionless: Creating and refining systems that remove doubt and confusion, ensure quality, are reliable, scaleable, Just Work, and are fun to use.

Profitability: A modest profit is expected, most of which is funnelled back into the business to help it grow.

Approach

Linchpins (key man)

We’re fans of author Seth Godin, especially his book Linchpin. Traditionally, a “linchpin” is a fastener used to prevent a wheel from sliding off an axle. The word is also used figuratively to refer to someone that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together. Godin describes good and bad linchpins in organisations. Linchpins are indispensable to an organisation, but in different ways:

A bad linchpin works hard, and knows a lot of crucial stuff in the business. They share their information when necessary, but mostly, people go to this person when they have a problem, and this person solves it. They solve many problems each day. They are indispensable to the business, because without them, the business would fail. But if this person falls sick, wants a holiday or resigns, the business is in trouble.

A good linchpin documents what they know, refines those processes, updates the documentation. They make lesson plans, so what they know can be shared amongst others in the business, long after they depart. They work actively to push knowledge down and out, and are strong advocates for cross-training. They work to ensure as many people as possible know how to do (or can find how to do) most things in the business. They are indispensable to the business, because they continually add value.

Our businesses have a strong focus on de-key-manning, making sure everyone’s role is well documented, and that other people know how to do their duties. This allows enormous flexibility, increases the potential sale price, allows all staff and contractors to enjoy a sense of freedom, enables us to react rapidly to changing needs, and lets people focus on what they do best: creating new, high quality products for our customers.

Measurement

We’re highly focused on measuring things, believing that we should make decisions from data, not “thoughts and feelings”.

1 to 5 assessments: We have around 100 1-to-5 assessment scales in the business, for assessing the quality of specific types of work. The scale runs from Unacceptable, Poor, Acceptable, Excellent to Game Changing. 3 / Acceptable describes what exactly is acceptable for this piece of work. There is a culture of assessing your own work against these standards, before submitting it as complete.

Principles-of documents

Principles-of documents describe the fundamental underlying principles in an area of the business. Written by the Owner, they help staff understand the broad vision, goals and standards to be met in that area of the business.

Each document has around 10 Principles, a few paragraphs each. You can read some Principles in our Blog.

A Principles-of document may be for a department (eg, Post Production, Web Development), common to all staff (eg, Professionalism), or, for a specific type of task (eg, Creating Documentation). We have around 13 Principles-of documents currently, and we add a few more each year.

Clear expectations

Employees receive a detailed Position Description (“PD”) that covers their specific role in the company. Each PD has a list of specific duties to be performed, and a list of empirically measurable KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), against which the employee is assessed at Performance Review time.

This means everyone knows what they need to be doing, with no grey areas. PD’s for all staff (including managers) are made available to all other staff.

Contractors discuss the company’s expectations with their company contact, and a written agreement is formed to clearly set out what’s agreed.

Clear procedure documents

Most aspects of most tasks are written down in procedure documents. These are aimed at the user, are to-the-point, accurate, and up-to-date. All have an associated checklist.

By having clear procedure, employees and contractors are empowered to focus their attention on areas they were employed to, rather than “reinvent the wheel” each time, or guess the best approach. Of course, there is plenty of room to improve procedure, and everyone is encouraged to remove unnecessary steps and make work funner. Where necessary, company policy and procedure changes and grows with feedback from employees.

Clear milestones, targets and progress indicators

We have clearly defined company goals, and a strategic plan for the entire company. These are all available to employees, ensuring a clear understanding of “where we are now” and “where we’re heading”.

High ethical standards

The adult industry traditionally has a bad reputation, but one of our founding cornerstones is to be highly ethical – and still produce stuff that’s sexy and alluring.

When faced with a situation where an ethical judgement is called for, we encourage all staff to do what’s right rather than what will make the most money, or be the most spectacular.

By building on this solid foundation, we become bigger than the sum of our parts, and we enjoy enormous respect from our peers in the industries we operate.

Growing and dynamic

We’re growing, and embracing the changes and the problems reorganisation brings, while continuing to be agile, dynamic and passionate. We’re conscious of the stagnation that can occur at this age of the company, and working to ensure we’re well-tuned.

We don’t change needlessly, or follow fads, but do we try new techniques and approaches when they seem useful, carefully measure their effectiveness, and adopt them only if they are better (that is, the same quality, but more engaging, more reliable, more interactive – or more automated – faster, cheaper, sexier, or with less friction).

Continuous improvement program

We have an ingrained continuous improvement program, where staff and contractors at all levels consciously work to hone their own skills and improve processes, producing products that are continually improving for our customers. We eschew mediocrity.

It’s satisfying to see the changes effected in the company in every area – from cooling issues in the server room, to image quality of videos, security of credit card data, to clarity in advertising for models, and dozens of other small refinements each month to improve.

Financially secure

We enjoy a steady income from our products, ensuring our longevity. We have solid cash reserves. Shrewd management and experienced advisors assure our continuing success.

Staff, contractors, taxes and suppliers are always paid on time.

In a volatile industry, we have been going strong since the year 2000.

Sustainable web development processes

We assess well on the Joel test (9/12), especially considering several of the items on that test are not applicable to web development. We follow the Agile (SCRUM) development methodology, all development work is done to clearly specified briefs, we track bugs, employ test driven design, do extensive testing, and keep our code ready to ship. We’ve blogged about our Principles of Web Development.

Committed to high quality

We are committed to high quality. For shoots, means technical standards such as image quality, lighting, sound, but also our aesthetic standards such as settings, locations, models, clothing, direction and activities, as well as the website design and functionality.

Software is tested thoroughly on multiple platforms before being released. We manage fraud in our billing practises using a diverse range of tools, that come together to result in one of the lowest “chargeback rates” in the billing or adult industries.

Put together, these aspects change the game for our customers. Our continuous improvement program sees staff work to better their own previous best, with the help of mentoring and regular training sessions (see below for more on our training and development practises).

Responsible marketing

All marketing we do is honest, and straight-forward. We know our products, we know they are awesome, and we know the effect they have on people when we present the features and benefits.

We don’t need to speak shrilly to get people to buy from us, and a huge majority of our sales from word of mouth referrals and repeat business.

Our advertising to reach new models is honest and straightforward (see www.femalephotofun.com), and we never use “bait and switch” tactics to get models to appear in a shoot.

All models over 18

For the adult website, we have several systems in place to ensure we never shoot under-age models, including a copy of government-issued proof of age required before any shooting begins. Four people, on three separate occasions view each model’s ID, before the model appears in a scene.

Safe website for kids

We have no interest in selling our adult products to people under 18. We have several tools on the site in an effort to keep children away from seeing erotic content.

We notify all companies who maintain lists of websites unsuitable for children and advised them to “black list” us. On our front page, we advise parents to install blocking or filtering software on computers that children have access to, and link to some recommended products.

We have labelled all pages of our website with “RTA” tags (restricted to adults), which many web browsing programs observe. We insist our business partners use these measures as well – or we do not do business with them.

Excellent customer service

We place a high value or personable, responsive customer service, and our team provide high quality, useful, accurate, and practical service to our customers.

Rather than just provide the most basic, fastest answers (though some customers can expect an answer in under three minutes to an emailed query!), our CS staff go a step further and provide background information that may help the user get more from the internet at large, rather than just as it specifically relates to our site.

This service, coupled with our content, ensures many of our customers come back again and again – and encourage others to sign up. abbywinters.com has a “retention rate” (people who stay subscribed) well above industry norms.

Highly rated by peers

Our business units are universally highly rated by their peers (and competitors!), for their consistent delivery of technical and creative quality, and responsive service.

We enjoy great relationships with our local and international peers, and maintain great respect for all our competition. They have visited us and lectured our team, and we have returned the favour, because we believe in a free flow of ideas can only improve the industry. We aim to level the playing field and grow together.

Models respected at all times

A core part of our main business, models, are respected, informed and well paid (in fact, we generally pay our models more than any other erotic producer in the world).

In our audition and interview process, we clearly inform models about the risks involved (some models’ families or employers have narrow views on what women should do, and we’ve heard stories of models from other companies losing their day job when they have been found out!), and actively encourage models to consider “worst case” scenarios before doing a shoot with us.

When models contact us wishing their content be removed from the site, we work with them to come up with a solution that suits them and us (for example, making their content not visible in their home country).

We miss out on shooting some excellent candidates this way, but we also have a rock-solid contingent of models who are strong, empowered, happy and sexy – and remain advocates for us forever.

Award winning

The adult website, abbywinters.com won prestigious “Best adult website” each year award at various industry associations since 2007, and DVD’s we produce have won awards as well.

abbywinters.com consistently rates in the high 90’s percentile on adult review sites, and the reviewers rave about us. Our testimonials page has hundreds of quotes from reviewers and customers, but here’s a few:

  • “Abby Winters is literally the only porn site that I know of which has both very stimulating content and moral integrity.”
  • “And to think in your tour you show more titillation than a halfdozen regular sites do in their main members’ areas…”
  • “The vibe that runs throughout the site is remarkable.”
  • “Exploitation and degradation aren’t part of Abby’s vision and it shows. The models even look like they’re having fun. Now that’s high-concept!”

Culture

Principles of Professionalism

When people start working with us, we agree to follow our foundational Principles of Professionalism. This covers areas like pride in our work, ethics, commitment to personal excellence and responsibility, honesty, mutual respect and collaboration, communication, privacy, and creativity.

People embrace these values while working (and even into their personal lives). Professionalism does not mean suit-and tie, strict and inflexible adherence to rules, and calling the boss “Sir”! It means we’re committed to focusing on making the best possible product, to have a good time doing it, and treating work- mates with respect.

Work from home

All our people work from their own home (or, where ever they choose to work from, so long as they have a reliable internet connection).

Flexible work hours

Our people choose when they work, with some minor requirements of regular timezone cross-overs with other people in the organisation.

Respect for individuals and their differences

All our people respect each other for their abilities – and their differences. We employ staff with a range of cultural, religious and lifestyle beliefs, from a range of countries.

LGBT friendly

We are LGBT-friendly. It’s simply never an issue (ironically, we feel we should mention it here, because we know at some workplaces, this can be cause for concern).

Open communication

We encourage open communication between staff, managers, and the Owner. We various online group discussion tools where all our people contribute, and managers encourage open, frank, honest discussion of issues and our strategic plan.

Embracing change

Because things are changing so fast, we have taught ourselves to embrace change and hold on to the rollercoaster! We know that our skills, abilities, attitude and professionalism will enable us, no matter the destination. Leadership at is visionary and inspiring, with an exciting, robust and flexible plan for the future.

While we’re currently at the forefront of new media, if we do not continuously improve we’re at risk of being beaten by other contenders (we know the competition, and they are really good at what they do!).

By future-proofing our core activities, we’re able to focus on building a solid foundation and framework for the next 12 to 24 months, and work towards clear milestones.

Leadership

Experienced managers

Managers are selected from the finest in their field, and have enormous experience. This means they not only have great stories to tell, experience to draw from, but can mentor their co-workers in exciting ways.

Our managers have formidable reputations in their industries, that allows them to make connections to benefit staff. Managers are supported by open and robust systems for management, performance reviews, to ensure balance, and reducing friction.

New people welcomed warmly

Because we’re growing and changing, there are often a new faces around; we ensure all new employees are greeted warmly. Each new person has a designated buddy to ease their way into the social structure and culture of the company.

Sophisticated processes are in place to “roll up” new people, to ensure from day one, everything Just Works. Each new person goes through a paid comprehensive induction plan, so once complete, they can contribute meaningfully to the company’s goals.

A recent inductee said:

“I thoroughly enjoyed having so much to learn on such a tight, yet considered, schedule (and consequently receiving good feedback). The process is thorough, well structured, and appropriately paced. Never have I undergone an induction like it (on the occasion I have undergone inductions, they are usually only a day in length, yet somehow much more tedious and draining).

Something you do makes the induction process exciting, perhaps because it is broken into discrete achievable segments, and in concert illuminates an inductees path into a company with demonstrably good practices, healthy culture, and most especially dynamic fixtures waiting to be engaged and developed by the inductee in the future.
Instead of going through the motions, I felt as if I was being equipped with an AW BV toolkit (item by item); with which I would shortly be tuning a unique and cutting edge machine.”

Personal accountability

We make our people accountable for their area of expertise, and managers to help them achieve. So instead of handing all the tough decisions to your manager, we believe in empowering you to make those decisions (or at the very least, perform an AOR; Analysis, Options, and Recommendation), and present them to your manager. Most times, your manager will simply “sign off” on your Recommendation.

We do this in all departments, by having our Principles-of documents, training in the role, procedure documents that explain the “why” as well as the “how”, and clear assessment systems, allowing employees to objectively self-assess a piece of work.

People care

Employment allows work-life balance

While working with us is fast paced, involving, and intense, your job allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance. No people are required to work more than a 40- hour week, and flexible working arrangements are available for all roles.

Employment allows you to use talent and skills

We only work with the best people – we have been known to take up to a whole year to find the right person! That means you’ll be working with passionate, competent, skilled people – your peers!

If you’re successful in your application for work with us, you’ll be expected to use your talent, life experience, skills, knowledge and ability extensively, both to perform your role, and help others in your team perform theirs.

Equal opportunity employer

We are an equal opportunity employer – not just gender, but race, age, religion, and disability.

Graceful exits

We know that a life-long career at one company is not for everyone, and we support people’s decisions to move on to greater projects (in fact, we actively encourage people to pursue their own career, even if we cannot support their aspirations internally).

Managers are open to discussions about exit strategies, and help people plan their own career, regardless if it’s within our company or not. Exits are viewed positively, and with the support of the department and whole company.

Growth and development for staff

While working with us, you’ll have a lot of opportunity for growth and development. We see training as a key part of this.

At your first Performance Review (after you have had time to settle in to your role), you’ll work with your manager to develop a detailed training plan for you for the next 12 months. This will be based on where you want to go personally, and what the business needs. Sessions will be a combination of formal in-house, allocated time to self-learn, and external training sessions, possibly at our expense.

The Performance Review system has many built in tools to make the process easy and painless, while also being supportive and meaningful. It quantifies performance fairly, and provides clear paths to increased responsibility and salary (should that be part of the employee’s 12 month plan; salary reviews are performed each 12 months).

While training in your specific area of work is likely to take up most of your training quota, we may also organise more generic training programs, like public speaking, time management, leadership, and writing. We aim to guide all employees in a long growth and opportunity term career, often in different roles, both inside and outside of the company.

Opportunity to make a difference

In your role, you’ll not only have the opportunity to make a difference, you’re required to! Each Position Description is crafted to ensure your work directly affects our product and other staff. You will never be left wondering if anyone knows or cares what you do – you’ll get frequent feedback, and be able to clearly see the difference you’re making day to day.

Recruiting from within

Where possible, we recruit from within, choosing to promote current employees,  and some roles have a natural progression in place from inception. As we are constantly growing, workloads increase and some roles “fork” (workload increases so much that one person cannot perform all the duties, so we develop two separate positions and divide the duties between the two people) meaning the incumbent can choose which branch they’d prefer to pursue, while we recruit a new person to fill the other role.

Employees are free to apply to any role advertised, and are treated with the same respect and candidacy as any other applicant (and obviously, their previous experience and performance in the company is taken into consideration).

Opportunity to learn new things

While working, employees are exposed to many aspects of business that they might not have the opportunity to witness working elsewhere. While there are natural synergies between the production (shooting) and post production (editing) departments, few employees in those areas are familiar with – for example – developing web sites and web applications, and the unique challenges faced by them getting the media produced internally onto a website.

Some departments are large – like Production – and include recruiting and auditioning, scheduling and booking, and shooting. These “sub-departments” allow many opportunities for cross-skilling (or even permanent role-switching).

An additional layer is working in a successful, growing business and the commercial realities presented by this. From video editors being involved with layout of a new post-production facility, to model recruiters working with the accounting department analysing spending on advertising to track the most effective channels, and everywhere in between, there’s lots of opportunity to learn new things.

Frank, open and honest

Feedback is provided via the regular review sessions, but also in a day-to-day fashion, you’ll enjoy feedback from peers, managers, and other departments on the work you do.

Feedback is always offered in a constructive way, with a view to improving the product.

Input is encouraged

Input from all our people is encouraged, regardless of their position in the company, or the topic. In fact, many of our core values and product features have come from our people. You’ll see your ideas implemented and enjoyed by your peers and customers which is incredibly satisfying.

Your input is solicited, encouraged, appreciated, valued, and ultimately affects the success of company.

Exposure

The work you do receives a lot of exposure, and people all over the world are directly affected by your labour. You’ll be making people feel happy, sexy and empowered!

Challenging work

Work should be challenging, but in the right ways! Like any job, there will be boring parts, but these are well balanced by new, challenging, satisfying work. The speed of change and constant improvement program means there’s no chance to be bored! You’ll be challenged regularly with problems to solve, while receiving support from the company, your department, your team, and your manager.

Meaningful work

Feeling that your role in the company is important is a high priority for us.

We understand the deeper dimensions of work, the meaning of work and the many ways it can nourish us – spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, physically, as well as financially.

You’ll feel purpose and passion for your work and we know that your work is more than a job, it is a calling. For most people, it’s important that your principles and values are aligned with your work.

We enrich our people and our community, and we work to ensure your actions and work environment are life sustaining rather than life draining.

Productive environment

We work to ensure the environment is conducive to productivity. Working from home helps this, of course, and we encourage our people to have their own productive environment at their home for work.

We provide access to tools to make work smooth and not-annoying (benefitting from our “Frictionless” goal).

Compensation and benefits

Liberal employment conditions

Our Employment Conditions Agreement include all the usual clauses:

  • Holidays – 5 paid weeks per year
  • Public holidays – 12 per year
  • Performance review each 6 months
  • Salary review each 12 months

Our Agreements with Contractors are flexible and ensure contactors can enjoy working with multiple companies.

Holidays

We offer all full-time employees five weeks holidays. One week of these are taken over Christmas and New Year, and the remaining four weeks are available for staff to use when it suits them.

Owner: Garion Hall

Fastidiously meticulous and brilliantly informal, Garion is the charismatic co-leader. He’s led the company from contented anonymity to a world-wide phenomenon, one that is growing rapidly in popularity and fame, subverting the dominant paradigm and challenging the very definition of ‘mainstream porn’.

Garion had been friends with Abby Winters since long before they started of the website together in 2000 – they met doing lighting for theatre shows, travelling around Australia. Now Creative Director, he’s been the effective head of the company and main driver for the website since 2002 when Abby stepped down, and now is enjoying working closely with his GM peer. It’s the studied lighting technique and imaginative artistic eye that Abby developed during their travels that’s led to the characteristic “abby look”: images flooded with sunlight and saturated with textures, buoyed by accentuated curves and brimming with smiles. You can spot an abbywinters image a mile away! Garion has rigorously continued Abby’s tradition of precise, considered technique and a vision that is both sexy and natural.

These days, however, Garion spends little time finessing lighting. Instead, he’s developing processes to ensure the quality is maintained and improved, and the “abbywinters paradigm” is sustained and refined. With herculean endurance, Garion keeps tabs on and generates ideas in all areas of the company, from themes in videos to website design, HR initiatives to affiliate programs, stills selection to marketing. “This company is my heart and soul. There from the beginning, I have watched it grow with the fondness and excitement of a parent. Abby and I had an idea of changing the industry from an artificial parody of love to a true representation of intimacy, from a dark cave with seedy desires and malevolent connotations to a sun-filled playground with integrity and morals.

“So far, so good.”

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