Happiness before profit at Crisp

Written by Jérôme Labastie, on 11 September 2019

Crisp is an IT consulting firm that, like all others, provides its clients with developers, Lean and Agile coaches, and more. However, Crisp is not like any other company because its sole purpose is to contribute to the happiness of its 40 employees!

Why this choice? How can it work? Is it just a marketing ploy to increase profits?

We could debate for a long time whether it is possible or even desirable for a company to seek to make its employees happy.

At Crisp, there is no debate: the primary goal of the company is precisely the happiness of its employees. Profit is a secondary effect that they try to limit as much as possible. But let's not anticipate too much...

Individual happiness is a serious matter at Crisp, and as "we only improve what we measure," they measure it with the Happiness Index!

Each employee regularly updates a shared file (usually monthly) by answering three questions on a scale of 1 to 5:

  • Am I happy at Crisp?
  • Am I happy with my tasks at Crisp?
  • Am I happy with my current client or clients?

Four optional questions help support the statements:

  • What is going well right now?
  • What is going wrong right now?
  • What would increase your happiness level?
  • How can you contribute to improving the happiness level at Crisp?


This file is reviewed every month in Board Meetings and during the two annual days that bring together all the Crispers. If the Happiness Index significantly decreases, exchanges take place to determine the reasons, take corrective measures, etc.

Without waiting for the rituals, when someone expresses dissatisfaction with one of the questions (1 or 2), other Crispers will generally offer their help to their colleague.

Okay, that's all well and good, but how do you run a business while staying consistent with this noble intention?

Crisp invoices the services of its 40 consultants, but none of them is an employee! Each Crisper receives 90% of the revenue generated by their services. In return, they pay a monthly subscription (about €350 per month) and contribute 10% of their income to Crisp. Each consultant is completely free to work as they please without affecting the financial sustainability of the company. Consultants commit to providing services only through Crisp. In essence, Crisp has implemented a model halfway between a platform for independents and a service company that employs its consultants.

The revenues generated by Crisp are simply used to cover fixed costs and the salaries of the four support staff. Crisp has even set a cap to prevent consultants generating a lot of revenue from contributing "too much" to Crisp. Financially, Crisp is guided by four principles:

  • "A gold-strewn road": The consultant keeps the majority of what they earn.
  • "Naked in, Naked Out": No entrance fee is required to join or leave Crisp.
  • "No gold on the table": Crisp does not try to generate profit.
  • "No pot of gold at the end": There is no financial incentive to sell the company.

But who owns Crisp?

Crisp is equivalent to a SAS (Société par Actions Simplifiée) whose shares are owned by the employees. Any Crisper who wishes and has more than two years of seniority can become a shareholder. No selection process!

At the same time, Crisp having no desire to grow, there is no hope of making a fortune by becoming a shareholder. The shares cost around €1000 and are resold at the same price.

What is the benefit of becoming a shareholder in these conditions? Nothing more than the pleasure of being a co-owner of your company. Half of the Crispers hold shares, and it gives them no special advantages or powers.

The Crisp model relies on one essential condition: the value of the consultants!

Crispers are so competent that clients flock to them. There is only one "business developer" whose job is primarily to help consultants find the mission that will make them happy.

To keep the commercial situation healthy, recruitment is the key. And at Crisp, they take it seriously!

Expect intense debates, critical thinking, and bursts of laughter: we form a cheerful group, but we need to be convinced that you are good at what you do. Why? Because we want to learn from you, and we want our clients to find you amazing. We have spent over a decade building a very good reputation, and we want you to make it even better! - Quote from the Crisp website

Crisp souhaite intégrer régulièrement de nouvelles compétences mais refuse de croître trop rapidement. Crisp n’accueille que 1 à 3 nouveaux membres par an. Un critère est déterminant : le candidat doit avoir déjà travaillé directement avec un Crisper qui se porte garant de son niveau technique et de son adéquation au modèle Crisp.

Recrutez des personnes géniales, ou ne recrutez pas du tout !

Crisp wants to regularly integrate new skills but refuses to grow too quickly. Crisp welcomes only 1 to 3 new members per year. One criterion is decisive: the candidate must have already worked directly with a Crisper who vouches for their technical level and their fit with the Crisp model.

Hire great people, or don't hire at all!

Growth is not an objective. Crisp only grows if the opportunity to welcome an exceptional talent arises.

In a nutshell, the Crisp model is based on a double virtuous circle: through ultra-selective recruitment, employees are competent and motivated, delighting their clients, ensuring:

  • A good reputation for Crisp, allowing them to obtain new interesting missions that strengthen the motivation of consultants.
  • Sufficient profitability to provide consultants with freedom and security.


We could write an entire book to describe the methods implemented by Crisp to make decisions, manage staffing, handle conflicts, help employees grow, collaborate, etc.

However, it would be useless because Crisp has already written and published everything as Open-Source. Visit https://dna.crisp.se/docs/index.html to discover their operating model!