Remote working: Managing the communication chaos

A few years back, the Weirdly team went 100% remote. Since then, we’ve grown (literally and figuratively), our needs have changed and we’ve found a kind of equilibrium – a balance between remote and not-remote, that works (so far) for the job functions and personalities we have onboard. Finding that sweet spot has been tricky at times and by far the biggest of all the challenges has been around communication.

Internal comms in a remote team gets…noisy. Especially in a fast growing startup, where our lives are a constant barrage of sprints, pivots, urgent requests, deadline changes and never ending feature tweaks. It’s really easy for important messages to get lost or overlooked. We’ve had decisions get forgotten (and endlessly discussed and re-made), leave requests go missing, and “productive conflict” turn in to actual conflict as we juggle the mess of communication platforms. Creating order from a confusion of emails, internal chat tools, collaboration apps and hangouts is a real work in progress for us.

“If only we had some rules to make this less overwhelming!” says Santa

But over the past few years of testing, we’ve developed guidelines that work for our crew to keep communicating efficient and useful.

 

Step 1. Define the purpose of each tool.

Seems obvious, but think about how many different ways and places you communicate with your colleagues – in the lunch-room, at your desks, over email, in a meeting room, during your electric-bike club meetup. In the real world, our comms move organically from place to place – just like in the digital world –  but there are safety nets. We can read body language to spot misinterpretation before it becomes a problem, other people can pop up with a helpful “Hey looks like you and Dale were getting some good stuff down on the whiteboard earlier – any decisions I need to know about?”.

In a remote team, we don’t always have these safety nets and the number of places we can meet and chat and collaborate are almost infinite. It gets very messy, very fast.

We found putting simple guidelines in place that broadly describe the kinds of conversation that should happen in each place has helped heaps. Of course, there’s a bit of flexibility around this, but as long as everyone’s aware of comms expectations, we’ve found it works pretty well.

 

Here are a few of our favourites:

Slack (public channels) – this is our most casual place. It’s for talking about any work in progress that the whole team needs to know about (new sales, key feature updates, user issues) and giving heads-up around decisions or actions being taken somewhere else. It’s also our place for relationship and culture building – #chuffies, jokes, pictures of dogs  – the usual “office banter”.

Slack (DM’s and private channels) – these are for more in-depth discussions – information that isn’t critical or interesting for anyone else to weigh in on. This keeps the noise down in the public channels and means we’re not all wading through thousands of notifications. It also give people the chance to get down REAL deep into detail without someone (ok, me) jumping in every 5mins to ask what a “dimensionality reduction algorithm” is.

Video hangouts (Google and Slack) – nothing beats face-to-face sometimes and this gets us pretty close to the real deal. Team discussions, standups and meetings are done using video – with SnapCam filters optional.

Malcolm getting in the halloween mood

Email – for confirming decisions, requesting leave or any formal admin stuff.

Jira – task allocation and briefing. This is also where very technical decisions are recorded like, “Hey Malcolm, you’re good to go ahead and design a novel fuzzy clustering algorithm that operates on relational input data as discussed”.

Google docs – for collaborating on content, spreadsheets, roadmapping – anything that you’d traditionally do around a whiteboard or a piece of paper.

Step 2. Put basic rules in place for each tool

This is a deceptively tricky one. Communication is a fluid, evolving thing and the tools people feel most comfortable using change over time. New apps get introduced, new people join the team, the types of challenges change and people get closer. Still, we’ve found there are some universal laws that really helped create order in the comms chaos.

  1. Formalise decisions: Any decisions made in chat, collab or messaging tools get formalised in email. This means they’re clearly dated and easily searchable. It also allows everyone to double-check they’re on the same page with the detail of each decision.
  2. Pick up the phone: Working through complicated issues is a recipe for frustration. So we implemented “two strikes then get out (of slack)” rule. Basically, if people have gone back and forth on the same issue more than twice, they step away from the text-chat and pick up the phone or move to a video call.
  3. All leave requests get sent through on email: We originally set up a #leave channel in our team slack that collected these, but found they were too easily overlooked or forgotten. Also since our admin person is the one processing these requests, she gets to dictate the format they arrive in and she loves her inbox!
  4. Protect the outages channel: Alerts and notifications related to critical app stability all go through to one Slack channel. Any discussion related to those issues happen in that channel but absolutely no other chat happens there. It’s the product team’s most fiercely adhered to rule – it keeps a sense of urgency over any notifications you see coming from that channel.
  5. More heads-ups are better than none: Anytime anyone makes a change to a spreadsheet, adds a comment to a google doc or drops a new resource in dropbox, we chuck a heads-up in Slack. Usually, this is a DM to the person or people concerned, but sometimes it’s a more general announcement to the team.
  6. Use @here or @channel alerts rarely: Another self explanatory Slack rule – we all get enough notifications without having a “@here” message go out everytime someone loses their EarPods.

 

This is all a work in progress of course. People have a way of ignoring communication rules that don’t feel natural to them, so we’re regularly checking and adjusting as our remote teams grow. That’s our own golden rule we’ve discovered over the past 4 years: Work with people’s natural behaviour, not against it.

We’re always keen to hear about tricks or tips that are keeping your remote teams humming. Tweet us @weirdlyhub or @getweirdly on Instagram. And if you’re interested in finding out more about Weirdly screening software, get a personal demo with one of our team. 

 

 

What are organisational values, really? Examples from companies who walk their talk

“The best companies take their core values to heart, challenging themselves every day to ensure they are truly living their values. Likewise, the companies that have core values, but don’t focus on them, often find themselves struggling financially and culturally.”
– Rob Dube, Forbes

What are values, really? You spend months defining just the right words, get them printed up on jazzy posters, or painted on the cafeteria wall, and then… what?

Values should be the pillars on which you grow your culture and engage with your employees. By all means, get those decals designed up, but your values need to go way, way further. “Be bold” sounds cool and all, but what does that actually mean?

This is important – according to Harvard Business review, “empty values statements create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers, and undermine managerial credibility”.

Not exactly inspiring stuff.

So what are the real world initiatives you’re offering your people? What are the behaviours you expect from them that show you’re really living that value? Remember these aren’t about making everyone the same – it’s saying to your people, “Here is what we believe at our heart”.

 

A few examples of companies doing an awesome job of living their values

There are some pretty nifty companies out there already doing an awesome job at turning their values statements into real life, impactful policies. Here are some of our favourites.

Corporate Traveller

Corporate Traveller, are all about taking responsibility and celebrating and boy, do they live those values!

Love a good confetti cannon/light show/giant balloon mash-up

They support employees taking responsibility with a unique incentive model that gives travel managers a really tangible sense of ownership over their customers. Losing (or winning) a customer directly impacts everyone’s take home pay all the way up to the CEO. That makes the team feel more like a collection of small business owners who are empowered to make and own their decisions. In many cases, business development managers also have the chance to make that feeling real – they can buy into the business and share in an additional percentage of profit each month.

That expectation of ownership is also backed by heaps of training and support, so their teams are set up to succeed. Inhouse learning and development academies and wellbeing benefits all connect into another one of their values, Care For Our People. Then staff are encouraged to reflect that care back out to the customer – with budget allocated for “watermelon moments”, the extra surprise and delight teams can deliver to customers at their discretion.

Successes are also celebrated – a lot. Every month, every team has a small budget allocated to get together and recognise awesome things that have happened. Those successes level up to the office-wide awards nights, and then all the way up to national and global events for exceptional achievers. The global gathering is a huge deal – this year it was held in Berlin and last year’s keynote speaker was Bill Clinton.

 

Patagonia

As one of the great, truly values-led brands out there, Patagonia are passionate about outdoor activities and want their people to be as well.

Their HQ is near the beach in Ventura, California, and on days when there’s an offshore blowing and the waves are beckoning, employees are encouraged to leave the office and go for a surf – or participate in any other outdoor activity. The office even supplies a stash of Patagonia-branded towels to mop up after their sessions.

Possibly an actual Patagonia employee, commuting to a meeting

This helps Patagonia stay true to their founding mission, with the added bonus of providing their people an easy way to test out the new apparel. It’s totally in keeping with their CEO, Yvon Chouinard’s socially and environmentally responsible belief that “Patagonia and its thousand employees have the means and the will to prove to the rest of the business world that doing the right thing makes for good and profitable business.”

And when you’re one of the world’s most beloved outdoor and lifestyle brands, sometimes going for a surf is the best way to remind yourself just what that “right thing” should look like.

 

Whole Foods

Unsurprisingly, one of Whole Foods’ core values is about health – they’re all about promoting team member growth and happiness.

If you work at Whole Foods and eat this, you probably get a lot of high fives

All employees are entitled to pretty great store discounts as standard – 20% in the US. But Whole Foods goes a step further. Any employees working at least 20 hours a week get medical insurance (including vision and dental) and access to initiatives that support mental health. They also incentivise their people to stay healthy with opportunities for even bigger discounts based on hitting positive health stats. These are tracked based on blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking status and body-mass-index (BMI) screenings.

Employees also have access to a website that make it easy to track their own eating habits, helping create a culture of awareness, responsibility and allowing this value to live well beyond just the financial incentive.

 

Etsy

According to Etsy itself, the company’s values are all about being “committed to using the power of business to create a better world through our platform, our members, our employees and the communities we serve”.

Could these be woman-engineers sharing a joke with man-engineers?

How are they bringing that mission to life? Well, one impressive initiative is to increase opportunities for female STEM careers. They launched a series of grants to support their female employees to either upskill or retrain as software engineers. By choosing the best 12 from this “Hacker School”, Etsy increased the number of women in their (traditionally male-dominated) engineer pool, as well as improving their gender diversity stats across the board.

The coolest part is that overall, the initiative is making Etsy a more attractive place to apply for female engineers outside of the company. The stats for women applying to roles in Etsy’s engineering department increased from 7 to 651 which is a fairly big jump, by anyone’s standards.

According to Etsy CTO Kellan Elliott-McCrea, this has had the knock on effect of attracting high-quality male engineers who, critically, also share the company’s values:

“The men who come into our organization are excited about the fact that we have diversity as a goal. They are generally the people who are better at listening, they’re better at group learning, they’re better at collaboration, they’re better at communication,” she says.

 

Weirdly

And then there’s us. As a values-assessment tool, we’d be remiss if we weren’t living our values pretty hard out.

One of our biggies is about being fans of people. Everything we build is designed to positively impact lives and build people up – that goes for our customers and candidates, as well as for our own team. One of the best ways we bring this value to life internally is with the Chuffy-bot we created for our Slack team.

At Weirdly, “a chuffy” is the term we use for giving someone mad props – making them feel chuffed by noticing their hard work. It’s a double-whammy in our eyes, as it rewards people for doing awesome work, as well as encouraging people to notice and give positive feedback on an incidental, day-to-day basis.

When someone notices another team member doing something awesome, they throw a message in the Weirdly Slack team’s #chuffy channel. Our Chuffy-bot adds a funny compliment and the person gets notified that someone’s stoked with their work.

Chuffybot: guaranteed to awkwardly bring up your ex at work

To tie it in to the rest of our Weirdly values, each chuffy gets tagged with one of our custom “values” emojis. That way everyone in the team can see which value that person has been caught living up to. On a more general level, we can also see which values we’re performing at strongly as a team, and which ones are not being lived or recognised quite as often.

It’s an awesome policy that helped us evolve our early-days obsession with celebration and confetti cannons, into a more remote team friendly approach.

 

Time to climb down from out of the decals, guys.

So, where are your values? Sitting up on the wall in your boardroom for people to ignore? Or are have you turned them to living, breathing actions that fuel the very core of your company? We know, really truly, that values-driven companies are successful ones – customers love you, your team love you, and you’ll find it easier to make decisions about the future of your organisation. Those are some sweet wins all around. So, now’s the time. Take a lead from these awesome values-led companies, get your values down off the wall and into technicolour.

Weirdly’s all about helping you seamlessly build your values into the heart of your recruitment process. If you’re keen to find out how our simple software could help you do just that, grab a demo now.

Inclusion creates diversity: How an inclusive workplace can change your community

Inclusion is a hot HR trend for 2016. Making people feel safe, respected and valued is important part of a healthy culture. Māori Language Week is a great opportunity for Kiwi workplaces to put some of those inclusive policies into practice.

 

It’s Māori language week here in NZ. Te wiki o te reo Māori. It’s an opportunity for Kiwi businesses to honour our awesome, diverse country while also achieving those company #culturegoals. Bringing the ‘Inclusion’ part of your Diversity&Inclusion policy, to life.

Inclusive culture can have a huge positive impact on your team productivity, your company’s bottom line and your retention rates – it’s pretty well documented. But have you ever thought about the impact your inclusive culture can have beyond the office walls?

Our workplaces are often like mini versions of the communities we live in. Sometimes the representation is a bit off (hello #girlsintech), but ideally the attitudes and culture of our organisations should look fairly similar to the communities we serve.

So in NZ where Māori are heavily underrepresented in leadership roles and, in some cases, entire industries, we’ve got room for improvement.

 

A culture of inclusion can change the world

One of the things we talk about a lot in the Weirdly team is how business has the power to effect big change. And if there’s one change we’d all like to see, it’s a shift toward a more inclusive society built on empathy.

A few recent events have made this feel more urgent lately – ranging from the truly tragic, to the truly ridiculous. I’m not sure where ‘the rise of Donald Trump’ fits in that scale but you can be sure, it fits somewhere.

Donald Trump v Inclusion

 

We wrote a blog a while ago about how the wonderful diversity of New York city could stand as an example for building diverse, culture-led workplaces.

Now as business people, we have an opportunity: let’s make our inclusive, diverse workplaces an example for our cities and communities to follow.

By creating a culture of inclusion, we’re helping our teams challenge and review their perspectives. And when our perspectives are challenged, and people’s differences are valued, we have more empathy for each other.

 

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori: An opportunity for inclusion

We don’t have the same level of overt racial conflict that some other nations see, and we’re making steady strides in addressing more than a century worth of systemic “othering”. Our Māori heritage is widely recognised as an important part of what makes NZ so special. But the job isn’t finished. Think about your workplace.

How well does it recognise that heritage? Could you do any more to be inclusive of Māori perspectives, language, traditions? Heaps of our organisations are great at this. But you know, some of us could do a little better.

Two of Weirdly’s four founders are Māori. I’m one of them and if I’m totally honest, the thought of using Te Reo to create a more inclusive culture hadn’t even crossed my mind. But after hearing fellow founders talking about being “the token Māoris” at business events, or how they wince every time they hear their entirely white team rolling out the old Māori-place-names-as-swear-words joke, it made me think. Language is powerful. It’s a tool for uniting and teaching. It creates familiarity. If we’re serious about being inclusive, language is a great place to start.

 

Create Inclusion using language

 

Inclusive = empathy = productivity = good for business

A friend of mine works for a multi-nation engineering firm. They’ve developed an education resource – a game for school-aged kids to learn about resource management and engineering infrastructure (I was all 🙄 about this too, but it’s actually pretty cool). In revising the tool for the NZ market, they’ve engaged various iwi to consult on parts of the game. They’ve included challenges around piping water through tapu sites, they’ve woven Māori words and phrases throughout the game – they’ve actively looked for ways to translate their own culture of inclusivity into the product they’re creating.

And the coolest part is that this process is making the workplace an even more inclusive place. Discussions about different perspectives are happening organically over lunch-breaks. People are becoming more empathetic as a result and that’s leading to more productive discussions when opinions differ on a project.

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori provides an opportunity for us to create that same effect in our own workplaces. It’s about using language to bring a culture of inclusiveness to life and create a culture of open discussion and productive empathy.

There are obvious positive roll-on effects to innovation and productivity. But imagine for a minute, the impact it also has on our local communities. Embedding this kind of empathy and inclusive respect into our workplaces means people carry those same attributes into their own homes and communities.

In the case of this week’s whakanui of Te Reo Māori, we get to use language as the way to build more inclusivity and familiarity with a crucial part of our national identity. Making part of our nation’s culture, a part our workplace culture.

That’s pretty tu meke, if you ask me.

Want to include a bit of reo into your recruitment process? Weirdly screening questions are totally editable so you can use your own language – however you kōrero

Weirdly quiz sign up now

 

Remote workspaces: The new Weirdly #noffice

One of the coolest things about remote working is setting up your own remote workspaces.

Prefer to work in absolute silence with three screens and no natural light? It’s up to you. Love the idea of setting up a comfy pozzie in your local park everyday? You’re the boss. As long as you’ve got good wifi or can tether to your mobile, your #noffice can be anywhere you like.

To celebrate our first month of going remote, take a look at how our team have set up their own workspaces. Funnily enough, they’re all a pretty good reflection of our personality and role in Weirdly.

Remote workspaces: Weirdo-style

Dale (CEO, co-founder): Predictably, with a pile of books for constant referencing and a window for keeping her connected to the hustle and bustle out in the world.
Remote workspaces - Dale from Weirdly

 

Simon (CSO, co-founder): Pretty minimal. Let’s face it. Simon spends most of his time visiting clients and following leads. He probably should’ve taken a photo of his car.

Remote workspaces - Simon from Weirdly

 

Keren (CMO, co-founder): This is the home #noffice. Keren also splits her time between the #GridAKLffice, the #cafeffice and the #sittinginaparkffice. Life is tough.

Remote workspaces - Keren from Weirdly

 

Hayden (CPO, co-founder): Hayden purpose-built his own workspace so it exactly fits his requirements. Complete with the requisite “I used to be a game designer” figurines next to his monitor.

Remote workspaces - Hayden from Weirdly

 

Malcolm (Lead Engineer): Extreme clean. Although there’s a toddler’s birthday party in Malcolm’s near future so next week this desk is likely to include far more pink streamers, and balloons.

Remote workspaces - Malcolm from Weirdly

 

Bridget (Front-end developer): Super light and loads of amazing art just casually mid-creation. Not pictured: Twin kittens getting themselves stuck up the chimney.

Remote workspaces - Bridget from Weirdly

 

Seb (Front-end developer): This is Seb’s desk under the stairs. Yes, he’s got a scar on his forehead, has an uncanny ability to magic things out of thin air and will probably save the world one day.

Remote workspaces - Seb from Weirdly

 

Jeff (Organisational Psychologist, Head of Data Science): With a brand new baby and a toddler in the house, Jeff’s work-time usually includes sneaking out to the library or a cafe close to home.

Remote workspaces - Jeff from Weirdly

 

What does your #noffice look like today? Flick us a picture on twitter or instagram.

 

Weirdly’s going remote: Business shirt on top, jammies on the bottom

Going remote. It feels like everyone’s doing it at the moment, right? I can’t count how many medium posts I’ve ready lately with titles like “5 great resources for remote startup teams” and “How working remotely saved my life”.

Now, Weirdly is a team of contrarians. When the whole world is running in one direction, our instincts generally tell us to investigate the opposite. But in this case, the remote buzz is resonating.

Weirdly is built on a mission to make work more fulfilling for everyone and that, of course, includes our own team. We work hard at building a strong culture where people feel valued and supported. A big part of that, for the Weirdly team, is the ability to be flexible about where we plant our laptops everyday.

Lots of our team have young kids and two of our guys are also expecting new babies in the next few months. Making sure they can be available in a practical, hands-on way to their families is really important to us (and, you know, obviously to them too).

Other members of our team just really, really love working in a quiet, empty house where they can focus without any interruptions.

Going remote is risky business

In fact, the people in our team who love a hustling, bustling office are generally speaking, the ones who aren’t actually in the office much. They’re out on sales calls or flying overseas to meet with partners and clients.

For the past couple of months we’ve discussed this over shared lunches, after-work drinks and the occasional team-icecream session. Inevitably we keep coming back to one solution: Moving out of our office space and going remote.

So next week we’re making the leap. We handed in notice to our awesome GridAKL community, we’re packing up our monitors and we’re launching out into the unknown.

Arguments for (and against) going remote

As a rapidly growing startup with a really tight culture, disbanding and heading off into different corners of Auckland is a bit of a scary choice.

As you can imagine, there have been heaps of pros and cons conversations had over the planning of this move. We reckon other founders may have some of the same fears as us if they’re considering going remote, in the spirit of sharing, we’re laying ours out on the table here:

Pros.

  • 🤓 Our product team are chuffed and it means they can work in exactly the way they love to: Absolutely focused and in their own environments.
  • 👶 🏽It’s an awesome way for our new dads to spend time with their brand new kids.
  • 🚗 Really convenient for the other parents in our crew who have had to juggle school drop-offs and meetings with getting in and out of the office all day.
  • 🌏 All that money we were spending on rent can now be funnelled into more sales and partnership trips to the US and UK.
  • ⏰ Less time commuting means more time working. For some of us, that’s 15hours per week we’re not sitting in the car or train. FIFTEEN HOURS. That’s practically a part-time job!

Cons.

  • Losing the advantages that come with being part of the GridAKL/BizDojo community. This place has been invaluable when it comes to connecting with investors and expert advisors, building our brand and bouncing issues around with other experienced founders.
  • Putting our awesome team culture at risk. Will we be able to keep the close vibe alive without seeing each other everyday? Will Simon’s jokes still be funny over slack?
  • Creating decision-making issues. Lots of founders have warned us about a remote working phenomenon we’re referring to as “Remote renegadism”. That’s when small clusters of the team get together to discuss an issue or hurdle and, in the process of that discussion, make decisions that are actioned without other key people having input. It’s not malicious, it’s just an outcome of a disconnected team. For us, this could be decisions about a new sales market, a change to our PR strategy or tweaks to a new feature. When a team is small and the business is growing so fast, decisions can’t be made in isolation.
  • Risking our productivity falling. This is the really big one and will require constant monitoring.

 

Getting past the cons list

For us, the pros outweigh the cons right now. I say right now because who really knows until we try? We’re approaching this as an experiment. We’ve committed to three months with monthly reviews (as well as keeping a close eye on productivity stats).

going remote - regular reviews

We’ve also come up with some ways to mitigate some of those cons:

  1. We’re leaving our permanent spot at GridAKL, but we’re keeping our foot in the door. We’ve decided to continue with a couple of casual memberships in the shared space. That basically means a couple of us can pop in and hotdesk whenever we need to – as well as attend the meetups and keep access open to the awesome network of advisors and contacts.
  2. We’ve set up a series of regular team meetings that will help us keep on top of our productivity and help keep the culture alive. Some of these are based in slack or google hangouts, founders catch-ups and one big team meeting IRL. We’re also keeping up with our regular morning standups (although they’re more likely to be google hangout sit-downs now) each morning, and we’ll be using our Wellness Challenge generator to keep our #weirdlywellness tradition alive.

Testing productivity and how well this is working for all of us will be an ongoing and evolving process. We’re excited to give it a go though – even if it means joining that tidal wave of hipsters on Medium.

Weirdly #wellnesschallenge: Automatically generate your own daily wellness activity for super-fun team times.

Join the Weirdly #wellnesschallenge. Our automatic wellness challenge generator makes it easy. Get ideas for you and your team, every day.

Throw your deuces up if one of your team culture goals has something to do with wellness or mindfullness. 🙌🙌🙌

At Weirdly, embedding wellness into our everyday company culture is really important. Every morning in the Weirdly office starts with a team standup. Standing around the whiteboard, each member in our band of misfits write up three priorities for their day: Two outcomes or tasks we need to tick off our to-do lists, and one wellness challenge.

Everyone chooses a different wellness challenge each day – it could be getting creative with coloured pens one day, doing 5 press-ups the next, or eating lunch with a new person (away from your desk!).

Then, the next morning we report back to each other on our success before erasing yesterday’s challenges and starting fresh.

Building wellness into an every-day ritual helps build a culture of mutual respect, encouragement, awareness and (most importantly) fun. Having it shared with the team means we’re accountable to each other – just like we are with the tasks that are more traditionally “job-related”.

To be totally honest, it felt a little contrived at first. Like we were trying to force fun. But very quickly (like, within the first day) we realised it was working. We were more mindful and aware of each other and making these activities an Important Ritual actually made them feel more valuable and allowed us to make space for them in our day.

It’s not all warm fuzzies: The benefits of the weirdly #wellnesschallenge

We’ve been doing this wellness routine for two months now and we’ve noticed some clear outcomes:

We’re a tighter team: Inevitably, every morning now starts with everyone together, spending 2mins laughing, joking and encouraging. It’s a quick connection (we’re all busy), but it happens without fail. Compared to two months ago, when people could wander in, throw headphones on and start the day with the barest of hellos, it’s like night and day. We’re more of a team now. Every week there’s a new in-joke, we’re habitually looking for ways to encourage each other. It all leads to getting to know each other better and building a stronger, more mutual respect.

Feedback has increased (and improved): One of our most popular challenges has to do with compliments. At Weirdly, we call them #chuffys (things that make you feel chuffed – I know, just roll with it). Every week at least one of our challenge options is about noticing something awesome someone has done and giving them mad props. Creating a culture where we’re constantly on the hunt for opportunities to give positive feedback, means it’s easier when the time comes to give harder feedback. We’re more comfortable talking to each other honestly, and we’re more receptive.

Happiness is on the rise: It’s been a pretty pressured time at Weirdly HQ over the past few months. Crucial team-members away visiting companies in the USA, our first integrations being built and launched and hard decisions being made about raising (or not raising) more investment. Stress levels were primed to rise but all-in-all, it’s gone by fairly smoothly. Our morning wellness ritual helped us connect and re-align every day. Having challenges to complete everyday meant we were all forced to look up from our screens and refresh our perspective regularly. These two things have made for a happier team full of happier people (even on the days we’re all running on caffeine and adrenaline).

Team murals:

Weirdly #wellnesschallenge mural montage

Need I say more?

 

Embedding wellness into our culture has been brilliant for us Weirdos, and as part of our 2nd birthday celebration we wanted to help other businesses do the same in their own teams.

So we’re issuing a #wellnesschallenge. Spend a month with your team (or on your own) completing one wellness challenge every day and watch your culture grow. We’ve even built an automatic wellness challenge generator for you to make it really easy. This takes the pain out of coming up with a new thing to do everyday. Just jump onto this site each morning (with your team or by yourself), and press the button. Our auto-generator will magically pull up a challenge for you to complete that day.

Share your #wellnesschallenge on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn – we might even send out some sweet Weirdly swag for awesome photos of teams getting into the Weirdly #wellnesschallenge spirit!

Weirdly #wellnesschallenge hats

Customer loyalty: The goose that lays those golden eggs

You know what’s good for business? Loyalty. That’s where the big bucks are people, or at least, the predictable bucks (which are the best kind). And nothing creates customer loyalty like awesome frontline staff – people who bring your brand to life and go the extra mile for your customers everyday.

There aren’t any shortcuts to building loyalty – you have to earn it, just like trust. But it IS possible to boost it by stepping up for customers in their moments of panic. If you can make things better for a customer, when everything’s going wrong, they’re more likely to stick by you when competitors come knocking.

Your customer-facing staff ARE your business: A tale of new teeth

A couple of months ago, my wife Helen got some new front teeth. When you get crowns, there’s a wait period while your molds are sent off to the New-Teethery. In the meantime you have temporaries fitted – they look the same as your old teeth, but they’re a lot more… porous. She knew this, but kind of forgot, until she was on her way to meet with new, quite-important clients.

It was a busy day. She’d wolfed down some lunch while scrambling to get her things together, then ran out the door without looking in a mirror. Stopped at the lights, she glanced in the rear view mirror and did a double take. It looked like someone had swapped her front teeth for the nibs from some yellow highlighters.

Guys, the photo doesn’t do it justice.

They were Yellow, with a capital Y; very noticeably, distinctly fluorescent. The culprit? Her lunch: home-made curry with lots (and I mean lots) of turmeric.

 

Helens teeth are yellow

Tumeric, meet new teeth.

Her first panicked call was to the dentist’s office and Sharla, the practice manager answered, like she always does. She stopped Helen hyperventilating by sharing her similar experience with American mustard. She recommended lemonade (or champagne) to take some of the colour out, then waited around until after Helen had finished her meeting and could pop by the clinic to remove the rest of the colour.

Practice manager isn’t the role that gets all the glory, but it’s Sharla who checks in the day after an appointment, and helps you judge whether those niggles are just in your head. She tells you how long you can leave things between appointments, or what to watch for when you’re expecting a sensitive tooth to get ugly.

Dr Matt, our dentist, is technically excellent, has a calming bedside manner and his nurses and assistants are also brilliant, but if I had to name one thing that kept me loyal, it’d be her. Outside of the chair, she drives the patient experience, which, let’s be honest, is the part that makes me rebook.

Just like your front-line teams, Sharla is the face of the business.  It’s through those customer-facing staff, your buyers are building a relationship with your products and loyalty to your brand.

This makes it even more important that you’re recruiting people who align with your core brand values – that have the soft skills and traits you need to perform highly and build loyalty with your customers.

How do you find the staff that make customers desperately, fanatically loyal?

The truth is, great employees make businesses great, but it works the other way too – great businesses make employees great. We’ve talked about this before – how shared purpose or values is far more important that personality or competence.

Most customer-facing organisations out there would claim to hold customers at the very centre of what they do. Very few actually deliver on that. Not because they’re liars or because they don’t want it enough.

It’s because truly putting customers first is complicated and expensive. And it starts with prioritising your internal culture.

The equation is simple. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of your customers.

So much of taking care of your people is about building a healthy culture in which people are pulling together. They’re bonded by a shared mission and shared core values. A culture that provides enough structure to be practical, but allows opportunities for freedom. Empowering your teams to go the extra mile for customers and feel responsibility for that relationship.

Take our dentist example: The management has consciously set a tone – they’re genuinely driven by giving people a good experience. More importantly, they’ve managed to create an environment where Sharla can live that culture too. Her boss can trust her to be wonderful, and then gives her the resources (and freedom) to do it.

But plop Sharla down into another environment, where she’s not supported and trusted the same way and where her values don’t align so strongly with the company and things might be different. She’s likely to be just as efficient and personable, but she may not get the chance to display the extra layer of wonderful that creates that magical customer loyalty.

So, it’s not Sharla herself laying the golden loyalty eggs; it’s the synergy between company culture and an employee that perfectly fits that’s the real goose.

Culture fit, ya’ll, it’s crucial to a company’s success – and I recommend never going to the dentist without it.

 

If you want to build teams that’ll drive loyal customer relationships, talk to us about how Weirdly screening assessments could fit in your recruitment process. 

Better dust off the cape, we just got picked as a 2016 NZ Innovation Hero

Guys, we just got the call. No, not the “hey, you’ve been picked for that cool new NASA job” call, this one was even better. It was to tell us we’ve been selected by the NZ Innovation Council as one of their 2016 Innovation Heroes.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty chuffed.

Each year, the NZIC select up to 5 of NZ’s top innovators to profile at a series of events for NZ entrepreneurs and innovation enthusiasts all around the country. People can hear these five Innovation Heroes share inspiring stories, experiences and advice about some of NZ’s most exciting business ventures.

This year, we’ve been chosen to join the clever, inspiring founders from EatMyLunch, Martin Jet Pack (who make actual jet packs), Kode BioTech and the crazy geniuses at 8i who, awesomely, just picked up funding from Ashton Kutcher.

We’ll be touring the country with these guys in May – tickets will be on sale from next week so keep an eye on our twitter profile (@weirdlyhub) for the link.

If your company is interested in innovative new recruitment tools – check us out here. No credit card needed and it only takes 30secs to get started.

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Ready to launch your startup into a new market? Start here.

If you’ve been following us, you’ll know we’re making the big leap from the tiny NZ testing market, to the giant US market. As we were prepping to jump off this particular cliff, we kept getting asked the same question by almost every startup founder we talked to:

“How did you choose where to go first?”

The short answer? We still don’t really know. This is the first real sales-focussed trip we’ve made to knock on doors and shake hands in a market outside of Australasia and, early on in the planning process one thing became very evident:

The world is a really huge place.

In NZ, you often hear people throwing around phrases like “we’re going to expand into the US” or “we’re moving into Asia”. The thing that’s hard to fathom is the sheer scale of these markets. 4.3Million people ride the subway each day in New York city. That’s the entire population of our country. And we’re only counting one group of people, on one day, in one city, in one state of America.

Forget about the country being big, these cities are massive. You cannot hope to move into one of these markets and continue to do sales and marketing the same way you have been at home.

 

Finding your niche

Whether you pronounce it nee-shh or nitch*, it’s really important you find a way to zero in on the people who are going to be the most receptive and most valuable to your growth.

Zoolander who am I gif Finding your niche

Your niche will help you understand what cities are worth investigating. Is your product insanely popular with hipster café and bar owners? Maybe include Portland in your list of places to investigate. Are your best customers SaaS founders in rapidly growing companies? Don’t just look at San Fran, maybe also investigate other growing tech hubs in Chicago, LA or Denver.

Research where your best customer base is likely to be and then go there. There’s no substitute for getting your feet on the ground, shaking hands and looking people in the eye. Scouting out cities by going there and making sales is far and away, the best way of understanding whether there’s great expansion potential for you. It’s the old learn-by-doing idea, applied to business development and sales.

 

So how did we choose where to go first?

In the spirit of full transparency, narrowing down a shortlist of places to scout has been a mix of strategy and accident. Asking heaps of people for advice, using previously booked holidays to have meetings and visit startup hubs and reading acres of market research documents. But beyond those things, here are the steps we’ve taken and things we’re considering so far:

Joey and chandler go to london

  1. Where are you already getting traction?

We’ve slowly been building an international user-base since day one so a few spots around the world have organically popped up on our radar (I’m looking at you, Portugal). As these emerged, we’d aim short bursts of marketing activity specifically at those markets to see if that initial flurry of signups would keep momentum. The ones that did were most likely to have big audiences of low hanging fruit, the ones that didn’t were likely to require harder work to get people across the line. It’s a bit of a sledgehammer approach, but it’s been a useful way of working out which places are going to be really easy to sell in, and which are going to be hard.

  1. Do your channel partners have an established/growing client-base there?

Building good channel relationships was always going to be a key part of our growth strategy. Weirdly is an awesome tool that gets even better if you integrate it with other recruitment apps. We have a pretty good idea of who these partners are going to be now. Since we’ll be selling to similar audiences, it makes sense to consider where their client base is located too.

  1. Where do you already have established advisor/influencer contacts?

Getting doors open for meetings – whether they’re with potential clients, investors, channel partners or some weird combination of all three, is much MUCH easier if you’ve got friendlies on the ground who can stage introductions. Places where we have good advocates are way more attractive to us and that’s had a pretty major impact on our location decisions.

Also, accommodation is really expensive so it’s a big bonus if you’ve got mates in town who can lend you a couch or patch of floor to sleep on.

  1. Do people have the right problem in that city?

Ultimately, we’re all solving problems, right? If you haven’t worked out what problem your product is solving, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. If you have, thinking about where in the world people are experiencing the problem you solve is useful. We’re awesome for screening job applicants and helping people get from a huge pile of resumes to an awesome-quality shortlist really fast. That means markets that are having major talent shortages aren’t as good for us as markets where most jobs are getting lots of applicants.

  1. Is there a healthy investor community?

At some point, we will need investment from outside NZ. Working out which markets have a bigger, more active investor community has been a consideration for us as most of the advice has been that investors prefer you to be based in the same city as them. That said, this seems to be changing – particularly with San Francisco based investors, so it’s worth doing your own research on this one.

  1. Is the market evolving in the right direction?

Markets change and evolve. We’re awesome for mid-large startups. Companies who are tech-savvy and have moved beyond that early-stage of growth, but aren’t quite being referred to as Unicorns yet. At first glance, this would make San Fran an interesting spot for us, but it’s not quite that simple. You’ve got to ask yourself, are you launching into an aging marketplace? Is it about to tip (grow exponentially), or is it on its way down and about to be succeeded by a new hotspot?

  1. Can you picture yourself living there?

Expanding always involved making big sacrifices for the business, so this question can seem a bit…frivolous. But that’s why it’s really important to consider. You’re going to be spending a load of time in this place. You might even be asking your family to uproot their lives and move with you to this city. You’ve got to be able to enjoy it, otherwise ultimately, the sacrifice isn’t worth it.

 

We’re still smack-bang in the middle of this process so we’d love to hear what you think the most important thing to consider is when scaling into a new market. Tweet yours to @weirdlyhub.

If you’re keen to get onboard the Weirdly train before we officially launch ourselves into the States, jump in for a free trial now. It’s takes 30seconds to get going and no credit card required.

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*Please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t pronounce it nitch.

Startup Thanksgiving: great advice that’s not about holidays or leftovers

So Thanksgiving is done. Time to grab a leftover turkey sandwich, kiss your Mum goodbye and pack those elasticated pants away ’til Christmas.

There’s one thing you shouldn’t pack away too quickly though, and that’s the reflection and gratitude that comes with this most cosy and delicious of holidays.

Here at Weirdly, we’re really big on gratitude. Acknowledging the awesome help, startup advice and support people give to us is a pretty huge part of growing a happy, healthy team – as well as making us better founders (not to mention, much nicer to be around).

Some of our favourite things to be thankful for are the clever, wise and sometimes plain funny nuggets of advice people have given us along the startup journey. So we thought we’d give you an opportunity to share yours.

Click into the field below and share a piece of advice or encouragement someone gave you, early in your startup journey. It could be short and sweet, or long and kind of serious – whatever. We want to hear it all so make sure you share this around your team as well.

Then, we’re going to pull them together into an awesome startup advice compilation. An advompilation, if you will. Then you can stick it on your wall in your office kitchen – something to inspire everyone while they’re making cups of tea and way better than that tired old “hang in there” kitty.

Good feelings! Warm fuzzies!

 

 

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