A Winning Formula for Building Successful Teams

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You need great teams in order to build great products. The way senior software engineer Rich Paret creates such teams at the Twitter-acquired Crashlytics — which provides mobile crash reporting — is to “hire for the culture you have, and the culture you want to have.”

The company culture at Crashlytics isn’t a collection of perks or a bunch of abstract values. It’s how people get stuff done together. When we visited Rich at Twitter Boston this past May, he emphasized how it’s the quality of a team’s communication that determines its outcomes.

How does a project become late?” he asked. As our minds ran through various scenarios and the complexities of managing a team, he broke our pondering pause with his simple answer — “Day by day.” Just as you can build meaningful progress day by day, you can also increasingly get off track to the point of failure. Communication losses accumulate, a slow but steady snowball, as the days roll by, when you’re not careful.

Consider the distribution and flow of information within a company. Too often knowledge is guarded amongst the people at the top, or cooped up in people’s heads, or trapped in silos. What happens then? As Rich puts it, islands of information” emerge. When different people know different pieces of information, it becomes progressively harder to reach across the waters just to know where the puzzle pieces are, let alone put the puzzle together.

One approach to avoiding islands and fostering a bridging, communicative culture is to hire smart and work smart. When you align people and process, you ultimately create strong values, culture, and behaviors.  Here’s a look at Rich’s formula for building awesome teams and in doing so, awesome company culture:

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7 Essential Online Business Tools that Power You Forward

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As a distributed team, we find tools indispensable because we rely on them so heavily to collaborate and create our collective office space in the cloud. We know the beating heart of running a successful business is successful communication internally as a team and externally with our customers — and without helpful tools, we can’t connect.

We’ve rounded up our seven favorite tools that keep us moving forward. What these seven tools have in common is that they’re easy to use and responsive to our needs. And when tools can evolve as we evolve while retaining their simplicity and effectiveness, they have great staying power.

Here’s the quick list:

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Why Foursquare, BuzzFeed, and Shopify Use Google Snippets

There’s one internal communication tool, little known outside of tech circles, that’s been the management engine behind many of tech’s biggest successes. Known as Google Snippets (having started as an internal tool at Google), this single tool has grown to become one that many of the best technology companies use to keep their teams aligned and working in sync while giving them the freedom to work creatively and autonomously.

The reason the system at Google caught on is that it’s not only powerful but incredibly simple to use.

Snippets sends everyone a weekly email on Monday asking you what you did last week and what you planned to get done the next week. When you reply to the email, your response goes onto an internally accessible webpage, and the next day, you’ll get an email that shows you what everyone else in the company is working on.

What began as a modest tool for keeping everyone in the loop became a powerful tool for company-wide transparency, as Google grew from hundreds to tens of thousands of people. With snippets, every employee had access to important knowledge regarding what was happening in the company — a stark contrast from the old days when managers hoarded information and kept it from their reports.

As Googlers eventually spread their wings and left the company for other tech pastures, they brought snippets with them, which is how similar systems became critical management tools at companies like Foursquare.

Here’s why three of the fastest-rising tech companies today use snippets and how it fuels their success:

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How Love With Food Found its Working Rhythm

Love With Food is a subscription service that delivers a specially curated box of organic and all-natural snacks every month. For every box that’s sent, the company donates a meal to feed a hungry child.

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Founder Aihui Ong embarked on Love With Food after seeing a friend forced to shutter her stir-fry sauce business because she was unable to secure wider distribution. Aihui (pronounced “I-we”) not only saw the need for alternative channels of distribution and marketing connecting food entrepreneurs to consumers but also an opportunity to help the one in five children in America at risk of hunger.

From a company of one in late 2011, Love With Food has grown to twelve employees. While growing any startup is challenging, Aihui notes that LWF’s mission helps her hire:  “In the last eighteen months, we’ve donated more than 100,000 meals, and that also draws the right talent to our company. People who want to join us really value that we’re giving back and doing something innovative to disrupt the food industry.”

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How WooThemes Makes Distributed Team Culture Succeed

The multi-million dollar company WooThemes started with a single email, as a small side project of Magnus Jepson in Stavanger, Norway, Adii Pienaar in Cape Town and Mark Forrester, then in London.

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From that one email sprouted a bootstrapped company that produces a rich catalog of WordPress themes and plugins, serving 450,000 users. And this impressive success emerges from a distributed team of only thirty people, spanning seven countries.

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Practice for Productivity! The Best of the Internet

Happy Friday! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week! 

When you’re building a company, what’s the only thing that matters?

The most productive thing you’ll do today is PRACTICE.

The greatest startup hack: math & humble pie.

Make remote work less lonely.

Disconnect from the tubes.

8 ridiculously easy things that make you happier.

Don’t undermine company culture.

Dundee’s Tip of the Week:  Want to add to your list of dones as you finish it rather than waiting for your reminder email? You can always add dones whenever you want via web or email.

3 Tools to Speed Up Customer Service Traffic

Great customer service requires great communicationLaunchBit, an ad network for email newsletters, manages a ton of communication with their publishing and advertising partners. CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Yin shares LaunchBit’s secrets to speedy, efficient customer service, dealing with high volume while maintaining high quality.

When my co-founder and I first started LaunchBit, we were working with just a handful of publishers and advertisers, and it was easy to respond to everyone. As a small startup, speed was our advantage in winning over new customers. Losing momentum with a customer was a real risk, because it was hard to gain back their interest in our product. In those beginning stages, each customer is critical.

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Photo: Biscarotte

Very quickly, business boomed, and we found ourselves struggling just to maintain our individual inboxes. Yet, our priority remains to respond with the same high level of speed and service in order to stay fresh in the minds of our customers.

In a given week, the emails number in the low thousands. So how do we get through them all with just four full-time employees? We found that staying organized and finding tools that can fill the role of a good traffic cop, helping to direct email smartly and efficiently, work best to deliver quality customer service.

Here are three key tools we use:

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5 Ways to Transmit Awesome Customer Service From the Inside Out

No customer service is an island. You just can’t deliver great customer care alone.

These days, customers are tech-savvy, creative, and communicative. Some customers may want to build extensions and plugins to your service. In fact, we owe many of our iDoneThis “goodies” to ingenious users who built them to better suit their workflow. Others request features or find ways to adapt your tool to their company culture that you never initially considered. Still other customers ask highly technical questions. They all use multiple channels to communicate a volley of varied issues.

The worst customer experience is to wait forever for an answer, only to receive a meaningless response. That’s bound to happen when you isolate your customer service team. Ill-equipped to substantively deal with issues, they leave customers hanging while running around asking developers for assistance.

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The best customer experience is prompt, personal resolution of a problem, and this starts with a foundation of strong internal team connections and communication. The better your team is at communicating and supporting each other, the better the customer service results. Customer requests will have a faster turnaround, your responses will be more substantive and helpful, and your customers will simply be happier.

Here’s some key ways and tools to connect your team internally for excellent customer service:

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Why Logic is an Unproductive Way to Address Illogical Behavior

As Chief Happiness Officer, Ginni ensures that iDoneThis is helping teams and companies stay connected, enhance productivity, and improve their inner work life. Every so often, a team leader will reach out to ask why some team members just aren’t getting on board. It hasn’t been a straightforward question to resolve, so Ginni reached out to friend, time coach and productivity expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders, for some help. (This is the 1st of a 3-part “Manager’s Series”.) 

Does this sound familiar?: You’ve been trying to implement a change on your team that will lead to increased productivity. Although you’ve explained why the new behavior is important and saves time, certain people won’t budge. And no amount of explaining—or even coercing—seems to bridge the disconnect between what people should do and what they actually do.

The answer to the puzzle of why people don’t do what is logical and beneficial for the individual and the team, lies deeper than you might think. In such cases, you most likely have a logic-resistant emotional issue to address.

As a time coach and trainer, and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, I’m acutely aware that addressing underlying emotional issues plays a foundational role in shifting people’s habits. That’s why in Chapter 2 of my book, I go through six crippling emotions—and how to overcome them. To get you started empowering your team in 2013, I’ll cover one of them here.

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