Back in 2007 when I first started Flying Cart the entire team was part-time and me and my team were in different locations. After our busy work day, meeting up in one spot seemed like a total time waster. Our thinking was with all the advancements in technology for remote working, who really needs to be in the same location?
After about a year (2008). Myself and our lead developer went full-time on the business. We decided to not get an office to save money and just work remotely in 2 different cities. We read countless blogs about how working from home is actually better and this confirmed our beliefs that we were doing the right thing. The overall theory was there are less distractions gives you more time to get work done.
We thought we were working pretty well remotely. We would have long conversations ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours, used google docs, gchat, and other online tools – overall things ran pretty smoothly and the business grew.
About two years ago, I moved to San Francisco and had the opportunity to work out of a space where other startups were working out of. Most of them had 2-4 people.
As I sat in my corner of the co-working space I noticed something very different from how I was running my company versus how others were. The startups in the office would have multiple conversations a day about specific strategies and ways to execute their product offering. Since they were only a foot away this was easy to do. At first I thought this was actually a bad thing – they are constantly distracting each other and not getting enough work done, thus confirming my belief that working remotely is actually better. But I was wrong, completely wrong. The company was executing extremely fast and by talking out specific issues they were able to avoid a ton of mistakes.
The other startups that were in the co-working space would be in constant communication. Even during lunch they would keep talking about work. Working late for them never seemed bad because they were just having fun working on their product together. They were a small team of 4 looking to disrupt the mobile gaming world, things were rapidly changing around them and they needed to quickly develop solutions and test it. I believe communication was core to their success.
Even though I would communicate with my team it was only 1 time a day for about 30 minutes straight. So much changes in one day especially during the early stages of a business. So many little things go unnoticed when you aren’t able to communicate on an on-going basis. For example by reading a customer support email my entire team is able jump in and figure out how to answer the customers issues. A small customer complaint can reveal a much bigger opportunity in your business. The engineering team sometimes comes up with a great solution that I would have never thought of. The sales team needs to hear it so they can get a better sense of how to write the sales copy on specific landing pages to attract our target customer.
It has been exactly 1 year since I decided that I had to have this type of setup as well. Luckily my co-founder signed up for this and decided to join me out in San Francisco. Over the last year I can tell you first hand that this is the best business decision I have ever made. Instead of talking for 30 minutes a day we talk at least 3-4 hours. (We also have long periods of down time where we are just cranking away and no one is talking). We are constantly tailoring our product on what customers demand and changing our marketing message. Before our company would iterate on a 2-week basis, now new feedback is incorporated on a daily basis. Because of increased communication we are able to quickly realize if a team member is wasting time on the wrong thing.
My belief is over-communication is much better than being worried that you are annoying people. With this firm belief on the communication being the most important thing you must make it frictionless. Frictionless communication means that you shouldn’t have to pick up the phone or open a chat window. It means you should be able blurt out something and everyone hears it.
If I could give one advice to myself 6 years ago it would be “Rishi, stop being cheap. Get an office, load it up with fast internet, and work 1 foot away from the rest of your team.”