Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #29


Ryan Rutan: Yeah, his remote work bullshit. Does it face the same eventual reversal of fortunes as the open offices of the early 20 tens in our experience at startups dot com? No, not at all on today's startup therapy podcast, we're going to talk about when and how remote work or work from home policies can really have a positive impact on a startup and how you can ward off some of the potential challenges. Welcome back to another episode of startup therapy from startups dot com. This is Ryan Rutan. I am joined as always by my partner ceo of startups dot com, Wil Schroder. Well, this is an interesting one. Uh, we're gonna be talking about work from home and, you know, our our entire adventure around work from home, which has evolved significantly over the last few years, started off with with an idea that you had and then seemed to simultaneously hate the moment after you suggested it. And uh, I'm not convinced that you didn't want the work from home experiment to

Wil Schroter: fail. You're actually exactly right. I remember thinking I've got this stupid idea. If people want to work from home so bad, let's let them work from home. And I'll show I'll show you all what happens when you don't go to the office every day. And I don't think it was exactly that. But I think in the back of my mind, I really wanted this to be proven wrong. I wanted to prove to everybody that actually did need to come in every day. So this wasn't about being open minded and liberal about our policy. It was about being draconian about our policy and having to fight my way into it.

Ryan Rutan: Well, you know, it wasn't what I came from a world where yeah, well we came from a world where that wasn't the thing, right? Like it's kind of like telling a boy scout now that you know, we're not going to use fires anymore. So that that that you know, merit badge that you earned for for building fires its now defunct, right? So all of those badges of honor that you and I earned by being the first one into the office, the last one out all of a sudden seemed to matter a little bit less. Right? When if this is true, if being in the office doesn't correlate to productivity or gains or whatever, what does that say about all that time we spent in an office

Wil Schroter: over 20

Ryan Rutan: years prior to making this like

Wil Schroter: so many other things. But you know, it's interesting man, we've got 200 employees of the company now. Companies changed dramatically since we started at what, seven years ago and almost the entire staff is remote. You know, and it's it's all us based for the most part you're not you're you and a few other people are the only yeah, a lot of people don't know this, but when Ryan and I do this podcast, I'm often doing it from columbus Ohio and Ryan is doing it from Guatemala. So we're we're in very different parts of the world to

Ryan Rutan: very different places.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah. People think we're in the same room. We're not we're not but but neither is most of our staff at this point and I'd like today I'd like to talk about work from home and Ryan, I think we could have a really interesting conversation about this but I think we can also talk about how it not only changed our internal culture our productivity but also changed our hiring because prior to that you may recall I think we had one person that didn't work from home or work from the office. Right. I mean it was we did we had

Ryan Rutan: we had one designer who worked from some maritime area of France close to the italian border.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, I mean that was it and he was the total one off. And I think a lot of us when we think about creating these policies like remote work work from home were terrified of it. I mean when we think about as owners of the business, you know as people who run the business, we're not thinking about it in terms of man, everything is going to get so much better when we let everybody work from home at least that's not the way I was thinking about it.

Ryan Rutan: It'll be, it'll be a lot better for everyone if I can't glare at them. Which is probably true now that I think about it. But yeah it didn't feel right at the time, it

Wil Schroter: didn't and I remember thinking we'll run this experiment and we did this thing, we did it for a limited time if you recall two specifically for this reason. So we could unwind it if we had to, we said we're going to start doing a work from home Wednesdays. And I remember writing the initial announcement email about this and we talked about this a lot and I said, look, we're gonna experiment with a day where everyone gets to work from home on a Wednesday, it'll be a good day to catch up on a lot of the things that just kind of get like life gets in the way type stuff right where you're running to drop off dry cleaning or you have a doctor's appointment or all those random things where you need to do them during the work week. But it's just inconvenient when you're at the office and it will be a day to break up the week. Like that was what I was most excited about. I like the idea that on Tuesday night, you know, I knew as I was having a cocktail with my wife that tomorrow morning I could work in my pajamas, right? That was actually pretty cool and I would say early on, it went off damn near without a hitch and why I say the first week or two, everything was cool. The first week or two every, everybody kind of checked in. Everybody was good. Everything worked ok. And then I think things started to come off the rails a little bit. If you recall Once we got past week one or week two people started to take it as a little bit more of an entitlement and work from home Wednesday became work some of the day Wednesday, I've got some scheduled time off

Ryan Rutan: online.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And then it started to bite us a bit. So before we kind of get into all the details, I just want to point out That over the past seven years we've gone through this transition where we've gone from. Everybody is in the office all the time to everyone's in the office except for Wednesdays to the current state, which is we only work in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everyone that works from our office in columbus Ohio, which actually isn't that much of our staff, which is part of this discussion works from home Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The rest of our staff across the entire country works from home the entire time. And so we've had to wrestle with. How do you tell some of our staff that you have to come to the office, but tell the entire rest of the staff, which is 85% of our staff that you, have to you know.

Ryan Rutan: you soften the blow by making it two days a week.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think that works. But what I think we should do, if you're cool with this is just let's walk folks through the big questions that everybody has that, you know, founders like us had and what was terrifying about every step of the process. So Ryan, I'm going to pose this one to you so you can kind of think about it. One of the first ones obviously was, won't everyone just goof off at home. Are we increasing everybody's netflix and xbox time? The moment we set off this chain of events, what was your take on it?

Ryan Rutan: Hey, look, we all want to leverage those investments, Right? But yeah, so you know, it was, it was interesting, it was interesting to see when, where and who it manifested in for me and it was pretty obvious, right? You know, I think if you're the type of company that, that doesn't have a good sense of, of what people are doing, what they're responsible for and win. If you don't already have a good pattern of communication, this could be a lot more difficult. But the reality was that not being in the same place for for one day a week didn't really matter as much, right? And we already had people kind of migrating around the office and I know that's not the same thing, but it's not like people were just sitting at a desk all day every day, right? We have people working outside, we have people working from, you know, the basement or working from the group lunch table, So we're already having this kind of like, I'm not tethered to a desk, I'm moving around a bit and so I think that that helped soften things a little bit, but the reality was we saw a few people abuse it, All right, most of the people did not right? And and we talked about this a lot that, you know, for 95% of the staff, it was great. And you made a really good point a couple of months into this as we were having to make the hard decision of letting someone go and it wasn't just because of their work from home performance, but that was another, another nail in the coffin, if you will, another data point for us to look at and you said, you know, all this really did was give us better visibility on being able to make this decision alright. This just gave us an acceleration of something that was already going to happen, right? Because the reality was the people who were doing their jobs, who were invested in their work and wanted to get things done, we're going to do that no matter where they were sitting and the people in our office Yeah, that's the thing that that same person was goofing off in the office just as easily as Goofing off at home, right? And so I think that um once we came to that realization that really just does become around, you know, making sure you get the right expectations set with people, making sure they understand their roles well, and and and and are engaged and want to get the work done becomes a lot less of a problem. The other thing that was really interesting to me was as we increased the amount of work from home time, I felt like that became easier to manage towards, not harder and here's why if somebody's only out of the office one day a week, you can kind of mask what goes on that day of the week, right? It's just one day, it's 20% of your week. So if not as much happens that day, it may not be apparent if you're working from home three days a week and you're goofing off, That becomes really apparent really quick, 60% of your week is spent outside the office. So if you're not productive at home or wherever you're working from, because not everyone works from home, some go to cafes, they gotta coworking, they go wherever. If you're not productive when you're outside the office, that's gonna show really quick as you dial that up. And so, you know, in hindsight to some degree, I can say that, you know, it may be an easier transition for some companies to have people who are fully remote than than the sort of part time remote, because all of their performance is going to be based on that same circumstance,

Wil Schroter: you make a good point. I think, I remember Steph mentioned this years ago, she said, what is one of our remote workers? She said, you know, I've only worked remote, so a day remote a day work from home isn't special to me. I'm not, I'm not, you know, planning a party around it because that day isn't any more unusual than any other day, but if it's your only day off, so to speak, you absolutely treat it differently. And I think we saw that without question. And I think what what happened to is when we first implemented the program and I think this is important to know when we first implemented the program, I think people didn't know how to adjust for it. Again, I thought about it as I'm going to wake up in the morning, put on my footie pajamas and work and I just thought about it as like a comfortable fun way to work. Other folks looked at it as I can go out partying tonight and I don't have to worry about tomorrow because it's work from home days. So as long as I check in on slack, I can show that I'm in. And so they looked at it as it's a quasi day off and I think that became a bigger challenge when we first introduced it because folks weren't used to it yet. So I think it was a shock to the system. It was a bit of a break in period and I think, yeah, if we were talking to ourselves or we're coaching somebody else that was going through the same process who's considering this? And I think a lot of folks are, I think one of the things we'd say is don't take the first results you get as an absolute indication of the process, right? Like, uh, give it time true

Ryan Rutan: in in so many things in a startup, right? The early false negative is a hallmark of the startup life, right? Like we constantly get unexpected or bad or poor results, uh, when we, when we first try something alright, It's, it's knowing, you know, it's knowing when that point of like, okay, let's power through this. Um, and and get to the other side and see what it really looks like. And we, we see that in so many aspects of running the business,

Wil Schroter: remember this is years back long before startups dot com. I was running this business and we had instituted a program where we had to work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was pushed for mainly by the development team who just wanted to, they worked all crazy hours. They just wanted a little more flexibility, but again, we Federated to the entire company. So everyone was doing and we had quite a few people at the time and I'll never forget one of the developers on his exit interview, He was getting recruited away to some other company. He sits across from me point blank and said, hey, I gotta tell you will work from home was bullshit. He said all I do all day is get stoned and drunk and wait for the day to pass. My God, oddly

Ryan Rutan: your productivity has never been

Wil Schroter: higher. Oh, he actually was a pretty good developer and although to his credit, but I remember being so enraged, also shocked that he was willing to be so honest about it. I mean it's so we can say that, but he wasn't saying it as like a like a thumb in my eye kind of thing. He was saying it just to say, hey, I, you probably should have a little bit more visibility and what's actually happening during this time that you gave off too folks and that always stuck with me. And I think one of the things that I process with that very poorly was that's just one guy. Right? Again, that was the, in, in our case when we 1st 1st started running the program, we heard of people taking trips during those days actually literally taking it like it was a weekend off and I remember thinking I can't make that mistake again, I can't think that because one or two people did something silly that that represents everybody, but man didn't keep me up at night. Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: I'm sure I'm sure, but then that I think that that's a that's a great segue into what I think is probably one of the other major major questions that people have when considering, you know, work from home remote work um either part or full time. And that's how do we manage productivity? Right. How do we make sure that output stays consistent or improves depending what your objectives are. When I can't see the people, they're not sitting right there in front of me. Right? And so I think that's something we should definitely dig into.

Wil Schroter: Well I think it has a couple of levels to it. I think, you know, output is certainly the ultimate goal, But one of the issues that I was running into was we have a very young staff, the average age and our staff is 27 years old, I'm 45 and I'm a senior citizen, I'm actually the oldest person in the company,

Ryan Rutan: but just

Wil Schroter: the handicapped spot. But what was interesting about it is 27 is the average age. But there's a lot of folks that are much younger than that, this is essentially their first job. Super smart, energetic. But when you don't have a context for why this is special or how to treat this or how to manage productivity with this, it becomes a real challenge. Yeah. And so for our younger staff members who show up and they hear that you don't have to come to work on Wednesday. They just hear the parts where don't work on Wednesday kind of, that's all they hear. And so they're also learning how to how productivity is managed for the first time. They're learning how the office works and everything else. So sometimes it was a little bit challenging for us to kind of break in younger staff members under what was becoming a very liberal office policy because they don't have anything to compare it to older staff members, not an issue. I mean, think about it, if you look at all the people that we had challenges with, the older staff members were never the challenge. They looked at it as a gift, a huge gift. The younger staff members not their fault by the way, I think started to take it as an entitlement. And no, I

Ryan Rutan: think they did right. And again to your point, not necessarily out of malice, they just, they didn't know any better. They had no context for what the other version of work looked like because up until that point, you know, they had school, they had university and they had their first job, which was us. And so we set them off on a great foot on one hand, but with maybe without having those expectations set in the first place, the value wasn't there for them. And so therefore they were more likely to abuse it because they didn't understand the value, They didn't understand what they were, you know, jeopardizing by not treating it with with the appropriate amount of concern and respect.

Wil Schroter: And I think for a lot of organizations, they have a fairly young staff, especially startups. So I want to stick with this point for a second because Ryan, we're talking about how do we manage productivity, but there's another facet to this, which is how do we establish with our staff what productivity is and what the guidelines and rules are working at their first job in many cases or how we do things. Yeah, well they're not actually here to engage with, right? We engage in lots of ways and slack and you know, a million different ways that aren't actually talking to each other anymore. But I still think there's some value in and seeing everybody coming at the same time interacting with your coworkers and seeing some sort of chain of command that sometimes gets lost when nobody sees each other.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, no, it certainly can. Yeah. And I think that they're, they're definitely positive and negative aspects to this specific point, but I think it is and again exacerbated when it's a younger staff where they haven't been in an environment where that was true and they just, they don't have the context for it. So what do you think that we did particularly well in that regard in terms of helping then as we moved forward with the newer hires once this these policies were put in place, what do you think that we did really well to enable that and and to to make this work because it works now, we know it works well on the other side of this and there's

Wil Schroter: but I gotta say, I don't want to say we made some examples of folks because that's certainly not what it was. But there were there were some cases I can remember and I'll recite them where things came off the rails and we had to kind of put our foot down so that everybody else kind of in that age group, if you go like, okay, well you don't do that. Remember we had something that was watching Netflix for nine hours a day.

Ryan Rutan: Yes, yeah, I mean, well look, look, there's a lot of great series out there and

Wil Schroter: so I remember having to have a discussion and they were working, you know, with netflix on the full day, like binge watching netflix all day at the office while they were doing whatever their other work was. I remember having to sit across and be like, you know, you can't do that

Ryan Rutan: right? But I'm working right now watching netflix,

Wil Schroter: this isn't like when you were studying for finals and you could watch netflix in the background, we're paying you to be kind of focused here and it wasn't out of malice, good employee, but I remember thinking they've never heard this before. As crazy as this sounds, this is the first time they've ever heard that you can't do that and then there were other cases where you had folks like on facebook all day and again these were habits that were ingrained in them for years leading up to their first job and they get there and like look man you can't spend nine hours a day on Facebook right? I mean like you do or YouTube or whatever and remember it came to us because of all things. This is so funny. Do you remember we're having network connectivity issues right? Like our view I. P. And stuff was getting slowed right? Like

Ryan Rutan: what's going on? What's eating up all our band with what the hell is going on with the three domains responsible for youtube. Netflix and facebook

Wil Schroter: and so easy enough I bring this up because at a meta level you have to be mindful that if the folks that you're trying to create more liberal policies around have never had any other policies, they're not gonna compare it like a gift, they're gonna compare it. Okay well now I get to watch netflix from home first netflix at the office, I just don't know any better. Fantastic. And you know when we expanded our our work from home and we'll talk about that from just Wednesday to monday and friday we got all kinds of interesting reports from our staff and good reports. I'm talking about feedback from the staff mostly from parents and again we should definitely dig into what that meant and why that's important. But but saying I get to see more of my kids actually, my kid goes to child care a little bit less, which means they're watching the kid or chasing a kid versus quote doing their work. But it didn't matter because going back to the point, I think we should dig back into, we had metrics at that point to know what they should be getting done. Which by the way, those metrics were set by people who weren't watching netflix all day. If if the, the high, if the water line was set by the folks that were watching netflix and we're getting the equivalent of two hours worth of work a day that doesn't work.

Ryan Rutan: We need, that wouldn't work in the office either. You bet man, very poor watermark.

Wil Schroter: It only worked for us because we had enough folks that were performing at a high enough level that weren't doing things like that that we can say, hey, if you're not performing as fast as them, there's probably something wrong. And lo and behold you're watching netflix all day.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Yeah. That was the thing. Like we had enough, we had enough data and we, we had enough time in office to, I think this would also be a different challenge and one that we haven't experienced if you're starting a company, right? So if you have a very early stage and I have talked to a number of startups in the last even just like three or four weeks, um they're pulling together teams now and they're starting completely remote, they're like, yeah, I'm here, my co founders there, you know the two developers, we hired once in florida, ones in Nevada and they're building the company from zero starting remote, which I think presents a slightly different challenge. You know, you and I had a couple of advantages in that we had the context of the old way of doing things right? We had the draconian methodology where, you know, we're in office. So we had something to compare it to and you know, we we based our productivity benchmarks on years and years of work and then we also started the company and had people in office right? It was it was years into this before we began to work from home Wednesday. And so we had some pretty good benchmarks for what to expect from productivity. So I think it does definitely impact things if you're beginning the company fully remote. So you have to be a little more diligent in putting forth some sort of, you know, whether you want to use okay Rs or or some other methodology for tracking projects output and accomplishment. I think that maybe that much more critical, it's always important to be able to track productivity, but I think that if you're starting remote, it's a different challenge. You and I had the benefit of a couple data points as we made the decision to move over to remote and it's always the case,

Wil Schroter: right? And so as far as I'm concerned, you know, when I look at they move over to work from home, if you have the right benchmarks, even if the folks, our remote work from home, what have you, you're in a good place, it's always challenging in the early days to say should the development team or should the marketing team be hitting these benchmarks or higher benchmarks, how do I know, because I don't have any other benchmarks and that honestly just takes a little bit of time to work towards you. You basically, you start to work toward the most aggressive goals you can get to and then if you get to them, those become your water line for what you're trying to get higher than the next time, yep, so if we talk about again, people managing towards their, their goals, et cetera, that's part of the productivity. But when we try to compare their productivity, I think it's a big important point Two them working in the office versus them working from home or remote etcetera, yep, that got really interesting to me because because I

Ryan Rutan: think the conclusion, right, the the the pre conclusion, right? The the expectation is that we'll of course people are just going to get more done in the office, I think that's what everybody enters into this thinking and I think that we sort of proved that wrong.

Wil Schroter: Well, I also think what the office is has changed so dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years that you just can't compare it to what being in the office used to mean. I think about it like this for me being in the office used to mean I had other than my phone ringing zero access to the outside world. There's no there's no facebook, there's no youtube. But there's there's nothing if you're in the office, there was nothing else to do but your work. Right? So it was this mass level of focus which by the way is super helpful. The second part was when I was in the office, the only way to communicate, collaborate with my coworkers was to be in the office if you had to be in a meeting in order to communicate important information. Now that's 15 years ago, let's say we fast forward say another five years we have social media and I would say really even the last seven years and again, people's mileage will vary on this social media has become acceptable at the office now, some companies, big companies still turn social media off as if their phones don't work. But what I thought was really interesting watching this firsthand was watching social media enter the workplace in a way where I could basically be at my desk for nine hours a day and get no work done whatsoever. I could just simply be

Ryan Rutan: something to take your attention on any moment of the day

Wil Schroter: that didn't used to exist, right? So just when we're making the apples to apples comparison, if I was at the office, I had nothing to do but work now I can be at the office and do almost you can

Ryan Rutan: stare at that photograph across the room from you with, you know the picture of last year's golf outing

Wil Schroter: about

Ryan Rutan: 30 seconds I'm done. I'm gonna go back to work now.

Wil Schroter: And so the question would then become, well then wouldn't I have gotten a lot more work done in the past and here's what's weird me personally, I don't know that I did. I think the focus helped. I agree with that there's no question that when I shut off all the distractions, I get more work right? I know you do too. Yeah, but I don't think the argument that coming to work is where I need to collaborate, I need to come to work to be focused. I think all of the things that were coming to the office used to represent are mostly gone and I think, I think that's a lot to contend with, especially for founders that have been at this for a while. Yeah, I think it is it

Ryan Rutan: was it was a big mental shift for me to start to realize that not only because the first realization for me was that I found that I had more focus and better productivity on the days, I wasn't in the office now that didn't mean it was total net loss the days I was in, it came down to distractions for me, I had more distractions in the office than I did outside and when you're part of leadership, one of the things that happens to you in the office is people come to you with a lot of things when somebody shows up at your desk, You don't get to ignore the notification, literally standing there when somebody sends me a slack message, I get to choose if I'm gonna respond to it now or in 15 minutes an hour or maybe push it over to email or something else. But what I found and particularly exacerbated by the fact that we had an open office layout, I was overhearing everything, I don't want to go off on a diatribe about introvert, extrovert, but the the introvert in me had a hard time ignoring all of that feedback and input and it was very distracting and I would find myself engaging in conversations because I had something to add to them and it was a huge distraction for me, people coming to my desk for me just overhearing things and wanting to, you know wanting to be involved again it doesn't mean that there was a net negative impact to be in the office because certainly my input helped those people to do their job and help them to move forward, but in terms of my personal productivity, I realized that the things that I needed to focus and go heads down on, got done, got done better, got done faster when I wasn't in a distracting environment and then the most distracting environment at that period for me was being in the office, this, this the evolution of that then was to realize that that might be true for a lot of the people around me right first was just like ah I need that environment but I didn't apply it to anybody else's situation at first right, I still assume that okay I'm better off if I can just have quiet time because of my circumstances because of you know I'm in leadership because whatever, but I still assume that they all needed to be in the bullpen where we could keep an eye on them so it took a little time for me to go, oh probably worked for them

Wil Schroter: too, where I would say I saw the sea change is for a good portion of the time that we're building startups dot com. I was living in two cities, I was living in columbus Ohio and then living in san Francisco and I was back and forth about 2 to 3 weeks, there are 2 to 3 weeks here back and forth and then in Beverly hills the same thing going back and forth and this is for a total period of about five years living in both those cities simultaneously. And where it got interesting for me is we were a very early adopter for not just slack but Skype chat and everything before that. So we were a chat enabled enterprise for a very long time and kind of slacks the de facto, but again we were on that train a lot sooner but slack really changed things for us and this is no big note to slack. This is just a chat atmosphere. And what would happen though is I would get online, let's say I'm waking up in san Francisco and I get online and I start chatting everybody on slack. They don't know where I am, they don't know whether I'm in columbus or in san Francisco, they don't care actually nothing changed then. I would come back to columbus. It's, it's really interesting thing happened. We have an open office in columbus and the office is now dead silent. All you can hear the sonar's keyword Yeah, it's bizarre. Everyone's talking nonstop. If you could, if you could turn that off, you could turn slack off. In fact that happens every now and again when our power goes out or our internet goes out all of a sudden the office erupts in discussion because we can't be on our devices for like one second we actually have to talk to each other, but where it gets interesting to me is me as a seal being either in the office overseeing folks I guess or being away, nothing changed. So I got to see both environments which what it was like if I was there and not there not a single bit of difference and boy, I don't know you can make the arguments to say, it helps to have face to face conversation. It does particularly when things are going shitty but short of that, once we move to a chat based environment, I don't, I don't know that being physically in front of each other even mattered anymore. I don't even notice

Ryan Rutan: you and I have talked about this. You and I have talked about this many times like when, when we were both in the columbus office and we sat arm's length from each other. Right? And we could have easily literally turned 90 degrees. Not even Because we had those two big monitor banks were kind of like 40, we're basically looking across each other's line of sight, we could've turned 45° to talk to each other and yet the default was to use slack or before that g chat before that Skype. Right. So we were, we've been, we've been on chat for a long time now and it just became the de facto right because to your point you almost forget you almost forget that because I'm having three conversations at once and I'm talking to somebody over the sales team about, you know, some challenges they're having with their leads coming in. I'm talking to a contractor in, in another state or another country about a project that needs to get wrapped up and then I, I'm talking to you about, you know, I don't know a new hire or something else and you almost forget where those people are located physically because it doesn't really matter. I think that we just need to have the conversations.

Wil Schroter: You know, some people would be against this, especially for folks who haven't done it and it's understandable. I understand all the arguments and so this isn't trying to tell you what to think. It's just trying to give you data points to consider the idea is, yeah. But once we break up the team, once we're not in the same room, we're not gonna have the same mojo. And some of that is true. There is some value to having folks kind of all locked up in the same room, but it could be overstated. I think it's probably worth

Ryan Rutan: beer pong is definitely easier. We've struggled with that one and

Wil Schroter: then look, uh, since we've moved to three days a week, work from home, the culture has lost a little bit, you know, we just don't see each other that much, right? We're in the office, but we just don't see each other that much. So, you know, a lot of those chance encounters don't happen, but we get an awful lot done. And the other part, I think we should talk about is what are the benefits to folks being at home and I don't mean the business benefits, although some of this pours back. I mean the personal benefits, where does it make our staff significantly happier? And how does that benefit us as a business? I think it's worth

Ryan Rutan: talking. It's important because something you just said, I think it could be, could be misconstrued, which was to say that like, you know, we've we've lost some company culture and and that's not untrue, right? I think we have, but I think that rather than saying we lost, I'd say we've traded some company culture and we've traded it for some some personal, some home culture, some some other things that have allowed people to be happier at the end of the day. It doesn't matter how great your your company culture is, if the rest of life is an awesome alright, it goes downhill really quick, Right? And and then that starts to invade. We talked about that, right? The cost of a toxic employee. We've already we've already done a full podcast on that. That does start to invade work. It does work the other way. So, you know, life can enter the workplace, but you know, the workplace cannot totally prop up life. So yeah, I think there are a ton of benefits. Right? And

Wil Schroter: and so I think it's it's worth bringing up sometimes this is less. So when you have a younger workforce, but I'm just going to bring this up first. You get to see your spouse and kids and for those of us. Yeah, for those of us like me that probably grew up on the other side of things where I had two parents that we're always working that I never saw, you know, couldn't pick me up from games, couldn't pick me up from school, etcetera, having a parent home even if you know, they're, they're, they're stacked up in their home office or wherever they need to be to get their work done. I get to see my kids three days a week, not to mention the weekends, just do fun, silly stupid stuff that I would have otherwise never gotten to see, right. You know, little Will, my son is three years old comes up to me a couple days ago. I think I sent you a picture on slack of this and he's dressed as woody from uh, from boys story, right? And he just looks adorable like cracks me up. Right? I would have totally missed that. Right?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Or, or you would have seen it in a photo, right? The photo was cute, but like there's nothing replaces that moment of being there because it's not just about you seeing him, it's about him seeing you totally seeing him.

Wil Schroter: And and there's this piece where you know, Ryan, you do a good job of saying, hey, here's what's happening throughout my day, here's where I'm getting a chance to pitch in with my wife. Here's a chance where I'm getting to spend time with my kids that I wouldn't have otherwise had. Yeah. And I think it's safe to say and, and, and our staff has definitely said this in spades back to us. No amount of salary compares.

Ryan Rutan: No, it doesn't.

Wil Schroter: All I really

Ryan Rutan: want to trade that you would make, once you've experienced it,

Wil Schroter: you bet man, all I want is my life to be better. And sometimes salary helps with that, you know, helps you by some of the things that you need afford, some of the life tasks that you need to get through and all those things. However part of it is just man, I can't believe I get to do this. And I think our culture has changed so dramatically. Let me put it this way. I think we talked about this in an earlier podcast. We've had damn near zero attrition on our full time hires part time is a little bit different for us because because we have a big part time culture, but we've had damn near zero attrition. It's what almost september now. Um, and when we talk about two folks, why, I mean we pay pretty well, you know, we're pretty cool company I guess. But everyone says the same thing, It's the way we run our policies and they're talking about work from home as probably being are single the greatest attractor,

Ryan Rutan: It's the, it's the North star, I think for sure. I think it's the one that sets us most apart. And what's interesting because if we do look across right, you know, like there's, it's, it's always difficult to give everybody everything you want to give them right. When we talk about benefits and things like that, the work from a home has been able to trump, you know, where, where we aren't able to provide everything we want from other benefits, right? Like health insurance is a really tough one to nail when you have a company as big as ours is now that that size where you don't really have like the full purchasing power, nor are you small enough that it doesn't matter. And we have a really diverse staff in terms of age, you know, young families or, or single people all the way up through, you know, mature families with, with kids and different needs. And it's been interesting to see that people have said, you know, like that doesn't matter to me as much as right. You would think they'd be like, one of those things are like, man, that's got to be the most important thing. It turns out, there are other ways to solve that. There aren't other ways to solve the things that you get from work from home. It's an extremely powerful, right? That's the thing. Well, it can, it can cost you a lot. Um, if you do it for some of the discussions we've had above, right? Like people just goofing off, not working, doing whatever. But when you get it right? Yeah, it's it's a free benefit. Um that has a ton of value.

Wil Schroter: Well, and I think when when people look at and and as they should, you know, highly employable people are constantly looking at what are my their opportunities and you know, they should, but when they start to do apples to apples comparison and they say, Okay, I'm a developer and make $160,000 at this company. I could go to this company and make $170,000, but then I would lose all of the benefits that come with working at this company and all the freedom in all the understanding if you will, you know, again, the company understands that I'm gonna work on this schedule, etcetera. It's not even close, in fact the idea of jumping to another company and then having all of these shackles put on you

Ryan Rutan: sounds off. I was just getting ready to go there actually. And so it's, you know, there's there's a huge difference is where I I feel so good about what we've done because it doesn't feel like a trap. Whereas a higher salary can truly be a trap. And there's some great literature out there. You know, look for golden handcuffs. Where at some point you get to a salary where then you become trapped by that salary, you can't leave or you don't want to because it's enabled these other things, right? Not necessarily healthy or even all that beneficial to you, but you become trapped by the money, whereas we've provided something, you know, and we pay great salaries. But like you're saying that the reason people are really choosing to stay is this other flexibility and freedom that we've given them and that's not a shackle, right? That's, it's, it's, there's a magnetism too that that makes people want to stay, not feel like they have to write, it's not like, oh gosh, you know, I just, I can't leave because of this, I don't want to leave because of this. Two totally different things and one of them feels great and the other one does not at all,

Wil Schroter: I agree. And I think from our standpoint, we never looked at it as a retention vehicle, it was just more of a halo to try this and see how it increases overall happiness and we've done a lot of podcasts and how important company happiness and personal happiness is to us. And so, you know, we put our money where our mouth is, so to speak and trying to test these things firsthand and all the stuff we've tried, it doesn't always work, but it's always worth testing and I think that with our staff with all the different things that we've tried and all the different things that have worked. I think collectively it's built a culture that's almost like none other. I'll give one caveat, if you go to san Francisco where it's one of the most competitive job markets there is, you can't possibly compete with with, with with how many benefits a single company to try to come and try to meet with google, good luck with that, right? Um but I think if you're the average startup and you're trying to get something incredible going, giving people the freedom and the latitude to work how they want to work on their own schedule, on their own time, while still hitting their goals. It would be silly not to try it.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, well, and as you brought up right in the beginning, you can just try it right? That's exactly what we did, we started by saying, and I don't remember what we say, we're gonna do it for a month or the summer, It was something like that, there was a, there was a very well defined time period, I think it was just like the month of july or sharing and that's what we did, right? And you know, with the, with the explicit intent to roll it back once it was done, right, That was the way we positioned to the team, we're going to do this for a month, right? As a, as a benefit to you for the summertime and then we sort of knew that it was a test period and that if it worked that we could continue it, but we didn't necessarily share that far and wide. It was, you know, we're just gonna this is just a summer benefit, right? And then once we proved out that it actually worked and that there were, you know, long term benefits to doing this and that it wasn't just, you know, an amenity for the staff, but that it was actually good for the company, then we extended it. So it's super easy to test per another comment. It's free, it costs you nothing. Hell, it'll save you some money on electricity. And one day a week.

Wil Schroter: Well, I mean, think about this man, when we first started it again, we had almost everybody in the house, once we ran that program and not only unlocked this, we've got more freedoms within the company and we've got a more liberal working policy and also fundamentally changed all of our hiring from that point on when we found great folks anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world that made sense. We already had essentially a remote working staff in infrastructure that could welcome anyone from every anywhere.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. And there was no longer a decision point. It was no longer a concession for us to say, well, we found this person, but they're in like that, but went away, we didn't care anymore. We just said like, look, and this, this is really important if you're in a secondary or tertiary market or if you're building a startup somewhere where there's not a giant competent workforce in all things startup that you need, this becomes really important, right? So you don't become tethered to your local job market or have to go, you know, arm and leg over the top to try to bring people from other markets to your secondary tertiary market, which may not be that attractive to them. Alright, so yeah, you're, you're absolutely right that it completely unlocked a benefit to the company in terms of our ability to hire. That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe, rate and comment on ITunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash B E G I N. You'll thank me later

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