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January 7, 2012

Work / Surf Balance

We’ve been on the defense about our preference to work independently and remotely as a team.  It’s frustrating to explain and seemingly useless to try.  Most of those inquiring are potential investors.  We hear the arguments but undoubtedly for our goals, work styles and personalities, this is 100% the best way for us to work.  This times article was a great way to say that some teams need quiet time to produce

There are cultures and companies that are amazing and that we admire that adamantly disagree with this.  One of which is Path.  I had a discussion about this with Matt Van Horn and he actually had me temporarily convinced that culture at a company is everything and everyone needed to be at the same place.  And after leaving their offices (you gotta see their offices) and being a fanboy of their product, it’s difficult not to want to copy everything they do and buy Matt’s point about all being in the same place.  After reflecting on it, we realized that it wasn’t for us to all be in one office but we agreed 100% with Matt.  Culture is everything.  And for us, working independently and remotely in the places we want to live maximizes productivity, job satisfaction, personal satisfaction and is perfectly in line with living the brand and culture that we want.

The Team

Ben lives in LA and splits the month’s time between there or university’s ski team house in Mammoth Mountain.  How does he decide where he’s headed each week?  Whether skiing or surfing is going to be better for that week.  When he wakes up, he either goes surfing right away or he works on Ecquire for 3 hours till about 11AM PST then goes skiing for 5 hours.    Ben feels most productive at night, loves where he lives, loves the challenges, responsibilities, creativity and freedom he sees being apart of Ecquire.  Ben consistently overachieves, overdelivers and exceeds expectations.

Tal lives in Tel Aviv which is 10 hours ahead of Ben and 7 hours ahead of me.  We have a shared document that shows when our times overlap usually can talk.  Tal wakes up around 7AM Israeli time, does Ecquire stuff for 6 hours and pretty much calls it a day then goes surfing, crossfitting, scuba diving or hangs out with friends for coffee or dinner and does another 2 hours of Ecquire around 9PM.  Everyday, Tal manages product development, support and project management all while sharing the coding responsibilities with Ben.

Chris is our UI/UX expert and life coach.  He has two young kids and lives in Lake Tahoe because he loves to snowboard and work from home to get more time with his family.  We honestly don’t know what his schedule is we just get amazing work randomly flooding our inboxes and mostly him challenging us on what we do… which you can’t imagine how valuable that is.

I and the word routine do not fit in the same room.  I feel most productive if I can work for  16-18 hours in a day as long as I can get to a crossfit class and then crash after 3 or 4 days of that.  Sometimes I don’t feel like going to sleep at all if I am working or have momentum on something.  Yea I know it’s weird but I get the most work done and feel like I’m working at my capacity.  And when I feel like visiting my brother in Arizona, my family in New York, or my friends house in Florida for a couple of weeks at a time, I just go.

So we all get to live the exact lifestyles we want to live with all the freedom we want and get to work on something that we made, is really hard and see an exact correlation of output from the input.  And because of this, our jobs are actually our hobbies.  This is the answer I try to get at when I try to communicate why this method works because the most cited reason why people don’t agree with this is that they think we cannot collaborate or come up with new ideas to innovate if we’re not together.  We CAN’T STOP coming up with ideas because it’s all we think about and three creative people in a room is dangerous most of the time because alot of talking and not alot of doing seems to take place.  Our new ideas are being processed all the time in the most efficient way possible.  And to top off why it’s not good for us to be in the same place is me.  I’m the biggest distraction at any office and coupled with a commute, 3 coffee runs, lunch breaks, and seeing other people that I strike up random conversations with just because they are there, I feel like I’ve done nothing meaningful all day.  And I feel that way because that’s exactly what was happening.

How we work, talk, collaborate and ensure a culture of innovation:

1 skype call for two hours each month

The attached screen shot is from a call for February that I took on the first day of February and when I got the idea for this post.  When you know that you can’t just pick up the phone an call your team at any time, it forces you to plan and have your shit together and your ideas vetted well in advance because if they aren’t in the google doc by the time the call happens, they’re not getting done that month.  We have the document broken out by 1.  fixes and enhancements that need to be made based on feedback and metrics  2.  Distribution plan for new users based on what stage of the product we are at.  3.  New features and big picture 4. Updates from different departments and stuff that could be worked on for next month.  Each item in the doc. has a week assigned to it that the task should be completed by.  Usually the tasks are completed well in advance and we can work on new items and testing new opportunities to talk about next month.

And when we do feel like we need to meet up because it’s good to see each other at least once a quarter, we pick an awesome destination to meet at.

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