August 25, 2022

Instead of Culture, Focus on Clockwork

Here at Jump, we're trying to navigate this post-pandemic working environment and realizing we're having to rewrite a lot of the known rules for early stage companies. Gone are the days of well-stocked pantries, kegerators, free lunches and endless social hours. Fewer "tech bro" events and less "culture". Hallelujah.

Post-Pandemic Realities

We hosted an intimate gathering while in Austin, TX during the crypto conference Consensus (don't tell our Airbnb host). It was the first big event we'd been at since the start of the pandemic and it was definitely strange to be back around lots of people. There are always a gazillion "parties" you can go to but we hadn't been to an event in years so doing something more informal and intimate just felt "right".

Within minutes of things getting going, I ran into a gentleman named Kyle Croyle from the company Deel. If you don't know Deel, they started in 2018 in the remote employee field and help streamline hiring globally and having it work well with your company. They are the fastest growing SaaS company ever. To hear Kyle talk of it you'd think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. 100% remote, growing quickly, fantastic perks, wonderful culture, etc. I was surprised if for no other reason than numbers just don't lie.

I asked him, "When did you start Deel?" to which he responded, "Oh, I'm not a founder. I'm employee #650. We're like 1000 people now."

My mind was kinda blown.

To hear Kyle talk about it, you'd think he was the founder of the company. It struck me too that he was able to be so passionate being a later-stage employee and he came on during the pandemic. How the heck was this happening?

I grilled him and did my best to glean what I could from him about their company and how they built a successful culture. Obviously we're in a post-pandemic world and anybody who thinks we're going back to pre-pandemic ways of working is delusional (or just finished building a huge HQ). It also got me thinking about how I'd tackle building a company culture in this new world order.

Building for Clockwork

Here at Jump, we're trying to navigate this post-pandemic working environment and realizing we're having to rewrite a lot of the known rules for early stage companies. Gone are the days of well-stocked pantries, kegerators, free lunches and endless social hours. Fewer "tech bro" events and less "culture". Hallelujah.

Don't get me wrong. I ran a company back in the day that was all about that crazy focus on culture (cult?) and it was constantly this arms race of trying to keep the team happy with new and more interesting benefits. We had the Xbox, the Playstation, multiple ping pong tables, lunch twice a week and of course kombucha on tap. We tried just about everything but, candidly, it always rubbed me the wrong way. Do you pick the place you work based on the cool perks in the break room or is it more interesting to work on something compelling with great people?

From years of experience running my own companies to bumping into Kyle and then reading a post about this earlier this year, I wanted to dig in on how we could create a culture where things run like clockwork.

As with everything at a startup, this is a work in progress.

With that said, here is our initial take on the Jump values/framework/guidelines:

Core Values

Bias towards action - Our core value is a bias towards action. Do something rather than try to get consensus via endless meetings and questions. If you get it wrong, at least we learned something and we won't fault someone if they took action.

Transparency - Knowing how the company is doing is important and its easy to gloss over this. We try to be as transparent as we can about where we're at as a company, cash levels, business deals we're doing, challenges we're facing and wins we've gotten. Our goal is to create an environment of learning that will lead to a team of future co-founders starting their own things in the years to come.

How We Work

Everything on a timeline - Everything is on a timeline. Development, product, design, marketing, legal and sales. And everything else. Knowing what you own, knowing where you're blocked and more importantly being able to walk away because you're sh*t is in order is a good thing. It's one of the keys to running like clockwork and plays to being transparent. If we're not hitting our timelines, we need to adjust. If we're hitting on things, we can comfortably take a pause.

Document it - We're 100% remote and completely global. Meetings are documented. Our internal documentation about the company or a partner is documented. How you find things, how you build the environment, etc. All of these things are documented such that an employee from day 1 can walk in and read the basic primer and know exactly where they fit, how to find things, who to ask questions of and how ultimately to be successful.

Mentors - Every new employee is assigned a mentor. That mentor is their go-to person for their first couple of weeks at the company. This is a burden but it's an important one. It helps us refine the onboarding process by learning what questions are being asked and it serves as a single point for the new hire to go to when they have a question. Instead of randomizing a bunch of people or not being comfortable asking lots of questions, our new hires know exactly who they can ask things of.

Org chart - Seriously. An org chart. Not because we're looking to define a pecking order. On the contrary, so we know who owns what and where the buck stops. From day 1 we've had an org chart and we'll continuously be refining it so everyone knows where they stand.

Meeting rules - I did these years ago and I'm bringing them back only with a big emphasis on how we're pretty much remote-only.

Off-site - While we're still navigating this one, we'll be holding our first team off-site in early 2023. Since we don't have an office, we can afford to get everyone together in one place. Yes, there will be some fun to be had but we'll have a structured set of activities and long-term planning that is hard to do when you're remote.

Home office stipend - Same thing as the off-site. Since we're not footing the bill for a big, expensive office and other office perks, we can do an annual home office stipend for our team. This isn't extravagant and we document what folks get in the team Notion just to be transparent.

We're building something special here as a team at Jump. I emphasize "team" here because we are exactly that; not a family, but a team. Teams have to perform and everyone on the team depends on their teammates to succeed.

We're always looking for new people to join our team. If you got this far in this post, won't you at least check out our open positions or at least share with someone you think this might resonate with.

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