We started with our enterprise immediately after getting our engineering degrees with the clear goal of working on our own. The only thing both of us had was a computer, a room in our parents' house, an internet connection, and the minimal programming knowledge to write code. Actually that's all you need, even today.
After working without an office for two years and growing to a team size of 12 members, we got to the point where we had the economic resources to be able to rent an office. After anxiously waiting for this moment, we didn't look for any office, but the best one. And we added all the necessary objects required for the office to be spectacular (like Google's) that included a ping-pong table, a video game room, special decorations, and an all-inclusive breakfast and lunch area- with our own chef.
However, this only lasted for a year. Once we had everything we had dreamed of, we realised that there was nothing that could equal working without an office. As Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, says, "The best benefit of an office is not having one."
Hence we decided to cancel our rental contract and go back to working the same way as we did when we started. Today (five years later), I can assure you that it was one of the best decisions we made, but why?
We can 'reach the best talent pool' no matter their geographical location. Currently, we are 34 people working on our project elMejorTracto.com (provides comparisons for financial products like loans, mortgages and credit cards) and have hired people from all over Latin America like Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina.
It's a 'competitive advantage' over other companies that are also looking for programmers. On countless occasions, engineers chose to work with us due to the possibility of working from their house or from wherever they would like to.
It 'improves the degree of retention'. Our rotation is extremely low, which allows us to grow more rapidly. People who get used to this work methodology don't want to go back to a traditional job.
But how do we successfully implement this work mechanism? There are two essential aspects:
Trials: When we incorporate a new member into our working group, that person enters into a two-month trial period. The first month is for adapting and the second one is for measuring their work quality. You might think that this period is extremely short, but I can assure you that- based on our experience- it's the right amount of time. Less time would be insufficient and more would be unnecessary for both parties.
Results: Getting to the office at 9 am, being in front of the computer all day, attending endless meetings, answering thousands of emails and leaving at 6 pm doesn't mean we are working more, even though it looks that way. There are no fixed timetables for us. What we are most interested in are the results of the job- everything is measured by results.
As Richard Branson, creator of Virgin, mentions in his book 'The Virgin Way', "We must measure our employees by done and completed tasks, not by the amount of hours they were at the office."
Furthermore, we decided to work without bosses.
When we started off, we were just two people and obviously didn't have anybody to tell us what to do or how to do it. This is the reason why we got used to working this way and when we incorporated new members to our team, we decided to continue on the same path.
From the beginning, we internally developed a very simple tool that detailed every project we were working on. Due to this, although all of us were not together in the same office, it seemed as if we were because we had a complete vision of what was going on.
Each member of the company could join a project and help with its implementation, or create a totally new project and start developing it. This was a change from a 'push' methodology where a boss tells us what to do, to a 'push' methodology in which each person takes the project they are most interested in and they start helping in its implementation.
This online tool works as a Software as a Service (SaaS) and is the backbone of our work thanks to which we eliminated emails and meetings in our company. Because of our company policy, every internal communication is through this platform. The email is just used for external interactions such as the ones with suppliers, clients, etc. And just because we work without offices it doesn't mean it's necessary to do conference calls. All communication is through written text.
The final goal is to make the communication 'asynchronous'. This way, we will not be interrupted for a meeting, which is very important because programmers need between three to four straight hours of programming to reach their maximum potential of concentration and result generation. After we finish programming, we are able to freely answer queries, doubts, and suggestions or simply help each other with a project.
In conclusion, if we want to successfully carry this new work methodology, the key is to set clear and specific goals for the future from the beginning, and incorporate entrepreneurial people to our project. That is to say, people who are proactive themselves; people who don't need to be constantly supervised and monitored to perform their tasks; and ones who generate results towards the already established final goals.
(Rennella & Amiune are the co-founders of Latin America-based firms including elMejorTrato and CalcularSeguro, an educational platform. As told to Techcircle.in's Nikita Peer.)