Why we will remain a distributed company. Throwback on our summer session

Hi,

It has been a while since our last blog post! Almost a month ago we launched our brand new version of Flat. I am pretty excited to share with you some data and tell you that it’s a real success! But mostly I would like to share my experience and give you my personal thoughts about our summer session and how Flat will be organised for the upcoming months.

Some data first

Thanks to all the hard work we put in this summer we managed to keep up the growth going on. Here is what Flat is today:

  • We’ve got an average growth of 10% per week during the last 10 weeks.
  • Number of love tickets has exploded — it’s now more than 300 tickets / week
  • Notes dropped is also an exponential number, in 6 weeks we went from 3M to 15.5M
  • As I am writing this article we almost reached 82k users
  • We’re five in the team + 3 new team members bootstrapping

Summer session conclusion

As I explained in many previous blog posts, since we started Flat almost a year ago we have remained a distributed team for more than 8 months. We never had the chance to work in the same place, not even once. I think this is why we were pretty excited about being reunited. We thought that we would be even more productive and that it would make a big change.

Maybe that’s the myth of

Without an office your company is already dead

Well the conclusion is that we didn’t notice any change at all. Even worse Vincent and I even have the feeling that we have been a little bit less productive.

What we enjoyed:

  • Being together as a bunch of friends. We all felt the need to spend time together. This is also why we decided to live together for at least two months. We went from one extreme to another. I deeply believe that it’s the only way to truly know each other and build a strong relationship of trust and honesty.
  • Work on pretty hard topics regarding Flat. Those features or bugs that needed a lot of R&D and a large blackboard with a lot of chalk sticks nearby.
  • Finally throw some parties together! :)

Drawbacks:

  • You’re stuck in one location. Little by little when you start to depend on something, you start losing freedom.
  • With the confort of being next to someone, you quickly lose the need of being really clear when asking help or advice. Endless discussions can start, resulting in a loss in productivity (true fact and I was once the one who asked for advice)
  • It’s even harder to schedule your day. It happened so many times that we intended to code new features and ended up at 7PM with the editor still blank. We would debate endlessly about the process instead of delivering.

As you can understand, both configurations have pros and cons. There isn’t a good or a bad one, we have to take advantages of both. This is why, by the end of August, it came down to one question:

Which model will we be more programmer-friendly and thus enhancing productivity?

A distributed company then

Until now we have managed to find our footing as a team but we need to be more confident in our decision-making abilities in order to consistently and steadily move forward as a team and for the sake of our product.

Below our first decisions:

  • We will hold Flat sessions to enhance team spirit and work on hot topics. We intend to do at least 2 as the whole team and as much as we need in smaller groups.
  • No one can spend more than 3 days without hearing from another member of the team. Except if this one is on free time.
  • It’s ok for a member to organize his work around his personal life.
  • Each Monday I will send a “Flat news” to the entire team. This will summarize all that has been discussed or achieved during the week so every one is aware of what’s going on with Flat.

I am still working on the Flat news format but I hope to be able to make it public really soon :)

Where do we take inspiration from?

As many of you may guess I read many articles from the buffer blog. It helps me / us to ask ourselves the right question. We like to see how they deal with a problem and how they try and solve it. However we will never copy / paste their own organization or their different workflows. It’s part of their culture and doesn’t apply to Flat. Nonetheless we encountered many similar issues as a distributed team and reading their articles helped us a lot to find our own solutions quickly! This is why we will increase the number of articles dealing with our culture and organization. To share our spirit with the most!

Freedom to move

I am very pleased that we finally feel confortable with the distributed model. At the moment we are all based in different cities across France.

However, it’s just a matter of time before some of us move to USA / Asia / Australia and I am very proud that we built up an organization that gives any member of the team the freedom to go wherever he wants. We know that challenges are coming up within the upcoming weeks but the entire team is ready to face them and succeed!

I am sure many of you had similar experiences. What pushed you to go as a distributed company? I would love to hear from you!

Best,

Pierre


Originally published at blog.flat.io on October 8, 2015.