Why Shopify Is More Than Just A Tech Company
I got the insane opportunity to tour the Shopify Headquarters — here are my key takeaways.
If you’ve been paying attention to anything business-related these days, you’ve likely heard of Shopify.
If you haven’t, think of it this way: if selling things on Amazon is like selling things at Walmart, then selling things with Shopify is like creating your own store.
Last week, I got the insane oppurtunity to tour Shopify’s headquarters with my friends from The Knowledge Society. I walked into the building thinking we were just going to look around and explore each floor, but I learned about the secrets to Shopify’s success and things I can implement in my life.
Shopify’s main goals are to make commerce better for everyone (I’m not joking, they have a giant sign that says so), and they’re crazy successful too. Shopify made a whopping $343.9 million at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018 (for context, Squarespace, another e-commerce platform, made $300 million in revenue after all of 2017.)
Okay, we get it. Shopify is extremely successful. But what makes them different from any other tech company, ever?
After touring the Shopify HQ, I learned why:
- The relationships between the Shopify and its employees and customers
- How trusting the Shopify culture is
Relationships are everything
Everyone knows the saying “relationships are key.” Normally, we apply this to our lives by being polite to others, sending happy birthday wishes, etc.
Shopify takes it to the next level.
Shopify takes the idea of building strong relationships seriously (and I mean really seriously). Making sure there is a level of assurance between employees and customers is a huge priority for them because creating an environment where employees and customers want to be in is the key to their success.
Creating an environment people want to work in
If I were to sum-up my experience inside the Shopify HQ, it would be this: as I stood at the window high above the streets of Ottawa, I took a moment to absorb my surroundings. Below me, cars drove by with the Rideau Canal in the distance. In the office buildings beside me, I see bright white lights illuminating rows and rows of cubicles.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the antithesis to what the Shopify HQ looked like.
Shopify wants to create an environment that allows all its employees to feel like a boss.
Want to work somewhere other than your desk? There’s a coffee shop (with good coffee) inside the office. Want to have a beer midday? There’s free beer on tap. Want some quiet space to work or take a nap? There are literally tents filled with pillows and blankets for you to sleep in and secret rooms for some peace and quiet. Feeling burnt-out and looking for a little fun? Head over to the arcade, table tennis room, or the go-kart track.
The question is: why spend so much of your company’s resources on stuff like this?
Shopify understands that no matter how good your business plan may be, if your employees don’t want to be there and aren’t motivated to work, your company will be ridiculously ineffective.
The culture that Shopify has spent so long building an environment that their employees love to be in. This combination is incredibly powerful: if an employee is passionate about what they are doing and loves to be at work, that company is golden.
Always wanting the best for their employees
I don’t think I could eloquently state how much Shopify cares for its employees.
What other company can you think of that is willing to give their employees unlimited vacation days?
What other company can you think of that is willing to give life-coaches to each one of their employees, even if that means that they end up leaving Shopify?
This really shows that Shopify understands the importance of people. A company is only as successful as their companies are. If you think about it this way, it just doesn’t make sense to treat your employees like crap.
“Wait…” you may be asking yourself, “how can Shopify be sure that people their employees aren’t abusing Shopify’s perks?”
This is where Shopify’s trust culture comes in.
Trust + Transparency = Prosperity
Normally, when you step into an office, you get a sense of hierarchy: the big-bosses have their have offices on the top floor and rarely associates with the other workers, company secrets are kept sealed and behind closed doors — this is what we usually think of when we step inside a company’s headquarters.
(It’s a recurring theme, as you may have noticed).
Shopify does two things in particular that make their trusting culture so strong:
1. Quarterly townhalls where they put their executives in the hot seat
2. The implementation of a “trust battery”
Once a quarter, the entire office gathers in one of the Shopify cafeterias for a town hall.
Think of a town hall held by politicians, except this time the people in the hot seat will actually answer your questions.
Most recently, Tobias “Tobi” Lütke, the CEO of Shopify, was put in the hot seat and answered his employee’s questions.
They also implement something called a “trust battery.” Normally, when you enter a company, you have to earn the trust people give in you: you start out knowing practically nothing and the higher up you move in the food chain, the more you know. Within a company, secrets become more valuable than money or fast WiFi.
At Shopify, everyone’s “trust battery” starts at 100%, meaning that every single employee can learn virtually anything about the company. If you’re thinking that it may be a security risk, Shopify is only confident enough to do this because their interview process isn’t based solely on numbers, it’s based on life experiences, your hobbies, your life story, and most importantly, the fact that you are passionate on what you’re doing.
This level of trust and transparency is unheard of in a company as successful as Shopify. Some people may even think that it’s unnecessary.
But their level of commitment to making an environment where their employees feel comfortable working in and feel like they are making an active contribution makes their employees more motivated to work. It’s basically a positive feedback loop:
100% trust in employees → employees being more honest and open with their superiors → executives improving Shopify culture to keep their employees happy → employees actually want to be at work → employees making awesome things for Shopify… (and the cycle continues).
As our tour came to an end, my new-found obsession with Shopify did not. Even though I don’t plan on running a multi-million-dollar business anytime soon, I believe there a few key takeaways from Shopify culture that I can implement in my daily life:
- Creating an environment you want to work in will yield incredible results.
- Act like a BOSS (because you are one!)
- You can only trust someone if you know they are a good person, so put time and effort into making sure the relationships you build around you are strong and healthy.
- Being transparent with people will help them build trust in you.
- PEOPLE > NUMBERS
- BE YOURSELF! This is extremely overrated, but not enough people take it seriously. People who work at Shopify are only there because they love what they are doing and because they are authentic.
A huge thank you to Shopify and especially Chris Vaandering for making this experience possible! 😊