How to grow and run a remote business - the Hotjar way
When Hotjar was initially built the founders knew they wanted the company to grow and flourish in a remote environment. Rather than be held back, they wanted to allow the flexibility to find the best people in the world while also providing the opportunity for Hotjar employees to live wherever they wanted, spend time with their families and friends at their leisure, and control their own working schedules. This belief system quickly grew into what we all call 'The Hotjar Way' internally. We have been able to grow, manage, and maintain an awesome culture across the world. So we wanted to share with you how we did it!
The Hotjar core values
Before building the team our culture was defined through a set of core values. Here are the 7 core values we live, breathe, and recruit by:
- Always be HONEST.
We treat our clients as our friends. We treat the industry with respect.
- SPEED wins.
Let’s aim to reply to clients, execute and get things done as quickly as possible - and then find a way to do it even quicker! We can always improve the quality of stuff iteratively later on.
- We aim for GOOD.
When working iteratively ‘Good’ is always better than great and perfect. If it’s good let’s ship it NOW and improve it LATER.
- Eliminate ‘IN PROGRESS’ work.
We will always aim to have the least amount of work ‘In progress’ - so we should always aim to release our work as quickly as possible.
- Always seek FEEDBACK.
Get feedback early and react / improve quickly. Getting another point of view from colleagues, friends and users should be part of your daily routine – not an extra project.
- Create WOW!
Everything we do; how we act; treat our users; and how we build our product should be aimed at creating WOW moments for our users.
- RESPECT your team
Don’t be late for calls; don’t take calls or speak to others during calls; keep promises and stick to your deadlines.
Our interview process
As a team we define a vision for the future and plan for new roles we are adding as well as how they will be prioritized. We also resist the temptation to recruit people that contact us directly so that we are sure we are hiring for what we need as we grow. Our interview process includes:
- Step 1 - Screening through a Survey
- Step 2 - Phone Interview
- Step 3 - Task + Team Involvement
In the final stage (step 3) we include steps for the task that invites top candidates to join us in Hipchat (our internal IM platform) and communicate with our team. Through this process you are welcome to reach out to anyone with questions, invited to join in on our daily banter, and have fun getting to know us. We aren’t looking for every interviewee to be the most outgoing Chatty Cathy, we are looking to see how this person would fit within the team. Culture is important to us and we want to be sure that you have what it takes to be awesome at your job, while also fitting in with our awesome team - the remote way.
When a new team member joins Hotjar they are welcomed with a self-service Trello board that gives them a series of tasks to get set up. This includes reaching out to certain team members to schedule customer onboarding calls, joining demo and training meetings, and introducing themselves by sharing 10 fun tips about you to Basecamp. Team members have shared anything from their love of tropical gardening, strange obsessions with karaoke, to lamenting on the lack of trekkies in Malta. This gives both the new team member an opportunity to get to know the team as well as the team an opportunity to get to know them! We also have a mentor assigned to each person as well as someone they are accountable to regarding their growth. We don’t believe in a formal company hierarchy but we do believe in accountability!
In addition to getting to know each other personally we send a welcome packet to new team members that includes a kindle (we love academic advancement!), and the book Strengths Finder. We then ask each member to take the quiz and share with the company their top 5 strengths. At Hotjar we are very focused on maximizing each other's strengths by coupling team members together based on what will allow us to succeed. All strengths are listed in a working spreadsheet and visible to all members of the team. This allows us to better learn how each person operates from a business setting and where they will best fit in with the growth of their role within Hotjar.
If you haven’t tried this we highly recommend it! The insight has been interesting both for learning about each other as well as learning about ourselves!
Daily scrum meetings
Because we are focused on making small iterative changes, we build our execution around weekly ‘sprint’ cycles. Every group, from development to operations, marketing and customer success, builds a new and fresh plan in the beginning of each week using Trello boards. We then hold daily scrum calls (15-30 minutes tops) departmentally to review what has been done and what is still in progress/pending.
On Fridays the entire team comes together to present what they achieved during the previous week's sprint in a company-wide virtual demo. This gives us the chance to update everyone on our achievements as well as plan any company-wide priorities for the coming week.
We have fun in our company meetings:
We also have fun when we celebrate each others' success:
It’s important to note that this is less about managing schedules and more about sharing success!
Hotjar is full of achievers (see Strengths Finder above) and we love knocking things off our to-do lists. By holding ourselves accountable we are able to keep an agile approach to consistently moving forward. Ever have that gratifying feeling of crossing something off a list? We LOVE doing that and get to do that together every day. It’s also nice to have some time to say “hi” every day to one another over a Google Hangout!
At the end of the day, we don’t care nor do we manage what hours you work. We want our team to be flexible to work at the time they are most inspired and can be the most productive while also maintaining a work/life balance that makes sense for them. With the process above the Hotjar team is focused on accountability more so than working hours. We of course expect each member to work at least 40 hours per week but if it’s at 2am or 2pm it doesn’t matter to us so long as you get your job done and do good work.
We use Hipchat to communicate with each other daily. Each business unit has a group board for departmental updates, we have a team board, and of course personal messages as well. This is a critical part of our internal communications as it’s the top way we are able to chat with each other when not in an office. Instead of water cooler talk, we have giphy talk. Instead of popping our heads over a cubicle, we make custom emoticons of each other and have fun with them.
Just imagine the conversations these are used in...
The Hotjar team works hard but plays hard too. We love to challenge each other, share great things we are working on, while also being able to come up for air through fun group chats from time to time (we’ve been known to laugh at each other in hilarious ways that only a cross-cultural team could do)!
At least once per year we organize a team meetup where we can all get together and have a little fun. Last year was our first annual meeting and we ran a few workshops and presentations on the state of Hotjar and growth of our business. In addition we kicked back and enjoyed some fun together as well. We will continue to host at least one of these per year as well as put together some smaller team meetings quarterly based on regions!
We work hard....
We play hard too...
At the end of the day, a remote culture is something that continues to thrive at Hotjar.
We believe that your culture is your brand. We communicate with each other the way we communicate with our users. We like to have fun, love to laugh, and flourish in hard work and quick achievements. We are fast-paced, work at strange hours across the world, and save time by avoiding commutes. We don’t question each other’s days and we give virtual high fives daily. There is no question that we are a unique and quirky group, but that is a part of what we think makes our team awesome. It’s what makes working remote work The Hotjar Way!
2019 update: 3 years after this article, we're still growing strongly as a remote team. Here is another piece about the pros and cons of remote work based on our teams' experience.