We're a distributed team of 14, scattered around the world, operating across multiple time zones. Google Hangouts is our virtual conference room; Slack serves as our watercooler. Working remotely may open up a world of freedom and flexibility, but how do we ensure that each individual on the team, even those we’ve never met before, feels empowered enough to shape where we're going? We took a page from Mozilla’s book and brought our core team together for a special, once-a-year opportunity: the chance to share experiences, collaborate on new ideas, and finally meet in person.
Two weeks ago, Neil, Patrick, Brent, and Jeremy flew into Santa Monica for our annual all-hands week. We bonded as a team, welcomed special guests to HQ, and held brainstorming sessions on company vision, product roadmap, sales, culture, and hiring. Because our team is still pretty small, each and every day felt incredibly personal, intimate, and impactful. It was a whirlwind of a week, to say the least. Here’s what went down:
The team was greeted with a bevy of surprises upon arrival. New faces! Gifts! Donuts! Sara kicked things off with a personal check-in exercise, which served to establish a safe space for people to indicate whether they were feeling present, distracted, or emotional. This set the stage for trust, transparency, and open communication—a real challenge, considering how many of us had never even met before.
Sara led an hour-long session on our company goals, vision, and values. We all worked together to revise Reaction's mission statement, as well as review the core values from our Team Manifesto. Sara also shared some of the responses that were received from our anonymous brand perception survey. Here's a sampling of the comments:
“I think of Reaction more like an independent coffee shop that has a unique culture/style that you see almost immediately after walking through the door. There's a clear attention to customer experience and a passion for a quality product above all else. You can get coffee anywhere, but you can't get coffee like this anywhere else.”
The survey asked users to describe the customers of that coffee shop:
“They are the people who are willing to try something a little different. They see the Starbucks across the street, and go against familiarity to try something new. They skip the Frappacino and go for straight black pour-over coffee, because sometimes simplicity is better."
As for the 5 words that describe what Reaction isn’t, one survey user put it succinctly:
Evereve CIO Anthony Hoang traveled to HQ all the way from chilly Minneapolis for some face-to-face time with our team. While he was here, we got to learn more about the customer sales journey, from initial discovery and research to the final decision-making phase. Meeting Anthony in person helped everyone at Reaction gain more insight into what modern-day retailers require from an ecommerce platform. And at the end of the day, that’s the very need we're here to fulfill.
We reconvened in the afternoon to ask each other the pertinent question: “How can we work better together?” As Reaction’s core team continues to expand across the globe, establishing a shared sense of culture becomes more and more of a challenge. We discussed the role of the office, the efficacy of our current processes, and how to move forward as we scale. We haven’t solved everything just yet, but we’re looking forward to tackling what comes our way.
February’s Reaction Action was a special one: on-air guests Jeremy (@jshimko) and Brent (@zenweasel) answered inquiries and gave a preview of our next release to attendees from all around the world. Since there were more people involved in production this time around, we could really feel the energy in the room.
For our weekly team lunch, we had the unique opportunity of meeting Crosscut Ventures Associate Sarah Moret. It's not often that an entire distributed team gets to meet with their investors—thanks for dropping by, Sarah!
Cindy Firestone, our VP of Client Operations, led a session on recruiting, hiring, and retention. Studies show that employees serve as the main driver for recruitment, so we were tasked with an elevator pitch exercise that had us define our company culture (PS: We’re hiring!). We also discussed how to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment for current employees and all future hires.
To wrap up the week, we had planned on walking to the Santa Monica Pier together, but it was raining that day. So, we stayed indoors and shared warm bowls of ramen before parting ways IRL with a renewed sense of spirit.