Sharing lessons learned from building a 100% remote company

Over the last 10 years, we’ve been building a 100% remote company through experimentation with team setup, meetings, tools, and structure. We’ve gathered all the lessons learned, combined them with our latest thinking and now we’re sharing it all as the SoftwareMill’s Handbook for New Employees.

This article was originally published on Medium by Ola Puchta. Republished here with permission. 

Why are we sharing it?

We strongly value the community that we’re part of. Throughout the years our team members enjoyed and benefited from being involved in Polish Java User Groups and the Scala community. We’ve learned a lot from others who have been sharing their knowledge and experience with us. Now it’s time to pay it forward 🙂

By sharing everything we’ve learned about managing distributed teams during the last 10 years, we hope we could help others to innovate their organizations’ structure and culture. We strongly believe that the future belongs to the crazy ones:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Rob Siltanen

But even the crazy ones make mistakes (probably even more often than normies…). We try to learn from our own mistakes and we want to talk about them as a way of saying “THANK YOU” for all that we could learn from others throughout this journey.

What’s inside? What will you learn from it?

1. How to organize your work in a 100% remote team

We’ve been a 100% remote company from the start. SoftwareMill’s founders wanted to create the best place to work at and they believed remote work is the way to go. We’ve been working as a remote team for 10 years already and during that time we grew from 4 to 50 people.

From the Handbook you can learn about the tips for working remotely that we share with new people joining our team:

  • How to organize your workspace
  • Why you should prioritize bonding over status updates
  • Which tools to use in your remote team
  • Why should you have a hobby or offline activities with friends

These are only a few things out a whole list that we find important to setup at the beginning of your adventure with remote work.

2. Our take on making decisions in a transparent, bottom-up company

In 2013 SoftwareMill founders decided to introduce full transparency to the company followed by self-organizing structure. SoftwareMill adopted a bottom-up structure with no formal managers and every decision being made by regular employees.

The Handbook describes all the details of how this model works in real life:

  • How we make decisions in a bottom-up company
  • How hiring and sales processes are organized
  • What are the values that are important to us
  • Why you should give up on power to boost engagement

3. Everything you need to know about tools and meetings and much more…

The whole setup we came up throughout the previous years is based on two things. The first one is SoftwareMill’s mission which is: “be the best place to work at”. The second one is the notion that communication is the key to the success of our organization. These two ideas guided us throughout the years and helped us define our structure, values, habits and behaviors.

The SoftwareMill Handbook lets you understand how we operate on a daily basis and how our culture looks like:

  • Why we have a 30minute all-company meeting every day
  • Which 2 tools do we use for the all-company meetings
  • Why do we meet face to face every month
  • How do we monitor our team members’ moods
  • What kind of retreats do we organize every year
  • How do we share feedback

These are all the things that are part of our culture. As culture is something that constantly evolves, we know we might be in a different place in 3, 5 and 10 years from now. We keep on learning from our experiences but we also get lots of inspiration from other organizations.

Download SoftwareMill Handbook to get the full picture of how we operate and let us know what is your experience that you would like to share.

Let’s keep on innovating!

-Ola Puchta


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