CEO of Fellow App Aydin Mirzaee talking the modern workplace

December 18, 2019
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Joe:

00:00

welcome to the DNA and Experience podcast from Cloud App where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience so great. Thanks for joining us. Good morning, everyone. I'm excited to have with me today, Aiden from Fellow App. Aiden was gracious enough to join us this morning to chat a little bit about customer retention, enabling the remote, a modern workplace with fellow up and kind of get some insight into some of the experiences he's had running a B to B sas business multiple times. So Aidan has some great experience. I'm excited to chat with him today and talk a little bit more about those things. And Aidan why don't you give us a little bit of background on you and Fellow App

Aiden:

01:01

Yeah. So, uh, so glad to be able to do this. Uh, I think that should be lots of fun. My So it's my quick background is I've just been entrepreneur my whole life. Uh, been starting businesses since Probably as far back as I was maybe 13 years old. Uh, but but really, you know, before this, I had another company that was in the online service space. It was called fluid wear and  it was a company that we grew to just about 100 people and then sold it to surveymonkey. Um, so went through that process of, you know, boot shopping, getting a company to a point where, you know, it was, you know, revenue positive. We had over 10 million in annual sales and profitable and then going through that acquisition process. And so, um, the reason that that's relevant is because when going through that process, that's that's originally when we came up with the idea for our current company, uh, which is fellow and, you know, as we were growing that company, one of the things that we realized was that their software for every walk of life, um, and the one thing that still didn't exist before we start a fellow was software just for managers of teams and so, you know, didn't exist. We decided, created. And so that's kind of the origins of fellow  today, obviously at fellow having a lot of fun, we just recently launched and, uh, starting to basically ramp up growth and users.

Joe:

02:29

Yeah, that's really cool. I think it makes a lot of sense. You know, we put out some  data a couple weeks ago in this state of collaboration report and talked about how 57% of Gen. Z and around 50% of millennial generation's are working from home or remotely the majority of the time. Um, and obviously like startups, a lot of them build remotely big companies that are based in the Bay Area. You know, people don't want to fight traffic and things, and so you have to create tools like fellow and cloud app and others. It's really trying connect visually and collaboratively digitally and makes a lot of sense.

Aiden:

03:11

Yeah, Yeah. I mean, it's such an important thing. I feel like, you know, the more and more technology there is, um you know, to support the model, the more and more it starts to happen, like all those friction points, Like the little things that prevent you from being able to run distributed teams, all those all that friction starts to disappear. And, you know, I think you know, I can relate to this in a bunch of different ways. Even in the non remote standpoint. You know, one of the interesting things for us was, um you know, as you're growing the company on your first starting out like, everybody is in the same room, you can kind of, like, you know, turn your head and speak to the next person, you know, and, uh, that kind of works for a while. But then, you know, the team start to grow, and then all of a sudden maybe your two rows of seats and then three rows and four rows, And before you know it, you have a whole floor. Now there's some people who are on one side, and then there's people on the other side of the floor. Um, and before you know it, now you're on two floors and then three floors, and then you'll notice that the people are on the first floor. Don't talk to the people on the third floor, and then you get the second location, or like and then like us, you get acquired. And so now you have. You're part of this company that has offices in, like, seven or eight different locations and like a lot of people work from home and a lot of people in different offices. So, yes, there's this kind of work from homes, you know, concept. Yes, there's this kind of remote concept. But I just want to emphasize this. This the fact that companies now our understanding that they can have multiple locations, ends faster, like it's it's totally okay for you to be three people in one city and 10 people in another city, because technology actually allows for those sorts of things to happen. So this concept of remote applies to so much more than that. Maybe just the narrow framing of the word remote may seem to some people.

Joe:

05:02

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Um, you know, we're kind of in that framework here. At Cloud App  we have HQ in the Bay Area. But our largest offices here in Utah, where I am and so and then we have, you know, people remote all over the world. And so, yeah, we kind of live in living the same type of world. It's, uh, creates that opportunity to connect still digitally over video conference and other things, Um, with kind of like this growth and, you know, like collaborative product productivity, APS, other things. How you kind of gone about, um, cutting through that noise and distraction with providing, like, a good experience or just a really clean on boarding path with fellow. I know you guys just recently launched, so it's kind of obviously still ongoing, But what is going your thought process in the beginning,

Aiden:

05:57

Um, I mean, a couple of things. So, yeah, we've just launched, but we've been in beta for a long time, and so we were one of those products that kind of existed, had a bunch of customers, had a bunch of revenue even during the beta face. We've been just doing for this for for quite a while, but I think you know there's a couple of things have become necessary, right? So the second that you have a distributed workforce, that means that obviously, people are working on different time frames. Some people like to come in at certain times, you like to stop working, and then maybe you start working again later at night. Sometimes you're at different time zones. It's in One of the things  that is that you concepts like it's a messaging or just like phoning people stops to work as well. So the next time that you're trying to send a message and it might be, you know, 9 a.m. your time. If you're on the East Coast and you're thinking, Oh, that's like 6 a.m. on the West Coast like maybe I should hold off on this message. So I think fellow capitalizes on that and all of the kind of collaborative, um, software products that allow for a synchronous communication cloud app included, you know, kind of allow for that use case to be more prevalent. So our view with fellow is, And because we're so focused on helping people have better attractions through meetings, one of the things for us is like, Yeah, I could message Joe right now, but we're meeting tomorrow at 3 p.m. So I'm just gonna put this in my agenda for tomorrow. And when I go to my agenda for tomorrow, I see that Joe also put in a bunch of things that he wants to talk about. Is there with fellow. Everybody's creating these collaborative agendas all the time, and so it's not just about like the second that you think about something. Let me message that person right away. It's Hey, let's actually very good about this and create these collaborative agendas with people that I meet with teams that I meet with and so that when we do actually meet, we can then talk about all these things in a superficial manner. Our meetings become more effective. And just like the way that an organization communicates become better becomes better

Joe:

08:10

Yeah, really great. Brings up a really unique, um, like mindfulness opportunity exercise that I think we're all trying to fit into with, uh, no slack and text and email and social and so many notifications kind of bombarding us something is really unique. Way to kind of. I know that you've got something and, you know, you can use fellow to kind of table that idea get it out of your mind, but not necessarily have to send an email or whatever just set up for the next meeting.

Aiden:

08:42

Yeah, and by the way, like this stuff, you know, it's really interesting. I think you know, if you go back really far back and you know you read books like the effective executive right classic book and management drunker and even in that book. And like in that time frame, like people have been recommending for the longest periods that you should really have a notebook set aside. And in that notebook you maybe have multiple pages. You have one page say for each direct report, and then you have a page for your sales meeting and then another one for your marketing meeting. And so the idea is like every time you think of something that you need to follow up with someone about or talk to someone about, like, write it in the appropriate section in that note notebook and table it away. And so, like this common workflow and we think the people who are the most efficient communication, like use that work on one of the things fella, does it just make stuff like that easier. But what necessary makes these things necessary, Obviously, like in the kind of remote and distributed use case is that at. For those users who work in those environments, the complexity that they have to operate on from a communication level is so much higher. So one of the rules of thumb around this is that if you are a promoter distributed team, you have to operate at roughly five times a complexity of, you know, your equivalent counterpart. That's all in the same office. So what that means is like if you're a team of 20 people and you're all distributed, you have to develop the communication, um, basically processes and procedures of 100% companies. So if you were 100 people and on the same location, you would eventually have to get better, communicate, communicate in and build more processes around that. But because your remote team, you just have to develop that stuff a lot earlier. Now it turns out there's a lot of benefits to having that that rigor around communicating and working better together on DSO remote teams are by necessity and needing to develop those things earlier. But it's also a really good thing because they would have had to get there as a skilled anyway. So there's a positive angle. You have to be more proactive, but you would have to do that anyway as you scale. So might as well get that done right away.

Joe:

11:00

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I thought you could provide kind of a unique insight. You know, we talk a lot about customer experience on these live broadcasts and on this podcast, um, and I think you could provide a unique angle on employees experience. Um, how do you How do you think? Or how you guys kind of vision fellow, And you know, APS that it kind of improve this collaboration really improving that employees experience and helping no sass companies or small start ups to all the way up to know the enterprise companies retain those, uh, their employees a little better.

Aiden:

11:42

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's a great question. It's all about the people. Every company's always about all the people. But the second that you're more distributed or the you're more remote things just you have to do more things. So if you and I were sitting next to each other in the same office all the time, you could argue, and it's still, you know, basic things. Like, say, a one on one meeting. You know, something that managers and their employees should you all the time. Um, you know, a lot of people in smaller companies you know that we talked to sometimes say it. Yeah, you know, like we can see the importance of it, But we kind of sit next to each other and, you know, it's kind of weird to then go into a room and and and, you know, just basically have this one on one meeting, like we sit next to the whole day. So at fellow we have part of our job is to convince those people that no one, no one is completely different. And you should absolutely still have them. Even if you're sitting next to each other. Because, um, when you're in a room, you can ask all sorts of different questions, like, how do you feel about, like, your career growth? Are you gonna go out in the open when the person sitting right next to you, right? And And if you did, the person would probably respond. Ah, good. I didn't you know. So, uh, so it's still necessary. So we have a fellow. One of our jobs is to make sure that everybody understands this concept of one or months  example. But in the remote use case, I mean, there's no excuse like I sure hope that all of the remote and distributed managers in the world out there our meeting with their direct reports on a weekly or biweekly basis on, and they're doing that very consistently, and hopefully they're using something like fellow, um to basically track those things. But at the very minimum, this should be happening. And it's especially important for things like that to happen, because you start to lose connection to what the organization is, what's going on the information and just like having that repertoire and like that, basically, um, the report between, like the working relationship that you have with your teams. But on top of that, there's other things that you need to do. So, for example, it makes sense that say that the marketing team and the sales team should communicate like that's probably a good idea that they should not be silent. So once you start to be a remote team and maybe these teams are in different locations like that, Connect needs to be something that you need to go out of your way to actually establish things like all hands, meetings become even more important because this is an opportunity for people from all the different offices actually participate in and ask the questions and learn what's going on in the company. So all these, like special types of meetings that are just good for company culture and communication anyway, just become so much more important the second that you have team members that are not on the same room. So basic things like, say, hallway conversations that just happen. And people kind of build report that way, like even those sorts of things now won't happen. So you have to do more things, and you have to put more processes in place to make up for the lock of those things that might have happened naturally if people were around the office. Ultimately, like the stronger the bonds between not just managers and their teams, but piers with each other. You know, the better those teams start to work together. So ultimately, like if you want your teams gel well together and to to be able to really build on each other's strengths and get the most out of like what that team can accomplish together, you have to put in these processes to make sure that this communication and those meetings actually do happen.

Joe:

15:22

Yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense. You've got to really focus on that that culture and really make it a part of of who your company is. And people can kind of buy into that one thing I love that adobe did when I was there was something called a check in. Um, it was kind of like removing performance reviews on doing it on a quarterly basis. And so, like, man it when I was managing people, I kind of knew what to expect from those meetings. They were gonna be talking about salary and crew development and new challenges and other things really focused on the on the employees and then for me, the same toe like my you know who I reported to. They knew that I was gonna kind of come in with feedback on management or, you know, it was really, like a safe place to talk about things that were not tactical and day today. Um and I think, yeah, like what you said fellow and really kind of fits into that connecting and putting that hopefully making that effort from a manager and an executive perspective a little easier to connect those dots?

Aiden:

16:31

Yeah, 100%  You know you start to realize that, as you start to build larger and larger companies, is that it's all about the people. It's all about their relationships. It's all about understanding how each person works. What are their strengths, their weaknesses, what they like, what they dislike, how they're at their best when they're at their best, what you need to do to unblock them in different scenarios. It's just all those things, and those things aren't. You know something that you can just figure out by looking at someone? Um, it's a water work you have to put in the effort you have to pay put in. The time you have to put in the process is to make sure that those things happened on ongoing basis, and then the other thing is like if you're a CEO or you're an executive at those years of cos it's not just enough for you to make sure that you do that with your team. Now you have this added responsibility of like how do I make sure that this is actually happening in my organization and is happening all the time. It's not something that we pay lip service to. This is how basically teams operate in, like your company. And so, um, again, like, I think this is all the greatest companies kind of understand this and, uh, the advantage that distributed teams have is that they have to figure this stuff out faster. Um, and I think it's actually a strategic advantage for that reason.

Joe:

17:48

Yeah, I really like that's a good point, kind of remote work that there are some advantages that of smaller companies that may start remote kind of build, have to build that culture quicker and be kind of scrappy. To kind of create that connection, which can, you know, for my next foundation. For when you do have the 100 people on the same floor?

Aiden:

18:16

Yeah, 100%. I think, like it's ah, it's almost like I know I hate to put it this way, but it's almost like a crutch. Three ability to be in the same office allows you to be sloppier than you would be if you were not in the same office And so it just means that there has to be more clarity. There has to be better goals. Has to feel these things, because otherwise, you know, you just can't get into a room randomly and start talking about Hey, what you know. So you should have to have a lot more rigor. And I think ultimately old company should have that. You don't need to be remote in order to have those things. Great companies do that, even when they're five people, and they're all in the same room. But it's just like it's a forcing function. And so it requires people to operate at a higher level of communication efficiency from the get go

Joe:

19:06

definitely, um, one last kind of question. It's a little bit unrelated to the path that we kind of went down, but I kind of what we talked about. I think it's been great. Um, what do you What do you think is kind of the future of the what? What is the modern workplace look like now? And what? What is it? Kind of look like, um, you know, five years from now.

Aiden:

19:31

Yeah. So I think the main thing that that's going to start happening is I feel that we have one of the things we've gotten very like hardcore fast towards this. This concept of real time, everything. And, uh, this could be problematic because, you know, in a sense that, like everyone is bombarded with notifications. You know, we kind of started in a world where, uh, you know, first email existed, and then there was a lots of email and then, like, email was flooded and everyone has an email problem. And now what's happened is like we have so many more ways to communicate on a lot of those ways to communicate have presented you notification overload. Andi, I think we all live in this notification over load like environment. And I think that's one of the things that we need to solve. Um, and I think five years from now, you know, things become a lot more structured. Um, people communicate better and much more efficiently. Communications will turn to be more effective because people again no, went to communicate on what channels and when it's a lot of this stuff has to be figured out, you know, What we're hearing is that a lot of people for example, are resorting to using messaging platforms almost like email in the sense that they will, you know, check these messy performs they once at nine ones at noon, like once and five versus, like that instant aspect of it, Just like this desire to basically communicate in a more, um, I guess effective pace. That kind of get gets away, basically reducing clutter on and focusing on, like, more effective communication. I think that's one of the main things unlocked, even more productive ity across organizations everywhere.

Joe:

21:27

Yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense. Well, thanks for joining us today. Aiden is awesome talking about kind of remote future work and how things were looking, um, excited to kind of test out fellow and definitely take a look. If anyone is, you know, in the market for some, um, improvement of employee engagement and really connecting the management thio, um, employee base?

Aiden:

21:54

Yeah, definitely. This was, uh this was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

Joe:

21:58

Absolutely. Thanks, man. Okay. Thanks for joining the DNA Of an experienced podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create fear Customer joined the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud up the instant business communication tool used to create instantly share a bowl videos, screenshots and gifts perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free at www dot get cloud app dot com. Thank you. Look forward to seeing you next time.