Talking remote work and the modern workplace with Firstbase founder Chris Herd

February 21, 2020
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Joe:

00:00

welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app where we discuss how and why creating experience is so important in the psychology behind what makes an experience so great. Thanks for joining us. Hello, everyone. I am excited to have Chris here with me from first base H Q. Chris is leading a really cool, uh, company kind of centered around remote work and kind of the modern workplace. And so I'm excited to have him on. We connected a couple weeks ago on Twitter. Had a nice conversation. Um, and, you know, struck up some similarities pretty quickly. So excited to have him. He is in New York today usually is. Is out in the UK so glad that he's able to be honest, similar times on me today. Um, but, Chris, why don't you take a minute and kind of introduce yourself kind of your path to founding first base and then kind of a little bit about the business?

Chris:

01:06

Yeah. So we were building a intact business previously and focused on solving an asymmetric information problem. You know what you pay for your bills and expenses? I know what I gave her my bills and expenses. Neither of us ever knew those if we're getting the best deal possible. So we put them in your bank account, analyze your recurring expenses and told you when you were paying more than you should be, and then could automatically switch you to a better deal on the when to get you that obviously. And way started that in March 2008. We're doing relatively well talking to some of the big British banks, some of the credit ratings agencies in the U. S. R. B to be there in that product and then all of a Bentley. By July stroke August last year, we realized our customer acquisition costs were too high on we were looking to pivot to something else. We had three months of runway laugh, the usual star up story on bridges, looking for what we wanted to do with arrest that time because we knew we couldn't finish the defense, that product, to the extent that we wanted to fortunately or are in retrospect, we've created this infernal product on which turned out to be first base, and we were a fully remote team. We wanted to be removed because I never want to commute. For 25 days a year, my CTO wanted to be around When the sun laughed for the first time, I walked for the first time. So we always knew that we wanted to do that on. We're told seed investors about raising a fairly large seed round. They knew we were gonna hire 15 or 20 remote workers. And because we had a terrible experience getting our six year old self. When he joined, we find out it was incredibly expensive up front. It was time consuming. And then this stuff never turned up. We basically just don't want product to take care of that. We finished that in February 2008 and 19 and then completely forgot about me for six months, never looked at it and never touched it. Never spoke down on about it on Dhe. Then fast forward to the point where we were thinking about everything. I literally mentioned this to one of my friends by mistake, and he was like, This is the coolest thing I've ever seen. You do that. We're like, Well, no, not really in the adoration existed today, and obviously from that point we went spoke to other people. They said the same thing we spoke The big enterprises Fortune 561 hundred's based at the same thing as well. So we pivot truly first base in August 2019 and yeah, being Bildman business ever since I love it.

Joe:

03:34

Yeah, it's such a cool story. How Ah, no. So many like little stories built into the narrative and in kind of your lead up to where you're at now, where you found ah need to pivot and found this you thought had an idea of what this business would be. And then it was like this little piece of it ended up being, you know, first base and kind of where the real growth was and really cool story with with kind of no launching a new company and having so many distractions with content and new SAS tools and definitely remote work is on the rise. And so there's a lot of remote work options. How have you guys tried to kind of stand out and create on experience for your customers and also just have your brand kind of shine?

Chris:

04:25

Yeah, I think probably two ways it's specifically with content way. Appreciate LA content on lengthen in terms of the bloke post that rewriting, which evangelize the benefits of remote, were highlight other companies. They're offering great remote working experiences, and that's really just leads a lot off on inbound more than anything else. So I think just being part of the community, shading the experiences that we've had, the tools that we're using, the best practices that were operating too. So I guess the one that stands out with is really a sink first over, synchronous first and actually lurk sharing our thoughts, um around that has just help people gravitate towards what we're doing. And in the same time, I think, yes, there's been a lot of focus on what we would call the sacks a side of remote working. And there's a lot of fragmentation there. There's communication tools, collaboration, tools, documentation, tools and having been a remote T. We just experienced several challenges and obstacles ourselves around that culture and physical experience place at home. Yeah, that was really the reason that we we started to think about first base in those granular terms. How can we How can we make sure that workers are safer, more comfortable, more productive home than they would be in an office when we create the office type experience in the home so people can do there on the best work that they've ever done.

Joe:

05:45

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You mentioned, you know, community and kind of how you been able to try and connect with customers and kind of get things rolling. What do you see is kind of like the d n a of a good experience and maybe even, like, take us through. Uh, you know, you mentioned some companies that have kind of already signed up to work with first base. What is that kind of, like acquisition to on boarding to, uh, you know, they've signed up to kind of customer success like, What does that look like for you guys?

Chris:

06:22

Yes, So we're probably still  anecdotal evidence of customer success, but obviously can share just to that point. So many. We've got 600 companies on our waiting list that's growing about 5 to 10 every day, and that's just all pure inbound from things that we've read. So in that initial instance, they obviously joined the way unless we reach out to them directly, you get from a little bit more information about what we're doing. Anything trying before struggles they have with remote work right now and really understand how we could be helpful with were remote for the right reasons. Receive the benefits that people will get in terms of quality of life on. That's really what we try to help them with and help them achieve. E that RV Reince of that. So once the initial fits made, I guess they begin to move them. The funnel, They're qualified. Customer. Um, we would jump on a similar type of cold like this or an in person meet and where again we would dialed deeper into those problems. Understand? If if they're struggling a go remote because it's got high up from cost. Is it because they're worried about I guess, sir, and trust issues, or do they trust their teams to be removed? And then once we understand that we try to identify which parts of first base would be beneficial for them. So cool, those conversations obviously continued. I'm not often where we can say Okay, Well, what first base is is this all in one provisioning tool. The lets you provide a great remote working experience at the touch of a button, and you don't have to order that stuff. You don't have to take her up front. It's not gonna arrive piecemeal with 15 different boxes is gonna come all at the same time. And not only that, we're going to deliver that we're gonna maintain not we're going to repair that. And at the end of the working relationship of a worker leaves, we're going to collect as well. I think every company that's ever had a remote workers and whose face that challenge understands the benefits where they want. Then I think it's harder to appreciate it until you've actually lived through it.

Joe:

08:23

Yeah, yeah, I mean, that's that's fair. There's there's definitely some pain points there with you gave me kind of Ah, quick demo when we have a chat. Ah, couple weeks ago. And you know the portal looks really intriguing and and kind of how the flow works and and really easy to set up.  How have you tried to use like visuals and video to kind of really make that experience pop and kind of bring people in. Maybe it's a piece of your content strategy. Or how have you tried to show that?

Chris:

08:55

Yeah, I think for any product that's consumer facing an insult fires, people are gonna use it as a service. Um, it needs to be attractive. And if whether you want cold up, it's actually the superhuman effect everyone expects even be to be tight products their enterprise. So B to B to C. So we work with the enterprise. We don't get to their customer. Who's there? Worker? The end People just have a higher expectation around the call. A not just the visuals but the quality of the product. So, yeah, we spent a lot of time on making sure the U X is a sin. It was possible making fairly if we share images of the product is attractive is it needs to be. And I think in terms of the landing page showing how easy the product is to use, giving the key benefits. That's been something that's been incredibly powerful for us, and I guess that's what's led us to create that waiting list and in such a short period of time,

Joe:

09:50

Yeah, really cool Congrats on that. Um, I Let's maybe pivot a teeny bit and and dig in on some of the remote stuff you've you've mentioned. Um, what is what have you found? Is kind of like the key for you working, working remotely. First of all, Ah, as an individual, how How have you been able to kind of, um, feel that connection that you have? If you're working next to someone and then secondarily, how have you been a leader of a remote first company? What are some tips and tricks you found that have been helpful with that?

Chris:

10:30

I think for the first part, the question it's it's really the human connection still necessary, right? So we obviously don't work in person every day, but we will be up in frequently, and I think there's a different cadence for different organizations. I think it's hard for me to say that it's a specific duration or Peter the time between those meetings. But for us, it's probably every quarter or a minimum on dhe. Then it's about the human interactions that you have during those periods virtually. Um, I know some people are reluctant to video on, but I actually think it's a massive help in terms of cultivating Gal's connections. I think it's important to have things like Slack Jonah. Let's where people can be themselves and share a little bit there outside life with, well, they're working on. And then I think the third parties. And this probably leads into the next question. In terms of managing removed teams, it's just being comfortable with the switch. The East synchronous working so way, understand that the main benefit of being removed is that's your lawn, an instantaneous gratification office where everybody's gonna come up to you talking on the shoulder and distract you from what you're doing. Like the officers became this distraction factory on the kid's clothes. We've been really conscious of not replicating, all the bad parts of working in an office in a remote saying so because people are working from home, they bought their private space. How can we ensure that they've got the isolation and focus to do the work without disruption? And I think there's there's a couple of things that help with that. I think the first ones great planning. I think you've got to be key and managing your calendar and invisibility of that calendar. So people know what you're doing when you're available. On to the second part is probably just being capable of doing work in isolation on your own, so that more of a personal thing around people who become remote workers, anything right now remote worker, self select for that. And they're typically more organized their typically better and managing their time. And I think that's a key thing that makes it certainly easier for me is a remote as a manager of removed team to manage the team. A lot of it's on the team that we've rebuilt or doing incredible work and just empowering them to do that remotely.

Joe:

12:48

Yeah, I think he brought up some great points of, you know, that regular cadence of meeting up, um, allowing people to do deep work providing the outlets for informal communication on slack. Uh, you know, I I I started using cloud app so much at adobe because I was managing some people that were in a pack, and it was hard for us to meet based on time zones frequently. And so I use cloud app to do that in a synchronous communication like you mentioned like you still got the visual on the video face time of me recording myself, you know, talking to a deck or whatever. Um, but didn't necessarily have to have those like meeting times. And I think that's kind of the That's the modern workforce that I see is is this remote, uh, global distributed teams and people just trying to find ways to to make it more convenient and not have to be on a call it at eight or 9 p.m. you know, when they've already kind of shut down for the night and they're trying to relax and don't necessarily want to get on a call with someone in Japan or Australia, are India or whatever.

Chris:

14:07

Yeah, and I think it's something that normal remote teams don't fully appreciate. So to give you an example of what I guess removed by, everyone knows about office work being true, right? If you've got an office, you can hire the best person that you can afford within a 30 mile radius of not physical location. Now understand that are you have the capacity to work remotely and be asynchronous in the matter that you say where you're working with people in a bar or another place in the world where the titans one's different and you need to understand and appreciate those differences and half the tools that enable you to do that. And the benefit, obviously, is that you're not in that position where you're hiring in a 30 mile radius. You're not disqualifying yourself from 99.9% of the talent gold way you start to be able to hire the best person on the planet that that can do that, Joe. You just need to need to be willing to trust them on understand that they're going to be working at a different time from you. So you need to be more managed in your processes of doing.

Joe:

15:09

Yeah, that's really, really great points. Um, going back to kind of customer experience. Um what what is? You know, we talked a lot about first base. We talked a lot about remote work. What is a recent experience you've had as a consumer? Uh, you know, that could be with retailer travel. Be to be like, what is an experience where you kind of walked away recently and we're like, Wow, that was really great. I want to do more business with them,

Chris:

15:40

Right? Um, so So I was a really big skeptic of airports. Sure. Yeah, like it's this wireless earphone have. And then my dad got there. I connected those my phone for the first time, and I didn't even have to connect them. You just hold it close to the fold, and that's it done. And then you flip open. You take them out, you put them in your ears and you're immediately connected like walk. That seamless experience the apple has on that not permeates their whole drowned right The second you like you one books, and it's like a suction effect, because the packaging is a product of himself. Yeah, and then it goes on the physical products with our the hardware where you open the laptop. And it's just it's a great experience from the moment you purchase in the store through to the UN packaging of it through to the new so bad. And then if something goes wrong as well, they're just great and viewing without whether that's going in store. Whether that's jumping on a coal. Yep, on that's that's something that sticks with me all the time. Apple kill it every time when there's there's never been an Apple product. I've been even the packaging by being like underwhelmed by acting. So if you buy the apple watch, the packaging is beautiful. Like, yeah, is it turn an advert for Apple here, But nobody in the world who does it better than that.

Joe:

17:04

Yeah, I'm with you. I I think I've said that in the past two. I have really hone in on, like the packaging of Apple in the branding in. Uh, yeah, well, it's It's hard when we all kind of live in an apple Amazon world where it's like speed and quality and efficiency and things. They're all kind of expected of every business. Um, so, yeah, we just we just do our best and carry on. What do you think is is the future of you know, I usually asked, What's the future experience business, But let's let's flip this a little bit since you have, uh, you know, some expertise in a different area. What's what's the future of the modern workplace look like? You know, we've talked a lot about remote. What do you think? The modern workplace is based on trends week are currently seeing. And where do you see it kind of going?

Chris:

17:56

Yeah, So it's so I think somewhat. Um, surprisingly, the future trend of the workplace is about going back to back to the future. Basically going back to what office originally. Was. So if you look at what the office was originally designed is the optimum place to do deport that we touched on this before in our previous gold to where, after the industrial revolution and because the cost of real estate was super low, every white collar worker had their own private office, and they still had those areas that they could talk to each other and they would go for lunch, etc. But the key part was they have that isolation to do deep focused work. And then you see the linear progression off the the office. Architecturally, going from the place of revolver are private space. And then it was we've all got these cubicles. So you had these Semi private spaces to open working spaces Now, which are just ridiculous in terms of being able to do deep work, just you could never focus. And so for me. That's what remote work becomes, actually would return back to what was initially that best place. We still have the opportunity to me often person have those open spaces. Do the collaborative work. I think people will say that we have watches. The collaboration when you go remain may. Personally, I've never seen any detrimental effect. I think it's completely over blue, and you start to think of the benefits of remote work. And for me, that's that's where the future of work's going. That's where the future of the work place is going. It's about how can people and it is probably a good place to finish on. How come people organize work around their life rather than organizing life are under work and really less well, what gift them? Remote working gives people less about more control over their life. More flexibility, any more violence, more trust from their workers. But ultimately,  to fix  there were scheduled to do their best more, and that's really what the future of work, probably the future of everything's and really about.

Joe:

20:01

I love that I love that take, you know, it is kind of made me think of that, like Twitter rant that. I'm sure you saw, like, a few weeks ago about people talking about how many hours they're working well, And how house basically turning to do how silly that is, like, No, no one cares. Um, like, are you getting your stuff done? Like, does it take you 40 or 50 hours ago? Your stuff done, or is it taking you 80 hours to get your stuff? Don't like the point. Is the work done? Be productive. And the real value is like you said, trying to find, uh, you know, we're all trying to find a balance. And you, especially as a founder of a new company, you know, searching for a balance of enough work, but also, like, I don't want to burn out. And I want to make sure that I'm not, you know, wasting my prime years just working. Um, so I think that was really good. Take any other closing thoughts, Chris.

Chris:

21:03

Um, not not specific way. I think that's I think that's an interesting one, because it's just something that people appreciate its. Yeah, right now, people are living in high cost of living places and exacting a relatively little cost of life and a little bullet of life. And I think that there's something egotistical about that where people just see themselves and align themselves with the number on the ball away. And actually, they don't appreciate that. The thing that's going to give them the higher goal in life is the disposable income that's left at the end of the month. So, to your point, not being handcuffed to a city and be able to go away for a two week period on an insurance while continuing to work because you can operate a synchronously able to drop your kids at school being able to for me person, I get to read, work out, eat breakfast with my family and last time that my previous morning commute. So, yeah, for me, that's that's what remote work is. That's why we want remote work to grow. We see this is really being the thing that will deliver the highest quality of life gains across the next decade them. That's why we see it as having growing as quickly as us, and I think the more that we can do to help people have that great experience the battery. But work's gonna be in the more people are gonna work remotely

Joe:

22:19

awesome, Chris, Great conversation. Thanks for your time and safe travels when you leave the UK or leave New York back to UK. Appreciate it. Thanks, man. Thanks. 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 for your customer.Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app the instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots and GiFs 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.