Remote Work At Collage.com
* As of October 2015
Collage.com Remote Company Q&A
Joe Golden, Co-Founder / Co-CEO - Interview with Remote.co
Collage.com makes custom products easy for anyone to create. Our customers use the design tools we create at collage.com to customize more than 50 products, from photo books and photo blankets to home decor items. We work with a network of best-in-class printers around the country to physically produce each product. Collage.com’s customer satisfaction team then provides great support to our customers before and after sale.
Yes, Collage.com started as remote.
Remote work has been one of Collage.com’s “secret weapons”. We can recruit people anywhere, and can be more flexible with hours and schedules. Working from home also provides us great advantages when it comes to hiring people. After all, don’t we all want control over the environment we work in – which remote work provides?
Avoiding a physical office allows us to recruit all over the country, instead of in a limited geographic area. We’re also able to give our employees control over their own work environment and schedule – and can reduce our overhead, so we can invest more in our people.
Collage.com is fundamentally a software company: we develop great software tools that our customers use to customize physical products, and then provide excellent customer support. Since we don’t print our own products or interact with customers in person, we had no need for a physical office.
We look for nice, self-motivated employees who are good communicators and who are excited about the freedom a remote workplace provides.
Since our work is remote, it makes sense that our interviewing and hiring process would be as well. For our most recent interview process, we interviewed applicants over Skype or Google Hangouts. Interviewees met with multiple members of our team as they progressed through stages of our hiring process, which provided us a great way to see how a candidate might fit in with our team. Remote interviews were a good way for applicants to learn more about Collage.com’s remote work culture, too.
We encouraged interviewees to ask multiple members of our team how they enjoyed the remote workplace, or how to overcome potential challenges in a remote work environment.
We meet in person every three or four months, except for during our busy holiday shopping season.
With remote work, you measure each employee’s output based on what they actually produce – not how long they spend in the office. This makes it very easy to determine who’s doing what on our team. At Collage.com, we measure results over appearances. Each employee also has one-on-one meetings weekly with his or her manager, which ensures constant two-way communication and clear expectations.
We are in constant communication with members of our team using online communication tools, and it’s very easy to work together and collaborate toward a big goal.
Not having a physical office doesn’t mean skimping on essential equipment. Our team can use whatever equipment they are most comfortable and productive using, and we’re always happy to reimburse employees for equipment for their jobs.
We’re very flexible when it comes to time off, so long as employees make sure their work is being taken care of and aren’t missing important deadlines or meetings.
We didn’t have any major fears, and fortunately, we haven’t had any major problems!
Remote work has been part of Collage.com’s company culture since starting the company in 2007 as a college hobby project with my friend and co-founder/co-CEO Kevin Borders.
Remote work isn’t right for every company, but we think it could work for more companies than many people think. Online tools and in-person meetings every few months make it possible to maintain and build a strong team without needing a physical office – and the drudgery of commuting to it daily!
Sometimes, it’s more challenging explaining how a remote work environment actually works than it actually is in practice! We have found a remote work environment to be positive for our employees and for the company as a whole. And happy employees make for happy customers! (Which we have, fortunately – Collage.com was recently certified by Google as a Google Trusted Store, and we have a 4.8/5-star rating from their verified customer reviews).
We meet in person every three or four months for an all-company meeting where we strategize and work on big projects together in person. Otherwise, we use online communication tools like Jira, Google Hangouts, Hipchat, Skype, and email to stay in touch.
As we’ve grown, we’ve had to focus more on how we communicate to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Our team loves email and thinks it is a great – and underappreciated – communication tool, but we also now use systems like Jira to stay on top of critical issues and ensure they are fixed.
My wife (who also works from home) and I generally work from our 2nd bedroom, which is our home office. There isn’t anything particularly special about my work environment. I have the usual stuff: a desk, chair, laptop and internet connection.
Here’s a collage (made with our site) featuring 20 of our employees’ desks:
Work and the rest of your life are generally more integrated when working from home. I see that as a good thing, at least for me. Even though in theory I could have a more unusual schedule, I typically work a very typical work day during business hours (getting to sleep a little more of course, since my 10 second commute involves walking to the next room over), then break for dinner, then work a more flexible amount in the evening that depends on how busy I am with different projects and responsibilities.
I have two mottos, both from my grandmother:
- If it is to be, it is up to me
- It’s not what you get but what you give that measures the worth of the life you live
I have a quick story about what was for a day or two the temporary worst location I worked remotely. Back in 2008, I lived in Seattle and worked at Microsoft during a very severe snowstorm. Typically, few people worked from home, but during the storm, few people could get to work, so a lot of people worked from home. Or, at least, we attempted too. So many people tried connecting to the VPN, that we effectively DOS-ed the system. I was thus unable to connect and had to really take a snow day.
The best location I’ve worked remotely is at my current job and apartment!