Interview: Zapier

Zapier LogoWade Foster is co-founder & CEO of Zapier, a tool that allows you to connect apps you use every day to automate tasks and save time. You can connect any of their 600+ integrated apps together to make your own automations.

Zapier is a 100% distributed team living and working all over the world. You can follow and learn more about Zapier in Twitter, Facebook and their own site.

1. Could you please introduce you? What’s the name of your company, what do you do, how many are you, from where do you work?

Wade Foster from ZapierHi! I’m Wade Foster, co-founder and CEO of Zapier. Zapier is an automation platform for web apps. It helps you automate workflows with over 750 popular web apps. Some types of things you can do are have Facebook lead ads added to MailChimp and Salesforce, setup a Slack alert for new Twitter followers or save email attachments to Dropbox.

There are 60+ people working at Zapier now from 10 countries. You can see a full map of the places we are on our about page: https://zapier.com/about/. I personally work from my home in Sunnyvale, CA most days.

2. How, when and why did you become a remote team or distributed company with employees working remotely?

Zapier started as a side project. My co-founders and I would work on nights and weekends from our apartments and coffee shops to get Zapier started. When it came time to hire an employee, hiring someone remotely felt natural.

3. Which have been the advantages to become a remote company or having a distributed team?

The biggest advantage of hiring remotely is the talent you can work with. You aren’t limited to smart people within a 30 mile radius of your HQ. Instead you can recruit from most anywhere in the world. As a result we have some incredibly talented and experienced people working at Zapier that we never would have had the opportunity to work with otherwise.

From a personal standpoint a lot of people find working from home a lot more productive and satisfying. Instead of being stuck in a corporate environment that attempts to be one-size-fits-all, you get to create a working environment that is best suited to you.

4. Have there been any disadvantages and obstacles? How have you overcome these challenges?

Communication is a challenge in any organization. Remote amplifies this. In a co-located office you can be a bit lazy about communication because you have the advantage of being able to tap on a teammates shoulder to clarify issues.

In a remote environment it’s extra important to document process and be transparent with information. This helps teammates make progress and avoid roadblocks when you aren’t able to tap on a shoulder to clear up an issue.

5. How do you do to operate effectively as a remote or distributed team? Have you modified the processes, tools, organization and internal activities?

Chapter 1 of our Remote Work Guide covers how to manage a remote team. The best way to make this easy is to hire high performing, low maintenance teammates. Working with great people solves a lot of problems.

Past this, it’s important to do weekly one on ones with the people on your team, have a weekly staff meeting, to report on what you are working on, to share where you are stuck immediately, to define some standard operating procedures and to automate as much work as possible.

6. How do you do to hiring remotely? What’s the process that you follow?

Our hiring process has evolved quite a bit over the last couple years. The entire process is published here. The most important part of our hiring process is that we respond to every applicant within seven days. This means you never will be uncertain of your application at Zapier for more than a week.

7. What would you say to companies that don’t believe to hire employees who work remotely?

Selfishly, I’d say keep thinking that, which means we’ll keep having more people to hire for ourselves. 🙂

But more seriously I’d recommend they keep an open mind and give it a try themselves sometime. I think they’d find it’s much more similar to working in an office than they think.

8. Which are the tools that you use or help you to work remotely?

We currently use Slack, Trello, Zoom and GitHub a lot. We also have an internal tool called Async that we use that helps us with longer running conversations that are important but aren’t urgent.

That said I think there are tons of tools that are great out there.

9. How do you manage the business, salaries and things like taxes as a remote company?

We outsource a lot of this to a PEO which helps handle the compliance challenges with remote work. When we hit 40 people we also hired a CFO and HR specialist to help with the growing challenges of having a bigger team in more states.

10. What advice would you give to companies that are starting to work remotely or establishing a distributed team?

Go all in. Doing half remote is probably the hardest. It’ll be easier to do all co-located or all remote. Half remote means half the team becomes second class citizens because the office workers create a culture that revolves around being in the office and leaves the other folks out of the loop. You can still keep your office but try and have office workers spend a a couple days a week working remotely so that they understand the differences working remotely. This will make sure your team has the best setup for remote workers possible.

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