Two years ago, we decided to remove bosses in our tech startup (no more managers) and started working only 4-day a week.
Each one of us work from home also in different countries (Argentina, México, Colombia, Chile and Brazil) through Latin America.
With all these new habits, we grow our revenue by 204% with 34 employees.
We believe in our heart that with all the existing technology, we all deserve a new way of living: more efficient work should be done (less emails and meetings), and more time should be spent with the ones that we love! (wife / husband and kids).
As the creator of Google, Larry Page, said on several occasions:
A programmer shouldn’t be supervised by a person with limited technical knowledge.
Based on our own experience as engineers working for big international companies such as Intel or IBM, we can say that it was that same thought which caused the daily discontent and disconnection that we felt with our project leaders (bosses.)
For the same reason, when we had the chance of starting our own company 8 years ago, we decided to effectively create an enterprise without bosses in which each of the members of our team was a programmer engineer.
For this to be successful, there were 3 principles that we implemented from the beginning and 2 that we learned from the experience of working with this new methodology of 36 developers in our team efficiently working and growing day after day.
Let’s begin straight from the most important item of all: we work exclusively with other entrepreneurs like us. This means that we only work with other people who are proactive and don’t need to be controlled or be told what to do to effectively be productive.
For us, a kid needs to be guided and educated. An adult must make their own decisions and then be responsible for them.
As Stephen R Covey, creator of the famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said:
Give people orders and you will generate dependence. Give people objectives and you will create independence.
In our company there are clear objectives that we all know, but there aren’t defined orders and rules of “how” to reach them.
Each member is responsible for working and defining their own path in a proactive way to meet that objective.
For example: “increasing sales using new channels”, “improving conversation in our platform” or “implementing more effective mechanisms for customer service.”
Unfortunately, only being proactive is not enough, even though it’s the first requirement and the most important one.
To be able to work without bosses, there’s an aspect that is not negotiable: being excellent at what they do plus loving their job.
When we hire new programmers for our start-up, we make sure that this second requirement be an integral part of the person.
How do we make sure of this?
Though it may seem simple, this aspect comes to light very easily. People who love what they do (programming, cooking, teaching, designing, etc.) reflect it in a direct way in the degree of passion with which they talk about what they did in their job (accomplishments.)
Particularly at the level of engineers, with those Open Source projects which they participated in, which weren’t done based on any economic motivation, but because they really love what they do.
Once we have proactive people (first item) who love what they do (second item), the only thing left is to provide a favorable environment in which they feel free to do what they do best.
For many years, I’ve watched Google’s offices or the offices of different Silicon Valley companies with incredible designs and accesories for the employees to feel that they are working in the best place of the world.
However, based on our experience I totally agree with what Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, said:
The best office is NOT having one.
Our start-up works completely remotely. There are no offices. For people who have the previously described characteristics, this is the office they have always dreamed of: being able to work where they like the best and with total freedom.
To conclude, I will share below two things we learned that we implemented as we grew:
Exactly, there are neither face-to-face nor over the internet meetings anymore. As programmers, we need an average of 4 straight hours of work to reach the best degree of productivity.
Programming is like sleeping. Nobody can say that they have slept well if they have been woken up every one or two hours.
I’m convinced that meetings are the worst enemy of effectively productive people. We can see a concrete example of this in this article of The Economist in which an enterprise that limited the meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes of duration and of 7 members was able to save as if it had reduced the payment to 200 employees.
The last essential item was that we decided to completely eliminate email communication within our company. The only use we make of the email is for external communication with clients.
The efficiency that we achieved implementing this new work policy is really unexpected. At the beginning we tried being able to work without emails for 3 months and today, after 4 years, there’s definitely no going back.
Unfortunately, with time, the email became a list of tasks to be performed, but actually the email, which was created in 1993, was not designed for that goal, and consequently, it lacks several characteristics to be able to perform that task successfully.
For this we use a highly simple tool that we developed internally, which is a control panel where there’s a list of the projects the company is working on.
In this way, whoever wants to voluntarily join a project, can do so. All they have to do is log in and find out which degree of progress the project has and which contributions the project needs. On the other hand, whoever needs it, can create a new project, for example “designing a new landing page to improve conversions” and begin working on it.
With the huge advancement of technology to communicate and organize ourselves efficiently, it is totally viable to work without bosses nowadays. The problem is that we are so used to the traditional work methodology that it’s not simple to see this excellent new opportunity.
Cristian Rennella is the founder of PrestamosOnline for Mexico and Colombia. He is passionate about the development of technologies based on artificial intelligence for developing countries and he is a professor at the National University of Argentina who specializes in small and medium-sized enterprises.