Today I’d like to share about how we work at June.
I’m excited to share about this topic because how we work is is who we are.
It’s the backbone that helps us build the right product for our users, with the right company values.
“What you do is who you are”.
- Ben Horowitz -
In this article, I’ll share transparently our current principles and core rituals.
Let’s get started!
Two building principles
Clear guiding principles are the best way to scale a team while keeping us aligned. Without a set of principles, organizations begin to fracture.
We are still a relatively small company and we love to keep things simple. Hence when it comes to building June we use only two principles:
- Focus on the essentials (⬆️ org level)
- Deliver small & frequent value (⬇️ team level)
Focus on the essentials
Whatever we do, we’re pushing ourselves to stay small and pragmatic. At an organizational level, we are laser-focused.
We are skipping all the stuff that represents real (charts, graphs, boxes, arrows, schematics, wireframes, etc.) and building the real thing.
This means we do less. Less mass, less software, less features, less paperwork, less of everything that’s not essential.
❌ Things we don’t do
- Timelines that take months, version numbers roadmaps that predict the perfect future
- Functional specs scalability debates
- Endless preference options
- Proprietary data formats
- The “need” to hire dozens of employees
- Ask users with hypothetical questions, instead, we ask to complete tasks
✅ Things we do
- Less meetings, less abstractions and less promises
- To launch on time and on budget, we avoid throwing more time or money at a problem, instead, we scale back the scope
- It’s better to make half a product than a half-assed product
- “Just-in-time” thinking
- Multi-tasking team members
- An open culture that makes it easy to admit mistakes
- Basic documentation makes clear what we do and includes people
- Dead simple prototyping
Deliver small & frequent value
Value growth depends on what we choose to do. As a team, we believe that value comes from small, value-focused features, delivered frequently.
To illustrate this situation, suppose a block below is a feature. Suppose the height of the features is their value, and the width is their cost. Each group of blocks represents a path to deliver value.
Look at the difference in value growth if we choose the higher value inexpensive features first and defer lower value costly features until later.
Knowing this leads us to be ruthless about how we scope a feature. Most of the time, we found ourselves able to scope a feature into one week of work.
So how does this work in practice?
Here comes our rituals.
🌅 Daily rituals
We’re a team of three, and our days are packed. There is always too much to do versus what we can realistically prioritize.
This makes it tempting to switch into focus mode to get more done, and lose track of what others are doing.
To avoid that we over-communicate.
No amount of communication is too much when alignment is at stake. Here is how we nail it:
- Standups (synchronous): classic scrum standup. We love working together and having at least one face-to-face interaction each day.
- Wiki (asynchronous): When a topic requires to be unpacked and needs to be filed — we’re adding a note to our Notion. If it can be shared without a note, we drop it in our chat directly.
- Chat (synchronous): like many companies, we use Slack to organize topics and projects (#Success #Content #Talents-and-Hiring #New-website).
Here are some tips I found useful when communicating:
- Keep it simple: Over-communicating doesn’t mean communicating everything; it means sharing the right things effectively.
- Sync early and often: I’m constantly repeating the company’s vision, strategy, and goals. If you are unclear of a direction or strategy, sync early and often. Ask lots of follow-up questions, challenge each other, and arrive at the best possible idea.
- Surprises are ok: It’s impossible to live in a world without surprises or bad news. Whether it’s good news or bad news, don’t wait until the last minute to deliver it.
Listen to customers
Customer feedback is gold, we don’t bargain on it =)
- We collect as much feedback as we can: Every day we talk with our customers. We’re using as many tools as we can for that: Intercom, Slack, Twitter, Linkedin DMs, and emails. Every team member is empowered to run user interviews.
- We make feedback visible to everyone Customer feedback is a gold mine, but the problem is that they often get lost. To fix that we turn every feedback into a Slack message.
- We organize feedback: We aggregate feedback in three ways: All feedback, Top requests, Status (when a request is shipped, we update the status and users)
- Non-customers requests: We keep a record of potential customer feedback, for when we’ll expand to them ⚓️
📆 Weekly rituals
We build as a team
Building products is a team sport. My cofounder Ferruccio wrote a great article about it here.
Three rituals changed everything for us:
- Weekly planning: During YC W21, Michael Seibel gave us this example about the consequences of him and Justin Kan not having a clear planning process. To avoid that, each week, we run an intense planning session. Running this process altogether raises the question “Why?” we should work on X or Y.
- Weekly kickoff: This one is pretty common, but you don’t see them much at larger organizations. Every Sunday, we share a note with our investors — we never missed one. We include Strategy, Key metrics, Member story, Highlight, Lowlight, and Culture. Our format is pretty close to weekly updates at Alan:
- On-demand workshop: This helps to unpack meaty topics prior to the weekly planning. Typical topics cover: roadmap discussion, kickoff a new initiative, and improve a process.
We go to market, ALL the time
We advocate for “the 50% rule”.
Startups often spend most of their resources developing their products.
By the time they realize they need to get more customers and try to ramp up their sales+marketing efforts, they’ve run out of money
- G.Weinberg, Traction -
This is why from the onset, we spent 50% of our time on product development and 50% on traction development. We can’t predict which traction channels will work; the only way is to test them.
We’re also big fans of building in public. We pushed this concept to learning in public. Most people “learn in private”, and lurk. They consume content without creating any themselves. We make the thing we wish we had found when we were learning.
🌖 Monthly rituals
We reflect on the work behind us and plan what’s ahead of us:
- 6 weeks check-in: every six weeks (a cycle), we sit down for 1.5 hours and reflect on our previous goals. We check the initiatives we pushed to reach these goals and discuss transparently whether they were successful or not. We take action based on this.
- Monthly investor update: Similar to the weekly updates, we share transparently about the ups & downs of the past month. The monthly updates synthesize the topics covered in the weekly and include our runway. When we keep our runway visible, it reminds us that startups are by defaut dead.
Remember death every time, just like a samurai — it’s helpful for business.
🎆 Quarterly & yearly rituals
- Roadmap: Our roadmap used to be fine-grained, but it rarely survived the pace at which we collected feedback and iterated. So we’ve changed our approach to Story Mapping.
- Story Mapping. We plan by quarters, break down quarters into releases, and releases into topics. Story mapping helps us ensure we push coherent releases that we can market.
- Masterplan: As June grows, making sure that we are aligned has become increasingly challenging. Our master plan is composed of milestones at 90, 180 360, and 520 days. For each of these milestones, we list our initiatives on the product, go-to-market and sales, Team, and Revenue target.
- OKR: Until recently, I assumed OKRs were for later-stage companies. I recently read a brilliant private paper from cargo.one on how to use OKR at Seed stage. We just got started with them!
- Retreat: straightforward, on my to-do! :) Some of us have never met in person, this is crazy!! 😅
Our ways of working are who we are.
They ensure we embody the same values that our product delivers to our users.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
— Peter Drucker
As we grow we’ll keep iterating on our ways of working. If you have any suggestions on how we can improve please send them my way at “enzo at june dot so”.
If you are interested in crafting a unique working culture, you can check out our open positions here 💜