Have you ever bought a concert t-shirt as a souvenir? Most of us have, without thinking of the complicated logistics involved in selling these products. AtVenu is changing the landscape of how merchandise is sold at events with their custom platform designed to manage every detail.
Setting a great example of how to keep a team connected across multiple locations are the executives powering atVenu - CEO Derek Ball in San Francisco, company president Ben Brannen in Los Angeles and CTO James Seigel leading product development in Calgary. We caught up with CEO and co-founder Derek Ball to chat about how they’re making satellite offices work for them.
Calgary is a great place for a satellite office due to the existing talent pool and lower costs of doing business. Ball says their Calgary office is staffed with hires they found right in Calgary, half who have worked for him before. He says that hiring local talent works well for them, as people live in Calgary because they love it and want to stay. While there is plenty of innovation in Calgary, there is simply less hiring competition, and as a result, atVenu is able to build a talented team with much lower turnover than is normal in Silicon Valley.
It’s also significant to note that operating expenses are lower in Calgary than they are in Silicon Valley, meaning their funds go further. While they are always mindful of the exchange rate, it is a helpful factor that benefits their bottom line. For U.S. companies looking to leverage a satellite office, operating in Canada while selling in the U.S. is a significant boost.
This is a closely bonded team who have created a structure to keep their executive team closely aligned in goals, values and how they’ll operate. They are religious about connecting regularly - with a weekly conference call, and regular use of Skype and Slack, they stay in touch and fully informed as to what the others are doing. Multiple direct flights every day between California hubs (like San Francisco and Los Angeles) and Calgary make it easy to connect frequently in person.
They have a C-level executive in each location, which helps ensure the shared vision of the company is communicated to all teams consistently. Once a quarter, the executive team meets in person - this is rare enough, but they take it one step further by choosing a separate destination in which to meet. This ensures that not only do they have time and space away for important strategy and planning meetings, but also that the three partners stay aligned.
Another way they keep the team connected is by making an effort for people to spend time together face to face, for instance, the U.S. team came to the Canadian office for one of their Christmas parties. Communication is huge, and all-hands briefings are common. Ball comes to Calgary every six weeks to ensure he’s spending time with the team here, and they’re transparent with the teams about successes, challenges, projections, and customer acquisitions.
Ball says first hires are critical to culture and tone, and advises companies hire carefully when staffing satellite offices. He’s incredibly excited about the team they have in place here, but it takes work. Be mindful of the existing culture in your company as you grow. For those opening offices from outside Canada, he advises they learn the subtle differences between Canada and their home country; for instance, Canada and the U.S. are culturally distinct in a few ways. This may influence how people communicate, and how they work.
Utilizing satellite offices brings both benefits and unique challenges to both the management and team. It’s crucial that everyone stay aligned in vision and goals, especially the executive team. But when carried out with shared vision, deliberate planning, and practical execution, it’s a winning strategy more companies should consider.