How our start-up team lives like our users
From day one, we've been all about building the best product to help freelancers, contractors and other self-employed live a life without limitations. At Albert, we fundamentally believe that people like to be independent, to have the freedom to make their own choices. Good people do great work when they’re happy – and this doesn’t come from 9-5 hours, in the same office, every day.
Our app is designed to facilitate this but, we have always known that to truly realise our vision we had to fully understand the freelance life and run our start-up like our users run their lives.
A unique team culture.
We have a unique team culture, with a view of the world that is a little different. We are still all freelancers ourselves so we can understand our users in the best possible way. And we believe creating our own space is far more important than an office space with colourful couches and a Fussball table.
The world is our office. Our recurring working locations include:
- Trains, coffee shops, and planes (this article was actually written on the last).
- East, Central and West London, Manchester, Cheshire, and Brighton - all UK.
- Lichtenvoorde - Netherlands.
- Madrid - Spain.
- Cagliary - Italy.
In fact, the idea for Albert was first conceived in the morning sun at a breakfast table in California (a very different setting than most of our breakfasts in London!). We also work with great people in Serbia, our top advisors meet us virtually from France, Slough in the UK, and Spain, and our investment team talks with us from all over the world.
It's a privilege to work in this way , but we also think this is exactly how work should be: free, independent and not tied to a specific place. Not only does this enable people to live a fulfilling life on their terms, but it creates the type of individual that we aspire to work with: the self-starter, the free-thinker, the person engaged with limitless possibilities.
5 principles for living like our users.
That’s not to say there aren’t challenges working in this way. Creating a working culture that allows individual autonomy, along with the practical structures to ensure work is carried out effectively is something we pride ourselves in. Here are our 5 principles we live by as a team to make that happen:
1. Use the product you are building.
We are all freelancing for Albert and we use the app to send, manage and track our own invoices and cash flow. You can’t design, build and market a product without having a deep understanding of it. You need to use it everywhere possible to understand what your users experience.
2. Work hard in your own time.
Scheduling your work around your life is the stuff of dreams and, at Albert, we make sure these happen. If you need to go to a shop on Thursday morning because it makes family life easier, then go for it. If you prefer to go for a run in the afternoon to refresh your mind, be our guest. And if you need to take care of your children everyday, please do it! We all work incredibly hard and are hugely passionate about what we do, so we don’t believe this type of flexibility will compromise productivity. In fact, allowing each individual to build their own working schedule often improves their working standards.
3. Be creative from your own location.
People travel frequently in today’s working world and often, you can find yourself living far from your nearest and dearest. And even better.... different places give you great inspiration and different ideas! That’s why we prefer to support ourselves by giving each other the flexibility to work in different locations. If leaving the office a day earlier and working remotely allows you to spend more time with your family, then we think that’s better than being stuck in an office or at a busy train station during rush hour. So, live on the go, with your mobile wherever you are. Time surrounded by people you love and new impressions is just as conducive to work as being surrounded by a supportive team.
4. Meet up every morning at 10am.
Regardless of location, work needs to be aligned and coordinated. People need input from others - to be questioned, to be challenged and to understand what each individual in the team is working on. That’s why the Albert team meets every morning at 10am, by jumping on Google hangouts and catching up about work. Not only does this create a culture of accountability, it helps build a routine for those working away from the office and consequently encourages productivity.
5. Trust and be transparent.
Albert is very much a team effort and to make that team work, we know we need trust and communication. Individual schedules may mean that we are not all in the office at the same time, so communicating effectively is paramount and, for when we are apart, we trust our team to manage their own time and get the job done.
As founders, we’ve always encouraged a very transparent culture so when customers have questions or feedback we share these immediately. Every morning we share our key metrics (on great, average and slower days) and when investors share valuable ideas, we communicate them by Slack. Jokes are part of our vocabulary. And when together, we grab a drink after work to enjoy that together as well.
Good people do great work when they’re happy.
And users are happiest with the best products built for them.