[This post was originally sent to the TBTTY list (4), but I thought others might enjoy it too so it’s reposted here]
My favorite thing this year is February.
Last year, Bonanza started a tradition of swapping Seattle for somewhere tropical every February. We call it “Freedom February.” Its birth came from asking ourselves some pointed questions:
- We’re an Internet company, we’re small-ish (1), why do we have to work in the same place every month?
- How will it impact productivity if we give our team the freedom to work on their own schedule?
- What was that bright, glowy thing that seemed to hang in the sky all day, making things warm and pleasant last Summer? (2) Can we hunt it down?
Curiosity got the better of us, so we booked some plane tickets, a month of lodging in Costa Rica, and we did it. It was more fun than I’d hoped for. There were monkeys.
In response to our first question, we learned that there was really no reason we couldn’t get away with doing this every February. All we need is a connection to the Internet and this business can run itself fine. We were all friends already, but this trip reinforced our friendships and our combined sense of mission. To the second question, we got more code checked in that month than we did the month before or after, in part because of a collective spirit of working nights and weekends, even though we worked less during daylight hours. As a nice kicker, our sales also jumped about 15% that month. There was a lot to like about this idea.
This brings us to February 2014. Even before we departed, it had the makings of a TBTTY email when this victory dropped into our lap:
In their annual survey of more than 12,000 sellers (the biggest/only third-party survey on marketplaces), Bonanza beat out Etsy, eBay and Amazon in whether sellers would recommend it to a friend! We had scored in the top four of this survey during previous years, but this was the first year we won both “Most Recommended” and “Top Score Overall.” Etsy, eBay and Amazon finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th to us in cumulative score. February was off to a fine start.
And then, the trip. This year, since Bonanza has a new tyke in tow (our developer’s criminally adorable daughter, Kira), we decided to visit the north shore of Oahu, where we’d have easy access to modern health care if anything important came up. Here’s Kira enjoying Freedom February 2014:
In terms of Februarys, this year was even better than last year. Bonanza has grown since 2013, so we had more people = more opportunities for epic BBQs = more fun. The availability of our own hot tub this year was a nice touch too.
Enjoying BBQ dinner
A good time was had by all this year. But my favorite part of the trip was seeing how happy my parents were to be in Hawaii. Until I started dragging them around the world with me a couple years ago, they hadn’t been on a vacation since their honeymoon (25+ years ago). My mother in particular has more energy and enthusiasm than any of my 30-something friends, and her happy-go-lucky spirit becomes infectious in a group setting. Here’s her with my pa in front of our house:
Even when I was sitting upstairs with ocean surf drowning out most sound, I could still hear my mom’s laughs echoing above everyone else’s yapping downstairs. It made me realize that I probably have her to thank for much of my willingness to fail (in jokes, in crazy ideas, in business). When you grow up with someone that thinks most everything you say is hiiii-larious, I think there’s a bit of irrational confidence that sticks to you, failures be damned.If any of you run a small-ish company and would like to give this idea a try, DM me and I’ll share what I’ve learned from my two years experience. Generally speaking, it’s less work than I had expected (3). I think “inertia” was the biggest reason it took us a couple years to try it out, but now I think that this is exactly the sort of benefit a startup deserves to compensate for all the hard work we put in throughout the year.
(1) About 15 people, many of which are remote, some part-time. So far the participants have just been folks working out of our Seattle office, but I hope to keep slowly growing the trip as long as we can employ hard workers who GSD with minimal oversight.
(2) I’m not telling. You’re just going to have to try this yourself or wait a few months and hope.
(3) The hardest part is finding the big enough+affordable lodging that’s conducive to work (i.e., has a view of the ocean). Besides that, everything else tends to fall into place, especially if you get your team involved in the planning process.
(4) Still hasn’t been posted to the list though after posting it there yesterday, so not sure exactly how “alive” the list still is