Hey! We're WooThemes - the remote company behind WooCommerce. AUA!

Hi everyone! We’re WooThemes, the makers of the now most popular ecommerce software in the world - WooCommerce.

We’re a distributed company and have been from Day 1. We do have a small office in Cape Town, South Africa, but the majority of the team is spread out across the world.

Ask us about building a business upon open-source software, scaling our product to millions of users and general nomad life!

Personally - I’m Bryce and am currently based in Thailand. I’ve met some you before in person + #nomads :smile:

Today we should also be joined by the founders of WooThemes - Mark Forrester & Magnus Jepson - along with several of our more nomadic team members.

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Hi everyone! WooCommerce Ninja here as well. I’m now based in Seattle but have been traveling around the world since 2009. The freedom to work from anywhere in the world (as long as I have internet) is pretty great :wink:
I’m usually active on the Nomad Slack chat as well :smile:

Hey Nomads! I’m also a WooCommerce Ninja, currently based in Florida, but have lived quite a nomadic life so far. I grew up in Canada, lived in Germany for a couple years and spent almost 3 years in Thailand. Working remotely with WooThemes has been amazing, and I look forward to many more nomadic years ahead! :slight_smile:

Hello fellow nomads!

Maria here, I’m the Internal Community Manager at WooThemes. For the past 4.5 years I’ve lived in my RV, affectionately named Stanley, traveling the US, with my two dogs, Buddha and Ernie.

Photo credit: www.sethkhughes.com

I’ve grown quite fond of craft beer in the last 8 years and as a result have visited quite a few breweries across the U.S. as a part of my RV travels which you can read more about at TheRoamingPint.com. I’ve found that visiting craft breweries is an excellent way to meet locals who always have the best advice about where to go and what to do.

I always love to say that good people drink good beer and have found that to be true all across the US. And hey, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t slept in a brewery parking lot or two. Bringing your bed with you everywhere you go can be quite convenient!

Let us know what questions you have about travel, working in a distributed company or whatever you’d like!

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Hi WooThemes!

Nice to see you guys here :smile:

I would like to know about the challenges you guys encountered and the lessons you can share with us :wink:

Hi Chris,

Payroll and taxes is a challenge for a distributed company, as there aren’t many accountants that understand the laws in different countries. This is definitely something we are still slowly learning on how to deal with.

Communication is also key in a company like ours, which is why we rely heavily on Slack/Skype/Google Hangouts etc, and we ask everybody to over-communicate.

Hi WooThemes!

Congrats all your amazing success and paving the way forward with remote teams. Love it!

  1. I’m curious how the setup of having a Cape Town office and having others as remote have been for you? Did it start out with just the office then remote, or the both at the same time? Curious to hear your journey here!

  2. I’ve seen some blogs/articles on your company retreats! They look amazing! Do you still have regular retreats? How have these been? Any lessons here you could perhaps share?

Hi @ChrisJankulovski Chris, to add to Magnus’s points above, and beyond the administration struggles of a distributed team, a healthy company culture is a vital ingredient to a successful remote team. And with a distributed, multi-cultural team you have the huge benefit of baking all those personalities into one rich, colorful, unique brand.

It’s important, not only for internal use, but for your customers to tell the unique stories of all your team members. It helps them build confidence in the business and ensures a personal connection with the brand.

Getting to know your colleagues online can be challenging, when you are often in different time zones and far removed in your work responsibilities. We use knowyourcompany.com, originally a product of Jason Fried and 37Signals, to stay up to date on all our various work activities, as well as getting to know each other more personally - with fun questions asked weekly.

We also try meetup in the physical sense as regularly as possible. Challenging when you’re a team of nearly 50 across 16 countries - and costly. We ensure one annual team meetup somewhere different. We’ve visited Austria, UK, Netherlands, Cape Town and San Francisco. This time together is hugely valuable, yet difficult to tangibly measure. Our time together is largely spent sightseeing, socialising over meals and doing team building exercises. We also house workshops and more lately hackathons.

We also have smaller meetups, e.g. the European team, the WooCommerce team, the US support team. I think it’s safe to say everyone feels quite energised and more unified after such trips.

I’d strongly recommend the Buffer blog for great posts on distributed teams, open salaries, transparency, and the importance of autonomy in the workplace.

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Good day,

I’ve meet some of WooThemes people and so far all of you guys are great and that you are doing looks really interesting.

I have couple of questions:

  • A lot of people come from different backgrounds and cultures. And US is so way ahead of all countries with equal rights for everyone. Is there any issues with communication? How do you handle that? As an example, somebody used “Good luck with finding a proper man for a job” sentence and someone found it offending (sexist). How would you handle this?
  • How do you handle international salaries for people? As an example, 2 people doing exactly same job, but one lives in NY and second one in India. Will their salary be different? What will happen if guy from NY moves to Thailand?

Great company, been following the team and new developments in WooCommerce past year now, such an inspiration. Must be great managing yourself and have more time on your hands, cutting out the travelling to work and even traffic. Sure this must be much more productive environment for everyone. How do you all communicate within the company? Emails? Skype?

Hi @nieldlr

Thanks for the compliments!

  1. When we founded the company, my two co-founders were located in Cape Town, which is where we hired our first employees. I was working remotely from Norway. It was good to have a workspace for those working so close together, and this is now our HQ where our Cape Town crew and others can come and work if they don’t want to work remotely.

  2. As Mark mentioned, we’ve been to some awesome places on our WooTrips, which we have annually. These have been amazing each time, but keep getting better the more people we gather. Last November we were 46 people in SF and hosted our own conference as well! Planning is key for these trips, and the last one was one of the smoothest because of how well planned it was beforehand.

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Hi @stevie

We started out with just email and Skype chat. Funny story is that we actually didn’t talk on Skype voice for the first 16 months of working together!

We now use P2 (WordPress blog) for announcements, Skype for 1on1s, Slack for daily group chats and Google Hangouts for meetings.

Hi @nieldlr,

Thank you!

  1. Good question. In 2008 when we founded the company Magnus was in Norway, Adii in South Africa, and myself in the UK (I’ve since moved to Cape Town), so we were distributed from day 1.

We registered the company in South Africa so it made sense initially to grow the team in Cape Town. It’s also a pretty cost effective place to hire skilled WordPress dev/design people. So Adii rented an office.

But we had the luxury of hiring from anywhere in the world, because we had confidence in a distributed task force. The team grew over the years quite organically, some local, some distributed.

We only faced challenges later on in our journey. Why should the Cape Town team work from an office, whilst the rest of the team had the liberties of working where they wanted, when they wanted?

So we decided to remove the office restrictions of the Cape Town team, and moved the office to somewhere a lot more fun and inspirational - in the heart of Cape Town’s creative district - Woodstock. Now the team decide when and if they want to come into the office. And lots still do.

Some prefer working from a dedicated work environment, that promotes social interaction, and where they can close the door at the end of the day and leave work stress at the office.

The Cape Town office also gives us an identity and a place we can call home where all our team are welcome to visit. It works well for us.

  1. I think I’ve answered this in my reply to Chris :slight_smile:
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Hi @skat

Cool to hear you’ve meet a few of the WooTeam!

  • I’m not sure I agree about US being way ahead of all countries with equal rights for everyone :smile: Check out Norway, which supposedly has the highest rate of women leaders in the world. I believe the people who work with us are well travelled, and understand how cultures differ, and if mis-communication in such form were to take place, we would be able to understand why and how to tackle it. I can’t remember any incident of this kind though.

  • We discuss salaries with each employee, and look at their expectations, and what is a market salary in their country and position. We do pay different salaries based on location, and do adjust salaries for those that move to a more (or less) expensive location, in similar fashion to how Buffer do for their staff.

Hi @skat,

I think we’ve answered your first question already in the other threads.

Regarding international salaries we use http://www.trinet.com/ to administer salaries, and online cost of living calculators (e.g. http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/comparison/cape-town/istanbul) to ensure we are paying market related competitive salaries in each city.

If someone moves from a city like Cape Town, which might be a category D, to a city like San Francisco, which is a category A, we’ll try adjust their salary accordingly by the corresponding multiplier. We discuss this individually on a case by case scenario.

First of all, thanks to you for contributing to the community WooCommerce plugin!

My question is related to the this system itself. What’s the roadmap for WooCommerce in 2015? Is there any specific direction you would go? Let’s say getting more developers to create themes for WooCommerce or focusing on the local community helping spread out the WooCommerce around the world?

Thanks :smile:

Hey Woo,

Love the absolute transparency! Something that I’ve wondered about: When posting careers at Woo, I’ve noticed that they tend to stay “open” for a long time - why is that? Are you finding it hard to get the right fit or is there simply more than one position for each job description?

I understand that talented, driven, self-motivated guys (and girls of course) that can work on their own can be difficult to find, but surely if you’ve got the world as your recruitment-oyster, these should be easy to fill…

@mjepson mentioned that payroll is a challenge. For the employees, do you prefer being an employee or a contractor in terms of the overall value that you get?

I work for a company based in San Francisco. Technically I’m a contractor. Everyone outside of the US is a contractor (we have people from Canada, Australia, Japan, and a few us in the Philippines).

I guess the biggest difference is not having medical benefits and 401(k) savings plan.

@colourblindcrayon We keep the posts up for quite a while because we run through trial projects with every single prospective candidate that can be anything from 2-4 weeks depending on the position.

@colourblindcrayon To add to Warren’s answer. Depending on the type of trial they are often paid contracts to not only determine the skillset/knowledge of the applicant, but also to get a better idea of their cultural fit with our team.