Thursday, October 30, 2014
Editor's note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a handful of stories from disrupters and trailblazers in the UK who are using Google Apps for Work to enable new, better ways of working in their organisations. Today, we hear from Chris Morton, CEO of Lyst, an Accel-backed fashion commerce destination that allows millions of users to shop directly from a personalised feed of products based on their style preferences.
Six years ago, I lived in a house with two friends who were obsessive online shoppers. While they had very different tastes, they shopped on the same website, browsing page after page to find items they liked. I knew there had to be a better way to create a personalized shopping experience. In 2010, my co-founder and I started Lyst. Today, we’re a team of 60 spanning London and New York driving hundreds of millions of dollars in sales for the fashion industry.
Changing the way the fashion industry works is a formidable challenge. We’re tackling it by moving quickly -- seizing our window of opportunity and working together on a common goal. Here are my strategies for building a unique culture at Lyst.
Cultivating autonomy and ownership from day one
We hire people who thrive when given the freedom to do their jobs without someone constantly peering over their shoulder. We emphasize this sense of ownership from the moment they join our team: in every employment contract, the responsibilities for the role include “proactively thinking of ways to make Lyst better.” We brainstorm often -- formally and informally -- and the best idea wins, even if it’s from the most junior person on staff.
Encouraging personal communication and recognizing great work
As we grow, we need to be intentional about building a shared culture through meaningful communication. Because it’s not always practical to fly our New York team to London, our two offices meet via Google Hangouts for bi-monthly all-hands meetings in which we problem-solve, celebrate recent wins, and tip our hats to people coming up with great ideas. We’re considering setting up a permanent Hangout so folks in London can say “hi” to folks in New York or get to know them better over a cup of tea.
Inspiring intelligent naivety
We’re trying to cultivate a sense of intelligent naivety at Lyst. Rather than relying on hierarchy and structure, we work towards clear goals that we decide upon and measure against as a team. We work with flexibility, recognising those instances that demand what we call the “screwdriver mode”, which involves tweaking and optimizing fine details. Sometimes we work slightly differently, applying our “sledgehammer mode” when we literally need to break down a complex problem or restart a project from scratch. Google Docs helps us work more closely together, whether it’s collaborating on a press release or gathering feedback on an investor deck. Our engineering teams use Google Sheets to record their ongoing progress; when it’s time for our weekly 1:1, they just shoot me the link and I can follow along. We’ve used Docs since day one, and now it’s hard to imagine working any other way.
Empowering employees to work quickly -- however they want
Everyone has a laptop and a smartphone, and keeps up with their team members through chat, email and Hangouts. Because we’re still a young company, we’re not set in our ways, nor are we tied to legacy systems. Our employees keep up with the latest in technology and experiment with different ways of working, in and out of the office.
The world is changing rapidly, we need to embrace change with an agile mindset and a willingness to evolve.
Click to expand the full infographic below.