Our core team just got back from a three day offsite in Santa Cruz. We didn’t do any deep strategy sessions. We didn’t plan our goals for next quarter. But we did get massages, eat some great tacos, and learn that beach yoga is actually kind of hard.
For a lot of companies this kind of offsite would be a complete fail. It goes against all the commonly held wisdom about what an offsite is for: namely, overarching strategy and work sessions, sprinkled with a fun location (that you never actually get to experience). And before you start thinking we dipped into some massive fundraising round to treat ourselves to sunset cocktails: we’re a bootstrapped startup. Everything we do has to feed back into the business for our community and company to grow and thrive. So what’s the ROI on flying our whole team to Santa Cruz for three days of beach walks and sunset dinners?
For us, the answer is really simple: connection.
Tribe is about people. This is our bet, as founders and as a business. Our community is made up of the best technical talent in the world, but we don’t just throw ML projects at them. We organize events, we host dinners, we hear pitches for their startups, and facilitate connections based on shared interests. We care about building genuine relationships and we believe that drives us all to do our best work.
But, despite our best efforts to spend our time in Santa Cruz focused only on hiking and staring longingly at the ocean, we did come away with some insights about our team, our business, and what we want out of future offsites.
Remote is right for Tribe, but in-person gathering will always be a core pillar of our company.
There are many reasons Tribe decided to go remote. For one, Noah and I met and started Tribe at South Park Commons in 2019, but within months I’d moved back to New York and we were living on opposite sides of the country.
This proved to be a critical decision for the company. Like our founders, our technical community also started in San Francisco, but the Tribe community is now based all over the world, as are our customers. We wanted to build a company with freedom and autonomy built into its fabric – not just for top engineers, but for every person at Tribe. Going remote also allowed us to hire the very best people onto our team across community, sales, product and partnerships, no matter where they’re based.
But (there’s always a but) we believe that deep relationships are built by working together and gathering together. While we run a ton of digital programming (and it works well), in-person remains a core pillar of our strategy. It’s why we opened our Brooklyn office last October and hosted our first team offsite there. And it’s why we’ll continue to host offsites for our core team and gatherings for our community, all over the world.
The 200+ members of the Tribe collective are our reason for being here – so we want them to help shape our company.
Our distributed community of 200+ members are more than the talent who works on projects. They are the heart of our business. We built Tribe to enable them to learn, earn, and build all while driving change for our customers with machine learning. So everything we do as a company has to ladder up to those goals.
For this reason, it’s vital that we incorporate our community into every offsite. In October, we were able to throw a party in Brooklyn to welcome our New York members. This time, we chose the Bay Area for our offsite site partly because it’s one of our largest hubs of community members. While Covid got in the way of our planned Cinco de Mayo fest, we did host a Town Hall, where we gave our community a chance to peer under the hood at Tribe.
The purpose of this was not just to tell them about what’s happening at Tribe, but also an opportunity to hear more from the community about what they care about, what challenges they face, and how Tribe can continue to support them.
Offsites need to be about what's happening now – at Tribe and the world
Experimentation is one of our core values, which means that we challenge assumptions. At our first offsite back in October, we ran intense strategy sessions about our company, our team, and our community. And do you know what we discovered?
It turns out, we don’t need to be in the same room to do great work. We already work together really well remotely. But what felt really different and valuable about that time was that we left with a new level of closeness as people that left us happier, more excited for the challenges ahead, and yes, better at our jobs.
A lot has happened in the six months since we last got together – at Tribe and out in the world. We’re people with families, kids, and friends – so let’s just say it: the last year has been HARD. Our business has been growing, our team sprinting to keep up with these amazing changes, all while juggling illness, economic downturns, and other challenges.
At Tribe, our core team has doubled in size in the last year. Many of us have never been in the same room. So this time around, it felt less important to work together in person and more important to spend time together in person and celebrate the wins of an amazing and hard year.
So far, we’re two weeks post offsite and the ROI of massages looks great.
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