Chris: Hello everyone. I’m Chris Ronzio, founder and CEO of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect. As always, we’re talking with experts in process creation, automation and delegation – basically the people that just know how to make business easier. Today we have with us Laura Roeder. Laura is the Founder & CEO of MeetEdgar, a social media automation tool, which we’ll dive into here in a few minutes. So Edgar is a social application that provides an effective way of scheduling and organizing your content to automate your publishing. She’s been featured as a speaker at SXSW, she’s spoken at the White House, she writes about entrepreneurship for Forbes, Inc., and Fast Company. So Laura, thanks so much for carving out some time to be here today.
Laura: Yeah, thank you. I’m excited to talk about process.
Chris: All right. So before we dig into the details of process, for anyone that hasn’t heard of the company, can you catch us up on just how you started Edgar and where it is today?
Laura: Yeah, so we started about five years ago. We have over 5,000 paying customers today. Our customers are very small businesses. You know, 10 people or under, a lot of solopreneurs, and we really target that, they marketing, and they want a really organized, streamlined, automated way to make sure they’re sharing that content on social media.
Chris: So even your product is all about process, which is so cool. So before someone would sign up for your tool, what does their general social media management look like?
Laura: Well, usually people are often burned out because it’s become such a mess, and this is something we see a lot with social media marketing as people are very all or nothing. People are like, “Okay, I’m going to get it together. I’m going to do it. I’m gonna post it like crazy across all the channels and I’m going to get organized.” They do everything manually and it’s just so much work because you have to post so often on so many channels and they have so many other things to do as an entrepreneur that they get really burnt out. And sometimes they come to us being like, I haven’t updated Twitter in six months and people are starting to think that my business doesn’t exist anymore. We really created MeetEdgar because there is, there’s lots of other social media publishing tools out there, but publishing is kind of all they do.
Laura: It’s like, okay, I can write my update into the tool and then it’ll send out to multiple networks. But what’s really different about MeetEdgar is one, we store all your updates in a categorized, organized library for you so they can easily be re-sent, and they can be modified. We actually automatically create status updates for you that we pull from your content. We automatically add images for you that we pull from your content. So you can have a piece of content and Edgar mixes and matches status updates and images, and then automatically sends it out. And then re-sends that if you like to your social network. So it just makes the process a lot more organized and hands off.
Chris: I love it. It’s funny, I think a lot of process is born out of desperation and stress and angst and chaos. And it sounds like that’s where your customers come to you. So I’ve seen a lot of the publishing tools and you’re right, they’re just very one-way, you’re just blasting things out. And so yours is kind of this curation assistant, right? That sifts through your content and suggests it.
Laura: Yeah, it really keeps a database of your content. And the reason it was created was my own need. And when I created Edgar, I was actually teaching entrepreneurs about social media marketing and I had kind of a proprietary system I had come up with where you stored all of your status updates in a giant spreadsheet, all organized by different types of updates so that you could organize your ratio and your mix of account. I want to send inspirational quotes versus my own promotions versus other people’s blog posts. So it was so weird to me that I had to store my status updates in a spreadsheet, which of course if you have images, that doesn’t work, there are lots of problems with that. I’m like, “I pay for a social media publishing tool, why am I keeping my own spreadsheet with my updates?” It’s kind of like if wordpress just sort of sent the blog posts but didn’t keep the blog posts, that’s what a lot of these tools do. So yeah, I had my own process going that I was teaching other entrepreneurs, and they were using it to streamline their social media. So the tool was really built to do what this manual process was doing.
Chris: So I hear a lot of people talk about systems and processes and you get confused where you want process in your business. So you buy tools like yours, like mine. How do you think about software influencing process? How are they related? I’m curious how you think about building-process in business with software.
Laura: Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I’m definitely a believer that there’s kind of two different directions that software can go – some tools prescribe a workflow and some do not. That’s kind of a black and white way to put it. There’s obviously some in between, but if you think of a tool like an air table, which is really popular right now for basically creating spreadsheets and databases and stuff. Air Table is a really cool tool where they’re like, okay, we created this just sort of playground for you. You can do whatever you want with it. There’s a hundred different ways you can use it. There’s a lot of different things you can create on it. Whereas with MeetEdgar, we’re really taking our users through a step-by-step like, “Okay, here’s how you pull your content, here’s some suggested categories of what you want to post on social media.” It’s a very different way to do it where we’re like, “Okay, we know about social media marketing, we have some useful suggestions for you to make this easier.” But of course the downside as a software company is if you don’t like that workflow, if you think it’s a bad idea, obviously our tool isn’t going to work, but the upside is it makes our customer’s lives a lot easier because it takes some of that decision making away from them.
Chris: I’ve never thought about it like that, but I love that. And you know, it’s funny you hear all these tools being called software as a service, as a category, but really providing a process like your tool does is the service that you’re filling that void. Whereas something like air tables, it might just be a utility that’s not providing any kind of service. So that’s really interesting. So I know from building a Sass company what it takes to build a team and a brand. And in reading about you, you’ve put so much emphasis on creating balance in your life and teaching other people to do that. So I’m curious, how do you maintain balance with growing to 5,000 plus customers?
Laura: Yeah, so it’s something that’s been really important to me from day one because, I sort of referenced my previous business that I was teaching social media marketing – that was a thought leader type of business where I was the thought leader, and I was the face of it, I was the teacher. So it was a business that was very dependent on me. I had a small team with a few people, but at the end of the day, I certainly couldn’t sell that business. It couldn’t operate for a year without me. So when I first got into SAS, I was very deliberate and then I wanted to build something that wasn’t dependent on me that could grow without my time. And I also happened to be pregnant when we launched the tool. So I had my first kid when the company was six months old and I took a three-month parental leave then.
Laura: So I obviously knew that that was coming when we launched. So I just, I did things I think very differently than a lot of people. A lot of people in the first year, first few years are doing work 24/7 I’m like, “Ok, I have a newborn baby, I can’t really work 24/7, that’s not going to happen.” And in retrospect, I joke that everyone should, should it be pregnant when they launch their start-up because it has its challenges, but it was a great constraint. Right? It’s like if someone tells you, okay, you can only work 10 hours a week, you’re going to get stuff done in those 10 hours as opposed to the like, you can, oh don’t worry, just procrastinate all day, you can just stay up all night and work. I think I am a believer in setting those limits for ourselves. And that’s something that we do at our company. We work nine to five, we don’t work in the evening. We don’t work on the weekend, ever. That’s not just like, oh, unless we have a, a big project coming up. It’s like, no, we set our own projects, we set our own deadlines, we can, we can decide our pace.
Chris: Yeah. So it’s really being intentional about the culture and setting those boundaries from the beginning it sounds like. And I agree wholeheartedly with you. I think you build your business around your life and so many people get in this in this trap where they just say yes to everything and ended up working 80 hours a week. So how have you resisted that?
Laura: I mean, one, as an entrepreneur, what is the point of getting a job that you don’t like? You know, there’s plenty of jobs out there that I wouldn’t like I could get definitely get a job that I don’t like. If I’m going to create my own business, a big motivation in that for me is creating a job for myself that I really enjoy. And not just for myself, either, but for the other people that I’m working with, I really want everyone who works at meet Edgar to, to really feel like it’s not just a job, right? But it’s something that stretches their brain, stretches their capacity, and enjoy the people that they work with. So it’s just like if we’re going to do it, if we get to be creative, and we get to make all these choices about our company, why not at least aim for building the best thing we can?
Chris: Right. Absolutely. Okay. So changing gears here a little, I read your team is fully remote. Is that still the case? Okay. So we just hired our first remote team member. So it’s very new for us, but how have you always been remote?
Laura: We have, so we’re fully remote. We’ve always been remote. We’ve never had an in person office.
Chris: Wow. So with that kind of setup, how do you, what do you do to keep your team connected and engaged and operating by the company way?
Laura: Oh man, a lot of things are really important when you’re remote. One over the years we’ve discovered that it really is a core part of how we function. It’s not just sort of an extra, like, “Here’s the job. Oh, and it happens to be remote.” So at this point we only hire people with some kind of background in remote work. We need to know that you thrive in working that way already because not everyone thrives in working this way. It drives some people absolutely insane. Not everyone’s built for it, but some people love it and you have to remember to sort of leave lots of evidence of your work and say everything out loud on the Internet. Because a big challenge with remote is that there is no overhearing, there’s no walking by a conversation and joining in.
Laura: So something that we’re always working towards is really limiting the number of one-on-one, private messages. We use Slack like most remote companies do, and we’ve found it problematic in the past, sometimes people will start private messaging a lot, feeling like, oh, I don’t want to bother people, I don’t want to create more noise in Slack, but then you don’t realize how valuable it is to just be able to peek in on other teams channels or for everyone on your team to see what you’re talking about. Those conversations are totally siloed and totally hidden and that really causes problems because there’s zero opportunity for people to sort of quote-unquote walk by and discover them. We found that things like being really conscientious about meeting notes and keeping the notes in a place where everyone can see them and making it really clear to everyone in the team. It’s normal to sit in on other people’s meetings. It’s normal to review meeting notes from other departments just because you’re curious and you want to know what’s going on. We do company wide meetings every Monday. We have a lot of meetings, – meetings aren’t very popular right now. I think meetings are really important because especially when you’re remote, because it sets aside time for us to all connect and spend time live together.
Chris: Right. And do you meet as a whole group or is it by department? I’m just curious.
Laura: Yeah, the whole company every Monday and then our individual teams, their meeting rhythms vary a little bit, but most of them do some sort of planning meeting on Mondays. Sometimes that’s just type-in, sometimes it’s a call and then all the teams do a retro meeting every Friday going over the week. The classic of what went well, what didn’t go well, what we do better.
Chris: That’s great. So even your meeting rhythm has structure. And I think for a remote team, especially the structure is super important, right? If I’ve found that a lot of companies with a remote teams and people logging in everywhere, they have to be better at process in order to make that work.
Laura: I think it’s, it’s absolutely true. And we do something a little bit different at MeetEdgar where, so I’m sort of the exception because I’m not super involved in the day-to-day of of the business at this point. I’m actually in the UK, but the rest of our team is in North America. And so we don’t have a global team. We have that spread from west coast to east coast, but everyone works in normal business working hours. We’re not the type of company where we’re like, log on whenever, get your work done whenever. We all want to be working somewhat simultaneously, again, with that overlap some people earlier in later, but so that we are working from home, but we’re really working together during the day.
Chris: Sure. Okay. So when someone’s working remote you have to get them up to speed when they’re just starting. And I saw online, which I loved that you publish your whole handbook and is, so first, is that the complete handbook or is it just an excerpt?
Laura: It’s most of it. We don’t share everything about our interviewing process because we don’t necessarily want candidates to know everything from our perspective. But actually related to that one of the biggest benefits of having the handbook online has been related to hiring because one if they haven’t read the handbook, they’re not that interested in the company and the job. So they’re probably not a match if they haven’t bothered to read. And if they have read it, they ask us really smart questions because they actually – again, especially being remote people like you can say stuff about your culture, but everyone kind of says the same thing at this point, you know, no one’s like we’re conservative jerks who hate change and innovation, you know, like everyone sort of says the same thing. So being able to read the details of our all, all our policies and our company handbook, it really lets candidates know what we’re like and allows them to really dig in more to what it will be like to work with us.
Chris: How’d you make the decision to share it publicly? What was the idea behind that?
Laura: You know, we really found how valuable it was for us. Again, especially being remote, seeing how other remote companies just do things like how do you, how do you do your sick policy? How do you, you know, how do you know when someone’s at work? It’s like, it’s such a funny question, but different companies have different ways of handling. Okay, how do I know you’re working? Like some companies do time tracking where you actually have to log in all the hours you work. For us, our rule is just if you’re on Slack, you’re at work. If you’re not on Slack, you’re not at work. And so if you’re away for lunch or whatever, just put up a little message on Slack because when you’re remote and you start your first day, it’s like, wait, how do I let anyone know that I’m here and I’m working. So yeah, you just were curious how other remote companies did all those little things. So once we had figured that out for ourselves, we wanted to be helpful and share it with other people.
Chris: So I would love for anyone listening to just go Google this. Go find it on the website because it’s out there. But what I loved about it is it’s such a good peek into your culture as well. Just the, the, you know, reading through it and like you call your management team advocates and you talk about making plans and not goals and you’ve got some really cool perks and you just get a sense of what makes you guys different as a company, which I love.
Laura: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, we, we think that we’ve done some things really well. You know, we do believe that we’ve built a company culture that’s worth emulating. So we also really love the idea that maybe smaller companies, when they’re hiring their very first employees, could maybe look at our handbook and maybe create a culture that’s sort of like ours.
Chris: And it’s a mirror after you. Is there, is there anything that you would call out specifically? I know I gave a few examples, but is there anything in there that your, your applicants or candidates have just loved?
Laura: Well, what people love the most and notice the most is the house cleaning perk. So since everyone works from home that we pay to have your house cleaned once a month. If you worked in an office, obviously we would pay to have the office cleaned. And that’s something interesting because it actually came up during the first, I guess probably the first year, maybe the second year of the business in one of our in-person retreats. We were talking about what do you love about working from home, what do you hate about it? And someone was like, you know what I hate about it? She’s like, “I always feel like I should be cleaning my house. I’m working from home. She’s like, I’m looking around and I’m distracted by my messy house. And then I feel guilty. Like, oh, I should be cleaning.
Laura: I’m looking at the kitchen from where I have my laptop in the living room. I’m thinking, oh, I should be cleaning the kitchen right now.” And she’s like, “It would be amazing if more like an office, it was clean.” And that’s where we got the idea from. And our employees absolutely love it. And you know, people who read about our company always notice that. And it’s so funny because it’s not expensive from our point of view, right. It’s going to be max like a hundred dollars a month, maybe something like that. Often it’s even cheaper.
Chris: That’s so great. And again, it goes back to being people centric and thinking about the person and how do you solve their problems. And so I love that. Okay, so as you’re getting new people up to speed, as we’re going through this onboarding training process, what does that look like beyond the handbook? What is their introduction to your company look like?
Laura: So a lot of it is written documentation. We also assign them a buddy, I’m sure we have some cute name for it that I can’t remember right now. But they have their, you know, they have their work buddy just to say, “Okay, any stupid questions that you feel like you have, this is just someone that you always know that you can message them, and ask and they’re happy to help you.” And back to the meetings, again, just having a lot of meeting time set aside to meet with different people in the company because something else that is weird about being remote is that even though we’re a small team, some roles just don’t get a chance to mix. So our team is about 15 people right now. If we were together in an office, obviously, everyone would know names first of all.
Laura: Second of all, you would end up having lunch coffee with everyone in the office at some point. But our head of finance and our backend engineer really don’t have work that they do together. Right? Maybe the head of finance is asking the engineer, “Why are we spending so much money on this every so often?” And that’s about it. And so creating these opportunities for people just to have video chats when they first join. And it’s also something that we do regularly, weekly just pair up two or three people together for a video chat that maybe they don’t get to talk to you so much and you just have to recognize like it is a little awkward at first. It’s a little weird. Yeah, exactly. It’s just like, okay, we’re supposed to chat now, but you know, it’s awkward for a few minutes and then you get into it and then it’s fine.
Chris: That makes sense though. So beyond the initial training, which is what most people think of when they hear training, another part of training is, is upleveling people and as they’re being promoted through positions, how do they train someone to take over what they used to do? So how do you manage that knowledge transfer in the business?
Laura: I mean it’s an interesting one for us because we are small, right? So we don’t always have that chain of command, right. Where it’s like, okay, we have the junior person and then the regular person and then the senior person. So some of it is just watching and modeling other people in the company that are doing what you want to do. Like the person who’s currently our head of QA she started out in the customer service team that she had not done QA before, but she was just, and if you’re listening and you don’t know what that is, it’s basically bug testing basically for software. She was just a very technically minded person, and she had an interest in doing that and wanted to grow it. So at first it was just like, okay watch us do this, ask questions, we’ll explain things to you for us also, sometimes it’s a mix of like an online course or something like that.
Laura: I know some people on our marketing team right now are taking a course about Facebook ads to learn the latest and greatest there. So, yeah, it’s a mix of just like shadowing people. And we’re also very open with just like, if you’re curious about anything, please ask. If you’re someone on the marketing team who’s like, what is a database exactly? What does that mean to our development team? We’re always really happy for someone to take time and answer that. And, and people love doing that. We find that it’s really not a bother to people. People are really happy that other people are interested in what they do.
Chris: We have every department outline some of their keywords and things like the development team says these things like when a modal pops up, and the customer success teams, like what’s a modal? And so we’ve got kind of like a glossary of terms in our system. It’s kinda fun. Okay, so I know through your consulting work, you know, aside from Edgar, you’re teaching entrepreneurs to build businesses that can run without them. Like we talked about at the beginning is there some common thread through that that you’re sharing? Or some getting started tips that you’d want to leave people with?
Laura: I think the biggest overall tip is that you have to hand over responsibility before you feel a hundred percent ready because you never feel a hundred percent ready. So we have a president who runs the day-to-day of our company and that’s a newer role. She started less than a year ago in that role. So that was sort of the last step for me and you know, handing over the reins. And I had all these excuses about when that was gonna happen. I talked to her being like, okay, I think, you know, I think this is where your role is headed. I think this is what we should do. But then it’s like, okay, well we need to have so many months of training, or we need to to do this a year from now. And literally one day I just woke up, I think I saw some inspirational quote on Instagram.
Laura: You know, that’s like, “Live Your Life for Today” or what, I don’t remember what it was, but for whatever reason, something triggered me to be like, what am I waiting for? Like I’m just gonna, I’m just going to do this. Because any learning that she can do before she has the title, it’s not like we stopped talking after she got that title, right? It’s not like I just expected her to know everything that day. She got that title. Obviously the learning and the training continues. I’m like, why am I waiting for this? I know that I want to do this. I know that she’s the right person for it. She’s excited about it. So I just talked to her that day and I’m like, we’re just going to jump in, and we’re going to do it. And I think whether it’s handing off your first emails to the customer service person and you’re really nervous because you’ve always done that yourself or you’ve always done your bookkeeping yourself or whatever it is. You know, it’s very rare that someone’s like, “oh, I have no concerns about this. I feel totally comfortable with someone else going in.”
Chris: You can never fully prepare someone because you don’t know everything. You can prepare it to an extent, write some things down, but then you have to be there for kind of a transition period. That’s pretty normal I think.
Laura: Yeah, and I think that’s a great point about documentation too, is documentation is great, but then some people get carried away thinking that they’re going to write out an answer for every scenario and everything that can happen and one it’s a waste of time to, no one would ever be able to find this obscure scenario that you’ve written up when the time comes anyway. You know, you want to outline the basics for people and then you just have to get into the real world and see what happens.
Chris: Right. So I totally agree. You can’t get overwhelmed with documentation. You’ve got to document the bare minimum, you know, minimum viable documentation that applies to everyone. So this has been fantastic. I was going back through my notes and a couple of things you said. Say everything out loud on the Internet I think is brilliant and the handover responsibility before you feel ready. So that idea of being transparent, sharing your, your slack channels, saying things out loud, writing them down, and being okay. Handing-off responsibility seems to be a key to a lot of your growth. So I really appreciate you sharing that. One of the things that I know you mentioned as we were just starting to chat was an offer for our guests listening. So, that’s something you want to share.
Laura: Yeah. So if you go to meetedgar.com and use the coupon code PODCAST in all caps, you can get a month free of MeetEdgar. So you don’t have to pay any money. You can check out Edgar. If you’re listening to this, you’re probably into processes because you’re listening to a process podcasts right now. So I feel like you’d probably like me to Edgar, so check it out.
Chris: Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing that and really appreciate your insights, Laura Roeder with meet Edgar, check her out and visit the website and like I said, check out that online handbook. It’s really cool. So thank you Laura for being here today.