You can take the words ‘on board’ quite literally. It’s exactly what we were. The first seven employees, we were on a boat belonging to Katrien Devos, the chairperson of our board of directors. It was the first official team day for our start-up, Embracelet.
A lot has changed in the eight months since then. We have rebranded ourselves as Zembro, seven new colleagues have joined our ranks and we have learnt a host of new things.
Collaboration in a start-up
What I have learnt in the past eight months? Plenty. But least expected, was what I’ve learnt about long-distance collaboration. ‘If we ever want to have a strong collaboration with colleagues abroad, we better make a habit of it now,’ said our CEO, Johan, on that first team day. And he was right. For the first months of the Zembro adventure, we all worked from home, only physically meeting up with each other once a week. And one reason we planned these meetings together was so we could enjoy a meal together!
‘I can’t hear you. Can you hear me? Are you on mute? Am I on mute?!’
Before I worked with Zembro, I didn’t enjoy using Skype, but I got used to it amazingly quickly. When I was working from home, I would call colleagues about six times a day. Whether for a quick question or an hour-long conference call with the whole team, it felt comfortable. Plus, it provided that all-important dose of human contact you need to stop yourself going crazy from the solitude. In the meantime, our team was growing so quickly that we had to laugh at recognisable situations like the one below. But on the whole, it all worked well.
‘Rapid growth,’ is the right term here. I’ve never worked in a team that has doubled its numbers in such a short time. I had only been working with Zembro for a few weeks when I found myself in Antwerp with Dirk, interviewing our future Conversation Manager. An extra engineer followed not long after. And a month later, we had our first Customer Care Officer. By December, we had our Software Engineer and Software Architect on board, had found our Business Creator in France and initial discussions were underway for similar positions in Germany and the UK.
Technical personnel are considerably more difficult to find than you would expect. Despite following 400 people on Twitter who came into consideration for our staffing vacancies, it was difficult to find people who were prepared to leave their comfort zones and join a young start-up company. Just last week there was another applicant who was concerned by the work-life balance of a start-up. She was picturing a company with three staff members who needed to work day and night, all in the hope of surviving for a few months. Fortunately, the reality is very different. Work-life balance is even a part of our vision: ‘We want to connect generations so they can care for each other in the best way possible.’ It would be difficult to make this vision a reality if our own staff members couldn’t be involved with their families!
Small team, big impact
After 260 days, I have not regretted a single second. In such a small organisation, you notice what a big impact you can have on the company. In larger businesses, it sometimes took a few weeks before I knew for sure what was expected of me or how I could make a difference.
Gearing up in a start-up
Every time someone new joins us, you feel our start-up changing up a gear. Some of the work simply wasn’t moving ahead. Perhaps no one had the specific skills, maybe there was so much that had to happen that it never came to be, or only the minimum was being done to ensure survival. But with a new face in the team, these tasks were suddenly taken care of. We all felt the effect of it immediately.
If you’re interested in joining us in the Zembro adventure, you can be sure we’re interested in your talent!
For our digital marketing, I am currently working with a number of freelancers and agencies, but an extra colleague in our core team would help to speed up international plans. Are you a digital marketer or a French-speaking conversation manager? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves to make our vision a reality? Because we would love to hear from you! Send us a letter of introduction with your CV at email@example.com.
Programming or analysing
Our technical team is currently searching for Embedded C developers, a Data Scientist and a project manager … So if you can programme, analyse or coordinate: firstname.lastname@example.org. And feel free to take a look at our other vacancies.
As for me? I’m looking forward to the next 260 days and the next seven new colleagues!
— Kristof Nizet (@kristofnizet) 5 januari 2016