SaaSBoomi’s execution relies on a very lean, but effective full time staff. They own some of the critical initiatives at SaaSBoomi and coordinate the remaining ones that are driven by our army of volunteers. We’ve always kept improvising on our remote work culture, to keep it conscious and at the same time effective. One thing we did recently during our off-site in November 2023 was to nudge everyone to share their respective User Manuals.
User Manual is exactly what the term suggests – it lists a few best practices that enable a user to work with you in the most effective way. We are all used to user manuals for electronic appliances and softwares, just that it’s for a person here. It’s a candid approach of sharing what’s the best way to collaborate with you, so that it’s a win-win for everyone. And unlike in the case of the appliances, the user also gets to empathize with you, and respect your small quirks at work that keep you going (we all have them).
It’s a great way to build a culture of mutual trust and respect – precisely what you need in a lean high performing team. User manuals are discussed in detail in High Growth Handbook by Elad Gill and used by companies like Atlassian. I would encourage you to check it out if you are keen to build a good work culture at your startup.
In this post, I’m motivated to share my User Manual with all of you. My work at SaaSBoomi requires me to interface not just with our internal team, but also with volunteers and other external stakeholders. And if all of you can get more value from knowing how I operate then why not share my manual with everyone, I thought. Please note that the manual is a work in progress, but I’ll try and keep it updated. So let’s get started.
- At work, my priority order goes like: SaaSBoomi staff & stakeholders > SaaSBoomi volunteers > Others. With volunteers and internal staff at SaaSBoomi, I try to respond to open threads within 2-4 hours. My motivation is to unblock or close threads as soon as I can so that I don’t remain a blocker.
- I don’t know everything about running an organization like SaaSBoomi. In fact I don’t know most of the things. But I believe it’s important to take decisions and keep moving. I’m okay with being on the wrong side when I take these calls, since we could correct that and iterate in most circumstances. On the other hand, I believe what’s critical is to act fast and not waste time. If we got a decision wrong, we could always rectify and move forward.
- Having spent three decades serving the startup community in India, I would like to believe I have developed a knack for finding the right person for a given job. This has been very helpful in my journey in building a volunteer-driven organization at SaaSBoomi. I try to use this ability to connect people in the ecosystem too.
- At my work, I do encounter situations where I’m required to be good at analyzing data, articulating scope of an effort and other management skills. While I’m not great at them, I’m grateful for the staff, volunteers, friends and well-wishers who help me with these aspects and help me get the job done as CEO of SaaSBoomi. It also helps here that I have developed a sense of appreciation for fine work.
- When it comes to communication, I’m accessible on email and WhatsApp chat. I try to respond quickly so that others are not blocked on me. I also prefer chatting over being called on WhatsApp. If someone wants to have a call, I appreciate it if the person reaches out to find a time so that we can do a planned call.
- I try to comply with my calendar with discipline. If I have a call on the calendar, I’ll do my best to make it happen. While sending calendar invites, I appreciate it if the sender is able to add some context for the conversation. With meeting new people every day, attending many meetings, I tend to struggle to remember the context of conversations and even recall the name of the person who I’m meeting at times, and I’m not getting any younger. I’ll also be more productive in the call this way since I’ve now started building the habit of reading up before calls. So it would mean a lot to me if the sender keeps this in mind while initiating a conversation with me.
- I get a lot of enquiries from founders and operators who want to volunteer at SaaSBoomi. I thought it would be helpful to share a bit about how I engage with volunteer prospects. From my experience, the best volunteers are givers who can give time and create value for others without any expectations (ironically the same people also tell me SaaSBoomi has provided them more than what they’ve given). So for a prospect, my motivation is to evaluate if the person can give to the community and do it with reasonable quality. Most of the time the evaluation happens in the form of a task that I give them, more like a volunteering assignment. If it goes well, I give them more responsibilities to pick up, based on their area of interest and bandwidth. Even if a volunteering assignment doesn’t go well, you can expect me to give feedback about the work you did – it’s one thing others appreciate in their interactions with me and it usually helps the other person in whatever they do.
- I’m mostly on the move as part of my job. On a given work day, I go through email and WhatsApp between 7 and 7:30 – this gives me an opportunity to look for anything very critical and act on it. I officially start my day at 9:30 am, post which I should be more responsive on communication channels. I like to take a 30 mins nap in the afternoon, post which I continue with work till 6:30 pm. At 6:30 pm, I like to go for a walk in the park. After 7:30 pm, it’s mostly time with family unless there’s something critical that I’d need to coordinate between time zones. By 8:30 pm, I switch off from all work and spend time with family. Before sleeping, I check all communication channels at 10 pm one last time to ensure no one’s blocked on me.
- On an average work day, I attend around 10 Zoom calls, 7 audio calls, do a few 2-way patches, and reply to 40 emails. I wanted to share this to give you an idea of my work schedule. It can get a bit overwhelming for me some days, but most days I manage to navigate through them just fine and I’m grateful that I get to do work that I enjoy.
Now that you’ve gone through my manual, I sincerely hope I can be of better service to you than before. 😇🙏
Thanks to Matthew John who helped in capturing this for me. His original inspiration was User Manual at Work.