Life at Surfboard
We often get asked what it’s like working at Surfboard, and at an early stage start-up more generally. So here’s a run down of life at Surfboard! 🏄
We think there’s great value in in-person collaboration, especially at our early stage where we’re still small and things change quickly. Remote working tools are great, but there’s nothing quite like getting round a real whiteboard to talk through a problem together.
Right now Surfboard’s home is a co-working space called Huckletree in Shoreditch. We’re usually in the office Tuesdays and Thursdays, and working remotely the rest of the time. But like everything, we’re flexible and we’ll tweak this as the team grows and our needs change. That flexibility applies to our working hours too, providing it doesn’t affect our ability to collaborate as a team.
Working together in person every week also gives us plenty of opportunity to socialise. Being a small close-knit team is one of the best things about an early stage start-up, so we’re cherishing that while we’re still at a size where it’s feasible for the entire company to fit round one table.
Most days in the office we’ll head for lunch together, current favourites being Farmer J, Chipotle and Yolk. And on Thursdays we usually head for a post-work drink. These are mostly occasions to hang out socially and talk non-work stuff, but are also a great opportunity to occasionally get others’ input on tricky work challenges in an informal setting.
When a new team member joins Surfboard, we all get together for a “fika” – a social break with coffee and a sweet treat. This is not just an excuse to eat cake first thing in the morning, but also serves as a great way to break the ice and for the new joiner to get to know the team, and vice-versa. And because everyone’s different, we’ve each written a brief “operating manual” covering our personalities, working preferences and communication styles, which helps make sure we have an inclusive culture that works for everyone.
We work together as a single cross-functional team. We intentionally keep our processes and meetings very lightweight, only adding process where it’s really needed. We’re not a fully asynchronous company, but we do try to keep recurring meetings to a minimum, and document as much as possible to be read offline.
In practical terms that means we work in one week sprints, getting together each Monday morning to set a goal for the week and to figure out what we need to do to achieve it. Mid week we have a short catch-up to remove any blockers that can’t be resolved over Slack, and each Friday we reflect on the week, alternating between a show & tell and a retro. We find these are great for keeping everyone looped in to what the rest of the team is doing.
Keeping the whole team fully invested in the company is really important to us, and goes beyond everyone getting equity. It also means being very transparent – letting us all see how a start-up really works – and where possible giving the team a say on decisions that affect our long term future, such as strategy and funding. To help us step away from the day-to-day we have roughly-quarterly off-sites to dedicate some time to thinking and talking about the bigger picture.
We have ambitious goals for our growth over the next 18 months, and have a company-wide strategy in place for getting there, which we revisit monthly. Each quarter we go into more detail and set OKRs for the team. OKRs have a reputation for causing a lot of stress in some companies, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We use them simply as a tool for creating alignment – to make sure we’re talking about our priorities, and how we’ll know if we’re succeeding. We all work hard to achieve our goals, but we accept building a company is fundamentally uncertain, so we don’t beat ourselves up if we don’t hit every single OKR.
There’s lots to love about working at such a small early stage company. It comes with hard work and some uncertainty, but the reward is that if we make it we know we’ll all have played a big part in the success. We’re always looking for great people to join team Surfboard, so if this sounds like an environment you’d like to work in, check out our careers page.