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When kids outnumber the staff, you need a work life balance strategy
Co-founders of Longtail UX, Andreas Dzumla (left) and Will Santow (right)
Fri 7 February 2020 - 6:28 amStartup
Longtail UX is an Australian SaaS startup with a bit of difference; it’s family driven values have determined a great work life balance for staff, influenced largely by the fact that the 30 employees have a total of 32 children between them.
The business was founded in 2013 by internet entrepreneur Will Santow, his developer Shanon Srithingsook and Andreas Dzumla. It all started with a hard coded implementation that Andreas advised Will and Shanon on when Will was his client at Dentsu Aegis. The startup is an automation platform assisting with SEO.
With the children outnumbering the staff, CEO and co-founder Andreas Dzumla says that they want to ensure that they are providing room for work life balance for both parents and non-parents.
He recognises that being a parent can be “demanding at times,” with three of that 32 number being his own children, and four belonging to other co-founder Will Santow.
Andreas is unworried about productivity being negatively affected by flexibility; “Our employees pay us back by being exceptionally driven and diligent, the work gets done, so being flexible with time when needed is never really an issue,” he says.
The startup is also slightly unique in that the employees sit in an older age group than your typical startup; Andreas and Will are 40+ founders.
We asked if it was their intention to hire staff in a similar age group, with Andreas saying it wasn’t planned, but a happy conincidence.
“As a general rule, you probably always replicate your own demographic when you hire in some way,” Andreas says. He adds, “That being said, we have a pretty fun breakout room complete with the stereotypical table-tennis and foosball table!”
Taking age out of it, both founders do have a very strong set of family values and they have set out to hire for “cultural fit” with these values and then “supportively upskill” where required.
To cater for a great work life balance of parents and non-parents alike, Longtail UX has flexible work hours and is very relaxed when it comes to working from home.
This has been part of creating the workplace culture that they are so proud of. Andreas believes culture is illusive, and comes organically.
Read similar: Let’s talk: Culture
“I think the harder you try to shape it, the further it gets from where you want it to be. To a large degree, a genuine culture has to be organic and shaped by the people that form it.
“We simply set out with a core set of values that we refused to budge on – and a hiring mantra I learned from my time at Google: more than anything, hire for personality, skills can be taught.
The core set of values are now made ‘official’ with our five company values: driven, transparency, game changers, collaboration and ‘we care.'”
The single most important and effective factor regarding great workplace culture, for Andreas, is communication. Among the 30 employees, there are 17 birth nationalities, with the ability to speak 16 different languages… so it’s easy to why communication ranks so highly at the startup.
Andreas says that some cultures can, at first experience, come across as very direct, adding “I’m German, I get this!”
He counters this with great communication and understanding; “Giving plenty of opportunities and channels for communication ensures that people feel understood. When you feel understood, you feel respected and valued both of which are big motivators for producing your best.”
Employees are mainly based in Sydney, but there is also team members in the US and Europe. They have ambitious plans of doubling that 30 number by the end of year, whilst keeping their organically-grown, flexible culture.
They had the support of investors from an early stage and with Will’s entrepreneurial background there were many contacts they could use, which included SEEK founder and CEO Andrew Bassat.
The latest round of funding saw a backing of $2.5 million. Australia is currently their main market, but they have customers on five continents, having recently expanded into Japan in late 2019.
We hope to catch up with Longtail UX soon to see how their numbers grow, keeping the work life balance and hopefully pick up some SEO tips for our small business community also.
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