The Goldilocks of team expansion

Build a team that profits

Hey there -

Welcome back for another bite to chew on.

Today, we’re covering how to grow your team the right way - considerations for employee onboarding, optimal team size, and our take on the remote vs. in office debate. 

Let’s face it, the people that work for your brand matter a lot. You want them to have a great experience so they stay on and thrive.

One way to develop employee strength on day one is having a plan for integrating them into the team. 

But before we dive in, we want to share a resource you can leverage for product expansion in the apparel category. 

One way to increase AOV and LTV is expanding the products you sell on your site. 

But how do you know what fashion brands are popular and will drive growth? - an ecommerce intelligence company providing in-depth analysis on retail brands – and Chew On This have partnered to put it all together for you.

If you were ever wondering which DTC brands are the fastest growing –  how they market, traffic mix, paid media trends, Amazon presence, and social media followers - you won’t want to miss this report.  

Imagine seeing the leaderboard for the fastest growing fashion brands. Get all the facts and figures you need to determine if a brand is a good fit. 

Now back to our topic on team hiring and onboarding – 

Establishing a Clear Onboarding Plan 

We did not get this right at first. 

Sure, we’ve done our fair share of team bonding and celebrating birthdays. 

But we didn’t have an onboarding day - a formal program where we sit down with new employees and train them on the products and the history of Obvi. 

A day that ensures they mesh with the team AND the brand as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our onboarding was more like, “Here are the tasks I need you to do today.” 😬

And by the way, the products here are on the wall. Just make sure you read the labels.

We needed to create a system to empower people. 

So what did we do differently for onboarding employees? 

For new hires at Obvi as well as Chew On This and GaaS, we established a solid onboarding process to get new hires immersed quickly. 

We created a mini internal course that gives employees all the context they need on everything we are working on. 

We start with crystal clear expectations:

  • The company vision and values 

  • How their role ladders up to the vision  

  • The goal for the role and clear expectations on why they were hired 

  • How they will be measured - the exact KPIs they’re responsible for

  • How their career can grow if you do a good job at the role

  • Overarching goal of the individual team they’ll be working on

  • A clear statement of the problems they were hired to solve

  • How they can help solve those problems

  • The quantitative metrics for what it looks like when the problem is fixed

  • A sample of what their day to day will look like - typical tasks and responsibilities

  • Systems access - tools and process 

Employee Onboarding Timeline

It’s safe to assume you will need to handhold any new employee. And of course it’s important to have patience in the beginning and treat people with grace. 

With that said, we make it really clear what they need to deliver within a certain timeframe:

We lay out what they need to do in the first week - first two weeks. From there we have a 30, 60, 90 day plan. 

With new hires, make sure to have fast feedback loops in place. If an employee is doing something completely wrong, see how you can correct the behavior quickly. 

And if they are crushing it right out of the gate 🎉⭐️ … give that positive reinforcement. 

It’s a common saying that recruiters spend 5% of their time recruiting and 95% of the time making up for their mistakes.

A solid onboarding program will ensure you can train new employees on the best habits from the start. 

So if you make a mistake in hiring, you will know it within that first two weeks of onboarding and you can gracefully part ways – nobody needs to feel bad that it just wasn’t a fit. 

Establishing this onboarding program across our different businesses took some work. 

But if you want exceptional talent to stick around a year, two years, five years, isn’t it worth investing your time up front so every new employee can hit the ground running? 

Speaking of employee retention and team size… 

Staying Lean vs. Maximizing Growth

Some brands stay lean simply because they aren’t sure how to grow efficiently.

They don’t want to fatten up because they’ve seen people really screw up. It feels safer to stay lean and profitable. It just works. 

Even if you can see a path to incremental revenue, maybe it’s just simpler to stay lean. 

Sometimes extra headcount simply didn’t move the needle for us.  

After hiring several people and having check-ins 15 minutes/week, it was adding up to 3 hours of weekly meetings. That was hours of time spent doing less productive things. 

At first, we weren’t the best managers. 

The system we had at Obvi required a lot of spoon feeding and helping employees get carried to the next step. 

So leaning up our ranks worked better for us at this stage of the business.

With a smaller team, everyone is more focused on the things that matter most. There are fewer people and processes to deal with, and there are fewer distractions. 

Instead of worrying about what others are doing or not doing (are they even coachable??) our power players can just spend more time doing their jobs even better. 

Fewer people = no distractions = more time spent in the zone doing deep work. 

And it kind of sucks to say this but ever since we leaned up at Obvi - the focus is just back for us.

But we are in a different place with our Chew On This and GaaS teams.

Transforming into a well oiled machine

We talked to quite a few brands that followed the Amazon model where you have 3-5 minute meetings. 

Meetings are only to discuss blockers and what’s broken. Intriguing, right?

Then we adopted the management principles known as single threaded leadership. 

This is where one person is fully accountable for a specific project or business area. The leader is dedicated solely to that project and doesn’t have other responsibilities. 

It works best when you give them authority and resources to drive the project to success - there is no dilution of attention or effort. 

The single threaded leader is fully accountable for the success or failure of the project. This clear line of responsibility helps in quicker decision-making and accountability.

These teams operate with a high degree of autonomy, allowing them to make decisions fast and adapt to changes with zero bureaucracy.

Keep teams small

The more people you add to the team, the slower the team delivers. Once you have 5-6 people on the team, it becomes less efficient due to the increasing complexity of communication channels.

For any new project, the optimal number for us is 2-3 people. It's the sweet spot for high velocity output by keeping the lines of communication super tight.  

Measure What Matters - Agency Relationships 

For Obvi, we work with a lot of agencies. In the beginning we were micromanaging and this defeated the purpose.  

We realized we needed to become ruthless about setting clear goals and expectations. 

We want to ensure the agency has all the power and resources they need to hit our agreed KPIs. 

Above all, we expect clear communication. Messages cannot go unanswered longer than 30-60 min during working hours.

If the agency team isn’t able to reach established KPIs, then we discuss what plan is together.

If for whatever reason we can’t reach the goals we assess why. If the partnership is no longer a good fit we move on. 

We manage these relationships fully remote and it’s successful because we set the right expectations and have clear communications.

Tool of the Week

Before we weigh in on the remote vs. in-office debate, let’s look at our featured tool of the week:

Of all the brands we talk to there is one common takeaway that is the driving force for brand growth…

Their effective use of upsell tactics - cart upsells, post-purchase offers, and various touch points throughout the customer journey.

And we ‘eventually’ started implementing these tactics efficiently - but not at first.

Initially, we took a DIY approach, experimenting with different ads, landing pages, buy boxes, and engaging web developers to build our post-purchase flows. 

But… we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were missing a piece of the puzzle. Despite our efforts, our AOV stayed stagnant between $42 and $45.

Realizing that our current approach was getting us nowhere, we pivoted to using Shopify apps and discovered Aftersell

And it was one of the best discoveries we’ve made yet.

We've previously shared how Aftersell transformed our customer journey, but the results speak for themselves.

Aftersell has not only added $7-$8 per order BUT also boosted our AOV by 18%. 

On top of all that, their Network Offers have given us an extra $0.45 of pure profit - per order. 

This feature allows companies like Hulu, Venmo, Disney+, etc. to place ads on your confirmation pages, and every click means money in your pocket.

Easy, automated, and ZERO cost. Pure profit.

The Aftersell team handles everything from start to finish, making the integration seamless…

And after nearly a year of using their platform, we’re still seeing incremental growth.

We can’t recommend them enough. Learn more about Aftersell.

The Remote vs. In-Office Debate

What model is right for your brand?

Ben from True Classic told us how he avoids hours of time-sucking meetings by having all check-ins in Slack. There are no conference room meetings because the whole company is remote. 

At Obvi, we were once adamant about everyone being in the office, but our approach is evolving as we’ve expanded business lines with different go-to-market motions and require different teams, processes, and expertise.

With in-office, you know where your employees are and everything they are doing, so you have constant check-ins.

You have the camaraderie of being together everyday and it's just easier to build your culture.

Employees spending time together care about the company more because every day they see how the founders care about the company. 

Obvi is located in Kearny, New Jersey in what’s basically a shipyard. There’s no public transportation and it’s not close to anything. 

The talent pool is scarce! Yet the model is working based on the needs of the business at this time.

For Obvi, the challenges are less about people because it’s a less people intensive operation. Instead we deal with many more challenges with regards to inventory and cash + finances.

Chew On This started as a remote first team - out of pure necessity. We built the systems to operate remotely from the start. 

With remote, it’s so much easier to hire and find people with really unique skills. 

We found that being remote forces you to have a more disciplined process with efficient check-ins.  

To be honest, the system Chew On This operates with is pretty cut throat. There is heavy operational process with intense coordination between teams, partners, and clients.  But for remote to work, you pretty much have to be cut throat. Right? 

Our logistics need to be super tight. So we know what everyone is working on even though we aren’t sitting next to them. 

Strategic Synergy Safari, Anyone? 

A lot of brands we talk to with remote teams are now investing in quarterly off sites. This brings the team together to get to know each other personally.

You have the advantage of taking some time out of the daily grind for longer term strategy sessions…  and have some fun along the way.

Back in the home office, you can focus on deep work and execution. 

Finding Your Sweet Spot

The operating model that works best will depend heavily on individual preferences and the type of workload. 

Communication is definitely faster when you’re in the same room and learning happens through osmosis. 

If you’re on a remote team, you need to be significantly better at communication + keeping your teammates updates since they won’t pick up things within an office environment. 

When you have creative talent that needs uninterrupted stretches to do great work, you need to ensure to give them that space whether it’s carving out some WFH time, a quiet place in the office, or blocking off calendars with no meeting days.

We would love to hear your perspectives on operating remote teams. 

Reach out and tweet us - Ron’s Twitter - Ash’s Twitter

Don’t miss Wednesday’s newsletter - we are sharing our entire journey on how we raised $2.2MM and created an investor pool of trusted advisors in the process. 

This raise was the unlock that helped us launch in four new marketing channels, scaling the business faster than we could have imagined. 

Thanks for tuning in and being part of our journey.

Ron and Ash