Day in the Life of a Remote Company: Canny

Day in the Life of a Remote CompanyHiring RemoteWorking Remotely

With roots from Facebook, founders Sarah Hum and Andrew Rasmussen have built Canny from the ground up. Bootstrapped, profitable and growing, Canny helps SaaS companies build better products by being better at listening and acting on user feedback.

Digging deeper into this remote-first company has been a pleasure; you can tell interpersonal connections and transparency live at the heart of its culture. In fact, this is the first company profile we've featured that includes commentary from all of the team members! 

Keep reading below to see for yourself -- get to know the awesome people at Canny, its culture and why it's a great place to work.

Company Info

Company name: Canny

HQ: We’re 100% remote/distributed—no HQ at all!

How many people are in your organization?

How many countries or cities do your team span across? We’re spread across three countries—the US, Canada, and Estonia

Day in the Life of

Since we’re nearly all in different timezones, there isn’t really a "typical day" company-wide. A big part of our culture is based around the idea that people do their best work on differing schedules, and that’s okay. We understand people work differently, so people work at different times (plus, we’re all over the world).

And, we value having defined focus time. So, our work structure is built around chunks of focused work, and chunks of meetings—rather than having to switch gears often.

That said, our Mondays (EST) often look a little like this:
  • 6am: Sarah begins her day early. The rest of the East Coast-ers soon follow suit. Elen, in Estonia, has probably already been working for hours.
  • Mornings: Head-down project work.
  • 10am: Jacques tackles the Intercom queue.
  • 10am to 12pm: Sarah and Jacques are available for Canny demos during this time.
  • 12pm: Bri, the latest team member in terms of timezones, gets online (9am PST). At this point, everyone is typically online and available (though Elen will sign off in a couple hours). 
  • 12pm-12:45pm: Canny Cuddle with the whole team on Zoom.
  • 12:45pm-1:45pm: Individual org meetings on Zoom—Elen and Bri usually meet during this time every Monday. Product and engineering meetings also happen after team meetings as needed.
  • Afternoons: Project work; typically no further meetings. We all communicate on Slack as needed.

Why and how did you decide to go remote?

• Andrew and I had both worked in an office prior to Canny and commuted 1+ hours each way. Now our commute is literally 10 seconds which is amazing.

It also means we can work from London one month and Thailand the next. We make work fit with our lifestyle, not the other way around.

As a bootstrapped company, it's hard to compete with salaries from major tech cities. Offering remote roles helps us attract great talent across the world

- Sarah (co-founder)

• Having a remote job doesn't only free you to choose when you work, but also where you work. Having lived in the same place for the past three years, the prospect of becoming a digital nomad was exciting. In the first six months, I traveled to China, Thailand, Japan, Russia, Lisbon, Italy, France, England, Hungary, Croatia, and all over the United States and Canada. 

In that time, I learned that I hated traveling, but I loved visiting family, catching up with old friends, and making new friends in their hometowns all over the world. With this new-found freedom, I was able to discover this interest in relationship building. With a more efficient schedule, I could invest more time into these interests.

- Dan (engineering)

How does Canny advocate for remote work?

• Canny has always been 100% remote—and Sarah and Andrew (Canny’s co-founders) have logged their remote journey on the Canny blog for years. They’ve covered the pros and cons of being digital nomads, as well as what it’s been like to bootstrap a startup while being 100% remote

Recently, Sarah wrote an article where she described what she and Andrew have learned during Canny’s first three years. They also used @carryoncode on Instagram to log their journey as well. Being remote and distributed is built into Canny as a company. 

- Bri (marketing)

How has being remote influenced Canny's organizational structure?

• Everyone has autonomy. No one is looking over your shoulder to micromanage or make sure you’re getting a specific task checked off your list. We’re all empowered to make judgment calls based on our own subject matter expertise. There’s a lot of trust. 

We’re a small team. So, we’re all considered in charge of our specific areas. If we can advocate for why we want to do something, and back it up with data and research, we have trust and support from the rest of the team. There isn’t a culture of micromanagement or need to get extensive sign-offs from various team members before we can test something. This is great because it means we can iterate and test quickly. 

We’re also very collaborative, as we don’t have a traditional hierarchical structure. This means that, for example, even though my role is content marketing, I’ll end up collaborating with Jacques in customer success on an email series that we’ll write together. Since our structure is flatter, we collaborate more—and it makes us both more cohesive as a team and more effective. 

- Bri (marketing)

• Working as an engineer, I became obsessed with efficiency. In true Silicon Valley style, I sought to optimize as many aspects of my routine as I could; set meeting objectives, batch tasks to focus attention, diet, exercise, and even clothing (I've been wearing the same outfit everyday for over a year). 

Yet, the aspects of my life I couldn't figure out how to optimize were all office work-related; commuting 1 to 2 hours a day, corporate busy work, open office distractions, and agenda-less meetings. 

Since starting to work at a remote company, I have completely eliminated these wastes. My commute is virtually nonexistent, I demonstrate value through results rather than appearances, most communication is asynchronous, and synchronous communication is so precious all meetings have explicit objectives. The end result is that I spend a lot more time being productive, and a lot less time doing work that makes me miserable.

- Dan (engineering)

What cultural practices set you apart as a company?

• Our regular team meetups are key—as is the way we set them up. They're less about work-work and more about making sure we spend quality time together and get to bond. They help develop strong relationships that we can then maintain online. 

- Elen (marketing)

• Since I joined Canny this year, travel (and therefore meeting in person) hasn’t been an option. But, we’ve found ways to still have fun together and stay connected. We did a happy hour Zoom call one afternoon where we each gave a Pechakucha presentation on ourselves, played games, and just hung out. It was a great way for everyone to bond, learn about each other, and stay connected. 

As Elen said, it’s about finding ways to connect that aren’t work-related, but more based on building stronger connections and relationships across the team. We work better together as a result, and still get to have fun with each other. 

- Bri (marketing)

What benefits do you offer your employees to ensure they are comfortable in their role and working remotely?

• We make sure our teammates have the equipment they need to be productive.

We go on team retreats several times a year. Remote work is isolating. In-person meetups give us something to look forward to. A big part of our retreats is just hanging out and getting to know each other. We do our best work when we've had a chance to connect personally.

- Sarah (co-founder)

• On a practical note, Canny supplies us with equipment if we need it (like a new laptop), and we each have a monthly remote work stipend to put toward costs like a gym membership or coworking space. 

- Bri (marketing)

How do you address common remote challenges for your employees?

• Our Canny Cuddles (our team meetings) on Mondays and Fridays are a good balance of face time and undisturbed focus time. We also have weekly 1:1s to talk about life, work, questions/concerns, goals, whatever. We use Slack for easy communication, and Zoom for more detailed communication.

- Sarah (co-founder)

How do your employees measure the impact of their work?

• We keep track of high-level KPIs and review them on a monthly basis. Everybody is responsible for working on projects that push those KPIs.

Apart from metrics, we are very close to our customers. It's great to hear feedback directly from them on how Canny helps them build great products.

- Sarah (co-founder)

What’s your tool stack?

  • Canny: Of course we use Canny internally as well. It's important to know our product from top to bottom.
  • Notion: As a remote team, we should be diligent about writing things down. All our docs are stored here, in Notion.
  • Slack: We use Slack for day-to-day team communication. 
  • Zoom: We use Zoom for team meetings and customer demos. 
  • Intercom: We use Intercom to talk to our customers. We need to be able to step into their shoes.
  • Profitwell: We use ProfitWell to keep a pulse on important metrics like revenue and churn. This is everything on how Canny is doing as a business. The better work we do, the better these charts will look.
  • Airtable: We use Airtable for anything that makes sense to see in a spreadsheet.
  • Mixpanel: We're trying out Mixpanel to track our funnel over time.
  • Google Analytics: We run Google Analytics on every Canny property to keep track of website traffic and other metrics.
  • Stripe: We use Stripe to manage our billing and payment processing. 
  • G Suite: We use G Suite for our calendars, and we use Google Docs and Sheets to collaborate as well. 
  • Missive: We use Missive as our email client. We can manage shared inboxes and chat within email threads.
  • LastPass: We use LastPass to manage our passwords.
  • Ahrefs: We use Ahrefs on the marketing team to track key metrics. 
  • Additional engineering tools: Atom, Github, Sentry, MongoDB Atlas, AWS, Mailgun, Pingdom, PagerDuty, CircleCI

Why do you believe remote work is here to stay?

• It allows people to live wherever they want to rather than being forced into large cities. Depending on the job, you can also build your own hours, which may allow you to have a more productive day that fits your schedule.

- Jake (engineering)

• In an office, it’s easier to give the appearance of productivity. Remote, it’s way harder—you might as well be productive.

- Dan (engineering)

• When you work remotely, it’s all about whether or not you’re actually being effective. It cuts down on fluff—meetings without substance, busywork, etc. You have to get a lot more clear on what you’re delivering, communicate effectively, and then follow through. 

I love remote work because at the end of the day, I’m able to structure my workday in a way that suits my lifestyle. Some days, that means a normal 9 to 5 schedule. Other days, I might take a break in the middle of the day and work longer in the evening. 

With remote work, what ultimately matters is that you’re communicating effectively and doing a great job with your work—not putting in face time for the sake of it. 

- Bri (marketing)

What advice do you have for companies who want to go either fully remote or hybrid? 

• Trust is key. If you don't trust your employees to do their job without constant monitoring, you're gonna have a bad time.

- Jacques (customer success)

• It’s also important to break down big projects into smaller pieces that a single teammate can take responsibility of. Poorly designed tasks require more communication, and more communication incurs lag and error, which is no bueno.

- Dan (engineering)

• Getting clear on what needs to be done, and tying it to KPIs when possible, is essential. Since remote work is more about delivering on specific work rather than simply being present, being able to clearly define the scope of that work matters. 

- Bri (marketing)

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