In this episode, we were fortunate enough to speak to Darren Buckner, CEO and Founder of Workfrom.co. Darren's background is an inspiring and unique one (he was a bouncer in Vegas before teaching himself how to code). He had many lessons and stories to share that will help you on your entrepreneurial or remote work journey!
Workfrom is a platform connecting mobile workers and spaces to work. They're capturing the world’s workable spaces online and connecting a new generation of professionals with resources needed to thrive outside an office.
With they're new Homebase feature, you can get access to a flexible co working solution that works best for you! Check it out here.
Darren's book he would force everyone to read: Essentialism, by Greg Mckgeown
Matt H: [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, my name is Matt Hollingsworth, and welcome to another episode of the Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you buy WeWork Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, WeWork Remotely is the most effective way to hire. My guest on today's show is
Darren Buckner. Darren is the CEO and founder from Workfrom.co, a platform connecting mobile workers with the best spaces to work and connecting a new generation of professionals with resources needed to thrive outside an office. Darren has a fascinating story from being a bouncer to a self-taught software engineer to an app developer for the NFL, and finally to founding and running WorkFrom.co. He has a ton of insights that can help aspiring entrepreneurs and managers. I encourage you to check out WorkFrom.co ifyou're interested in learning more, and make sure to follow Darren on social media, so Darren, thanks for coming on the Remote Show. We really appreciate it.
Darren Buckner: [00:01:03] Thanks for having me.
Matt H: [00:01:05] So, the place that I like to start with these podcasts, because I think it's fascinating, is where you got your start. So your background a little bit and what you were doing before, and then we can kind of go into what WorkFrom is up to right now, but where did you get your start, and what were you doing before WorkFrom?
Darren Buckner: [00:01:20] Well, just before WorkFrom, for most of my career I worked as a software engineer, so I worked for companies like the NFL, NBC, as well as a lot of smaller companies, building applications, building mostly web-based software, but before that even, I was in a wholedifferent track. I used to be a bouncer in nightclubs. It's fun to talk about that, because people often wonder how did you go from being a bouncer to even a software engineer? But I enjoyed learning, and I taught myself how to code. When I would come home after working from nightclubs every day I would spend another four or five hours learning how to code, so it happened a little slower than maybe for others, but eventually I realized that nightclubs probably weren't my future. I loved software and loved building, loved creating, and ultimately decided to see if I could get some work in that industry. Things moved pretty quickly from there.
Matt H: [00:02:13] Yeah, I'd be curious to know how you went about teaching yourself to code, because I've heard that a couple of times, and I haven't really been able to dig into just your process and what tools you used and if you used a coding bootcamp or something online. How did youget started in coding?
Darren Buckner: [00:02:28] That's a great question. You know, at the time that I started we didn't have a lot of the tools that are available today. Without dating myself too much, there weren't a lot of the resourcesthat are available online for free or otherwise. There weren't code schools that I knew of certainly, so I had to rely on mostly information that had been published in different ways. I read a lot of books. I also did look at a lot of information online, but it wasn't as well aggregated or sort of presented as it is today. It was a lot of kind of trial and error. I spent time coding in really basic tools like some of you out there might remember writing code in things like Notepad. I certainly have had my share of that. I also just looked for help from other peers. I had a couple of folks who were also learning around the same time, so we would spend time together teaching, building, breaking, rebuilding, and that's basically how it happened. It took a while. It wasn't an 18 month program or anything like that. It took me probably the better part of five years to get to where I felt like I was able to be employed as a software engineer.
Matt H: [00:03:32] Fascinating, and so when you got your first job, or when you decided that you had the marketable skills that you needed to be able to get to your first job, who took you on and how did that process go? Because not having the degree or not having the specific boot camp qualifications that I think are common these days, I'd be curious to know who took you on and how that process went.
Darren Buckner: [00:03:53] Yeah, you know, it's definitely self taught in that regard, so no credentials other than my ability to actually produce. Myfirst gig was a very small role with a business that was doing web development kind of services for local area. It was in Las Vegas. Again, I was a bouncer just before that, and I was a bouncer in Las Vegas, so when I made the switch I started work for a company there that, like I said, did web design and other kind of services in that area. They just needed somebody who could build and could create these things, and I was able to prove that. Pretty quickly, though, I realized that my skill set was applicable with maybe larger scale, or with larger organizations, large applications. It was what I got excited about more than building smaller sites, which I had been doing for a while. It was one of the ways that I had learned, so I started to look a little further. I ended up working with a recruiter, I believe, and ultimately got recruited by a company called Shopzilla and a few others in Los Angeles area. And decided to move to Los Angeles to work for one of those companies. That was about the time when I really went full into software as a career and as a passion of mine, so the move from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and working for a larger company. At the time I think there was about 350 employees. That's really what launched me into (inaudible) .
Matt H: [00:05:13] So what was it about coding itself that got you excited? Was it the building aspect of it, or was it something, maybe friends or mentors that you had that kind of led you into that role? What was exciting about coding at the time? And maybe the timing is important too. Maybe it was lots of things were happening within tech at that point, and it was just kind of an exciting place to be, but was there anything specifically that really got you excited about being a coder?
Darren Buckner: [00:05:36] Well, yeah, absolutely. I think it's the creation piece. What I love about software in general, but obviously building software, is you can approach something and you can approach a problem, or a need, you can build against that, you can see the progress that you're making. You have these really tight feedback loops around whether or not that's getting accomplished, and that whole experience right there is what I love about software. You know, it can be found in a lot of different areas where you create, but it just kind of strikes the part of my brain that loves the creation but also the organization and the presentation of things, so it was something that when I first tried it I remember I took a class, an intro to web development, my first year in college. When I first tried that and saw that happen when I wrote a couple lines of code, you know, hit refresh, save and then refresh and then saw it happen on the screen or appear on the screen I thought oh, this is wonderful, so I think it's something in that creation and that feedback loop that I really love.
Matt H: [00:06:32] Yeah, and what was the timeframe with that? When did you get involved with the programming aspect of it?
Darren Buckner: [00:06:38] Well, I started, let's see, do the quick math. Iprobably was teaching myself back in 2004, 2005, and I was well into it probably at that point, just exploring and teaching and learning. But, I think my first full time job as an application developer, which I think was my first title, was in 2007, 2008, so it's definitely been over 10 years sinceI'd been building this way, but it took about, yeah, about four or five years before I got to that point.
Matt H: [00:07:13] And when you were working at these different companies you mentioned that you were working remotely for the most part. Was that from the get go? At what point and what phase in your career did remote work become really big for you personally? I'd be curious to know about bigger organization, how the components of remotework operate and how people work remotely in a bigger organization.
Darren Buckner: [00:07:34] Absolutely, so you know, at the time, remotework certainly wasn't as popular as it is today, you know, and we've seen this accelerate quite quickly over the last decade, and the acceleration has been increasing in the last few years, but at the time it was still something that I had to fight for. Luckily, I had some pretty forward thinking managers and teammates who saw the value of the outcomes that I could produce more than the hours in which that happened or the location in which that happened. I remember pretty clearly the moment I realized that I was doing a ton of work for the company I worked for at the time outside of the office. Even though I was still going into the office nine to five, I was producing quite a bit more later in the evening, sometimes into the night, and that I worked best when I was able to align with when my creativity and my focus and my sort of flow, or the zone a lot of us like to call it. When I hit that zone, it was the best place for me to be, and it was really hard for me to time box that between nine to five, and it was also really hard for me to put it into a certain location. I found that I would get inspired by a variety of locations. Sometimes I needed the buzz of people around me, you know, like in a café or a coffee shop, a coworking space to kind of get to that zone. Sometimes I needed it quiet. Sometimes I needed to be in a park in Santa Monica that has free public wifi and the ability for me to write code while sitting on a bench looking at the ocean. These were the things that I realized were best for my work style, so I begun to fight for that. I started to ask for the ability to work remotely, andI challenged my teammates and those who would give me that access to see if I could be more productive, see if I lost any productivity, but also acknowledge if I was able to be more productive working this way and see if it was something that any of us could do if we needed to.
Matt H: [00:09:24] Yeah, and during that time, what was the response typically? It sounds like you're one of those people that is more productive working at home, or choosing the place that you work. Did it end up being that your teammates went that direction as well? What was the relationship amongst your team about remote work?
Darren Buckner: [00:09:41] Yeah, if I recall, there were definitely a few teammates who, at about the same time, started to work more remotely as well. It wasn't like we showed up on a Monday and by Tuesday we were all working remotely full time. But I think it was a little more like a day or two a week we would decide just sort of arbitrarily how we were feeling if we felt like we'd be able to be more productive at home we would just do that. Then, over time, people found their kind of natural mix. We didn't have too many limitations put on that, so again, if we were getting our work done and able to communicate correctly and feel like we weren't too disconnected from what everybody else was doing in the office, then we could use our discretion. I found that others would use that discretion differently. Some, I think pretty quickly, ended up being kind of full time remote, but others just when they needed or just when it would be more conducive to, frankly, the way their life was unfolding, the things they needed to get done on a daily basis to be sort of a whole human and oftenI found that the people would work remote when they needed to do other things that would otherwise conflict with being in the office. So, it just gave folks, I think, a great opportunity to kind of craft their workaround their life versus their life around their work, and certainly a lot of folks on our team decided to do some of that.
Matt H: [00:10:53] I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on how somebody working in a bigger organization would go about asking for remote work as an option, similar to what you did, and why you saw it to be effective. How would somebody approach their management or their boss to maybe ask for the option of working remotely? What would be the best way of doing that do you think?
Darren Buckner: [00:11:13] Sure, I think obviously there's probably no one size fits all approach, but I do think first of all there got to be trust in your teammates that exist, with your managers, with whoever else in the organization that would be sanctioning this or otherwise. There's got to be some trust. There's got to be an acknowledgement that you're a great member of the team and that how you contribute is what's important, not necessarily the ways in which you do that, or the technical ways in which you do that, so I think if you feel like you have the trust already then you should approach it from either I'm doing a lot of this work outside of the office already. I find myself to be productive outside of these walls and I'd like to do more of that and see what kind of boost I can get from it, whether that's productivity boost and outcomes when I'm producing with the team, or boost to my personal well being. You know, that's also very important. So, I would say, you know, if you feel like that's an accurate thing for you then say, "Hey, this is already happening to some degree. Let's try being a little more intentional about itand see what happens. We can set up whatever parameters we need to or whatever kind of check-ins. We can gauge this together, but let's try that."Another approach might be more of the let's just test this and see what happens. I think that this is something that could be a big benefit for either myself or the team, and I'd like to try doing some of this as a test. I've seen this has been pretty common with the teams who haven't startedas remote first are looking at using remote work as an opportunity to help with their teams in a variety of ways. They'll try it for a day or a couple of days a week, or maybe even just half a day kind of thing, and just dip their toes in the water a little bit, see whathappens, see that everything doesn't break, see that actually things generally improve. Then, I think it becomes very easy to buy in fully. It's just some people need to dip their toe in a little bit more, so, that's how I'dapproach it. Either say, "Look, this is happening and I'd like to try to do more of it with your support," or, "You know, let's test this. Let's see if this is something that would work for us, because we know it's working for a lot of other organizations."
Matt H: [00:13:21] Yeah, no, I think that's probably the best way of doingit, and it's also the pushback at least that I have heard people experience from their management team is that I think it just comes down to the unknown a little bit, and it's just not something that's familiar to them, so all of the typical management style approaches that they have in their heads might lend themselves to having to be in the office at all times, so ifyou do have that gradual approach, it might be a little bit more palatable for your management team to let you do that. I also think too, just for this (inaudible) without going too much on a tangent, there are tools available out there for people to track their time, whether it's just on an individual basis or something that you can present to your manager, for example, to let them know that you're on the right track and you're spending your timeappropriately. One of the tools that I use personally is Rescue Time. It's something I hearquite often from people that I talk to. So, if you're looking for something like that, if you hear that that is a response, then there are tools available, and I would suggest Rescue Time. (inaudible) that even my management team is forcing me to do that, but I just find it's a nice way of keeping track of my own time and being aware of how I'm spending it. Anyway, something else just as an add on to what you were saying there.
Darren Buckner: [00:14:30] Absolutely. I think there are a host of tools available to not only measure your productivity and help you be more productive, but also really immerse yourself in a culture of working remote, which is, I think, very important and something you'll hear me talka lot about. I think about how we've built infrastructure for working in an office over the last 100, 150 years, and I've studied a lot about how officescame to be and why is it that we work in offices today, certainly in knowledge work areas or professions. And without going into that too much, I think information exchange used to be quite expensive, so that was one of the reasons why you would collocate with the other people in the organization, so that you could exchange information quickly and collaborate in that sort of a way. As technology has changed that, especially in the last decade or so, the cost of exchanging information doesn't exist, and we have to kind of rethink how we are going to be working over the next 100 years and whether or not collocating is actually the most productive, the most beneficial for all of us, or if that's just legacy for what used to be quite a strong argument for being the best you could be. In fact, maybe even a requirement in many cases. That's just not the work we live in anymore, soI think we need to really be rethinking our infrastructure and how we're going to build new infrastructure for what is an entirely new type of workforce and certainly the ability to leverage technology and share information without any additional costs. I think that's really what's really driving a lot of remote work in general.
Matt H: [00:16:06] Mm-hmm (affirmative). So that's probably a good segue for my next topic and my next question. So, you're obviously the CEO and founder of WorkFrom, so I'd love to get into how you came about founding WorkFrom and where the idea came from and then how it came to be that you are where you are and just a little bit about the history of WorkFrom. So, if you could just go into a little bit of detail about how the idea for WorkFrom came about.
Darren Buckner: [00:16:34] Sure, so WorkFrom is today the largest community based platform for finding and sharing great places to work remotely in every city. We've been described as kind of a Yelp for remote workers. I think that gets the point across. Obviously there's a lot that I don't love about that, but we are community through and through, and we have found a way to share information to the benefit of our larger community about the places we work and how to navigate that and provide kind of this new type of infrastructure that I just mentioned. We'veevolved quite a bit, and I'll talk a little more about that here shortly, but we literally started as a note that I created in Evernote. My experience as a remote worker often had me needing to find places that I could work remotely reliably. I did work at home quite a bit, and like most people even today who work remotely, I spent most of my days working from home, at least part of my day. But, certainly when I was traveling or when I was just trying to find places outside of my home to be inspired or to just kind of fit into my normal flow, when I would find the place, you know, it was very hit or miss, but when I would find it I'd add it to a list. That list grew over the years. I had that list for many, many years before I actually built WorkFrom, the first iteration of it. And that list, you know, grew not only with places that were very close to where I'd lived at the current time when I started the list but also other cities that I'd visit or travel to. At about 2011 I moved back to Portland, Oregon. I'm an Oregonian, so original from the area. When I moved back, I found myself needing to rediscover the city in this way. I was now a remote worker, you know, software engineer, and needing to find places in this city that I had known before but not in this way, find places that I could work outside of my home, so I started exploring different neighborhoods, and again, cataloging the best places. It dawned on me that there are just so many others working this way now. You know, I would go into a place and I'd findone that I loved, whether this was a coffee shop or a coworking space or you know, even a restaurant or several bars even that I like working from. When I would find a place, I would look around and I'd usually see others there, and I thought these folks probably know two or three other places here. Why should I go through the work of trying to find those myself? Plus, a recommendations is going to be much more valuable. I got this great list that I would like to share with them, not only places here that I found in Portland, but probably other cities. Why isn't this being done? Andmy curiosity led me to asking that question to a lot of people who I'd run into in these places, and asking whether or not this is something that would be of interest to them, both that they would use and contribute to, talking to the businesses and the staff of these businesses to understand what's happening, what are they seeing, is this working well for them? It's just really doing a lot of research. And ultimately, I realized that there was a pretty big opportunity to pretty quickly, almost immediately, help a lot of people with their normal day to day workplace needs and that I was in a unique position to build that, so that's what I did. Built the first version of WorkFrom, which was nothing more than a glorified sort of blog post with a comment section where people could leave recommendations on places to work in the Portland area. I started to notice that there were places that were being recommended that weren't in Portland, and even though I kind of tried to make it be that way, or at least I'd ask people about Portland initially, and as I saw that grow and as I iterated on the experience of being able to recommend a place to others in the community, it was clear to me that there were a lot of people around the world who not only wanted this and were willing to help bring it to fruition, help contribute, but also just a big opportunity for me to jump into it full time and be the one to help grow that, help deliver that to the rest of the community, which got me very, very excited and is what still keeps me excited today. So, over the years we've evolved to not only help people find these on demand work spaces around the world but also access them in ways that might otherwise be difficult or expensive or cumbersome. We've learned from our community, and we've learned that there's a lot of value of finding places, but there's also a lot of value in accessing these places in new and innovative ways and engaging with them, building a culture around them, and being able to tap into that culture from anywhere. That's how we've evolved over the years, and if you want we can talk a little bit about sort of where we are today and what I'm excited about in the new set of features that we've just made available to our community.
Matt H: [00:21:17] Yeah, I'd love to get into that. Before we do, just a couple of questions about WorkFrom in just as it stands right now. Do you have relationships with the places themselves that are sort of designated as WorkFrom official places, or is this something that the community can designate any coffee shop or bar and they can just go into work from and then they designate that as a good place to work? How does that relationship work?
Darren Buckner: [00:21:41] Sure, so once you become a member or WorkFrom, there's a button that you can click that allows you to add any place that you want to recommend as a work-friendly place for the community. You can choose what type of place that is, and as you go through the process of adding it, we let you tell us what type of place it is and tell the community what type of place it is and what's important aboutthat place, but you could absolutely add any place that you feel like is a recommendation that others should know about. Because of that, the majority of places that are searchable on WorkFrom today have been added by other patrons or others in the community with first hand knowledge of working from those spaces. But that button is also available if you own or operate workspace or a bar or a café or somewhere where you're comfortable with and enjoy supporting professionals in this way. You can also add your space, and the process is very much the same. There are a few differences when we knowthat it's somebody that we can support a little differently in providing you as a workspace operator, you know, key data, insights into things, and the ability to engage with our community in a little different way, more important ways. That's from the main difference in that flow, but anybody who is a part of the community can recommend a workspace. There are over 15,000 of those workspaces now recommended on our platform, and that's across thousands of cities. Most places today you can find recommendations from the community and where there are a few or where there are not any you can add the ones that you find and sort of be a scout we call it. You can add those and help others who come behind youthat are looking for the very same types of space.
Matt H: [00:23:27] Yeah, fascinating. And can they be sort of voted up for the ones that are the most popular, or is that just a list of people that have had experiences and they post those places and then that's kind of the extent of that? Is there a preferred sort of feature that sort of brings those places to the top?
Darren Buckner: [00:23:46] Sure, one of the things that evolved with oursearch algorithm over the years trying to surface some of these more popular places, after all that's one of the most valuable things you can getfrom a community is that social proof around what's popular, what's relevant in these specific ways? So, we wanted to try to surface that as much as possible, and we developed what we call a workability score, which gives you as an end user insight into not only how popular a place isbut just the overall workability of it, how likely it is to have the amenities that you and that others in the community have said are important, and we do take into account popularity. Now we get that popularity in a couple different was. By virtue of adding aplace to WorkFrom, there's sort of a level adherent recommendation there,but you can do that one time for a place, so you can kind of register, not vote if you will, for a venue and endorse it as another community member.Yes, this is a great place that I love or that I think is one that should be recommended more prominently. We also look at how often these venues show up on favorites lists and how often they're shared, how much activitythey are generating organically and otherwise. You can leave what we call insights about a venue on the venue's profile, more insights that we collect, the more we feel comfortable saying that this is also a popular place. So, there's a number of ways that we determine what ultimately ends up in a workability score. Popularity is one of those. And the places that bubble up to the top as being more popular or more workable, they're definitely weighted heavier when we do kind of braod recommendations and even very targeted recommendations in the community.
Matt H: [00:25:26] So, you mentioned a couple of features and I'd love toget into a little more about sort of the future of WorkFrom and where we go from there. So, you have this new ... well, I'll let you kind of explain it, but it's called a Homebase, and I'd love to learn a little bit more about Homebase for WorkFrom and what the inspiration for that was.
Darren Buckner: [00:25:43] Awesome. So, we've recently, and this has been a bit of a long time coming, but it's recently come to fruition in this way, but we released a set of features that are in beta now that effectivelyturn WorkFrom into a pretty powerful marketplace for right now they use coworking specifically. We found that that was the most relevant and the most value that we could provide immediately with this new set of features, but how it works is you can imagine we've got a whole host of people in our community all over the world who are using WorkFrom to find and recommend the best places to get work done. We see a lot of places, and a lot of those places are places that others want to access. A lot of those are coworking spaces. Then, we have the ability, because we are a community, to grow a network of places in kind of a unique way. You know, WorkFrom as a team doesn't have to go out to every venue and say, "Hey, do you want to be a part of this network," and kind of take a top down approach, just adding venues to the network that are known to be of a certain type. Rather, we can use those same recommendations and the same contributions from our community to help bring those faces online in a network based on their desire to actually work from those places right away. So, that's kind of a long way of saying the new networks that we've created here that we call Homebase has been built by and for the community, and at its most simplest, you are able to purchase the credits that equal one day of access to workspace on demand. When you find a place that is part of the network and you want to work from that space, you simply redeem a credit. Then, you're able to enjoy that workspace for the day. When you run out of credits, you simply buy more, and you're back at it. What's really key about this is ... well, there's a couple of things. One is that it's reducing a lot of the friction that currently exists when you're trying to find and use a coworking space specifically for a day. Every coworking space for the most part has a different system set up if they have a system at all, and it's quite a bit of work to try to figure out what that is and also to make that happen. So, we've removed that friction almost entirely. Through Homebase you can, with just a few clicks, be ready to visit a space. And like I said, on demand. Right now, you don't have to wait for tomorrow or the next day. Then, for our venue partners, for the venues that are also part of our community who are becoming a part of this network, they're getting a whole new group of folks into their spaces, becoming a part of their community, and really being able to serve more of their community in a way that's meaningful for not only their business but also for often their mission, you know, their ethos, why they started these spaces in the first place to be able to allow professionals to thrive in a way that is becoming largely unavailable in some other ways. It's kind of the perfect marriage between frictionless access to the spaces and then of course opening up a new type of customer, a new type of community member for these venues as well.
Matt H: [00:29:01] Yeah.
Darren Buckner: [00:29:01] I should point out that the venues, they get paid for this. When you use a credit at a venue, WorkFrom gets a portion of that, and the venue gets the rest, and it's how we're able to make this sustainable, but it's new revenue for these venues, and again, the right person to be using their space in the right way, and we just make that super, super easy.
Matt H: [00:29:22] And how has that been? You mentioned it's in beta. How has that been going? Have you seen some success with it? How manyvenues do you have at this point that are available for the user?
Darren Buckner: [00:29:30] It's been going great. We have a lot of early interest. We've got a lot of people who have signed up, a lot of individuals in our community, or small teams who want to use it, who want to buy anduse credits. We've had a lot of folks sign up for that, in the thousands, for early access to that. Then, on the venue side we've had hundreds who are interested in having this be something that's available at their space. We've done very little to reach out to these venues or to get the tools in place for our community to help us spread this. It's not quite there yet. I shouldn't say we've done very little. We just haven't quite gotten those tools into everybody's hands yet. It's part of what we're doing during this beta. But there's a lot of interest, and the way that we've approached this, we've made it super simple for everybody to adopt on purpose, because we think that what's keeping people on the sidelines and out of these spaces is the friction, and it's not not needed, you know? As we've worked with these businesses over the years and with our community and we collect so much feedback and we've helped so many people find and enjoythese spaces, we've just learned that there's no need for there to be friction. Our community can really benefit from relieving it, so it's just an easy to thing to adopt, and because of that you can imagine there's going to be a lot of people who do it. Right now, we have partners who are in Portland, Oregon that are live on the platform and available to book. We've got a lot of people in Portland who are doing that on a daily basis. This will likely appear in a few other cities first just based on our small team, WorkFrom's small teams ability to kind of get this into the hands of the right people and make sure that it's all still working the way that we think it should and the way that it's adding the most value, working with everybody to continue to collect feedback and work out any kinks. But once we've kind of got that dialed in, which I don't think will take too long, the goal is to then let it spread by letting our community lead where they want it to be spread, so letting anybody who wants to use this in a place that they feel like is valuable anduse it, and give them the tools to get that set up.
Matt H: [00:31:28] Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, well and so anybody outthere who has a venue for coworking spaces, then let Darren know and reach out to him directly, and we'll have all of his information in the show notes, so you can do that. I'll go in and sign up myself and we'll go from there, but super exciting stuff. I wanted to talk a little bit about building the company just in general. I'm always fascinated to hear about people's experiences building, especially community platforms, because it always seems to be something different. What was the strategy, or what did you see work and what didn't work in terms of building the community when you first started, and then how has that transitioned to where you are now? Did you have any sort of marketing components, or was it just word of mouth? How did the community grow from scratch to where it is today?
Darren Buckner: [00:32:11] So, we've grown very organically. The majority of people who have found and joined our community have found us through searching for places to work wherever they are, and then tryingto solve that need that they have at the moment of finding a reliable space and because we're so relevant, because we've built a great way for them to get that value, they find us through a google search or some othersimilar search. So we grew very organically that way. Once people find us, a lot of folks are quite excited about it, you know, it does solve a problem that a lot of folks have. We asked them and they're very willing to share, so we get a lot of word of mouth as well. We try to get anybody who joins WorkFrom to also share with two other people who they think could use this and who could help contribute and benefit from all the contributions that have already been made. That works pretty well, so we've had a lot of people who have joined that way. I mentioned I think just a little bit ago, we've always been a very small team, so we haven't had the ability to do large marketing campaigns or anything of that nature that could probably help us get exposure with even more people. It's something we plan to do as we mature more, but we've had to rely on being scrappy and kind of bootstrapping our way, so a lot of community engagement, a lot of trying to build some network effects inside of our community, a lot of trying to leverage our technology to help get us more exposure and to reach more in our community. So, that's basically how we've grown is being very scrappy, relying on people being able to find us because we're relevant and because we solve a real problem. Then, engaging those folks how do find us to help us spread the word to others that should also know about what we're doing.
Matt H: [00:34:01] And you mentioned your team there. How many people work for WorkFrom at the moment?
Darren Buckner: [00:34:05] Well, we're small team right now. We're at three.
Matt H: [00:34:07] All right
Darren Buckner: [00:34:07] Yeah, so we're almost at our smallest that we've been in our history, like a lot of companies. It's been a roller coaster,so we've had chances to expand a bit, and then we've had times where we've needed to contract a bit, and we're coming off of one of those periods where we've had to contract. We've always done really, really well at understanding our community and being really in tune with how we canadd value right away to the folks in our community and being very focusedon that. It's a slower process. It's growing a community platform like this takes a lot of patience and a lot of time, a lot of investment into growing it in ways that are sustainable, so because of that we haven't always had theability to find consistent help and keep the help on our team. But we're a team of three now, and we're looking to grow that in the immediate future. We'll be looking to grow that a little bit.
Matt H: [00:34:57] Nice, so one of my favorite questions, and I actually full disclosure stole this question from a different podcast, what have you learned along the way of building WorkFrom that you wish that you knew earlier on, like when you started? Was there anything specifically that you can point to that you say, "Ah, it would be nice to have known this being inmy journey of entrepreneurship and being a CEO"?
Darren Buckner: [00:35:17] Yeah, I'm going to come back to patience here. That's a huge one. In this experience specifically, I think in a lot of experiences, but with WorkFrom specifically, we've had to have patience. It shows up in all kinds of places, but it's something that I definitely wish I had understood a little more clearly in the beginning, because I think it would have helped me set better expectations, also you know, find in these sustainable paths to leveraging that patience and building the business in many ways around the patience that we needed. Early on we kind of went through a lot of spurts and we grow fast at times. Then, othertimes it seemed like it was just more of a linear experience, and trying to control that was somewhat of a challenge, again, being a very small bootstrapped team. It just took a lot of patience. It also took patience in that because this is a crowd sourced experience from day one, we weren't always on our timeline. We were on the timeline of the whole group, you know? We were basically a large community moving together, and that timeline couldn't necessarily be dictated by just a few of us. So there was a lot of patience that we had to have there. We cared so much about the curation, we were fanatical about getting first hand experiences in our community, and that took a lot of time, times, like I said, it would feel fast, but when you look back you realize in order for that grow into all the areas that you want it togrow or to reach all the people that you wanted to reach, be as helpful as you want to be, it just takes a lot of time, so having that patience has beena real virtue. We've had to learn that over the years. I think that's the biggest sort of I wish I had known earlier. I would have done it all over again, and I think maybe luckily I'm a pretty patient person, so I've had the ability to settle in and have that patience and evenwhen we feel the anxiety of wanting to move faster or in some directions that we wish we could do, still having the ability to settle and keep our eyeon the longer goal or the bigger goal. I'm well suited for that, but it's still achallenging thing to do.
Matt H: [00:37:31] Mm-hmm (affirmative), one of the things I hear often from entrepreneurs, especially in founders of companies, is that somewhere along the line the had the benefit of having a mentor or a group of mentors or some community of founders that they could bounce ideas off of. Did you have that experience, or was that not something that you found was important?
Darren Buckner: [00:37:52] Yes, I have had that experience. I feel like I still have that experience. It is tremendously valuable. I'd say in my journey with WorkFrom I've had more of that lately than I did in the early days. I'm not sure exactly why that is. I think I'm a builder, and I can get very immersed in the building and the creating, so early on in WorkFrom's days I think I was very, very focused, kind of heads down, building a lot, didn't make a lot of time or space for other experiences outside of buildingand it's something I've also had to learn how to make that sustainable, butI think in the early days I probably didn't seek that camaraderie in the same ways. In the last few years certainly we've been a part of not only informal but formal groups that provide a lot of that peer support and mentorship. I think it's huge. It's important also to note that I've had in WorkFrom a advisory group of thousands and thousands and thousands of people over the years. Of course, I think our community is the best, you know? I challenge anybody to tell me otherwise or prove otherwise, but our community has helped us grow this from the very early stages. You know, we've had those feedback loops, we've had the camaraderie, we've had the ability to bounce ideas and test and prototype and grow with the actual folks how are ultimately benefiting from this and who have the insights to help us make it better for everybody else. I feel like I've had that in our community, but certainly I've also had it in folks that are more my peers and mentors as well.
Matt H: [00:39:24] Yeah, that's the great thing about community platforms, especially ones that people feel passionate about, because theywill let you know which direction that they think you should go in, and sometimes it's filtering and sorting that information that's important, and other times it's just trying to get it in the first place, but yeah, I think that'sa huge aspect of iterating on a community is just taking and hearing from them, so I think that's really important.
Darren Buckner: [00:39:46] They won't let you forget either once you know.
Matt H: [00:39:49] No, they won't, but again, that passion is a really important piece of it. That's why I think a lot of these platforms are success and survive is because people care about them.
Darren Buckner: [00:39:58] You know, at the end of the day it's about the people. It's just very, very powerful, you know? It sort of transcends business in itself. I know there was a business in WorkFrom that is absolutely moving forward because of this community, but I've met so many wonderful people. I've had a chance to meet some of those folks in person, thousands more virtually, and I've learned and there's been such value that's being created outside of anything that's happened for the business itself. I think that's also why some of these businesses are the most powerful is because there's this underlying experience that transcends even the business itself. That can prop up a business in a way that is harder to create if you don't have that community.
Matt H: [00:40:42] And that probably goes back to that original commentand point you made about just sustainable growth, because that growth takes time and takes patience, like you said, and building that is not going to come easily. It's not a quick process, but once you have it, once you have a core group of people that are excited and passionate about the produce and the community then you're in a good spot, so I think that's really cool.
Darren Buckner: [00:41:01] Yeah, absolutely.
Matt H: [00:41:03] One thing I'd like to ask people on our podcast, because I think it's different every time I ask it, is what does your day look like? Do you have a set routine? Is that something that you've thought about it intentionally and deliberately? How does that work for you in terms of your daily and weekly routine?
Darren Buckner: [00:41:17] Yeah, I have routines that I try to stick to. I've been more successful some days than others. The latest iteration of this is that I create spaces, if you will. I kind of time box my calendar, my day in certain ways. In the mornings I really try to focus on making, so anything that kind of falls under that title, or that category, the creation and the making process. For many years I was coding or designing or something, but that's less and less the case these days for me, but I try to spend the mornings doing some of that. Then, I block off time about midday to do any of the meetings that I need to do. So I have a lot of meetings, a lot of people who I'm excited to connect with, who could be animportant part of what we're doing or who we might be an important part of what they're doing. So, I try to time box that as well for the afternoons. Then, I try to have thelate afternoon and before I shut down naturally some time to do a little bit of planning, a little bit of reflection, a little bit of setting up the day to come. I'm pretty successful at that. I'd say I'm most successful probably atblocking out my meeting times, making sure that those happen during a certain part of the day. But the other planning and some of the creation can leak into one another. I've been a little less successful with that. One thing that I have really tried to protect, and I think I've done a pretty good job of, is my very early mornings. I have a whole philosophy about winningthe morning I call it. Basically, I think that everybody, if this fits for you, I've certainly benefited from it, I think that if you can get three hours at the very beginning of your day that you can immerse yourself in whatever you want or control in ways that you feel like whatever else happens throughout the day, you've already won the morning. You've already done some things that are important to you. For me, that's always a good breakfast, exercise. I like to consumer two or three articles or read something and kind of get my brain jump started that way. Then, spend a little bit of time as well with my family. If you can get that done consistently every day, whatever starts happening 9:00 for me ... you know, I get up very ... I'm up usually by about 4:00 or 4:30, so whatever starts coming my way at about 7:30 or 8:00 I'm already ahead of the game I feel like, you know?
Matt H: [00:43:50] Wow. Are you intentional about the time you wake up,or is it just natural for you now?
Darren Buckner: [00:43:55] Well, I think I sort of shifted this way intentionally, but now it's very natural. There was a time where I was a night owl, especially during my bouncing days, right, at the nightclubs, butI found there's something special for me about the mornings, and I really love just the energy of the mornings, so in order for me to win that morning and have that three hours is protected. I've got to get up pretty early. You know, the day for most people around me starts a little bit later than mine, but that gives me the ability to protect that time and really justhave it unfold the way I want to.
Matt H: [00:44:29] Yeah, I think that's great. Yeah, for those of you out there that can do that and works for them, I think that's a fantastic ... that's great advice.
Darren Buckner: [00:44:36] Yeah, I will note that it's not possible for everybody certainly, and I have a 13 month old son, my first child, so things have been a little different, a little harder, a little more challenging than they used to be in terms of just making it happen the way I want it to,so yeah. If you can do it, you know, and maybe it's later in the day, maybethere's other things, but just protect some time of yourself so that you feellike the day's not happening to you, you know?
Matt H: [00:45:01] Yeah, no, I think that's great advice. So, listen, Darren. You've been so kind with your time, and I want to be aware of how long we're taking out of your day here, but I do have a couple more closingquestions. They're a little bit weird, but they're some of my favorites, so if you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be, and why? So, do you have a specific book in mind that you think everybody would benefit from reading?
Darren Buckner: [00:45:24] So this one's a little funny. I'm going to recommend a book, because I think I'm, right now, finding it to be, well just great, right? But I've been recommended like from others here's the one book you must read in order to ... everybody's got to read this book, and I often read those books. I'm like, "I don't know why. I don't necessarilysee it like you saw it." So I hesitate to recommend one book that I feel like ... I don't want people to look and say, "What was he thinking?"
Matt H: [00:45:48] Right.
Darren Buckner: [00:45:48] But, there is a book that I've just recently started, but I've heard a lot about it and even done some research before Istarted it and got a lot of first hand insights from others. It's called Essentialism, and it's basically like having the discipline and the pursuit of less. There's so much that goes on for so many of us all day long, and you know, it's just kind of the pace at which life is these days. Being really intentional about trying to strip some of that back down to its essential elements and understanding kind of the base level values and these things and how that can really help us actually do more and feel better and be more effective. That really resonates with me anyway, and this book kind of lays that out in a really, I think, thoughtful and useful way. If that resonates to you based on my quick description, I would certainly say Essentialism is something you should read.
Matt H: [00:46:38] Yeah, no, I haven't heard of it, but I will take a look. It's something I hear sometimes about things people have done to maybe clarify and declutter their lives is really important. It can be super refreshing and it often times is things that you wouldn't expect and often when you decide on making your life a little bit simple, it can be kind of like lifting a burden off of you that you didn't know existed, so I will definitely check that out. I think that's important.
Darren Buckner: [00:47:04] Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
Matt H: [00:47:05] So, my last question here for you before I let you go is what is the best advice you've ever been given? It's a tough question, but I like it a lot.
Darren Buckner: [00:47:13] Okay, so I've got some great advice that I was given, I think when I was about 18 years old, maybe a little younger. Ithas proven to be sage advice. It's not controversial, I don't think, but I want to make sure that I say it the right way. You can edit this out if you don't want it. Try to, within 30 minutes of waking up, use the bathroom every day. The one time that we all need to use the bathroom every day, do that within 30 minutes of waking up, and it'll make your life so much easier on so many levels.
Matt H: [00:47:48] Wow.
Darren Buckner: [00:47:49] It's been transformative. It took me a little while to buy in, but it really has changed my life, and I'll just leave it at that, because I think everybody else can kind of extrapolate out what that might mean for them.
Matt H: [00:48:00] Yeah. Awesome. Well yeah, let's let our listeners figure out what that means to them. That's great. Well, Darren, thanks so much again for coming on the show. I learned a lot, and I'm super excited to see where WorkFrom goes, and we'll link to everything in the show notes as well. I encourage our listeners to go check it out and go give some feedback to Darren and his team and just be part of the community. It's super great and maybe add some venues if you're out there and you don't see anything in your area. Yeah, get it started, because it's super cool. Did you want to send our listeners somewhere specifically, Darren, or should we just send them to the WorkFrom ... is it .co or .com?
Darren Buckner: [00:48:32] Both work. We got the .co first, so that's what ends up in a lot of our things that we have created, but they both work.
Matt H: [00:48:39] Okay.
Darren Buckner: [00:48:39] Yeah, I just want to say thank you. I really appreciate being a part of this. It's a wonderful opportunity, and I'm really excited to get to meet others in the community and hopefully welcome them to our community. I think when you're passionate about remote workand when you think it's an important part of your work style or your careereven, you need a community, you know? It can be quite an isolating experience, and that's one of the biggest drawbacks that most folks point to, so how we change that is by being more connected through community. I think that's exactly what you're doing here with this and what we're also doing, so I'm excited about those worlds colliding. Go to WorkFrom.co/join to create an account that's free, and become a part of what the movement that we've created here with WorkFrom. If you're interested in our latest experience that we call Homebase, which is on demand access to day use at local coworking spaces, go to /homebase,so WorkFrom.co/homebase, and sign up for early access there. Then, we'll reach out with some more info when we're ready.
Matt H: [00:49:45] Awesome. Yeah, that's great. And thank you again. I think that's awesome. I think you're right in saying that the community's areally important part about being successful in remote work. You just have to be a little bit more intentional and deliberate with being a part of it, which we wouldn't be the case if you worked in an office. Kind of have to opt into it rather than just being a natural thing, so I do agree it's super important. We'll have you on again hopefully, Darren, and again, I have some more questions for you, but we'll have that on a later date, and I wish you all the best.
Darren Buckner: [00:50:13] Thank you. I really appreciate it. I look forward to that later date, and we'll chat again soon.
Matt H: [00:50:17] All right, talk soon. Thanks, Darren.
Darren Buckner: [00:50:18] Bye now.
Matt H: [00:50:21] Thanks so much again or listening to the show. Be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs, and if you're looking to hire a remote worker, WeWork Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone that we should talk to, advice you have, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com, andif you'd like to sponsor the show, please go to weworkremotely.com/advertise for all of our available opportunities. Thanks much for listening, and we'll talk to you next time.