The Remote Show

Show Notes:

This week we’re excited to share our conversation with Hiten Shah, the co-founder of many online businesses including Kissmetrics, Crazy Egg, Product Habits and most recently FYI. In this wide ranging conversation with dive into Hiten’s entrepreneurial journey, his views on giving advice, VC funding, culture in remote companies and much much more.

What struck me most when talking with Hiten was the clarity of his thinking and his honesty/transparency. The beginning of the conversation went in a unique direction, and I’m glad it did as it allowed us to discuss some of the more nuanced and complex dynamics that arise when building businesses from nothing. Hiten has been in this industry and creating products for many years; he spoke to the evolution of his thinking in many areas, including giving advice, pressure and removing mental/emotional road blocks instead of breaking them.

We of course talked about remote work in depth. Having built many different distributed teams, both self-funded and vc backed, Hiten has some interesting and valuable insights when it comes to remote work. This was one of our most interesting and in depth conversation with a leader in the remote work space. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Hiten’s current company, FYI, is working to solve one of the major issues of remote work by making it easier to access and organize documents. You can check what he and his co-founder Marie Prokopets have built at usefyi.com.

Also, be sure to check out their Remote Work Report, one of the most comprehensive handbooks to all things remote work, and one that we were lucky enough to contribute to!

And of course, follow Hiten on Twitter: @hnshah

The book that Hiten would force everyone to read: The Courage to be Disliked by Alfred Adler


Matt H: 00:00:07 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, entrepreneurship, business, technology, and much more. Thanks so much for listening. Remote Show is brought to you, as always, by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire. My guest on today's show is Hiten Shah, Hiten is the co-founder of multiple SaaS companies that you've probably already heard of including Kissmetrics, Crazy Egg, and now FYI. He is also a speaker, writer, investor, and expert in all things product marketing and entrepreneurship. If you aren't already, you should be following him on Twitter and all the other social platforms so you can learn more about how to build successful products and online businesses. Also check out, usefyi.com and learn how they take the stress out of documents so that you and your team can get work done and be happier doing it. Hiten, thanks so much for coming on the show, man. I really appreciate it.

Hiten Shah: 00:01:09 I am so excited today to talk about this topic, and also talk to you.

Matt H: 00:01:13 Well, you're one of those guys who we've had our eye on, I guess, is one way of saying it, to get you on the show. So yeah, super excited about this as well, and I think this is going to be really great for our listeners. I think what an interesting place to start would be, and I actually didn't send this over originally but I think it's an interesting one, we've had some success with this question as a jumping off point. So, what is it that you've been most proud of over the past year, so that could be in business what you're doing now or in whatever context, what's the thing that you're most proud over the last year that you've done?

Hiten Shah: 00:01:42 I love that question. I would say that the thing I'm most proud of that I've done in the last year is I always thought I was a really self-aware person and I was able to do things like think about thinking, they call that Metacognition, to get really geeky about it, and really like absorb my sort of past in order to make my future better personally in terms of how I think about things and how I interact with people. And what I'm most proud of is the amount of personal growth I've had in that area in the last year.

Matt H: 00:02:09 Wow. Yeah, that's a great answer. I'm so glad I asked that. Was that something that you set out to do or was that something that you just found naturally came with where you are in your career?

Hiten Shah: 00:02:18 I think pressure of all kinds creates a lot of opportunity for growth as well as a potential for massive loss and failure. There are a number of reasons both professionally and personally that I have felt a lot of pressure in the last year in ways that are different than what I'd experienced in the past, and I've had a lot of pressure throughout my whole life in different ways, all my own creation. I've gotten in trouble a lot in all kinds of ways and that's not what this is about, but what I've experienced in the last year in terms of pressure from a business standpoint for all of my businesses, because I have a bunch of them, and also personally around just life and learning about my relationships, all of them, from the ones I have with my kids, I have two kids, five-year old daughter, a nine-year-old son, I think he's nine now, eight or nine, he's nine. So, the kids, my wife, my various business partnerships, my co-founder and my other sort of partners in other businesses, it's been some of the most challenging time in terms of both of those things.

Hiten Shah: 00:03:25 Just to really highlight, I think, how even though I've been at this now about 16 years, both working remotely, had to throw that in there, and also starting businesses online, the pressure is definitely only increased and it's all self inflicted so at this exact moment I actually feel very little pressure. Which is good because I shouldn't feel any ever, and that's a whole kind of theory I had around life which is like, "You're just putting all these things in your head and putting them on yourself, and you don't need to." And there are a lot of things that do that to you or can cause that and I think there's a ton of improvement that one can make when you start thinking about what is actually causing pressure for me today and how can I sort of recognize it and move through it and figure out what's going on with it?

Hiten Shah: 00:04:08 I wouldn't have said that prior to a year ago, I would've said that I was a type of person and the way I thought about the world is more oriented around grit, not that I lost any grit, probably gained some, but around just grit and determination. And I wouldn't use the word hustle because that's I think has a lot of different connotations now, but just this idea that if you're going to start things, if you're going to grow things, if you're going to grow yourself regardless of what kind of role you have or career you have, you're just going to bash through walls, and break them. I had this like, not attitude, but this feeling that that's what I was doing. Now my feeling is like there are no walls and I've only made those up and so I can just look at them and they're gone, and that's a much different attitude than bashing through every wall, getting through every problem. I used to think everything was a problem and I had to solve it. Now, I don't think anything is a problem and there's nothing to solve. It's literally just things that are happening that I have to, and I get to, choose my reaction to them.

Matt H: 00:05:08 Sounds like a framing thing that you've maybe changed and, I guess, my follow up there, it sounds like it's a bit of tension between the idea of responsibility and stress and what levers you need to pull to be able to make that a beneficial tension rather than a harmful one, and I think it can quite easily tip in either direction. But that's what I hear from entrepreneurs especially that there's some benefit to that and to have that responsibility, and where does the line cross into being detrimental to you and maybe to the business as well? It's an interesting question.

Hiten Shah: 00:05:41 Yeah. It's so fascinating how everything as an individual is your own perspective and no one else has the same perspective as you. And so all I'm doing these days is making sure that my perspective is as clean, and solid, and clear as possible so that I can ask the right questions of other people, I can understand as much as it makes sense to understand about them. While before I used to want to understand everything about everybody, now I'm like, hey, I just need to understand whatever is within the scope of what needs to be done, or what we're doing together. Everything else is just extra stuff that doesn't matter. And a lot of the walls that I was creating were around implying things about people, or things, or situations that I don't need to. This has helped me with partnerships, this has helped me in businesses, this has helped me with relationships that are personal, this has helped me with the relationships that are professional. S I think you asked a very good question and I know I've been sort of ranting on it for a bit, but to me I personally am passionate about self-improvement, improving myself because I know that that's all I control.

Matt H: 00:06:35 I know that you are, and I've been following you for a long time and I'm sure many of our listeners have been as well, you're very vocal and you communicate quite well and you seem very clear in your thinking, is that a piece where you are going to continue moving forward into that self-Improvement piece? You were doing that in the past, I know, but is that something you've been in more intentional about sort of educating from your perspective, and when it comes to entrepreneurship and startups and things like that, when it comes to maybe the more nuanced problems that arise on a personal level that a lot of entrepreneurs face?

Hiten Shah: 00:07:04 Yeah, I think that's a really great question. My opinion today is that, and this has just gone stronger, there are a lot of people that say, "Don't give advice unless you've been through something before." I disagree with that. I also have actually toned down the amount of advice I give unless someone asks for it, and I focus more on encouragement. And the reason for that is what someone needs to know or needs to do is very personal as an individual, and regardless of what someone else tells them, they're going to do what they're going to do. That doesn't mean I don't tell them things or I don't want to give people advice, I really only do it if I'm asked for it now, which is opposite of what I used to do, let's say, more than a year ago. And so when you asked me that question for me it's like, everything falls in the bucket of, it depends, and it's more like it depends for you.

Hiten Shah: 00:07:48 So, it depends upon things that are personal to you, how you think about the world, what's going on in your life. And as a founder or a business person or somebody even working, even a question like, should I change jobs? That's a question that I don't know how to answer in a generic way, all I can do is give you either a framework or a way to think about it. And so that's why when people say, "Don't give advice if you've haven't been through it." I completely disagree. I'd say, "When people ask you for advice, you should be helpful if they're asking you, and you should give them a way to think about it if you were in that situation." Or more powerfully, help them think about it for themselves as if they're in the situation. And that whole thing about walk in their shoes, I think that's really important in life. And so, we're never in the same exact position as somebody else, we've never actually been through what someone else is going through.

Hiten Shah: 00:08:38 So this idea of fallacy, I think, of advices that I've been through it so I can give that advice, I haven't been through it, so I can't give that advice, I've never believed in that, and I think that's the thing that really shapes how I think about helping people, giving advice to people or sharing my learnings, because it's more about frameworks, it's more about ways to think about it. A lot of people think about these as mental models and probably coming up with those multiple times in a day and writing some down and then finding ones that exist that are related to the ones I made up. And I know when it clicks because I'm like, "Hey, it resonates with other people but it's also important to me and I keep bringing it back." So one of them is, I have stopped giving advice and I focus on encouragement. I want to be encouraging to other people. I don't necessarily want to be thought of as someone who gives advice all the time, because that's what I used to be thought about.

Matt H: 00:09:24 That's interesting, yeah. With the advice it's such an interesting one too because I think people are looking for easy things to try to wrap their heads around and when somebody is asking you for advice, it's because they can't answer it themselves but they don't know where to go from there. And it's ultimately so nuanced as a result of that, whatever that you tell them, who knows whether that is even the right answer or even would improve their situation at all. It's such a nuanced thing, I myself as well struggle with that too, because I don't know how best to present it in such a way that it's clear that it is so complicated and depends on so many different variables including themselves and what they're motivated by that can't easily be distilled into just one piece of advice.

Hiten Shah: 00:10:04 Exactly.

Matt H: 00:10:05 I'm glad that we started there because that was I think a super valuable insight and I'd love to see where things go from there for you and how you communicate and how you present your experience going forward. I would like to just take it back a little bit to sort of your early start in your career and I think that most people know about you and what you've been doing and you've been around for so long and hopefully people have followed you as I have, and if not, then I would recommend that you do. But I'd love to talk a little bit about how you got your start and maybe just go into, because you've been involved in so many different projects, so where do your project start for you in terms of your interest level in them and where do you start in a place of, is this project worth doing and is this product valuable? Do you come up with a certain area where you think there's ways you can disrupt it? How do you think about new products in general?

Hiten Shah: 00:10:51 My number one goal is to build products that people love to talk about and share with other people, and I've learned that the hard way. Whenever I build something that matters, people are talking about it and sharing it with other people, and that's the key. And so what I'm looking to figure out early on is what is worth building that people will talk about and share with other people? It's that good that they do it unprompted, it's that good that they do it whether you have a referral program or not, it's that good that they do it because of the experience that you gave them when they used it, it was so compelling that they just couldn't help but tell someone about it right away. And that's the high bar, that's the standard. I would call that the gold standard of any successful product, is a fact that people tell everybody they know about it, even if those people can't use it, just because it's just so useful to them, so valuable to them.

Hiten Shah: 00:11:43 And a lot of times that has to do with like a game, in a game, you're going to tell someone about it because you just found it so entertaining, so they can apply it to something as simple as a game. And then eventually over time enough people use the game, it gets old, and it's done, because enough people got exposed to it, all the people that are going to get exposed to it get exposed to it. It's a really good example when you think about products and it's like products have a form of a shelf life with their value proposition and then you have to expand on that value proposition in order for more people to enjoy it, or the existing people get kind of used to it and they stop telling their friends about it because you didn't update it, or you didn't really keep up with the times.

Hiten Shah: 00:12:24 You didn't go mobile when you were just a Web APP, for example, when mobile was a thing, and someone else came along and took your lunch, so to speak. I'm most impressed by companies and organizations that are continuously able to, for lack of a better word, innovate, and innovate for the customer, innovate to the point where the customer wants to rave about what they're doing. And there's very few companies that reach that point where post the first successful product or initiative they've done, they're able to get that repeatedly. Obviously the clear winner there is Apple, but I would say Amazon falls in the same category. I would even say some new entrants that are coming up that fall in that category include HubSpot, on the B2B side I would say Shopify. As much as you have feelings about Facebook, I would say that Facebook historically has been great at doing that so that their shelf life increases over time.

Hiten Shah: 00:13:12 And when you look up all the things Instagram has done, whether you believe you know their original ideas or innovation or not, I don't care, they've been able to grow that business. They've been able to continuously innovate. People still talk about Instagram every day and tell other people about it. Did you see that on Instagram? Did you see that story? Do you follow this brand on Instagram? Look at their stories, look at what they're sharing. That kind of word of mouth is nearly impossible to fabricate, and that's why I look for the purity in that, and that's really what the process of discovery about a product and initiative is really about to me. Which happened when you actually believe what I said and want to do that, and then you basically figure out how you can do that.

Hiten Shah: 00:13:54 And the only way that you can do that, that I have found ... well, there's two ways. One, you have such good intuition, which is rare, and even the folks that we believe have that great intuition don't, and it's actually through a process of rigorous obsession with the customer. Whoever that customer is, even before you have them, are you obsessed with them? Do you understand everything about them and the problems they have around the things you want to solve for them? And these days, I really believe that even if you start really small in a small market, as long as you have the skillset of customer obsession and you build that, you can expand it to bigger and bigger markets over time. Again, Amazon's a great example that, HubSpot's another great example of that too. They started with basically a blogging tool, for lack of a better way to say it, now they are all in one marketing suite. And not just marketing, they're all in one sales and marketing suite and that expansion does not happen overnight, it does not happen without being super deliberate about it.

Matt H: 00:14:48 I noticed that there's a couple of the examples there that you used are platform, would be the way that you describe it, but is there another good example of a product that's really exciting to you right now outside of the major players? Is there one that you are really keen on and really excited about sharing that's maybe not as large as the other ones that you gave as examples?

Hiten Shah: 00:15:06 Yeah, absolutely. I would say that there are a number of very interesting companies related to one of the products I work on. There's two companies that come to mind in that category, which is the document app category, which would be Notion and Airtable, and those are the ones I'm watching really closely to see where they go. Airtable is claiming to be basically, they want to help people build software but not in the way we traditionally build it because Airtable is essentially a database and you can build a lot of stuff on top of it. Really fascinating proposition. Then you have Notion that's literally looking to go after a liaison and build out a suite of tools that product people, developers and essentially companies use to help the company operate, help the company ship product. Which is not the same as what Google with Google docs and sheets is doing in either of those two cases, because Notion looks more like a Google docs competitor, Airtable looks like a Google sheets competitor.

Hiten Shah: 00:15:55 Notion looks like a Microsoft Word competitor, Airtable looks like a Microsoft Excel or even Microsoft Access competitor. That's not the vision these people that are working on the company, the founders have for the business. And a third one I'll share is a company called Webflow, and they are in a way more of a platform but they are, in my opinion, a next-generation website creator that's really tuned around people who want to basically be able to build with Legos. Those are the three that I would say are up and coming at different scales. And then from a younger company standpoint, there's a company called Matter that I'm really excited about, and that company is focused around basically feedback in a very really slick, simple way for employees and teams, basically, it's like the easiest way to get feedback from your team.

Matt H: 00:16:41 Interesting. Yeah, Notion was a really interesting example and it's one that I've also been following. I've been in touch with one of the people that works there and one of the marketers over there who I was talking to and she was saying that at the time when I was talking to her, she was a one-person marketing team and it blew my mind because I had heard of Notion through so many different channels and then I was looking back on it and I realized that all of those channels were through word of mouth. They were referrals, they were people talking about the product, that they were super excited about it. But they weren't paid channels, they were just people that were excited and wanted to share it and I think it's a great example of what you were saying about how building products is about finding things that people want to talk about and want to share. Because how otherwise is a marketing team of one got that Notion and product out to the world as it has? It's a good example, I think.

Hiten Shah: 00:17:28 Completely agree.

Matt H: 00:17:29 When you were starting your businesses, I wanted to ask about your view on product and building them and how that's changed since you started? So what was the sort of iterative process, I guess, of your entrepreneurship and your journey through entrepreneurship, if there was one, and if you could talk about it?

Hiten Shah: 00:17:47 Yeah, I think I just love stuff, so I'm just looking for better and better ways to build stuff, and eventually it came to building stuff that people care about. And this is this whole idea of they want to share it with others and that's what mattered. That word of mouth is what I'm aiming for in everything I create and it's what I'm looking for when I evaluate companies in general. And the ones I mentioned, the three that I mentioned, have a lot of word of mouth right now. And the fourth one, Matter, doesn't have that yet but I feel like the product can be so valuable to people and it's much earlier than all the other ones. It started literally, I think, within the last year, so it takes time to build out some of those things. So to me, I have grown a stronger and bigger appreciation for focus on the customer, which is what everybody says, but then learning all the different ways to do that, then getting better and better at that over time.

Matt H: 00:18:36 Yeah, it's a very difficult thing to do, and there's no really other way of saying it. And obviously you would know this better than I would, but getting to know your customer is key and it just takes work, it takes doing things that are outside of your comfort zone, it takes picking up the phone and calling them, maybe visiting them in person, just takes those things that, I think, get pushed aside because people are a little bit uncomfortable with the proposition of doing them. So I'd be curious to hear too, I know that you've done two products, built two companies, and one of which ... Well, you've built more than that, but the APP that I was using in my research was the Crazy Egg, obviously, and Kissmetrics. And I know one of those was self-funded in Crazy Egg and one was Venture backs in Kissmetrics, did you find that the venture funding changed the dynamic of how you built that business at all, and what changed when you built Kissmetrics because of that funding, do you think?

Hiten Shah: 00:19:28 The number one thing that happens when people raise money is they want to spend that money, and so your discipline decreases. We were still very disciplined coming from self-funded business and I think that we stayed disciplined with Kissmetrics, but there were times when we should have not been disciplined and there were times when we were probably too spendy as well. So to me, the biggest piece of learning I had from that difference is that even if you raise money, there's a huge benefit to acting like you haven't because then you can think of solutions that are more creative than just throwing money at the problem or hiring more and more people. Instead,

Hiten Shah: 00:20:05 I would be thinking about what's right for the business regardless of how much money we have, and I would start there. Then money is a way to do what's right for the business faster, not necessarily just do what's right for the business. And so to me, raising money is about increasing your velocity, raising money is about knowing what to do with that capital. Raising money should happen in the most ideal scenario, and again, this is very idealistic when you know what you're going to do with that money to grow the business. Otherwise, don't raise money.

Matt H: 00:20:32 Did the raising of the money help in the sense that you had those advisors? I guess, how much do you find that the value proposition of an investor or having that money is the value of the advice given from the people that are backing you?

Hiten Shah: 00:20:45 Yeah, I think people look for advice from investors around things that investors don't have any advice on, and that's the truth. The best investors I know are not trying to give entrepreneurs advice, the best investors I know are just looking to help guide them around problems and situations that the founders are unfamiliar with and need help with in a way the investor can help. An investor can help with intros to other founders that are going through similar things or have gone through similar things, and that can be really valuable. Investors can help you figure out what's going to be required for you to raise the next round, because once you start raising money, you're basically raising more money within 12 months. And so, the best thing investors can do for you is help figure out what you need to be achieving, what milestones you need to hit in order to help you raise the next round. And that's good, that's great, because that has to do with something that investor understands typically better than you do unless you've done it a few times before.

Matt H: 00:21:40 Do you recommend that people starting their own business and wanting to go through the entrepreneurial journey start by the self-funding route? I guess, again, this falls into the category with the advice and it's so nuance that it's difficult to say one way or the other, but is that something that you think is a valuable experience, or how valuable of an experience is that process of starting out as a self-funded project?

Hiten Shah: 00:22:00 For a lot of things you can get pretty far without raising money, and far meaning validation, understanding of the customer. You can go interview customers, or prospects, or potential customers without any money, just with a little bit of time. You can do it while you currently have a job. So, the right way to think about it is what can I do with before I raise money? What do I need to do before I raise money? What kind of validation should I have before I raise money? How much validation can I get for the business I want to be in without raising money? Ideally, you can find ways to learn without raising money, you can find ways to discover the right problems to solve. That should not be something that's impossible for any type of business even like if you're building an autonomous vehicle, and I think that's where people get it wrong, which is, they raise money to basically get time to learn, instead of raising money to build the right thing, or instead of raising money to grow the thing they built.

Matt H: 00:22:48 And have you found that that's changed since you started? The broader question here is, has the culture of entrepreneurship and venture funding, has that shifted since you started with your early businesses?

Hiten Shah: 00:22:58 Yeah, it's easier than ever to start something, harder than ever to grow it. And when you think about it like that, that's what's changed. When I started back in between 2003 and 2005 building products, software products particularly, it was just easy to grow. It was harder to start because we actually started with servers on racks, AWS was barely out at that time and they barely had anything meaningful for us to use that would help us the way it does today. And today, everything's on Amazon Web services for us. There are a few things in Google's cloud and Azure, but high level we've centralized most of our businesses around Amazon Web services, and that's incredible, that's something that definitely has made it so much easier. Probably the number one game changer for starting products, starting businesses.

Matt H: 00:23:38 When we were talking about the products that you're excited about that have achieved some level of referrals and people talking about it, I guess there's so many out there that it is so difficult to find your space and, I guess, the jargon is product-market fit, but the number of companies that have started and the number of companies that have achieved that goal, it's so small in my mind and it seems very hard to achieve that. And I guess it's a positive thing in the sense that it's making everybody better, but is the knowledge around that as a mindset in terms of marketing and finding that fit, has that changed? Are people going into this more intelligently than when they first started, about just understanding your customer better?

Hiten Shah: 00:24:10 We've just gotten smarter about it, and the knowledge about it is out there and there's a lot more examples from folks like me and others of how to do it. So we've just gotten better at it, I would say, and there's more knowledge out there so you don't have an excuse anymore.

Matt H: 00:24:21 Yeah. So I wanted to go back when you first started and you mentioned that you were a distributed team when you first started growing your teams. I would be curious to know sort of what the process of that decision was like and how you decided to hire, because I know that you have some strong opinions about when to hire and what that process would look like for an early startup. So how did you decide to hire your first employee?

Hiten Shah: 00:24:43 Yeah, I had this belief about remote work since back in 2003, and that belief is that we as human beings are knowingly and unknowingly optimizing for our happiness and freedom. And that's where I started and that's why I've kept building remote teams. So I would say I started it accidentally, because we had a consulting company and we had a lot of contractors and that's just how it worked, and so the contractors could be anywhere. That was back in 03' having a marketing agency, basically, providing online marketing services for other companies, companies of all sizes, from startups to fortune 500 companies. And that's my history in a nutshell, which is I accidentally got into it because of the first business I started and all the companies I have worked with have been remote and, or, distributed. At one point with Kissmetrics we had an office where half the people were in the office, half the people were distributed, and honestly it was kind of messy doing it that way. But there are ways to do it now and there are ways to be successful in any configuration.

Hiten Shah: 00:25:39 Though I'm not very dogmatic about remote work except that it works for me and I'm excited because it poses a bunch of challenges and opportunities that are unique and also fun, whether it's the idea that you can work across the globe and work with anybody in the world, which is so cool, or that your company can work across time zones, people can be working 24 hours a day on your business. So there's a bunch of these business benefits and then a bunch of personal benefits about remote work that I think are just huge and I'm so happy that this topic is repeatedly coming up, and really happy, and not that this is an advertisement, but I'm really happy that We Work Remotely exists. We use it, it's amazing, and it works.

Hiten Shah: 00:26:18 Yeah, there's a process of hiring on it just like any job board, but it works and it's gotten us lots of great folks to join our team and attracted talent, so to speak, that we couldn't have found any other way very easily. I even go to one of your sister companies, Dribbble, when I want to hire designers and want to look at their work first and solicit them, so that's more outbound, so to speak, while I look at We Work Remotely in the more inbound. And so I think hiring for a remote team is easier than ever thanks to We Work remotely and things like Dribbble that are out there as well as Upwork and all the other sort of competitors, so to speak, in this space, and it's just become easier than ever.

Matt H: 00:26:54 And we appreciate that and we love hearing that, and I think that it's been a really interesting place to be because the wave of remote work has been so fast and it's nice to hear that the conversation is still going on and that there's more and more workers being hired right now than ever and that's super exciting for us. One of the things that I wanted to talk to you about too is the pros and the cons about remote work and trying to form a community around solving those problems and talking to each other about it. Having been involved in so many remote teams and grown them as well, what do you think is the major challenge here? What is it that you think that remote teams have to think about early, and what is the biggest challenge for you in growing your remote teams?

Hiten Shah: 00:27:29 Yeah, so one of the things that's exciting especially about when this specific show's going to launch, is we've been working on a remote report to kind of understand some of those questions and challenges, so I'm going to give a bunch of perspectives. I'm going to first tell people how to get to it, which is bit.ly/remote report, and you can kind of see this like over 30,000 pixel report that we've created that we've learned from a whole bunch of people and there's going to be a bunch of tips when you go there as to how to do remote work.

Hiten Shah: 00:27:59 And to answer your question, to me it really starts with some of the stats that we learned that were kind of like hypotheses we had. My hypothesis has been that what folks don't understand about remote work is that humans, as I mentioned earlier, want freedom and flexibility and that's what they get with remote work, that's a number one thing that they get. And the report kind of proves that out in some interesting ways, so what we learned is that 91% of remote workers said working remotely is a good fit for them. We also learned that 95% of remote workers would recommend working remotely to a friend.

Hiten Shah: 00:28:33 This blows my mind because most people don't work remotely today and yet people are willing to recommend it despite some of the challenges with it that we learned about as well. I'll tell you what we do about these challenges, but what's most interesting is the fact that these challenges exist. So the number one challenge that people have, it fits in this category of communication, socializing, loneliness and boundaries. So all of these things are related to interactions and relationships you have on a team.

Hiten Shah: 00:29:02 We are so used to going to an office and seeing the people we work with and being in the same room physically that we don't actually understand how to do it on a remote team, or on a distributed team, because distributed work is really what we're talking about. And so what I find on our teams that we really accelerate is the amount of documentation that we create, and also, oddly, the amount of structure that we have with our meetings. And I say oddly because you'd think that remote or distributed means more meetings. To me, remote work, distributed work, should actually mean less meetings if you're appropriately organized and are sort of having documentation at half the scale that you would in an office environment.

Hiten Shah: 00:29:48 So, for example, when we're now a dozen people at my company, FYI, where we did the research for remote work, we are about a dozen people and we have the documentation that most people have at 50 people and this means processes, schedules for things when we launch them, postmortems are one thing that my co-founder and I are really big on. So all of these things help us make sure that the conversations that you would have in an office that are sort of drive-by conversations or the amount of knowledge people have about things gets disseminated because we're actually writing things down, as absurd as it sounds, and we're documenting things.

Hiten Shah: 00:30:22 And we think that when we did this research on remote work and really thought about our own ability to do remote work, it's really the idea that there are so many tools that are catering to communication that people tell when they talk about remote work. An example would be Zoom, an example would be Slack, and then even some of the document APPs I mentioned, whether it's as basic as Google docs or Microsoft Office 365, or Notion and Airtable and all these things. We're using these tools as a way to communicate with each other because even in an office environment, you find folks who are not always in the office, you find folks who are actually working from home more than we ever have.

Hiten Shah: 00:30:59 And so I would say that all work is distributed now, and these tools are helping people do that and that's why we've seen a proliferation of these tools. It's actually one of the reasons we're building FYI today, which helps you find your documents in three clicks or less. And the reason for that is that basically we find that all these tools exist, all this information is everywhere, and we're starting with documents because every company creates documents. You might not create them if you're in the office as much or if you're like five people sitting around the table and you're just coding and designing and things like that, but when you really step back, you have created so many assets and we consider design things document, we even consider code documents in a lot of ways because you're writing and you're shipping things and you have files associated with code.

Hiten Shah: 00:31:41 So to me it's really, if I were to say what's the thing you're solving for in a remote team and always looking to solve for, is basically reduce the friction in communication, reduce the friction in getting the information you need to do your job, those are the two big buckets. There are a lot of emotions, a lot of feelings, a lot of things that come into that around loneliness and boundaries and things like that because when you're on a remote team and you're using Slack, people tend to be able to essentially message you anytime and you essentially have to take it and figure out what you have to do with this information. And many of us are used to text messages where we get them and we respond right away, and Slack has created an environment where that's kind of the same thing, and we treat it like messaging, and there are a lack of boundaries sometimes when it comes to that, especially when you get into like time zones and things like that. And Slack has done a great job of helping us kind of keep our boundaries, but that doesn't mean that people follow the rules. I can still send a notification even though you're snoozed, I'm allowed to, it's just takes an extra click. So this is what I've learned from my years of doing it as well as it's backed up by the research we've recently done for our report.

Matt H: 00:32:49 Yeah, that's fascinating. And I'm curious to hear about how you have ... This comes up a lot when we talk about distributed teams and the word culture gets thrown around a lot and I think it's one of those terms nobody really understands what it means exactly. But how do you account for creating a team that people are excited about in a distributed environment when it comes to that culture piece, which is, I guess, just being excited about the co-workers that you're with and being excited about the company and its mission all together and I think a lot of the friendships that are formed in an office setting here are maybe part of that culture building piece. So how do you account for that, how do you build a culture that people are excited about in a distributed team in your experience?

Hiten Shah: 00:33:28 I feel like culture is so special and unique for every company and the culture is really a combination of all the people that work there. And so, normally people are going to be like, "Okay, let's set up some values. Let's create what our values actually are and take that and then basically build out our culture based on who we are, who we believe we are, and what values we aspire to, and let's create these company values." That's the number one way that people sort of associate culture ... what people associate culture with. On a remote team, those values are often harder to define because the what we believe isn't happening on a real-time basis between everyone on the team, it doesn't feel as familiar because you can only see things digitally. Even the faces you see are digital, it's not physical, you're not in front of people. The same like when I'm typing and there's some energy around it, you can't see my face, you don't know whether I'm excited or not unless I'm really expressive through Emoji and things like that.

Hiten Shah: 00:34:26 So for me on remote teams with distributed work happening, culture has a lot to do with how you express yourself to the outside world as a business, and that's actually one of the key ways that culture develops. That would be my thesis about remote work and that's really, really, tough to like grok and understand. But we're all doing business not with ourselves internally, we're doing business with outside world and so the culture really gets formed a lot more based on how people perceive the business and the company from the outside world, because that's what is most prevalent and out there when it comes to a remote team. It's not that I'm saying the internal culture doesn't matter ... that I'm saying you can't shape it internally, but what you produce is what you're judged by.

Hiten Shah: 00:35:08 What you produce for the outside world is what really helps the culture develop on a remote team because your team doesn't have this pride of coming into the office and working with people in the same way they do in office environment, so what you have is what you're shipping, what you have is what you're delivering to the customer, what you have is what the customer says about you. So to me, it goes back a lot to the business and what it stands for in the customer's eyes, and that's how culture develops on a remote team much faster when you think about it like that, and when you think about what are we doing internally, who are we internally? Because who you are is determined by your customer in great part anyway.

Matt H: 00:35:44 Yeah, that's interesting. Do you think that has something to do with just the ... Again, a mission-driven companies is one of those things I don't really understand either, but is that a piece of it as well? Do you think that there's something about ... and maybe just the mission of your company is to deliver a wonderful service that does right by the customer, maybe that counts and that's a mission unto itself. So, I think of examples of that, like I was able to talk to Jason Fried on the Podcast a few episodes ago and he was saying that taking a stand on things that he believes in and the company believes in is a big part of what it is to be a part of Basecamp and what Basecamp is as a company. Do you think that plays a role in your experience and just taking, maybe not a controversial stance, but standing up for things that you believe in within the industry and, I guess, giving an opinion on things as a company, as a business, does that play a role, do you think?

Hiten Shah: 00:36:29 I think that's huge, and I think that at Basecamp they've been great at that. And that's what I meant by the outside world, that's basically what they're doing, the stance that they're taking is showing who they are to the outside world and that's what's determining the culture, and they do this repeatedly. They were one of the first, probably the first, to write a book on remote work. It's still like a Bible, so to speak, on remote work. It's tried and true, you can go back to a lot of things other folks say about remote work and go back to the things that were written in that book. So yeah, they've been doing this, this is what they do, they're very good at. And I think that it completely aligns with my thesis that the outside world gets to determine what your culture is especially on remote teams.

Matt H: 00:37:11 Have you found that the culture piece or a part of that is to bring people together as well? I know that there's other companies out there that I've been able to talk to that have mentioned that there's things like company retreats that are important to them, they bring people into an office setting when they are onboarding them, and things like that. Do you find that that's important in your experience, or do you have any thoughts on that?

Hiten Shah: 00:37:31 I don't like crutches so I will say something controversial and say that I think the companies that do the retreats and rely on them, the companies that do in-person onboarding and rely on it, are using a crutch to solve a problem that needs to be solved on a distributed remote team remotely in the way that people will naturally be working all the time. It's not to say that I'm not into the retreats or I don't think there's value, it's more to say that I would recommend anyone thinking about that stuff to not use it as a crutch. Onboarding in person is a crutch on a remote team because if you have to onboard people in person, that to me defeats the purpose of aligning with the work and the way they're going to work all the time in the company. It's great if you've figured out that that works for you and you have to do that and that's the way you ran people, in my organizations and if I were to give recommendations to folks I would be like, "Well, the natural environment someone's going to work in is how they should be at ramped up too."

Hiten Shah: 00:38:22 And this is why I talk about documentation a lot is, this is why talk about the boring stuff because it's that boring stuff that helps people really ramp up. It's the amount of information they have access to, how fast they have access to it, how to get them the right information at the right time especially as a ramping up in the business. That has a lot to do with them being able to see everything you've done in the past and be able to look through things, or even as they're doing their job months in, you're able to show them a postmortem on something related to what they're working on so they can learn from it. Onboarding and working in an environment is just about learning and constantly being able to learn the right thing to do, what to do, how to do it, especially organizationally from the standpoint of internal processes. It's like, how does the company work and how do you help people who join the team learn how the company works? And I don't really see in-person onboarding being the right solution for a team that's majority of the time working remotely.

Matt H: 00:39:12 This is why this podcast is so interesting to me because I ask those kinds of questions, and honestly, companies I feel that should have the answers to these questions or they feel like they should be some consistency with remote work, everybody is so different when it comes to what's important to them, and how they onboard, and what their processes are with remote work. It's nice I think as well because our listeners have heard that some of these managers in these larger organizations of really reputable places, they're like, "You know what, we don't really know. We're trying our best and we're trying to figure it out but this is a struggle for us." And I think that's a really interesting thing to think about when you think about the size and success of these companies because there are so many people and companies out there that they're having the same problems as any other remote team would have, they just have it at maybe a bigger scale and maybe they have more experience under their belt but it's one of the neat things about the show, I think.

Hiten Shah: 00:40:02 Yeah. One of the reasons this topic and this category is so interesting, we did research on it. I have read the Basecamp book multiple times because it's tried and true in my opinion on how to do this stuff and really will sort of rock your world if you're not familiar with remote work, and that's what's impressive about them, is that we're still figuring it out. For me, it's 16 years later and it's fascinating to see how much attention this topic's getting. I think that all work is remote at this point because even if someone's in the same office, they're likely on Slack or Microsoft teams depending on the size of the company and they're talking via that channel. Even if you're using Email and you don't use Slack or anything, you're talking by Email, you're communicating with your team via Email. So this is the digital reality we're in and the transition is happening, and companies of all sizes have to figure out how to do it without crutches.

Hiten Shah: 00:40:53 What I see is those crutches going away, and then what are companies going to do that rely on those clutches, whatever they may be? Because we work remotely literally, and I didn't mean to go there, and if that's the case then the things we should be doing should be 100% remote and distributed. And if we get to see each other in person, I wouldn't want that to be a crutch to make progress for three days in a way we couldn't remotely. That's my problem. A lot of these companies have developed these retreats in order to basically get work done at a different cadence than they can any other way, that's a shame to me because that means that there is some failure of remote work for them.

Matt H: 00:41:32 I want to go back to the loneliness piece here because I think it's a really important one and I think that there's a lot of people out there that maybe are wanting to hear your thoughts on it. Do you have internally ... to the businesses that you've worked in and the one you're in now, do you have some way of thinking about how to alleviate some of the loneliness that comes along with remote work? Do you give people some framework for understanding, do you encourage people to do certain things? How do you think about that and how do you think about encouraging a healthy life balance when it comes to remote work?

Hiten Shah: 00:42:03 I feel like you get so much freedom and you don't know what to do with it is what it really boils down to, and structure, knowing yourself, is what happens if you weren't working remotely and you start to. Because you start learning all these things about yourself, simple things like if you sit in the same spot every day and work and it's in your house where all these other things are happening too, that might not be great. You might need to move around the house and try different areas. I live in a house, it's multiple bedrooms, and I work out of different places. Honestly Matt, I work out of a bean bag. I'm sitting on a $200 beanbag, Matt, and that's because I love sitting on my bean bag. When I used to work out of my co-founders house as well because we would meet in person and work together especially in the early days, I used to work out of her couch and she would sit on a desk or sit on a chair, and then eventually I got the bean bag over there. And there's a bean bag over there that I used to sit on and work and it's very ergonomic, believe it or not, it's just a bean bag though, and I like it. The beanbag's almost part of me.

Hiten Shah: 00:43:08 But look what I just did, I just went off on what works for me. That I don't know anyone else on the planet ... I'm sure there's someone else that sits on a beanbag all day and works. That's what I do when I work, if I'm working, I'm on the beanbag. I don't work at a desk anymore, I use my laptop, I'm on the beanbag, I do podcasts from the beanbag. Again, sorry to go off about the bean bag, but it illustrates my point and the point is do what works for you, that's what's amazing about remote work. You feel isolated, get out of the house, go to a coffee shop, you have the freedom. Go and work on your laptop from a park. I actually work from my phone a lot, I write emails and tweets and even blog posts and notes and work from my phone and I love it, and I can do that anywhere. I don't have to be at home, I don't have to be in an office, I don't have to have sit in a chair, I can sit on a bench. I can go for a walk and do it as long as no one's around and thinks I'm being rude walking while on the phone and I'm bumping into stuff, obviously, but you get to figure out what works best for you and you get to do that.

Hiten Shah: 00:44:10 You don't have to sit in a chair in front of a couple monitors or whatever in an office if you're able to work remotely and you can do that. And so to me, yes, there is isolation, there are things that you miss about working with other people in person and even going out to lunch, grabbing coffee, all those things. But you have freedom, you have freedom you don't have in those environments. No one's telling you to go to work at a certain time and stop at a certain time, no one's telling you you can't go pick up your kids from school, no one's telling you you can't go have a dentist appointment in the middle of the day. Not that they do in an office, but people see you leave and they're like, "Where's she going? Where's he going? What's going on?" They wonder. There's none of that. And that comes with it all kinds of problems too of not knowing where somebody is when you need them or all that, but that's where the structure comes in, that's where communication comes in, that's where like they'll weigh messages in Slack just like we had them in Aim back in the day, come in. That's where these tools that we have to communicate in lightweight ways come in.

Hiten Shah: 00:45:11 So to me, you get to choose your own adventure in a way that an entrepreneur does, a founder does, when they start a business. Because I really believe I don't have a career, I get to choose my own adventure. And with remote work in a similar way, you get to choose your own adventure and figure out how to solve for these things for you. For example, my co-founder works out of a co-working space sometimes, I don't, she does. And if I were to work from one, I'd probably work from a different one, not because I don't want to work with her or anything, but we'll go to a coffee shop together and work and have meetings because sometimes we like to work in person and we happen to be in the same area. But most people I work with, that's not the opportunity that we have. And even if we don't have that, we'll sit on a call on a hangout for three hours and talk about the same type of thing we would at a coffee shop and drink our tea or whatever individually. So you find these ways of working that are much different, there are no standards, there are no best practices.

Hiten Shah: 00:46:04 And this is one reason I'm really excited about, we've collected over a hundred tips from different people about remote work. Because of these kinds of questions, and the fact is just like I said earlier in terms of advice, it depends, who are you, what do you need, what are your energetic needs, what gives you energy? To me, sitting on my bean bag talking to you right now gives me a lot of energy. That's what I'm going to do because I'm talking about one of my favorite topics and I'm talking to you about it and all these people that I'm going to be in their ear not too long from now. That's really cool, that energizes me, and I want to provide as much value as I can and that's why I'm excited right now. But even when I'm working on content, or working on product, or talking to the team remotely … We have this thing that we do now that we've started doing for a few weeks, which is on our product team meetings, they're on a Google hangout, we don't actually use zoom for them yet.

Hiten Shah: 00:46:53 And we created this concept a few weeks ago called an Emoji deck, and that Emoji deck I'd create it before we start and just a way to communicate an Emoji about what everyone can share. It's up to them what they share but like I come up with some of the topics and just put them in an Emoji and it takes me literally five to 10 minutes before the meeting. And it's a thing, and we get to create these kinds of things with the remote work that aren't as rigid and are more flexible just like remote work is. So that's my long rant on isolation and the social aspects of remote work and just you get the opportunity to just do what's best for you. And I think that, we are not used to that.

Matt H: 00:47:28 Yeah, I know. I think that people aren't used to it. And I also think that there's this mindset of being told what to do in a work environment that people are very comfortable with and they are so used to it that seems so ingrained in them that not having that ... not having the expectation of working in a certain place or at a certain time. At first I think it's that problem of, I don't know what the expression is, but the freedom of too many choices, I suppose it is, that leads people to stagnate a little bit in what they choose to do and I think that it does take a certain type of person and maybe it's something you can develop in just working remotely and practicing it and this actually ties into my next question pretty well. Do you find that you look for something in the individuals that you hire that will make them good remote workers?

Hiten Shah: 00:48:05 We tend to do as much as possible by contracting with them before they join, and we're looking to evaluate whether they can work, not just in a distributed fashion on our team, but generally in a way that fits our culture, whatever that means, and the ways that we work, and can they work with us in those ways? And so the way we think about hiring folks is we want to work with them, and we want to find projects they can work on before they join ideally. And if it's like a more senior hire or somebody who just doesn't have the capacity to do that, we'll spend more time getting to know them and we'll take our time. And if there are roles that we're hiring really fast for, then we'll be very structured about the process, we'll make sure there's take home tests, so to speak, or take home work that's 100% representative of the work they would do when they join the company. They will get the feedback just like they would when they join the company. We want people to feel like they know what they're getting into, I think that's the bottom line. And that doesn't matter if you're working in an office or you're working remotely in a distributed way, I believe that people should know what they're getting into when they join your company before they join.

Hiten Shah: 00:49:11 And how can we give them that experience, is what I'm really looking to optimize. So a lot of times the senior hires or leadership hires managers and things like that, we make sure they spend time with everyone that they're going to be managing, literally. We make sure that people have an understanding of who that person is that are already on the team. Because a lot of times when you're hiring someone, you're not as worried about the people on the team as you are the people who are joining. Just like when you're letting go of someone, you tend to worry so much about the person you're letting go of and you forget about the people on the team and the impact that that's going to have on them. So I like to think more holistically about the different audiences, the different types of people, different customer types, if you want to look at it like that. If I'm the business, I have customers, customers are also team members in a lot of ways, so how do you treat everyone with that sort of level of detail, level of understanding and context of what's ideal for them? And I think ideal for someone joining a team is them having a really good idea of what it means to join this team and what's it's going to be like working in this company.

Matt H: 00:50:09 One of the things that you, I think, are so good at and you've talked a little bit about in your tweets and your writing, is writing itself and how important it is to be a clear and concise writer, and a quality writer in a distributed team. How do you become a better writer? How is it that you either as a company encourage quality writing, or how is it that you think that other people can get better at writing in general?

Hiten Shah: 00:50:33 Nothing improves without feedback, nobody improves without feedback. You can give yourself feedback, obviously, this whole Metacognition thing, thinking about thinking is one way. And so when it comes to writing, it's practice and feedback, and feedback comes from showing people your work early even before you've published it and really figuring out what they think about it. And it could even be feedback once you published it really to understand the sentiment and asking people what they think about things. I published a post today and I haven't really asked anyone what they think about it, I kind of want to and it's just because I want the feedback and I want to know what people who read it think, and that can help me make the next one better. It can even help me improve this one because it sits on the Internet, everything on the Internet is permanent, right? And so, it sits on the Internet so I should figure out what people think about it. I think it's a really important skill to get, which is how do you get feedback on whatever you do? It's actually why I love Twitter, you get feedback right away on what you write, or you can get feedback right away. You can do that with LinkedIn too, you can do that with Facebook, you can do that with any of those things.

Matt H: 00:51:35 I guess that's part of your internal process in terms of people getting better and improving within the companies is feedback, I suppose, is encouraged highly within your businesses?

Hiten Shah: 00:51:44 Yeah, it is encouraged and it is built into our processes and it's really important, and it's something that I think we want to continuously find ways to double down on.

Matt H: 00:51:57 This next one is a bit of a broader question and I'm really interested to hear what you think on it, where does remote work go from here? I know that we've had sort of this wave of remote work and I think that it's a result of a number of different things obviously, but just one of them is technology and one of them is awareness, but where does remote work go as a phenomenon, do you think, in the next five or 10 years? Is it something that continues, would there be a contraction in some way when it comes to startups and companies going remote or building remote teams? Where does this headwind go for us as remote companies?

Hiten Shah: 00:52:28 Yeah, we just get better at it, and more companies embrace having more folks distributed and more folks working remotely and that's it. This just gets more prevalent, this gets to be more and more, I wouldn't say the norm, because otherwise what would we do with all this office space? A lot of money's spent on office space and there's a lot of people invested in making sure we still have offices. Also, not all companies are tech companies, that don't need an office and there's value there. So I would say that where this goes is we learn how to do it better, we eventually over time create best practices for remote work that I really don't believe exist today. Those best practices are probably going to come in the form of do what works best for you, here are the different options, or here are the different ways based on certain criteria. And I'm eager to get to that place where people feel like the problems about remote work, particularly the ones around loneliness, isolation, gets solved and people find right ways to solve them.

Hiten Shah: 00:53:26 Because if that's the biggest problem, we're at a pretty interesting phase of remote work because that kind of problem, it's very human, it's very psychological, it's very emotional. It's the type of problems that are solvable, but they're not objectively solvable in the same way for everybody. While a lot of other problems you can objectively solve and say, "Look, create more documentation. You just have to. Figure it out." That can be solved in an objective way, you can come up with best practices for that when it comes to these harder problems that we're hitting now that are around people's personal lives and how they manage their energy and manages their time. Think about it, we're a remote team. My co-founder loves to work around other people, and I don't think she'd say it like that, but that's my description of it. And so she works from home and she says, herself, she said this on Twitter and things so I think I can say it, that if she works from home for multiple days, she gets stir-crazy. Well, I have my equivalent of that.

Hiten Shah: 00:54:22 My equivalent of that is that I literally love driving. I grew up in southern California, I live in the Bay Area now, and I like driving and I actually get stir-crazy if I haven't driven a car, it doesn't matter which car, it doesn't matter what car, for like two or three days, and that's me. That doesn't even mean I can't work straight from home because I can, but if I get in the car, just go for a drive and I come back, I almost feel changed, I'm different, I'm back, or whatever. And so, again, do what's best for you is what we're going to learn and I think that we're just going to see more tailwind for this because of all the wonderful reasons that we all know about remote work and the freedom it brings and the amount of efficiency it can bring to an organization if done right.

Matt H: 00:55:08 Yeah, and I think part of it too is doing what we're doing now which is talking about what those problems are and how they present themselves so that people can start thinking about them early on if they do decide to go this route or if they're already in it and maybe they haven't seen some of the problems arise that we're talking about, they can at least be aware of it and so that they can maybe start to implement things and start testing things out for themselves to see if they can get ahead of some of those issues. And I think they're important ones, so it's worth looking into, worth testing things, and worth trying to get your head around it because it's important.

Hiten Shah: 00:55:39 Exactly.

Matt H: 00:55:40 Well, like I said, you've had been so generous with your time and I have so many more questions for you, so I think what we'll do maybe hopefully down the line we'll get you on for another episode. I do have some closing questions for you here though, and the first one is, if you weren't an entrepreneur or involved in startups and building products, what do you think you'd be doing?

Hiten Shah: 00:55:55 Teaching.

Matt H: 00:55:56 Anything specific that you'd want to teach?

Hiten Shah: 00:55:58 Anything where I could get a feedback loop, something where I could teach fast, maybe teach cooking, or teach something where the feedback loop was really tight. No one's ever asked me that question in the way that you did, so my answer is teaching. I think I really get a lot of value in helping other people and I love the idea that whatever I'm doing, I'm getting better at, and I think teaching can really provide me with that if I am teaching the right thing that has a feedback loop that's short and quick.

Matt H: 00:56:22 Yeah, no, that's a great answer. I'm partial to teaching, I have a number of teachers in my family and I know that it's such an important job. But yeah, it's one that I think that people that are involved in that are passionate about it, is a really interesting space because there's so many more things to learn and get better at when you're a teacher, so that's a great answer. The next one here is if you could force everyone to read or listen to, I know in your case you do listen to audio books, if you can force everyone to read or listen to one book, what book would that be and why?

Hiten Shah: 00:56:49 There's a book that's really impacted me and has been really helpful in helping me think through some of the self awareness stuff I talked about early on, and the book is called The Courage to be Disliked. And it's very quick read and it's about a third theoretical psychologist's different than Freud and Carl Young, and his name is Alfred Adler, and it talks about his concepts. If I were to summarize it in my completely own words, it's like The Courage to be Disliked is a book about how to focus on yourself as a means to help the world. And the emphasis is on self, not on other people and it gives really appropriate ways of thinking about that. And I am really drawn to the concept because I want to be liked by other people, at least historically that was my framework for a number of reasons that are based on how I grew up and my own personality, how I developed, and I really like this idea of it is not your problem what other people think about you. And it's so powerful when you think about it that way. I think it's actually selfish for you to think that everyone should like you and that was a real mind-bending concept for me, so that's the book I'd recommend and that's why.

Matt H: 00:58:07 That's great. We'll link to that of course as well. It sounds like there's a bit of ... and I know this isn't my area so forgive my ignorance if it's not, but sounds like a bit of stoicism in there a little bit too. You can't control the perceptions of others, you can only control yourselves. Yeah, really, really fascinating.

Hiten Shah: 00:58:23 I think so. It gives you a lot of ways to manage the triggers and the emotions and one of the concepts actually that's interesting that was really helpful to me is I like to be helpful and help other people solve their problems, is this idea of tasks. Whose task is it and how do you determine whose task it is? And the way you determine whose task it is based on this philosophy is basically are you going to benefit from it, or this other person going to benefit from it? And there's always a binary there, it's not that you both benefit, it's actually who's the primary beneficiary of that task. And if it's not you, don't do the tasks for them.

Matt H: 00:58:55 Yeah. Wow. That's great. The last question I have for you before I let you go is what is the best advice you've ever been given?

Hiten Shah: 00:59:01 Yeah, it was from my dad and his advice that really he exemplifies is leave things better than you found them and that's all that I really kind of aspire to as much as possible. And again, that's what made me such a great helper, but that's not the right way to think about it, but leaving things better than you found them I think is a really important. We haven't really set up values at my company FYI yet, but we're definitely talking about that value quite a bit and seeing how we can embody that in the company.

Matt H: 00:59:30 Yeah, I think that there's very little downside in leaving things better than what you found them, so that's great. Great answer. Hiten, I can't thank you enough for being on the show. Before you go, where would you like to send people? Obviously, we didn't really talk about FYI so much, but maybe we can send in a follow up, but where would you like to send people outside of FYI?

Hiten Shah: 00:59:47 It's at usefyi.com and I know the majority of you that are listening have the problem of finding your documents across all the tools you use so we help you find your documents in three clicks or less, so that's usefyi.com. It's a free-to-pay product so that you can use it for free. That's where you can find the thing that I'm spending most of my energy on right now. And then outside of that I'm on Twitter, H-N-S-H-A-H, that's my Twitter handle and I've been on there for 13 years according to Twitter just from a few days ago. And so yeah, I like tweeting a bunch about mostly a lot of the stuff we talked about actually. And outside of that, if you're really into product development and building businesses, I have a newsletter that I work on with my co-founder Marie called Product Habits, and it's at producthabits.com. So those are the three places.

Matt H: 01:00:31 Wonderful. And I can attest to all of those things and following you has been super valuable for me. And yeah, I just can't thank you enough for being on the show. Really appreciate your time. Yeah, thanks so much again.

Hiten Shah: 01:00:40 Thanks for the unique conversation.

Matt H: 01:00:41 All right. Thanks so much again for 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, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone that we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at [email protected], that's [email protected]. Thanks so much again for listening and we'll talk to you next time.

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