The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Peep Laja  is the founder and CEO of CXL, Wynter and Speero. He is originally from Estonia but lives in Austin, Texas, and he's a digital nomad that still spends his  summers in Europe. He is an entrepreneur and a conversion optimization champion. He's passionate about driving change and growth through digital optimization. He was voted as number one, most influential conversion rate optimization expert in the world. He is devoted to growing the size and quality of the whole conversion optimization community. You can rely on him for help. He spends most of his time today on making top 1% marketing know-how available for everyone through the CXL Institute. And he's excited to share the learnings he's had in leading remote teams globally.

Learn more about Peep at: https://peeplaja.com/
follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/peeplaja or
connect with him on LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/peeplaja/


Tyler Sellhorn (00:02):
Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn 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 by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique visitors per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire. Here we are with Peep Laja. He is the founder and CEO of CXL, Wynter and Spiro. He is originally from Estonia but lives in Austin, Texas, and still spends the summers in Europe. He's one of those digital nomads. He is an entrepreneur and a conversion optimization champion. He's passionate about driving change and growth through digital optimization. He was voted as number one, most influential conversion rate optimization expert in the world. He is devoted to growing the size and quality of the whole conversion optimization community. You can rely on him for help. He spends most of his time today on making top 1% marketing know-how available for everyone through the CXL Institute. And he's excited to share the learnings he's had in leading remote teams globally. All right. So Peep, I'm curious, what are the problems that you're trying to solve with your businesses today?

Peep Laja (01:18):
With CXL, we are solving the problem off how to do stuff. So we're training marketers in all aspects of technical marketing. So digital analytics, conversion optimization, customer acquisition, things like that. Going down to the nitty gritty. So very detailed, extensive training programs online. With Wynter, we are solving a problem where, you know, in marketing, we have data on all the things. How many people come to a site? What did they do today? They buy, they don't buy, you know, where do they click or scroll, but what actually converts those people to become customers is words on your page. What's wrong with your words? How can you improve the copy in your website? Nobody tells you until Wynter came along. So we're solving the problem of making copywriting and messaging data-driven.

Tyler Sellhorn (02:10):
Excellent. Excellent. Thank you for sharing that information. Just for a quick aside here, you've converted me. I'll say that lately, you know, you're the conversion expert. I saw just a quick story on how we connected. You had mentioned on Twitter that you were getting pitched by some people saying, Hey, I can get you on podcasts. And lo and behold, you got yourself on a podcast. So welcome to The Remote Show. Thank you for, for answering the call in the Twitter DM. So thank you very much for being there and proving this podcast, booking agent a wrong that you're able to source that for yourself, especially as someone, you know, as online as you are and knows how to communicate online. I'm curious, you shared with me in our DM that you had decided to, you know, make Wynter a remote first organization. And I'm curious what prompted you to think about Wynter in that organizational?

Peep Laja (03:00):
So my companies that I've had have been kind of like in-office businesses who see Excel and Spiro with always had multiple offices. So we have an office in London for Spiro and in Tallinn and in Austin, and CXL we share offices sphere on CXL shared offices because while there's different companies, the founders are the same. So it's all good. And everything was good until Corona hit. And so it was like, Oh, okay, well, everybody's working from home. And then also there's been instances when we're trying to recruit talent and the local talent for those particular roles is just not available. So in Austin, everybody and their mother already have a high-paying job and so on and so forth. They're like some places are better for finding a talent than others. And then we've hired people, you know, one-off remote people and actually it's worked out fine.

Peep Laja (03:57):
And so we've, we're now working from home anyway. It's all good. And so with Wytner, which is a very new company, so we just launched it a market May, 2020 in the beginning of it was just me, the founder and I had a product manager and then the remote developers from the get go. And so like, well actually now with Corona everywhere, cause may when we launched Corona was already everywhere. So like, well, I mean, we can't have an office anyway. And so looking at my experience with CXL and where we have talent all over the world, you know, United States, Europe, Asia talent is cheaper in some places, especially if we look at talent in the United States versus elsewhere, United States talent is by far the most expensive, the different salary difference is less pronounced for, let's say junior roles. But as we get into like mid to senior career roles, that gap is like double already.

Peep Laja (04:57):
It's huge, hugely different. So if you want to become rich by having a job, you want to be in America, obviously, you know, advantages in being in other places, you know, like free education and healthcare and so on in Europe, but for a startup, you know, starting a business is hard enough, but if you can save about 30% costs by having access to talent that is cheaper. We have Wynter, we have everybody in Europe, I mean, and Latin American and Asian towns would be even cheaper. So that's one thing is like, we can just save money by having access to global remote talent two, we can save money on office space and three, we can hire better people because we cannot afford to hire the top 1% person from the States. They want to work for Google or McKinsey, but top 1% from Albania or Bolivia, people are equally smart anywhere in the world.

Peep Laja (05:56):
You know, that cost less in some places because cost of living is cheaper. And there's a third factor as well. This thing like a called countries, statehood is kind of like an antiquated concept in a, in a world where online we're all equally far from each other. And so if we can pick to be a remote company and employ people from all over the world, why are we locked into having to incorporate in only like one place, actually, if it doesn't matter where people are, it doesn't matter where our businesses are so registered in. And so if talent is cheaper in Bolivia, where is it cheaper to incorporate? And so a lot of countries in the world don't have corporate income tax. So in the United States where there's corporate income tax, it's a pain. I know because I paid. And so for Wynter's, they all get, I would gladly save the 21% tax and try to not scramble at the end of the year to lower my profits. So pay less tax. So, you know, we're incorporated in Estonia where there's no corporate income tax, we hired a local talent. So I'm actually increasing the odds of success by cutting costs by being remote.

Tyler Sellhorn (07:15):
Very good. Very good. I'm curious. I know that you're from Estonia and I know that Estonia has been at the forefront of E residency and E corporations. Did you choose to avail yourselves of those types of organizations as a company, or are you like a more traditional company in Estonia?

Peep Laja (07:33):
Well, every company is a digital company in Estonia, so yes, it makes it easier to get some from there because I understand how things work, but we looked into many options. We looked into Latvia that also doesn't have a corporate income tax. We looked into Malta, we looked into Ireland some Caribbean countries in many places, there are still like, you need the registered agent locally there and a mailbox and an office. And like all these ancient prehistoric rules that serve nobody. Whereas in Estonia, you can do everything online, like open up bank accounts and like, do all those things digitally. Like all government bureaucracy is done online. You don't need to see any bureaucrat. It's increasingly easier in the States as well. I mean, I do have a mini online only like business banks now that I'm also a client offer. I never went anywhere to open up a bank account and so on. So it's increasingly easier everywhere in the world, but in Estonia. Also, the government stuff is just so easy. So, and there that there's no corporate income tax like, bam, let's do it.

Tyler Sellhorn (08:39):
Awesome. Thanks for sharing that information as well. Okay. So I'm curious, obviously we work remotely.com is a jobs sourcing and, and job seeking site. What's the story of your first hiring story? Be it, you hired someone remotely, or you got hired remotely. What's the story of your first remote hiring experience?

Peep Laja (08:58):
My first roles. So CXL a company. They built the e-learning company. I built it on top of content marketing. So I, at first I wrote every single blog post myself took great care of it. And since I had success with it, I was like also that I had very high standards for how this work needs to be done. Eventually, the company doesn't scale or grow if I have to still write every blog post. So I need to hire somebody, okay. I need to hire a very good content person, but I'm still at early stages of my business. So I cannot afford to pay market rates. I need to pay less. And so I started looking for a content writer and I ended up with a guy. So I was based in Austin, Texas, and I ended up with a guy from Massachusetts. That was a great success story for me, really nailed it.

Peep Laja (09:53):
Also like content is pretty independent role. Like obviously you need to think about things, but it's like editorial process can happen in Google docs or, you know, whatever. So, and emboldened by that success. Actually after that guy, I've had multiple content people that have been not in Austin. So I had somebody in Canada, I had somebody in West Africa and it just worked. And so for certain roles, it's just, doesn't really matter. In fact, the other thing in most roles, it doesn't matter where you are. It is definitely better to talk in person in the same room, but it's not a necessity, you know? So yeah. So content marketing roles have been where my first forays into remote hiring.

Tyler Sellhorn (10:37):
So I'm curious in this hiring that you've done remotely, what are the signals that you look for for CA in candidates when you say, okay, they are a potential successful candidate to work at CXL or to work at Wynter, do you look for someone that has had remote experience that was non COVID related? What are the things that are signals that say, Ooh, this is somebody I want to spend some more time with, or I want to interview, or I want to work on a project with what are the signals that, that say, Ooh, this is someone that I need to double click on.

Peep Laja (11:07):
So after 10 years of hiring people, probably like a hundred people or so learned a few things. So, you know, obviously it really depends on how much you can pay people to start changing your strategy, because sometimes it's hire for talent, train for skill, and you get cheaper people. And this is the thing that you have to do when it's just starting up and you can't pay top dollar. And that's certainly what we did in the beginning. So we're really looking for that attitude. So can do, I will sell my kidney to get this chance, you know, type of attitude, proactivity. So we were mostly for, to hire for attitude. We were looking for signs of proactivity taking responsibility. So if it's somebody young, fresh out of college, we will look at like extracurricular stuff that, you know, member of the student organizations, just some, any, like, you know, let's say non-profit stuff on the side.

Peep Laja (12:00):
Now, obviously training for skill takes a long time. So I was training to be conversion optimization analysts. And let me tell you at least a year before I would show that person to a client, you know, there's a lot to know for that particular role. So now that I'm in a, let's say a more privileged position to pay more money to people, I must certainly also expect skills. Cause training skills takes way too long, to be honest. So now I don't care about your personality until I see that you can do the job. So like you can be the best buddy and the like most likable person in the room and have like strong work ethic. But if you can't do the job well, I'm only hiring people to do a job. So I've had to let go multiple people over the years that I really liked.

Peep Laja (12:51):
They were such nice people, such as friendly people like good buddies. I a nice to have a beer with, but work mediocre. So now my process is really to start with an assignment, a real life assignment. If it's a content writer, write me an article and I pay for the test assignment. So it's not like I'm leashing off of somebody's time. And maybe I don't pay quite market rate because it's also like, this is a test, but you know, but there's money involved pick up a hundred bucks and it's usually a time boxed. It's also, you know, like how many hours, so don't spend more than eight hours on this. So something like this, depending on what it is, same for designers design me something first. If it's developers, it's more tricky, you know cause like all this development skill tests, they only show so much.

Peep Laja (13:43):
So now with developers, so processes, we start with GitHub, we look at their GitHub profile. What have you done? If they're gonna have no guitar profile, it's a no go need to be. And I have an active GitHub profile and then bring somebody in for maybe a two week process, give them an actual bit to chew on that. We're working on, meet the team, test the collaboration communication skills. And after two weeks, if it seems good, you know, we can discuss full-time but something like this. So now I'm like task first, obviously interviews are also important components. So I am a huge, huge fan of the hiring methodology described in the book, "The Who" by Geoff Smart. So their thing is all about this. A three-step interview process, step one, check the overall fit and motivation. Step two detailed coverage of the last five years of work experience.

Peep Laja (14:35):
You know, you want to really understand how somebody makes decisions. That's called a top grading interview. If you Google it, tons of resources about it. So really, really valuable. And then in everybody says that they're great at what they do. Oh yeah. At my last I was doing all these things that people often take credit for team effort and say that I did it, all the time. So it's a great thing about the topgrading interview is you frame it all through the lens of your manager. So it's like, okay. So in your last job, you're, who's your manager direct supervisor. Oh, it's Mary Johnson. Okay, great. So I'm going to call Mary. So what will Mary tell me about your job performance? How will Mary rate what you did? What will Mary realist as your top achievements? What will Mary highlight as your shortcomings? And now through this lens, knowing that I'm going to call Mary and check on this, people are going to be very honest. And then actually I do I am going to call Mary and then if there's a big discrepancy, like the person said, Oh, Mary is going to give me a 10 for this 10 for that. And 10 for that. And Mary said, it's four, four, and three is like, Oh, this person has no self perception or like something's off there, you know? So I can see the red flag and it's a new goal.

Tyler Sellhorn (15:53):
Awesome. Thank you for those things. So I'm curious when you think about signaling Wynter or CXL's culture to a candidate, what are the things that you think about is the job ad important to you? What are you trying to say in the job ad? How do you think about the strategies that you're using to attract the right people into your organization? You mentioned skills, you mentioned the types of people you would like to be working with. Like how have you, I know that you're the conversion guy. So how have you optimize the conversion for seeing people that will be successful in your organizations?

Peep Laja (16:34):
Job Ads has definitely matter. And I can't say that my job ads are like the best in the world, but they're definitely liberal average. So Java matters what's I think most important is your own network. So when we advertise for our jobs, we advertise first and foremost to our own newsletters, our email lists. So if these people already know our brand and like our brand, they're going to be way better candidates. So first and foremost, we hire maybe 80% of people through our own network. And these are also people who I also, you know, advertise every job on social media. I have a decent sized, Twitter and LinkedIn following. And so if they have followed me for years, they know what I'm about and maybe have a positive, favorable view about my person. Then again, there are going to be a better candidate than approaching somebody cold. I mean, I do approach a fair amount of people cold, mostly through angellist by far my favorite place to hire people. But then, you know, like my businesses are in the large scheme of things, small businesses, you know, like under a hundred employees. So most people have never heard of us. You know, it's not like Nike or, you know, one of those big companies where somebody is dreaming of working for Nike, nobody dreams to work for a small business that you've never heard of. So it's much, much tougher there.

Tyler Sellhorn (17:56):
Okay. So one of the things that you mentioned before was that you are somebody that uses a network to be the first point of contact for people that you found to be successful in hiring. If you're thinking about which, by the way, @peeplaja on Twitter, that's how to find Peep online. He's, he's a, he's a big Twitter guy, but I want to encourage you to think and maybe share some ideas about what are the things that you have done to be audience. First, you mentioned in a previous podcast that I listened to, you mentioned that you are thinking about building CXL in an audience first way. You are an early adopter of that strategy. If you're somebody that wants to position themselves as a networker, as a connector to hashtag marketing Twitter, you know, what are the things that you might suggest to those people that are looking to make a name for themselves to kind of aid themselves in becoming strong hiring managers through their online networking efforts,

Peep Laja (19:05):
Step one, be consistent. So meaning that on social media and you just want to be posting every single day on Twitter and multiple times a day, depending on your networks. I mean, I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter predominantly. I mean, TikTok and other networks might make sense. Also for some people you choose you, your networks, you know, or might be doing a daily Clubhouse session where YouTube videos doesn't matter. Like you think like, where are the people that you want to influence? Where are they hanging out? So, and you want to be consistent. And obviously if you're consistently boring, then that doesn't help your cause. So you want to be consistently interesting. And if you want to be consistently interesting, which is of course, a high bar, and nobody's a hundred percent interesting all the time, but you can at least try and become more interesting.

Peep Laja (19:58):
So add value to whatever the conversation about your domain. And it really helps if you just stick to one category of or subject, because then people can really easily put you in a box as in somebody knowledgeable and interesting about this particular topic. If you ran out of things to say like on social, my favorite thing is like, you've been around, you've learned some things, so, okay. What are the top things you've learned about? Let's say hiring top things you've learned about this other thing, the things you've learned about motivation, top things you look, and when you make this top 10 lists personally, then you have a story. Oh, yes. I know this thing to share. And like these personal stories and personal lessons learned is most impactful content for social media. People really love personal and experience stuff. People really love stories. And it sounds natural instead of you throwing out like work hard and successful come like these kind of platitudes, like people are not eating that. I mean, it works for some people, but like it's much more easier to speak from experience and just put yourself out there and then be consistent with interesting content is my advice.

Tyler Sellhorn (21:06):
Awesome. So awesome. Hey, so I'm really curious about Wynter. You've been working all of this time on conversion and really building up CXL into a really great business. And now you've pivoted to start this new venture Wynter's out here. What are you trying to accomplish with winter,

Peep Laja (21:24):
Winter, with winter? What we do, we're really in the business of delivering audiences. And what that means is that, you know, your business is selling or marketing to a group of people. Maybe it's SaaS, CMOs, maybe it's product managers, maybe it's SEO. People doesn't matter. We can put your messaging and your copy or website copy, email, copy. Doesn't really matter what kind of copy in front of that audience and tell you what they think about it, how your marketing lands on these people, what turns them off and what's resonating. What's like, Ooh, tell me more about that. Then don't tell me about that thing. So once you know these things, you can do better marketing. So that's what we do with Wynter. We're building panels of peoples in various job roles and various industries, then gold being that we have the best B2B panel in the world. And then we're going to turn this into a platform where anybody can query our panels through an API, build their own SaaS tools on top of our platform, things like that.

Tyler Sellhorn (22:20):
Oh, really cool. I can think of several businesses that I've interacted with that could use your services. So those of you that are out there Peep's got a solution for you and wants to help you build yours as well. Okay. So I'm curious if you were to say to a new entrepreneur, that's very similar to yourself looking to post their first job remotely. They're thinking of in the same way you were with Wynter. Okay. How do I access a global talent base? Reduce my costs? What would you say are the top two or three things that you would say you need to make sure that you consider these three things, as you're thinking about choosing to be a hybrid, remote, remote first type company, what are the things that you would say to those people? You've got to have these in your toolbox

Peep Laja (23:11):
Most important. The thing is like you understanding what this person will do. Then when you write the job ad a big mistake, I see people write the job out from the requirements perspective. I need you to be like this and you'll have this skills. And if you have these skills apply, but then if you're an unknown brand, if you're not Nike and people, it's not, anybody's dream to work at your company, then you need to sell. So the job and needs to be about why this is the opportunity you've been looking for a, why is it so cool to work at this company? What are all the opportunities? So basically you're writing a sales copy with some requirements built in having that mindset that I'm actually selling the job will make a huge difference.

Tyler Sellhorn (23:51):
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today and helping us learn from your experiences. You can find Peep on Twitter at @peeplaja. And again, thank you so much for taking this time and helping us learn from you today. Thank you.

← Back