JournalJul 2013

Practicing what you preach

Perhaps it’s not surprising that when you email your clients to say ‘our team is going to be moving to Valencia for 2 months’, they react with a healthy degree of suspicion in relation to how much work you’ll manage to get done. But I’m writing this while flying back to London and I can honestly say that the last couple of months have seen Hanno grow and evolve at a faster pace than we’ve ever done before.

Back in March, Matt and I, working from our studio in London, were beginning to look around for a new workspace. We’d checked out a few places in London and thought that co-working would be a good solution for the next couple of months, but then it occurred to us that while 3 of us live and work in London, there was no reason why that should remain the case.

Shouldn’t we be doing more to really prove to everyone who knows and works with us, that if you’re doing quality work, location is meaningless?

Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and having considered an ludicrously large number of potential destinations (from Brazil, to Italy and Hong Kong), we eventually hatched a plan. We booked a couple of desks at a friendly-looking co-working space in Valencia, Spain, that we spotted online, and booked flights and 3 weeks in an apartment from Airbnb. We intended that 4 of our team would head out to Valencia at various points of the trip, and live and work together when we did.

It was perhaps quite an ambitious plan. Living and working 24/7 with your team is not everyone’s cup of tea and might well have created tension amongst the team if we weren’t as well matched as we thought. But, 2 months later, I can honestly say that it couldn’t have gone much better. So much so, that I’m sitting on a plane with an empty seat next to me because Matt has decided that he can’t quite bring himself to leave, for a few more weeks! As we gradually head back to our starting points, we know far more about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and also those of Hanno as a whole. I think it’s very unlikely that we’d have reached the same understanding among the team if we hadn’t had the chance to work so closely together like this.

The last 2 months have seen us work with even greater focus than we’ve managed in the past, make a huge number of new friends, and give us a very clear direction about where we want to go from here. Our team ethos has always been about helping each other to learn and grow, and producing quality work for our clients that we can all be proud of. And in 2 months away, we leave even more determined to deliver on those counts.

Not only is Valencia a beautiful city, but the people we’ve met there have undoubtedly been the reason the trip was so successful. We’ve met so many incredibly passionate people, and that hasn’t been limited solely to web designers and developers. And the Hanno ‘network’ is unquestionably stronger as a consequence. A huge shout-out goes to everyone at Workether, who have invited us into their homes and lives from the very first day we arrived.

We passionately believe that the distributed lifestyle is one that far more businesses should adopt. But building a remote team isn’t easy, and neither is constantly staying on top of communication—despite the power of Hangouts, Skype, IM, email, and a whole heap of other communication tools, it’s still hugely important to meet up once in a while and find the time to get to know your team in-person, and outside of the studio. Even though we weren’t all able to make it out to Valencia, those moments of insight and real clarity about how we all work, and how we feel our team and industry will evolve, came about far too many times to count. And at the end of it, we feel more than ever that, far from us being successful in spite of being distributed, our distributed setup actually gives us a huge advantage over a lot of other agencies.

No doubt we’ll be back to visit Valencia again soon—and we fully intend to repeat the travelling experience again. With the amount of value we’ve gained from it, it’d be a huge mistake if this was only allowed to be a one-off experience. For now, we’re incredibly excited about what the next couple of months will bring, and totally committed to seeing where we can go from here, and to grow and improve even further.

Posted by
Jon Lay

Jon is a Partner at Hanno. He wears many hats, but his primary focus is on leading our engineering and technical operations.