Morgan Legge, the Remote Work Evangelist and Director of Operations at Convert, will be speaking at Running Remote, the largest remote work conference in the world, and an annual event we’ve loved attending and partnering with for the last 3 years.
She will talk about how the remote-first team at Convert.com has leveraged a baked-in structure of distributed authority, agility and purpose alignment to grow their team across 12 time-zones while retaining their unique culture.
Morgan has always been passionate about operations and organizational health. When she was approached by one of the co-founders of Convert.com, an A/B testing and personalization tool for businesses, with an offer to join his remote-first team and implement huge organizational changes, she gladly took on the challenge.
During her four-year tenure at Convert, Morgan has achieved outstanding results: she completely transformed a hierarchical company reliant on micromanagement to a thriving one that uses distributed authority under Holacracy to fuel its growth. Along the journey she’s implemented a progressive employee perks program; and built an in-sync, accepting, and enthusiastic company culture in an async, fully remote, fast-paced, work environment.
In this interview with Running Remote and Soshace, Morgan shares her story, talks about the importance of leading by example, and gives practical tips on how to make remote companies feel less remote.
On April 20 the organizers of Running Remote are hosting a one-day, free, online emergency work-from-home preparation event — Remote AID 2020. It’s been specifically designed for companies and remote employees struggling with emergency work-from-home policies during the coronavirus outbreak. Join to learn the best practices of remote work from industry experts!
Hello Morgan, and welcome to the interview with Running Remote.
Please, share your story. Why did you decide to abandon Interior Design and transition to business operations?
I’ve always been an operational thinker and a doer.
For context, it’s important to know that from a young age I was entrepreneurial and never shied away from “the impossible”. Like many children I wanted an allowance, but that wasn’t realistic. So when I was 7 I started organising, coordinating and marketing neighborhood sidewalk sales in my urban neighborhood, not with the kids… with their parents! This non-traditional thinking and problem solving has been the artery of my professional life.
As an Interior Design Project Manager I was responsible for diverse teams of contractors, day laborers, tradespeople, designers, and the client in the field of high-value residential renovations.
The grease in the wheels, the listener, collaborator and out-of-the-box thinker. The herder of “cats”. Always juggling competing opinions and goals and timelines with my eye on the budget. I was good at it, and it was rewarding to make sketches transform into reality.
When Dennis approached me to implement Holacracy at Convert I was unhappily in a design sales job, not managing renovations. So I jumped at the challenge of the implementation even though I had a less than basic understanding of what Holacracy was, and he knew that. But we both believed in the possibility of what could happen and were eager to try and make work better for everyone.
Tell us more about Convert. What do you do there?
Convert.com offers a fast and flicker free and fully privacy compliant optimization tool that lets websites run A/B tests, multivariate tests and personalizations. Basically, a tool for websites to improve their conversions.
To the outside world I’m the Director of Operations. Internally, we don’t have titles…we don’t even have managers! That’s because Convert runs on a distributed authority structure called Holacracy. Each Converter energizes a diverse set of roles that relate to their backgrounds, skills and interests. I currently hold 10.
The quantity, size and composition of roles evolves over time, just as strategies, the marketplace and goals do. Our roles are a reflection of the areas of improvement and aspiration that we see for Convert. We are always improving so the roles organically change as the company does.
On your Linkedin profile, you list the role of Conscious Business. What does Conscious Business mean? Is there such a thing as Unconscious Business? How are they similar or how do they differ?
We have a three pronged conscious business philosophy; our product, economic, and social missions. This translates into caring passionately about; the privacy of our customers, which industries use our product, and the environment.
Being an unconscious business is about putting your profit first. Period. At Convert it’s really important we stand FOR something even if it means making tough decisions about refusing customers, for example. Leading by example is key: you can’t change by talking about what you want to see, you also have to do it.
One of our social mission goals is to eventually be 100x carbon neutral. In 2018 we had our carbon footprint audited and we offset that amount 15x by purchasing VCS carbon credits for community projects. For our 2019 inventory we are on track to offset 20x. This is even with considerable growth over the last year. Small steps make big changes.
A key component of our economic mission often turns heads. We won’t allow our A/B testing and personalization software to be used on sites that fall into our non-aligned areas. Sites that sell weapons or peddle hate for example are not welcome. We don’t want to help them get better at accomplishing their goals because we believe it doesn’t make the world a better place.
As the holder of the Conscious Business Role it’s my responsibility to steward Convert’s direction and initiatives to hold us to our values.
Why did you choose remote as the center of your business practice?
Actually, Convert has always been a remote-first company. Its founders, Dennis and Claudiu, had worked together for years before meeting in person. Dennis lived in Mexico at the time while Claudiu was in Romania. This location agnosticism was a pillar of the early company that would later become present-day Convert. It’s in our DNA!
How do you make the remote working world feel less remote?
With intention. Each Converter is key in building our purposeful company culture that fosters camaraderie and empathy. We start building and exercising these muscles during onboarding. New hires spend a full day reading all the public slack channel histories. Not skim, read with purpose! This gives them a sense of our personalities and how we communicate; use of humor, sarcasm and gifs to relate to each other and blow off steam.
One reason we recommend this is because everyone needs to understand who they work with. The way a person expresses themselves tells you a lot. It becomes easy to see when someone is having an off day. We then encourage all Converters to spend the first 20 minutes of each day reading the slack activity that’s happened when they were offline. This gives you the context to understand what kind of day you are walking into.
Our communication channels are dedicated to both work and non-work. But we consider both productive uses of your paid time. For example, the #all_places channel is where Converters share pictures and videos of food they ate, places they visited over the weekend or where they’re coworking. Little interactions all add up to forging connections between people which creates camaraderie. These all help remote work not feel so remote.
Why do you think there’s the need for diverse and committed talent in every company? How do you help achieve that?
Diversity is key to success. It shows us different perspectives and ideas that can help solve problems in business or daily life. Factors like gender, ethnicity, educational background, and geographic location influence a person’s outlook on life and they bring that to work. This outlook is unique and valuable.
One example is Volvo. In 2004 they finally added a hole in their car headrests. Female customers found it uncomfortable to use a headrest when sporting a ponytail, updo or bun. But it wasn’t until a team of women designed a concept car that was well received for ingenuity that Volvo added this design change into their production models. A small example of how a popular frustration can be solved simply.
Converters are not only multicultural they’re diverse too. We take great care in filling our hiring pipeline with exactly what we want to see reflected in our new team mates. We advertise new openings on a variety of international remote job sites and even micro target local job boards in geographic areas where we are under represented. All in order to reach a wider pool of applicants.
To give everyone as even a playing field as possible I developed an anonymized hiring process that strips out photos, names, gender, education, citizenship and pronouns etc. This redaction focuses all our attention on an applicant’s skills which is one of the things that’s important to us.
What are the “virtual tacos?” A way to recognize awesomeness!
Well, virtual tacos are delicious emoji tacos 🌮 that are prepared fresh by our HeyTaco! Bot in slack. Converters give them out to recognize each other’s efforts and achievements. There’s even a taco leaderboard which shows how many tacos everyone has and what they earned them for.
Our Cultural Attaché (yes, that’s actually a role at Convert) is working to find a way to make these tacos redeemable for real world rewards. It’s a challenge in our international remote team where the purchasing power varies as widely as the leisure activities and quality of services available.
Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
Anything to do with water is at the top of my list. I’m an avid scuba diver and swimmer. Since I’m a remote worker I can combine my hobbies and work in a healthy way. Last year I went to Mexico and Bali, where I worked in the morning and dived in the afternoon and hung out with some of our team in the evening. Win-win-win!
Cross-cultural pollination through food and cooking is also a hobby. Once a month we host a six course meal incorporating new flavors and techniques and enjoy that with friends.
Are you excited about the upcoming Running Remote conference? What are you going to talk about? What are your expectations from the event?
Running Remote is a learning environment chock full of remote-first companies — these are the incubators for forward thinking tools, mindsets and strategies in adopting and evolving remote work.
At Convert we really believe in how WE do remote work, and we love to share our journey. At Running Remote 2020 I’ll talk about how to scale your remote team with distributed authority. I’ll share our journey in adopting Holacracy and show how it’s perfectly suited to remote first organizations. The audience can learn how we enjoy the benefits of empowering our remote teams, and then getting out of the way!
Learning from other remote teams is really important. Certainly, the way we run Convert today is not the only way forward. I’m excited to return to work invigorated after the conference with new ideas, connections and strategies to make us better– for Converters and our customers.
[Read] Convert Blog with articles on our hiring process, remote work. Holacracy and conscious business
[Podcast] Interview with Convert CEO Dennis van der Heijden: Must-listen for any startup founder who is looking for a more human and honest approach to what can happen on your journey.
For Multicultural teams: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer
Podcasts as guest:
The interview was prepared with the assistance of Marina Vorontsova, a copywriter from Soshace.com — hire a developer or apply for a remote job. Soshace helps Running Remote in conducting the interviews with the top speakers.