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Slack helps Sharesies through a ‘perfect storm’

Sharesies was an early adopter of Slack but its co-founder was still surprised just how important it became for the investment platform during the Covid-19 lockdown when staff had to work remotely and New Zealanders took to sorting out their finances, leading to dramatic growth.

"It was a perfect storm," Sharesies co-founder and chief technology officer, Richard Clark, told Newsroom. Growth in the investment platform jumped during lockdown as Kiwis had the time to rethink their finances and some stocks started to look more affordable, putting pressure on Sharesies to respond quickly just as its 60-plus staff were forced to work from home.

"I think we demonstrated comprehensively that remote working really could work," he said. "We continued hiring right through lockdown. We couldn't handle it any other way. We got huge business opportunities and work during lockdown, which meant we had to keep hiring."

To support that and get work done, Slack use doubled during lockdown and has stayed high, he said.

"Email doesn't give you the kind of spontaneous collaboration opportunities or spontaneous knowledge transfer."

Clark had long used internet relay chat from its earliest days and was quick to adopt Slack when founding Sharesies.

"The instant that we started Sharesies we used Slack. It was there from the get go," Clark said.

He works remotely on the Kapiti Coast and says lockdown proved that with the right policies in place a fast-growing company could do much more than just survive the inconvenience of lockdown.

"Before lockdown the rule was that some people could work from home sometimes... most people had one day a week or so if they wanted," he said. "Now we have many people who are working from home most of the time. Once you've hired people into that environment, why wouldn't you continue to make use of it? Especially if it's working."

*Richard Clark talks to Peter Bale about how to ace remote working*

Q&A with Richard Clark

Here's some key thoughts from Clark on how Slack helped Sharesies cope and thrive during the Covid-19 lockdown.

There may be some worthwhile tips for your business too. If you have specific questions about Slack, email [email protected] and we can get answers for you or include them in a video interview with members of the Slack team.

Q: How do you manage the discipline or etiquette of using Slack, keeping it informal but also clearly a work environment?

A: "I think that's really a culture thing. We drove culture right from the start. Every single induction talks about professionalism within communication. They are all clear, professional. Fun? Yes, funny but never unprofessional."

"I make a big deal of it, we'll do a data induction that I do for all of our staff when they come on board. And I emphasise strongly that we want them to use these tools, Slack in particular for doing this stuff because it gives visibility for monitoring. It lets us do a number of really interesting things that you simply can't do with email."

Q: Why is a collaboration platform like Slack so much more effective than email? What would you say to those who say they are happy running their business on email?

A: "If you're willing to commit to precise working hours, and everybody being in the same room and being able to talk backwards and forwards, then perhaps you don't see the gap. But as soon as you're starting to talk about people being able to work at any time or in any place, then email is too slow. Email doesn't give you the kind of spontaneous collaboration opportunities or spontaneous knowledge transfer. Slack is a much more contained and managed security environment where we can really put more trust in who people are and how that data comes across."

Q: Tell us about what you've gained from bringing vendors and suppliers into Slack channels alongside Sharesies staff.

A: "We make use of the shared channels feature that Slack gives us to integrate vendors -- from the US, from Australia -- so that they can become part of our kind of trusted space, but in a very clearly demarcated zone. And that's been incredible. We've been in it every day, and overnight answers come back, and we re-engage with them....You get all the benefits of the history, the file-sharing, the trust, and that knowledge absorption. So I can drop in there and pick up on a whole day's worth of conversation with no effort."

Q: What would you say to those who are cautious about adopting a collaboration platform like Slack?

A: "It's worth the effort of doing it properly...That means you're going to need to pay some attention to it and you need to role model, how you want people to use the stuff...but overall I would say give it a shot because you do have a gap and you haven't seen it yet."

Q: How did you see your staff adapt the tools in Slack to deal with no one being the office?

A: "With the lockdown everybody just dived in and they really doubled down. One of the most fascinating things...was how people had just developed protocols for making this stuff work on the fly out of nowhere. I think that that's a real tribute to intuitive products and systems that people can do that: the ways of just making this work."

- Quotes from the video interview have been edited for clarity and to focus on pointers you may wish to try in your business. Tutorials on Slack are available here at Slack 101.
Remember, if you have specific questions about Slack, email [email protected] and we can get answers for you or include them in a video interview with members of the Slack team.

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