Behind the Scenes: The Team that Boredwalk Built
Hiya! I'm Meredith. I created Boredwalk with my partner Matt. I'm the one who comes up with the ideas for just about everything you see on our website; Matt does most of the designing. Before this was my day job I worked in the tech industry. The main appeal of that job was the solitary nature of that work. In other words, I'm really not a people person.
When I switched careers to focus on Boredwalk full-time it was because I was burned out on tech work. All those rumors you've heard about it being a misogynistic boys club were 100% true in my experience. I wanted to do something I felt a little more in control of. Basically, I was tired of male bosses who were like "We'd like it if you'd smile more, so we're going to be giving the promotion to the guy in the next office over who spends all day looking at porn and doing no work — you know, because he's got a penis and you don't." Anyway, now I'm the boss and I can scowl all day if I feel like it. Hooray!
But here's the thing: I didn't do this to become a boss. I kinda hate being a boss. Sure, I don't want someone else to be MY boss, but I don't really relish being the boss of other people. It involves human interaction and all that touchy-feely stuff I'm not all that great with. This led to a lot of hiring mistakes.
When we first started hiring we wrote job posts that looked like every job post you've ever seen. "Graphic Apparel Business Seeking Warehouse Assistant", blah blah blah, BORING! As a result of us writing boring AF job descriptions, we attracted lame AF job applicants.
Half of our scheduled interviewees stood us up. We met some real crazies and started to imagine maybe there just wasn't anyone good to hire. For example, one woman showed up to her interview 20 minutes late, was wearing a see-through low-cut blouse that was beyond distracting, and proceeded to tell us that she'd had a string of unplanned babies in the last 3 years and was now unemployed as a result of being unable to stop socializing on the clock when she had work to do at her previous job. She liked the job we were hiring for because it was a mid-day shift, and she didn't want to get out of bed too early. Yes, seriously; this was the kind of stuff people told us in interviews.
As a result, we ended up hiring the people we deemed the least offensive options, so we ended up with hires who didn't really care about working here and didn't do a very good job. This put us in a constant cycle of hiring, training, and failing to really build the right team. Because we didn't have very helpful helpers, my partner and I ended up working a lot of crazy hours to pick up the slack. We were tired, resentful, cranky, and felt like we were never going to get out of our predicament. I was in a position where I dreaded coming to work every day at my own company because I was going to be surrounded by people I didn't want to be around. This kind of defeated the whole purpose of starting my own business so I could be happy to come to work.
We were trying all the wrong things to change our situation. I knew we were paying well above average for the kinds of jobs we were filling. I knew we were offering things like bonuses and free lunches and attempting other niceties to make our hires want to be here. The thing is, you can be as generous as possible as a boss, but if you hire the wrong people, dangling all the carrots in the world won't make a difference in their attitude. At the time I didn't totally get this. I chalked the problem up to me being a bad boss and all my inner "you're-not-good-enough" voices were like "YAAASSS!" (Side note: those voices never shut the hell up, and every time I get an angry email from a customer it's like Christmas for those jerks.)
After a months-long string of 80-hour work weeks and sage but not exactly actionable advice from peers in our industry I had a light bulb moment. What if we just told the truth in our job ads? What if we told people exactly what we want? What if we leveled with people about our extreme introversion and fun but B.S.-free company culture? I had never seen anyone run the kinds of ads I was thinking of running, but I was desperate. One night after midnight, in a haze of martinis, coffee, and exhaustion I wrote this:
The next day I ran my idea by a labor law attorney. She had some edits but generally let me go ahead with the gist of what I wrote. She at least appreciated the humor. I also shared it with some peers in e-commerce. Half of them hated it. "Why would anyone want to work at a company like that?!" a few said. One of them called me "autistic." A few of them were supportive. All of my friends thought it was hilarious and said they'd love to work at a company that ran an ad like this. I decided to go ahead with my advert. At that point I felt like I had nothing to lose and I had to try something radically different. I was sick of being surrounded by bad hires and people who didn't get me.
The replies to my ad came pouring in within minutes of posting it. Some of the respondents were clearly spam-posting their resumes (as is the norm when you deal with job applicants), but a lot of them had actually read what I wrote. We were hearing from a lot of people that seemed to genuinely get us and be really excited about the idea of working at a company like ours. We were getting coherent cover letters with correct punctuation and spelling. We were getting cover letters from people who knew how to use a semicolon! "Let me be the April Ludgate-Dwyer to your Ron Swanson" one applicant wrote. We hired that one.
We whittled down our applicants to a small pool and spent a week interviewing people. We met people we actually liked. We met people who seemed to get us. We met people who were enthusiastic about our business, ethos, and industry. We set out to hire one person and ended up hiring three!
We're a few months into working with our new team, but so far so good. I actually get to come to work every day with people I want to hang out with and people that like hanging out with each other. We're getting more done and growing at a rate we're excited about instead of being stymied with internal headaches.
I hardly consider myself a captain of industry or a woman who has it all figured out — remember what I said about all those "you're-not-good-enough" voices? I'm figuring it out as I go along, but I wanted to share what goes on behind the scenes because there is a lot that goes into bringing you your new favorite shirt. We're not a faceless corporation; we're normal people like you, doing our best, and trying to get better at our job all the time. I'm sharing this because if you like the stuff we design, maybe you'll like some of the stories about what goes into getting those products to you. If you like what we do, thanks! It means a lot to us. If you hate us and wish we'd go out of business, the "you're-not-good-enough" voices can't wait to hear from you. Sometimes they like to get an afternoon off and they'll be thrilled that you've stopped by to relieve them. Also, I'm not sure why you're even reading this if you hate us. Life is too short to hate-read stuff; go outside and get some fresh air, dude.
Peace, Love, and Tacos,