What kind of a company is Superawesome
First of all, what is Superawesome? Well, the name is tongue-in-cheek, of course. It was chosen as a reminder to never take our work too seriously. As makers of things it's really important to be able to — as well as know when to — be careless and bold.
At Superawesome we create things. Mostly for screens. Some of us design these things, some make them functional so other people can use them, some are so awesome that they can do both! However we don't like calling ourselves “creatives” because we believe it is a term that implies that there are people in this world who are not “creative”, which is complete and utter bullshit. In essence, we are a service provider to people and companies who can't do what we do.
As a design team, we have the power to provide tremendous value to our customers' products, and impact their business in a meaningful way. Although they sometimes use us as a simple service provider without a deeper relationship, we much prefer to be in a position where we are able to introduce change.
In a world where things are measured to death, we believe there is value in the immeasurable.
Even though we are designers, we are not selling design. Our customers already know they will get quality design work when they hire us — that's a given. It is the service that they get along with the deliverables, that sets us apart. Only when they succeed, we succeed.
How we do things
We like to think of Superawesome as a company that values people most of all. Sure, profits are important — this is a business — but we do our best to make the people that make up this company feel as good as possible about working here.
And we're not talking about the fancy perks and whatnot — although we do have some — it's the sense of belonging and being able to enjoy your work, grow professionally, and contribute to something greater than something you yourself could singlehandedly create.
Your work and its effects on our customers and our company respectively, will always be the thing that will be valued the most.
When we started in 2007 we didn't know what kind of a company we will be, but we knew what kind of a company we definitely didn't want to be.
Here are some bullet points that we use in order to sum up our company:
- As far as rigid procedures, rules and policies go, you won't find any. What you will always find is advice.
- There is no corporate ladder here, but you can definitely choose how you would like to grow within the company. Keeping things flexible while we can is what we plan to do. These are some of the best perks about being a small company.
- The company is set up so we don't have managers per se, but we're really not a flat organization either (a meritocracy, they call it). It's more about finding your place where you will be able to contribute the most, rather than wanting to be in control.
- Outranking someone is not something you should strive for if you work here; leaders and mentors over bosses and managers, any time.
- Projects are managed, people are lead.
If there's an analogy to be made here, we like to think of Superawesome as a band . You have your lead singer, your drummer, and your producer, and everyone fills their role within the collective, which is the environment that enables them to create awesome things that exceed their capabilities as individuals.
Superawesome is our band.
Organization & hierarchy
At the moment Superawesome only employs full time staff. We’re still so small that we don’t have a real need for a managerial layer within our organization, and honestly we like it this way. That said, in 2017 we've hired Marija Stevanovic to help us with client management and pre-sales.
We are a company that prefers its employees to be self-managed, as much as possible. This means that they have direct contact with the clients and are hopefully able to manage their own workloads.
Over the years we've learned that giving people a sense of ownership and responsibility over their work and activities is a much better motivator, than having someone telling them what to do, how, and when to do it.
Setting things up this way means that employees have direct responsibility towards the clients, and they are free to make up their own schedules with them.
The vast majority of our projects require the teams to be arranged according to the type of work that needs to be done. This usually means that — on our side — the majority of the projects will be lead by a lead designer, along with Marija who is acting as the primary point of contact. She is the person we all go to when we have questions, and this the lead designer is the person that is making the decisions for the project.
There is a reason it is the lead designer who is the primary on the project, and it's because that's the person who usually has the most knowledge and information about the project since it is they who will be working alongside the stakeholders from the start.
Of course, sometimes the entire project will be handled by a single person, and no “management” is necessary at all, however Marija is still the primary contact for the client.
Our clients are usually the ones that are orchestrating the projects, and all we need to do is establish a good communication rhythm within our team, in order for things to run smoothly. Marija makes sure this rhythm is set up and maintained.
Apart from projects, all other matters such as the operations, HR, sales, billing, expensing, etc. are handled by Dragan, and he's the man to go to regarding them.
Communication: voice & tone
Being humans and all, each of us has different perceptions regarding communicating our actions and expectations. This is even more exaggerated considering the fact that we're working with customers all over the world and they all have different cultural norms of their own.
If you're in doubt, its always better to over communicate, than to under communicate.
While talking to a client, our recommendation is to use the “American” communication style. We don't want to be overly formal, and we don't want someone to think we are impolite. Don't be afraid to crack a subtle joke and lighten the mood every once in awhile, but it is generally a bad idea to get overly chummy with a client. This is serious business™, after all.
If you're asking for something — no matter how trivial or obvious it may be to you — always start or end with a “please”. If you are being sent something (an answer, an asset, etc.) always say “thank you”.
While in Serbian culture the absence of a “please”, or a “thank you” is considered perfectly normal, it can come off as rather impolite to people of other cultures.
Generally, our customers are well aware that there may be a cultural difference when they decided to hire us and will not take offense, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Written vs. verbal communication
We always prefer written and asynchronous communication. However, some people don't share our preference and this is why we have to make some rules.
The rules are:
- email is the primary way of communication,
- feedback can be given verbally, but must always be finalized in writing,
- Slack and other IM tools are cool as long as they are not hindering progress on the project, and are used for specific purpose (e.g. sharing inspiration/moodboarding, conversing on a single topic, etc.)
Why email, you ask?
Because we want to have a paper trail of communication, and we don't want to let our clients get the impression that we are available all the time.
Imposing certain limitations will bring order to a project. No one likes being bombarded with unorganized bits of brain dump throughout the day.
Handling crisis situations
It will inevitably come to a situation where you and the client won't see eye-to-eye on something. The most important thing in this type of situation is to distance yourself from your work, and avoid becoming emotional. If they have issues with the work you produced, remember that it's not a personal jab at you.
Most of the crisis situations stem from misunderstanding or under communicating expectations. Always remember that and don't jump to conclusions.
These situations call for levelheadedness more than any other, and it takes a long time to master this fine art. Just remember, it's most likely something stupid, so remain calm, and be proactive about the solution.
Never blame anyone. We can't emphasize this enough. If there's a problem, who cares who's fault it is?
If you can fix it, be the cool dude who steps up. But if you can't contribute to the solution, take the back seat on the conversation.
Lastly, if there's a big crisis threatening to end the world as we know it, call Dragan because he'd like to know early.
Response times and availability
Always reply as soon as possible, and don't let emails linger unanswered. If you don't have an answer for someone, let them know that you have received their correspondence, and you will get back to them when you are able to.
If you are out of office, you are encouraged to set up a vacation responder containing the date range of your absence from the office.
Communication is entirely limited to your working hours, and no one at Superawesome is expected to handle any kind of communication or work outside of them. Since we all make up our hours and schedules, this will obviously vary from person to person, but in general try to avoid being reminded that someone is waiting for a response from you.
Most of our client meetings will obviously require conversational English skills. If your English happens to be poor in this regard, ask someone from the office to sit in on the meeting and translate for you.
It would be awesome if you booked all your meetings in the common calendar called Superawesome. This way we all know who's talking to who, and whether the conference room is occupied.
If you send your clients this Google Form to fill out, the meeting slot they request will be automatically created in the calendar and they will be added as an attendee.
While everyone is free to use whichever tool to communicate with their team members, it’s really nice if you’d take notice of their personal preference regarding communication tools. Some people prefer to talk over the phone, others absolutely hate it.
Whatever the case may be, we find that if you follow this guideline, you’ll do well.
Phone and SMS are considered personal, and should be avoided for business use at all cost. Consider using them for business only when you can’t get a hold of someone, and there’s a mission critical shitstorm going on and you absolutely need their attention.
Slack is our official method of communication, and should be your go-to in order get a hold of someone. The good thing about Slack is that it shows a presence indicator, so you know who’s online, hence you know when you can expect a response. Even though Slack is an instant messaging tool, don’t expect a reply right away and give people some time to respond.
At the moment we are using Slack as a chat service, and it's channels are structured like so:
- _random is used for whatever,
- designporn is used to share design pieces we like,
- notifications aggregates Git commit messages from GitLab, no one posts to it,
- pomocprijatelja is used to seek indirect help from coworkers.
Apart from these public channels we all chat in between ourselves privately. It is always smart to ping someone through Slack first and ask to come over, than to come up to their desk unannounced.
There’s no better tool than plain old email. In an ideal world everyone would be using timely sent email messages to communicate, and people would respond in a timely manner.
While in the office, if you see someone is wearing their headphones, this is a sign that they don't want to be disturbed. They are probably deeply concentrated on their work. Either way, please be considerate when interrupting someone and always ask yourself “can my question be answered by Google” first.
Never let anyone respond to you with a lmgtfy.com link as it is a sure way to expose yourself as an internet n00b, and it will be followed by copious amounts of office banter.
Time off, holidays & vacations
All Superawesome employees are officially given 20 days of paid absence from work per year, on top of all official Serbian holidays. Should you not have used this allotment, you may transfer the vacation days to the next year and use them by July 1st of the following year.
Since we don't require disclosure about why you are taking time off, it doesn't matter if it's for personal or medical reasons.
Everyone is also allowed a day off for “slava” if they celebrate it. If you aren't religious, you are encouraged to consider it as having an extra paid day off.
No one is required to state a reason for taking time off. It's your right to disclose that information at your own will.
When you want or need time off, let Marija know so he can enter it into the shared calendar.
It is also equally important to let the clients you're working with know your vacation/time-off schedule. Marija will most likely send an official email to the clients informing them of our collective/seasonal time off, but please be so kind and make sure they are in the loop, yourself.
Taking time off should be no issue unless your projects are under deadlines or in a critical state. It is a big no-no to ask for time off when a project you're working on is in a crisis.
If you don't want to use your paid time off, but need a day off, feel free to ask to take a day off during the week, and come in on the weekend and work it off.
Should you want to take unpaid time off, please talk to Dragan directly.
The office is closed on all official holidays, and you can check out this reference about the official state holidays in Serbia.
Hours, worktime & productivity
Officially, our office is on a Mon–Fri, 09:00–17:00 UTC+1/2 schedule, however we are all free to make up our own schedules in accordance to our preferences and project requirements. If you choose to work weird hours, please consider having enough overlap with your coworkers in order not to hinder communication.
Working from home is totally an option, and if you choose to telecommute — some or most of the time — be extra attentive to what's going on, and be proactive about communicating with your coworkers and clients. Obviously we prefer if you'd work from the office, but we also understand that open-plan offices — such as ours — are not to everyone's liking.
This said, most of our customers are US-based, and this makes communication a bit tricky at times, because we are sometimes an entire day ahead of them. Please take this into consideration, and take appropriate measures when working on projects like these.
Productivity vs. time spent in the office
We perceive “work time” a bit differently to how it is usually perceived.
All we care about is your productive time. This is the time you spend working on projects that we — hopefully — bill clients for.
We call this “producing”.
Considering this understanding of work time, we don't expect people to be productive seven or eight hours a day, but we do expect them to be available for eight hours a day.
There is a lot of stuff that we don't explicitly bill for that needs to be taken care of, your colleagues may need you, etc. That's why being available only during your productive hours is not possible.
In general, we consider 4 hours of productive time per day, the norm. This is also the amount of productive time we take into consideration when estimating project deadlines and their duration.
Our full time staff is salaried on a monthly basis, every 1st of the month, sharp. We don’t have an official compensation plan, and each employee negotiates their compensation at the time of hiring.
Some of our staff is compensated on a variable basis, meaning they receive a fixed minimum pay, and a monthly dividend based on performance metrics.
Superawesome partners are foregoing any monthly compensation in favor of end-of-year profit split.
Each straight-salaried employee gets a 5% raise for every year they are with the company.
It is possible for any employee to receive a raise based on performance, but we don't have a specific plan for that at the moment.
Of as we like to call it: Thank-God-It’s-Over bonus!
Each employee gets a bonus 13th salary at the end of the year. In order to qualify the employee needs to have been with the company for at least 12 months prior to December 31 of the current year.
If the employee’s salary is variable, the bonus is equal to the fixed part of the salary.
All employees and contractors are eligible for a performance bonus which are handed out on a case-by-case basis.