Printify is a Latvian print-on-demand service startup that helps merchants make more money in a simple and easy way. As co-founders of Printify (James Berdigans, Gatis Dukurs & Artis Kehris) have said, Printify was created to make merchandise available to everyone.
We had a chance to talk to their Head of Recruitment, Benjamin Moris, about their culture and what makes Printify unique for employees. I have to admit, when I heard Benjamin’s answers, I was thinking of applying for a position at Printify myself because what he said was very inspirational.
🔵 If you had to explain to a kindergartener what Printify does, how would you describe it?
The best explanation would be that, let’s say, you made a nice drawing, your mom finds it beautiful, she thinks a lot of people would like it as well, and maybe we can even make some business and money out of it. Why don’t we go to Printify and create an opportunity for others to buy some products with this cute drawing you just created and make more people in the world proud of seeing what you can make?
🔵 One of the main unique selling points that Printify has is the possibility of having a career while working entirely remotely. Why have you chosen that as your main selling point?
It’s a principle we truly embrace. We’ve grown this way, we have had that as a part of our DNA from the moment when we started growing and hiring people at a larger scale, and for us it’s not a temporary thing, but something we strongly believe in and want to continue. It will always stay as a part of our DNA.
If we go into more details, I’d say that allowing people to work remotely gives us three new flexibilities: flexibility for employees to permanently settle down wherever they want, temporary flexibility for employees to work from wherever they want and flexibility for Printify to hire talents in untouched talent pools, away from traditional big markets.
It’s an important point for us because we feel that everything has changed in the last two years due to the Covid-19 situation. I recently watched an interview with the founder and CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. He explained that the world was previously centered around three places for people – work, home, and travel during the holidays. Today, all of those things are related, and they CAN be flexible.
The right talent might be based somewhere where no big companies are hiring – can we find those people? Maybe people want to be based in smaller places, in countries with fewer business opportunities. In the past, there were often very talented developers who could only work on a short-term contract or as freelancers because they wouldn’t be hired full-time in the big companies that they liked, although they had the talent for it. However, their situation (the need to feed the family, for example) would push them to relocate to a specific place.
Today we can offer them not having to choose between a career in a great company and the lifestyle they want. We can give them that flexibility. If we look at this as a selling point for us as a company, trying to hire the right talent pool and looking at people who can be based anywhere really gives us added value.
First of all, it means massive access to diversity that allows us to mix cultures. It’s essential for Printify not to hire people based on a culture fit, but based on the culture add, because you don’t need people who all look the same; you need to look at people who will bring something to your company culture. We open up that pool by going to different places, traveling countries and experiencing differences.
It also allows us to be closer to our customers because they’re everywhere in the world and that way we can better understand what they want. And not less important is that by being remote we can get access to talents across the world who are looking for this kind of flexibility.
🔵 Trust seems to be the key element when it comes to remote working culture. For instance, one of the biggest and most influential banks globally issued a statement in April ’21, requiring all employees to return to their offices by July ’21. In my opinion, it sends a message to their employees that the company is not trusting them. Speaking about Printify, what processes do you have in place to help your managers trust employees, even if all of them are working entirely remotely?
Trust is essential. For me, trust starts with the company culture. We have defined our values and at Printify we have four of them.
The first one is that the customer is our compass. As we discussed before, a diverse workforce will allow us to be closer to our customers. It’s pretty crucial for us.
The second one is that we strive for excellence. We expect effort and strong work ethics from the people we hire, empowering them to be the best they can. We all aspire to be better. Therefore we hire people who want to embody this value and don’t need to be told daily what to do or where to sit.
The third value is ‘We learn it all’. It’s about the growth mindset and the learning culture. We also hire people who want to become better and learn again, not because we tell them, but because they want to. That’s also aligning with the trust.
The last value is that we play to win together. Team spirit to achieve big things together is very important. Over the previous two years, we’ve learned how to win together remotely, as initially we didn’t have a choice. Now we know it’s possible. It’s possible because we trust each other and we can still be a team on-location or remotely. It’s something that we’ve seen and demonstrated along the way.
Looking for people who are striving for excellence, want to keep learning and want to work as a team means that we are looking for mature people who are willing to achieve things for themselves and can also be trusted to work fully remotely.
🔵 Is it possible that remote work fits only for a certain type of company, with a specific culture? How would you describe that culture?
It’s a great question. I don’t think anyone has an answer of whether it fits every company or not. I think we will discover that down the road.
The culture starts with trust. And in my opinion the growth mindset is also essential. Having people who sincerely want to be a part of the journey and grow together with their company, not just count on the company to do things for them. It’s linked with the fact that the company needs to empower people. The element of transparency is critical here. In the past, I’ve worked in the headquarters of big companies, but also in a smaller office 12,000 kilometers away from the headquarters. In every small office, there is always a strong belief that all the decisions are made at the headquarters, that a few people in the center decide everything, and that when you’re remote, you don’t get access to the right level of information or you don’t necessarily have a word in determining what you can do there.
We need to start with the mindset of a company where there is no headquarter. I mean, there is one, but even top leaders of the company can be based in different places. The most important thing is that you need to share information a lot more broadly. Because you need to share it between offices, with everyone and different people inside the company. You create a culture of transparency which is usually very embodied in the early stages of a company.
Having a high level of transparency makes a difference in how you can give a chance to everyone based anywhere in the world to feel as a part of the company and not like a second class employee just because they don’t have access to what is decided in the HQ.
I truly believe that the right balance is achieved when employees want to put the company’s interests above their own, and also companies are willing to put their employees’ interests above theirs in a virtuous circle.
🔵 Before Covid-19, the primary motivation for working on-site for many was that you were able to socialize with your co-workers and mingle during the lunch/coffee breaks. In your opinion, has the Covid-19 pandemic broken that behavior?
Socializing and mingling is still a big part of people’s work life, but I think people have realized it’s not the only one. I believe COVID-19 has opened the door to people’s mindsets to recognize that other ways are also possible. The time you can’t spend mingling with your colleagues can be compensated by the time you spend exercising or playing with your children instead of being stuck on a bus or in a traffic jam during your commute. There are of course different approaches, but creating space for employees to mingle, whether online for non-work-related things or through in-person gatherings a few times a year, will still remain an essential part of remote company culture. It is, however, vital to give people a choice and not tell them what they should like or do. Give them a chance to experience it all and let everyone decide what works best.
In my team, a few people recently decided to meet twice a week, an equivalent of a mingling coffee break, where everyone who joins can talk about anything but work. It happens online, instead of being around the coffee table, and it’s working – people get to know each other. We’ve already seen colleagues who are not sharing the same office know each other better because of that. We want everyone to be part of it, and people who’ve joined from different places say that this kind of space is excellent and essential for them. We need to create it, but we don’t need to assume it’s the only way. If such an approach didn’t exist, the culture would most likely not be thriving in the company.
🔵 How does Printify keep their remotely working professionals engaged and motivated simultaneously, so they still have a sense of belonging, besides online coffee breaks?
I think people find their own way. Generally, what’s important is that we show them it’s possible. For me, it starts from the beginning and from the top.
‘From the beginning’ means from the early days in the company. For example, we have at Printify an onboarding process where we create empowerment and a sense of responsibility that genuinely shows what is possible for the individuals in the company. We do it from day one. During our onboarding process, people learn the most important facts about the company and its culture for the first four or five days. They also get to experience the journey of a merchant working with Printify, because we are trying not only to explain, but also show how Printify actually works. We are a fast-growing company, but still a very young company, and the whole onboarding process was designed when we were all already working remotely. It’s remote by essence, by design.
‘From the top’ means it starts with managers; it needs to come strongly from leaders who show their employees that what matters is that the work gets done. When you see your CEO or other people presenting in a virtual call to the entire company, and you see them with a beach, forest or mountain background, which is not a fake background they’ve inserted on Zoom or Google Meet, it shows everyone that it’s fully okay to do so. It also shows that managers should embrace the concept and lead by example. I’m also a bit of an example of that – I’m a French citizen, I was hired from Singapore by a Latvian company, and I’m taking our call from Portugal today. I’ve been in the company for five months, and I have not met a single person face-to-face yet. And things are going well.
Since I’ve joined Printify, I’ve hired people in my team remotely. I’ve hired employees in Latvia, Ukraine, Romania, Bosnia and Georgia. And that’s just for the recruitment team. For other teams, we’ve also hired people in Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, and I could give you a long list. We’ve recently even hired someone who started working remotely for us in Uruguay and just relocated them to Riga. Overall, today we have employees in more than 20 countries, and there are only four countries where we have more than five employees. When people join the company, they know that working remotely is the norm. They don’t feel lonely in their situation. They might sometimes feel lonely in their location, but never in their situation.
Printify’s management team (from left): Edgars Peics – Chief Technology Officer, Miks Lusitis – Head of Data, James Berdigans – CEO & Founder, Lauris Lietavietis – Chief Sales and Partnerships Officer, Valeria Kast – Head of Merchant Support, Artis Grizans – Chief Financial Officer
🔵 Is remote work here to stay when we have defeated the Covid-19, or do you expect many companies to adjust back to old ways of working?
Many companies will want to go back to the pre-COVID situation, and I think they will most likely fail at it. The mindsets have already shifted – less and less people feel that they should be told what to do, especially by their employers. Companies that position themselves correctly will definitely have the edge over the competition.
Our internal employee surveys show that most employees prefer to keep the flexibility of deciding where they work. When there were no COVID restrictions in our office in June and July, we still had a minority of employees visiting the office more than three times a week. Why would we change it? Just because suddenly there are no more restrictions? We won’t tell our people, “No, you need to come in!”.
I believe a lot of companies will display flexibility, but they will not embrace it. They will offer remote work for a few days a week, which will help some people, but will not completely change their lives.
🔵 Does Printify have any recruitment and human operation philosophy that you follow while recruiting?
Our recruitment philosophy is “Hire the best wherever they are. Find the person with the best mindset, best fit for the role and the company, location is just a detail.”
For the HR philosophy, it’s keeping it very transparent. We need to hire people, and every time we hire someone in a new place, it’s a rather complicated process. We need to find a local partner and get familiar with the local regulations, but we’re willing to do it because we feel it adds value. We need to be transparent about what we know and what we don’t know. We also have to take people through inconveniences sometimes, where we’re finding things out, and it’s essential that people trust us while we’re doing it. If something doesn’t work out, we’ll always tell them that. Honesty is fundamental.
The last, but certainly not least aspect from an HR perspective is to keep people happy. Make sure that your people like where they are and are happy working in the company; it’s essential. The last time I checked, we had a 4.8 rating on Glassdoor by employees. That’s pretty rare and unique. I’m not saying we’ll be able to make it last forever, but if we can make it last as long as possible and make sure we make people happy, that’s what is most important for us.