Startups seem to have one big problem. Meetings.
People always seem to be in meetings and it makes you think—when are you working on your tasks? You're expected to hit your goals but the goals never seem to be "have a day full of Zoom calls" or "hit your 500th Zoom call of the year" 🤔
All-hands, syncs, customer, and partner calls seem to be on the agenda. It gives me anxiety when people share their own work calendars.
I too used to be in meetings a lot. Scheduling calls to fit with other people's timezones, trying to get my microphone to bloody work, and making sure I didn't look like I just battled a raccoon in a hedge 🦝
After a while, you start to think why. Why am I going on calls when 95% of them lead to an email? What is the purpose of being on the spot face-to-face without all the facts but all of the pressure?
I don't want to spend 30 minutes of my day getting ready to be on a call and 30 minutes sipping tea to calm down from the anxiety.
So we decided to make a change.
Do We All Just Want to Look Busy?
I think the purpose of a lot of calls is to look busy. Having a calendar full of calls is a lot easier to deal with than working out what you're doing with your day. It's easier than doing deep work.
Of course, it's sometimes nice to have a human connection with team members or people in a similar industry to you. But the calls we all feel like we have to do but don't—that's something I'd rather avoid.
It's tough to shake the feeling you're doing something wrong though. Video calls are so ingrained into startup culture that'd you'd be forgiven for thinking there's no other way to push projects forward.
If most meetings lead to nowhere you have to wonder what the point is.
A Changing Landscape for Comms
If ever there's any indication that people dislike jumping on calls it's the success of products like Loom, Twist by Doist, Figjam by Figma, and Discord.
They all cater to more async-based companies, meaning they don't expect employees to respond right away and they encourage people to think before they speak (always a good idea anyway 😆).
And what does this mean—you guessed it—fewer calls 🎉
Pushing Our No-Call Manifesto
If startup culture is so call-based how do you say no to calls? It's not easy. In fact, it's pretty painful to start with.
When a visitor wants a call to talk through pricing we send them to our pricing page (we make a point to not do special pricing). When a customer wants to jump on the phone to talk ask a few questions we let them know we don't do calls and to send the questions through email.
It's not that we're doing it to be horrible. We believe it helps everyone out.
First of all, having stuff written down is a lot easier for accountability. If you do a video call but forget to write down tasks it's gone forever (when's the last time you replayed a video call you did?).
Secondly, if the questions are written down then it's a lot easier to think about the answer. Video calls create pressure to reply and you won't get an accurate answer 99% of the time.
I'd like to think our support is pretty snazzy and it's all by email. We spend the time to think about what we write and try to give thoughtful and concise answers without the fluff 🍬
People are usually understanding. They don't want to do the call deep down either so it works for everyone. It seems like giving permission to not do the call is a relief.
Clear Calendar, Clear Mind
Ever since we stopped doing calls non-stop we've found ourselves with a much more flexible mindset. Instead of rushing back from the coffee shop to set up a seat and hit the Zoom link, there's more time to be creative.
This isn't to say calls are evil—I think we should keep them for your most sacred people. Friends, family, and loyal customers.
When you think about whether people need to do a 1-on-1 demo or sales calls the answer seems pretty obvious to me. Nope.
Isn't it better to sit back, relax, and type in the comfort of your Lululemon yoga pants? I think so 🧘
Besides, you never know what you might do with that extra 10 minutes you would've spent waiting for someone to arrive. It might just conjure your next big feature or product idea.