What makes Front employees productive, collaborative, and happy 🧐

This piece was originally published by Mathilde Collin on Medium.

In the early days of Front, it was impossible to know how we were doing as a company.

Sure, we had growth, but when you start at 0, growth is the only option anyway. How were others doing? Direct benchmarks weren’t available, and because Front was my first company, I had no expectations for how things should be.

Then we raised our Series B, and it became apparent that we were doing at least some things right. I expected a long and painful fundraising process, and instead received term sheets from almost all investors I pitched, allowing us to close the round in a week. So I figured I’d just ask these investors: what is it that got them so excited about Front? Here’s what they had to say:

  • Front has growth, although some companies have grown faster than we have.
  • Front is very capital efficient (meaning we spend little compared to how much we grow). This is a very rare trait in VC-funded SaaS companies, and is a testament to the productivity and impact of each member of the team.
  • Front has a unique culture. We’ve attracted and retained amazing people, in a very competitive environment.

Knowing what set us apart, the question became: how did we do it? What are we doing to enable these outcomes, that other companies aren’t? Let me share my hypothesis, which I’ll never be able to prove, but nonetheless feel very strongly about. I think some of it has to do with our own usage of Front. I believe Front, the product, is making us more productive, more collaborative, and happier, and it could do the same to any other company.

"Knowing what set us apart, the question became: how did we do it? What are we doing to enable these outcomes, that other companies aren’t?" - Mathilde Collin, CEO and Co-founder, Front

Here is how we use Front at Front:

  • #1 Every Front employee uses Front for their individual email (for instance, mathilde@frontapp.com).
  • #2 All of our shared inboxes — Twitter, Support (Tier 1 to 4), Live chat, NPS surveys, Customer feedback — are managed in Front, and everyone has unrestricted access to their content.
  • #3 Most managers have access to their direct reports' inboxes, and sometimes vice-versa (this is of course optional, but very handy in case of emergency, vacations, etc).
  • #4 Because of #1, users can easily loop one another in a conversation, using direct mentions and shared drafts.
  • #5 Because of #2, users can easily ping everyone on a conversation with @all.

And here is how it translates into tangible benefits:

  • We’re more productive. The easy access to contextual data (customer communications, enriched with 3rd-party integrations), the shared resources (canned answers, contact lists, etc.), the automated workflows, all add up to meaningful gains of productivity. Measuring productivity at a micro level isn’t straightforward. ARR per employee is an acceptable proxy for productivity, and when we last measured it, we were 55% above the benchmarks, so it’s fair to say we’re on the more efficient end of the spectrum.
  • We’re more collaborative. Front’s features are collaborative by design (shared inboxes, mentions, comments, etc.), but the transparency that it enables is the real kicker. Everybody’s kept in the loop, and no one is ever blindsided by a decision. In turn, this transparency builds trust, and only with trust can you put your ego aside, and start doing great things together. That’s what’s unique about our culture.
  • We’re a happier bunch. The group celebrations, the shared context create a sense of community across all teams. Our retention numbers are high, we have top marks on Glassdoor, and most of our employees are referrals from other employees.

"Central to all amazing teams is collaboration, trust and passion." - Una Kehoe, Engineering Manager, Intercom

Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that using Front will make your company 50 percent more productive overnight: good tools don’t necessarily make good companies, and no amount of Front can fix a broken culture. But I think good companies know to pick tools that align with their ultimate goals. If you strive for a transparent, collaborative, efficient and happy workplace, maybe Front could be a good fit 😇