In early 2018 the co-founders selected today’s guest Tom Ronen, Head of Customer Success (CS) and Aron Vuijsje, the Sales Team Leader in New York, to create the New York office. Tom knew he was opening a new office and a door to a whole new world but just how drastic was that change?
When Tom first arrived two team members told him they probably wouldn’t come to the office the next day because they’re predicting snow. Tom, a former Israeli Naval officer, looked up at the skies and saw nothing but blue skies.
The next day, when Tom woke up, all he saw was white. A blanket of snow covered New York, each snowflake reminding him “you’re not in Tel Aviv anymore.”
Tom shared with us why monday.com opened the New York office and what he learned from the process.
New Place, New Beginning
When a scaling company’s customers are mostly abroad, they reach a point when they need to have e an office in the same time zone as their customers. That being said, how can you successfully open an office on the other side of the world?
You start by considering a few questions.
Your company is growing, and so are your customers. You’re projecting to keep this pace but how do you calculate if and when to open an office abroad?
You’ve decided it’s time to open a new office but how do you choose where to open it?
Creating an office overseas is incredibly exciting but equally difficult. It requires a certain type of person but how do you know who that is?
A change in location also comes with a change in cultural norms. How do manage the cultural gap between two countries? Once you do that, you then have to prevent there being two different cultures in the two offices. Your offices might be on different continents but if you aren’t careful, they might feel like they’re on different planets.
Of course, there is one big question that can’t go unanswered: “how do you recruit foreign employees?” Long before Tom boarded the plane to New York, he carried these questions with him everywhere he went. He shared with us how he tried to answer each question and which ones monday.com are still struggling with.
Their Next Big Move
When Eran and Roy started to think about opening an office overseas each one of these questions weighed on them. The decision to open a foreign office stemmed from the CS KPI to maintain an under 10-minute response rate on support requests. As their account numbers increased, the time difference made keeping that KPI more difficult. In addition, the sales team had to meet with American customers during their working hours which led to the team working odd hours. Working solely in different time zones wasn’t scalable, so it was no longer a question if to open a new office but where.
Uncovering the New World
The founders wanted the new office to be convenient to get to from Tel Aviv because they were planning on visiting it regularly. They wanted a location that team members would be excited to relocate to while improving their quality of life. The founders also associated the indescribable excitement in the air of NYC with the monday.com making the city feel like home.
Now they needed to decide whom to send to New York. Tom was part of the company for a while before opening the New York office. He lived and breathed its culture and was the head of CS which needed a presence in the United States. He was also in the right stage of life; it was just him and his now wife Michal, nothing was holding them down. This made him the perfect candidate to pack up monday.com culture and bring it to New York.
Chicken or The Egg?
Tom views the question “do you work on your culture or recruit employees first” the same as “what came first the chicken or the egg.” The right people create the right culture and the right culture attracts the right people. However, Tom had a secret weapon from the start, remote team members who joined the New York office. Their willingness to move cross country to New York is what Tom credits the New York office’s success to. Forming an office around Tom, Aron, and the remote team members the founders loved made the co-founders confident the office was in good hands.
As for duplicating monday.com’s culture, Tom figured he’d just hire the right people and mission accomplished. There were a few issues with this assumption: In Israel, monday.com is a relatively big fish in a minuscule pond. In New York, monday.com is a small fish in an ocean. This led to the New York office being overwhelmed with irrelevant CVs. When a relevant talent did come in for an interview, they only saw a handful of people in a small office, not a hundred people in the Israeli office. They also learned along the way that their recruitment process was too Israeli for Americans and required localization.
Built for Success
Tom was helped with every part of building the New York office from the team to the literal office space. Head of operations Ouriel Weisz, Head of Finance Kfir Lippman, and Recruitment Manager Chen Hindy filled out the endless paperwork. Operations Project Manager Guy Shriki flew back and forth to transform a Novotel coworking space into a monday.com office that reflects the Tel Aviv office. Not only that, Guy even set up computers, desks, chairs, and left instructions for everything from a power failure to a jammed printer.
Not Everything That Glitters Is Gold
Yet for Tom, everything was still new, from the snow to living out of a suitcase in an Airbnb in the beginning. He worked by day and saw apartments and how expensive NYC rent is by night. For two months, Tom slept on a mattress waiting for Michal to arrive not wanting to decorate without her. Starting a new office is exciting and glamorous but only some of the time.
Same Same (But Different)
Israelis and Americans have a lot in common, but they’re also are very different. It’s a bit like McDonald’s in two countries, you might think they’re the same, but if you take a closer look, they’re different. In Israel, and especially in startups, people often work long hours. In New York, six o’clock comes, and you leave work, but Tom didn’t know this. What he did know is that he hired a bunch of new team members and it was too early to judge their performance. At first, seeing everyone leave the second the clock struck six made him concerned he wasn’t motivating the team or giving them enough work. Tom quickly realized that it didn’t matter when team members went home but how dedicated they are. Moreover, he realized that the Israeli expectation that you work long hours didn’t reflect levels of productivity. The New York team like the Israeli team is dedicated to the company around the clock and get the job done whenever wherever.
monday.com believes that those dedicated people make their culture and so it’s the people who connect the two offices. Therefore, just like no two people are the same, the two offices aren’t identical. Instead, the company focuses on what the offices have in common and how they complement each other. For example, the Sales and CS teams were gradually recruited in New York, and so they naturally ended up sitting next to one another. This led to more cross team collaboration. Now, the Tel Aviv office is going to have the teams sit together as well.
They try to fill the cultural gap with their exchange program, where they send team members from the States to Israel and vice versa, for ten days or more. The exchange program allows both sides to match faces with names and absorb each office’s culture. It’s essential that team members meet and not just via Zoom. Every time team members return to New York from Tel Aviv; Tom immediately sees the impact the exchange had both on productivity and their excitement about being a part of monday.com.
Next in New York
The connection between the two offices is still considered a work in process that monday.com is constantly trying to improve. The company believes that all customer-facing parts of the company should have a New York presence. For now, it’s still just Sales and CS in New York, but you never know who might join them next.