How Melbourne startup Red Guava grew a global workforce of “great people” without any funding

Melbourne startup Red Guava has been able to grow a strong global workforce thanks to transparency, autonomy and, above all else, being nice, founder Joel Friedlaender says.

Despite being based in Melbourne, Friedlaender has grown his team to 20 “smart, passionate and nice” people who work remotely around the world

Speaking at the SouthStart conference in Adelaide, Friedlaender revealed that Red Guava has no meetings, no managers, no funding and no intention of speaking to investors.

Instead, he says the startup gets its money by servicing their customers because their interests are aligned.

“What we’re trying to do is create great software, run business in a new way and enjoy our lives,” Friedlaender says.

Though it may seem idealistic, it’s a model that’s working for Friedlaender and his team.

Together they created Cliniko, a healthcare management platform used by thousands of people around the world.

“About every four hours we get a new customer,” he says.

Hiring great people

Friedlaender says there’s one rule above all else that helps Red Guava find great people for its team.

“We hire from anywhere,” he says.

Friedlaender says this rule changed his whole business by expanding its talent pool from a 20-kilometre radius to the entire world.

To make this work, he had to make sure the right systems were in place to ensure employees could work remotely.

It also means that Friedlaender searches for and advertises jobs in unconventional places.

“We advertise in less noisy places,” he says.

This includes platforms like WeWork Remotely, online forums and at conferences.

As a startup that’s wholly bootstrapped, Red Guava can’t offer cushy salary packages to recruit its talent.

“We’re not just going to throw a tonne of money at people,” he says.

“But there are things we can do to attract great people.”

Friedlaender has made a dedicated effort to ensure Red Guava is a unique, rewarding and fun place to work so that it does attract the right talent to help them grow.

“A lot of great people aren’t looking for work,” he says.

Empowering your team with autonomy

Flexible work hours at Red Guava isn’t just a day off here and there, it’s part of the company’s overall autonomous structure that trusts its team to commit to the hours and times they know they need to deliver, Friedlaender says.

“How comfortable do you feel in saying to your boss, ‘Ah, I feel shit, I’m going home’,” he says.

“We like that people in our company have the comfort to just do that.”

The thought process behind this is that creativity and productivity suffers when a person is not “in the zone”.

Reading those cues and taking time off so you can come back the next day reinvigorated to get the job done is what matters, Friedlaender says.

In addition to this, the Red Guava team can work on what they want.

“If there’s something you want to work on, go and do that,” he says.

“It’s like a massive productivity hack that has a massive impact.”

The underlying result of this is a feeling of trust across the team and instilled responsibility to do good work.

“I never come home from a day of work where I procrastinated and say that was an awesome day, good job,” Friedlaender says.

StartupSmart attended the SouthStart conference as a guest of Brand South Australia.

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