Trust in People

by Adii Pienaar, Founder of WooThemes

I met my co-founders online, and we worked together for 16 months whilst building WooThemes before we got together and met face-to-face. During this time and due to some legal constraints, I was only the only registered shareholder in our company even though we had a gentlemen’s agreement that we were equal shareholders.

This is probably the equivalent of deciding to marry someone that you got talking to on eHarmony before you ever met them in person. Plus you buy a nice, big family home on top of that.

Risky, right? We didn’t have much choice though; if we had spent time on meeting up in person or circumventing all of the red tape involved in our company registration, we would’ve never been able to accelerate WooThemes’ growth as we did.

This experience taught us two very valuable lessons, which still forms part of our DNA today:

1. It is possible to trust in people and do so to your own benefit; and

2. Having a remote team isn’t just possible, but it gives you a potential competitive advantage.

Due to the remoteness and geographical limitations we faced when WooThemes consisted only of the 3 of us, we had to trust each other to get stuff done. Even if we wanted to micro-manage, there simply wasn’t a way for us to look over each other’s shoulders. So we forgot about that completely.

Today we’re a team of 29, and this same mindset applies.

When hiring, we pick team members based on their personality and how that fits in with the rest of the team, and only after that do we consider their skills. We also do our best to hire from within our community because that way we know that we’re getting a new team member who has already bought into our ethos, culture, and just who we are.

This means that from day one, new team members know what’s expected from them, and they know that we won’t be around (sometimes because it’s physically impossible) to check up on them to make sure they meet those expectations. This trust also creates a blank canvas for team members to do their best work, where they have the freedom to solve a problem in the best way they see fit, whilst possessing the opportunity to be accountable and responsible for their own work.

Because we have been able to trust our team to this extent, we’ve been able to continue growing our remote team (two-thirds of our team members are scattered around the globe), which means we’ve been able to hire the best individuals regardless of where they are based.

This culture of trust has been a primary driver in the way we work, how we make our customers happy, and how we’ve grown WooThemes to be a sustainable, international company.

Adii Pienaar is an entrepreneur, husband and very new father, based in South Africa; the combination of these roles results in an epic & challenging journey. Unlike the bios of most “serial” entrepreneurs, Adii is (at the time of this going to press) a one-hit wonder with his role as co-founder & CEO of WooThemes. That status isn’t for a lack of trying either; it’s just that the other attempts lost more money than they made…