Founder Aihui Ong shares her secrets for streamlining her team’s workweek using an innovative schedule and a handful of tech tools.
By Janet Choi (Chief Creative Officer, iDoneThis)
Love With Food is a subscription service that delivers a specially curated box of organic and all-natural snacks every month. For every box that’s sent, the company donates a meal to feed a hungry child.
Founder Aihui Ong embarked on Love With Food after seeing a friend forced to shutter her stir-fry sauce business because she was unable to secure wider distribution. Aihui (pronounced “I-we”) not only saw the need for alternative channels of distribution and marketing connecting food entrepreneurs to consumers but also an opportunity to help the one in five children in America at risk of hunger.
From a company of one in late 2011, Love With Food has grown to twelve employees. While growing any startup is challenging, Aihui notes that LWF’s mission helps her hire: “In the last eighteen months, we’ve donated more than 100,000 meals, and that also draws the right talent to our company. People who want to join us really value that we’re giving back and doing something innovative to disrupt the food industry.”
Tools to Streamline Chaos and Meetings
To keep those growing ranks in sync, Love With Food uses Trello in conjunction with iDoneThis.
The company uses Trello to track tasks, to-do’s, and general goals on deck, but when you’re running a business, that’s never the whole story. “As a startup, there are unforeseen fires that we have to put out, and those cannot be planned,” says Aihui. “We have chaos everyday— so iDoneThis actually allows everyone to understand what everyone is working on everyday, what are the fires that you have to fight other than the regular things that are on Trello.”
According to Aihui, that everyday chaos has also crept into her inbox. She laughs, “I’ve gotten to a point where my inbox doesn’t work anymore. I hate email!” She’s come to a basic understanding with her team that if something is urgent, they can pick up the phone or schedule a time to talk on her open calendar. Otherwise, just put it in iDoneThis to appear in the digest the next day — the one email that everyone knows will be read and paid attention by all, including by the fearless CEO.”It helps streamline my chaos,” she says.
Balancing the Work Week
One of the most notable things about the way that Love With Food works is their ingeniously balanced work schedule. The team comes into the office for regular work hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone works from home.
The schedule compels people to be quite deliberate in order to maximize their face-to-face time. Meetings can only happen on those three days, so it’s less likely that people will push things off to the next day. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, people gain as much as up to two hours of their day that they would’ve spent commuting.
Both Aihui’s experience as an engineer and her desire as a manager for her team to remain effective inspired the alternating arrangement providing both open collaboration and quiet working space. Aihui comments, “The best time to code is when I’m being left alone. I know being in an office can be very distracting.”
On Tuesday and Thursdays then, “It’s much quieter, you can concentrate on things. A lot of things that we do — whether it’s making a sales call, writing email, building brand partnerships — can be done anywhere. And basically I trust everyone to do their own job. If I don’t trust people to do their job, I won’t hire them.”
Finding the Company Rhythm
Whether in the office or not, the team uses Campfire to chat and ask questions every day. When travelling together to conferences such as BlogHer or the Fancy Food Show, the team will keep in touch through group chat on WhatsApp.
With so many tools and practices to keep track of, every new employee gets access to a handbook explaining what tools are used as well as when and why they’re used to help get them in the flow of things right away.
For Aihui, her journey as a founder and manager has been about finding the tools to make her life easier but overall, it’s been about getting into the right rhythm. “It took a few months to find a rhythm and to find the right tools for communication. That’s why iDoneThis has played a big role in that. It’s part of the company’s rhythm now.”
September is Hunger Action Month, a nationwide campaign to support local food banks and encourage community action. Celebrity chef Ming Tsai partnered with LWF to curate September’s box. Find out more here.
What’s been key to finding your team’s working rhythm?
About the blogger: Janet Choi is the Chief Creative Officer at iDoneThis and keeps the wheels of the iDoneThis blog and newsletter turning. She is not a morning person. Follow her tweets at @lethargarian.