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HeyTaco! and ShopAtHome: beating the odds

Did you know the average lifespan of a publicly traded company is only 10 years? The lifespan of online businesses is even shorter. This Taco Story is about ShopAtHome, a 31 year old company beating the odds and helping millions find great online deals.

logo for shop at home with heart on bag

As if 31 years of business wasn’t good enough, they boast some pretty impressive factoids of their own:

  • Transitioned from a print magazine to online only business in 2009
  • Over 12 million monthly visitors and 86 million total members
  • More than 4 million Facebook followers

Surviving and thriving is no easy task and we wanted to know more about what keeps them ticking. Without further ado, here’s Bryan Glenn their Chief Technology Officer.

Hi Bryan, to start why don’t you share a little about yourself. What do you do, and what’s it like to work at ShopAtHome?

I’m currently the head of technology for ShopAtHome. I love thinking about the intersection between process, technology and human behavior. Very interesting stuff! We have a great team. It’s a very close team, and we tend to move quickly. We have a lot of fun and enjoy pushing technology boundaries together.

You’ve been using HeyTaco! for over a year now. Do you remember what caused you to look for and start using HeyTaco!?

A while back we surveyed our team and found leadership wasn’t doing a great job providing timely and meaningful recognition.

We dabbled with a few different feedback mechanisms, and they all basically sucked. They were hard to administer, weren’t super timely, or were timely (just saying “thank you” or “nice work”) but didn’t have the impact we were looking for.

We also felt like we were starting to incentivize the wrong behavior with some of our rewards, which is easy to do by the way.

The ShopAtHome team does an excellent job recognizing each other and was great right from the start. Why do you think that is? Not all teams have such an easy time showing appreciation as yours does.

I think that happened for a few reasons.

First, HeyTaco! is ridiculously easy to use and implement. As a matter of fact, I implemented it one day without telling anyone. Almost immediately people started playing with it and using it for its intended purpose.

Second, we have a culture where we take time to recognize great work. We also aren’t very stagnant. We push the boundaries of our product and technology every single week. This means we’re always doing or learning something new. It’s tough work and our team recognizes good work when they see it.

One thing we don’t hear about much is how to maintain a positive environment for a team when it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. How have you helped those around you soldier on through tough times?

Like most companies, we’ve had our share of tough times. When you run into a roadblock, or tough time, it’s important to talk about it openly and focus on possible solutions.

It’s easy to hang your head low and focus on the hopelessness of your situation. The key is to focus on the small wins that bring you out of a tough time. We’ve made it through those times by maintaining a positive attitude and recognizing people who focus on solutions and getting stuff done.

If you had to pick two things, what do you think is most important to develop close relationships with people you work with?

Just two things? That’s a tough question.

If I had to pick two, I’d say maintaining humility is crucial. People become difficult to work with when they always have to be right or have a hard time saying “My bad!! I goofed!!”.

Second, and this sounds like a “duh” answer, but take the time to get to know them. If you’re sitting with them alone before a meeting starts ask them what they have planned that weekend. Develop a real human relationship rather than a transactional work relationship.

How would you describe the effects of celebrating as a team, and is it something you feel like your team does enough of?

I’m probably a horrible person to answer this question. I am not the party planner. Maybe I should be. I’ve found public celebrations, lunches, or team building events don’t tend to motivate engineers. Some technologists love that stuff, most don’t.

Interesting, I don’t think the catering companies are going to be happy with you ;). Why don’t you think public celebrations work well?

I think the goal is to recognize people for work well done and forced fun events probably don’t achieve that goal.

My personal preference is to recognize individuals or teams in real-time, even elevating praise to the company level when appropriate. As a company, that’s a culture we all foster and embrace. It’s those micro-moments that make a difference over waiting for a big party. Recognition at parties is nice, but it’s less timely and impactful, in my opinion.

Alright time for our two last questions, these are the doozies! If you could give HeyTaco! a super power what would it be?

The ability to wash my car … inside and out. I’m very selfish.

If the Taco Faithful are in the Denver area where should they get real tacos at?

Definitely Torchy’s Tacos.

cute dog about to eat tacos
Torchy is also a big hit with our furry friends

No way?! You’re the second Taco Story to recommend Torchy’s, I’ve got to try them now.

If you’d like to share your Taco Story, we’d love to hear it. Give us a shout at [email protected].

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