Going over the falls together in barrel

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Jesse Rodgers. Jesse is the  CEO of TribeHR, the Director of the VeloCity Residence at the University of Waterloo, organizer of StartupCamp in Waterloo and an allround great guy.

Jesse stopped by my offices in Toronto to chat about sales, marketing and PR (convenient of @jevon to write about the same topic recently). Jessementioned that the TribeHR team had left Waterloo and were holed up in a hotel room in Niagara Falls. They were living together, working together, writing code and being more productive than they could with the distractions of family, friends and the strong community in Waterloo. I was amazed at the commitment of the team to step away from their personal lives and get the next version of TribeHR built before they head to SxSW for the Small Business Party. You can read the update or watch the caffeine and other stimulant-driven vacation summary. There’s lots startups can learn about improving productivity by going on vacation together.

Barrel to go over the Falls

Over the month of February the TribeHR team has been taking advantage of low hotel prices in Niagara Falls and turned a suite at the Hilton into our office (we were at the Marriott, but the Hilton is $20 less a night and has king size beds). The goal for this little retreat to the romantic city of Niagara Falls: get TribeHR polished off, implement our new user interface, get our go to market strategy figured out, and start executing on all cylinders.

If it works, we will be a stronger team (who can put up with each others snoring) and will have made some awesome progress. If it fails, then we know our team isn’t as good as we thought.

Other cities we thought about were Montreal and Toronto. Toronto would have far too many distractions for us so we had settled on Montreal (we would have loved to work out of the Knotman house). The problem there was that those of us with young kids would be too far away to head home if we had to. So here we are in Niagara Falls, in a tiny hotel suite, working our asses off.

Room with a view in Niagara Falls by TribeHRIn terms of work hours put in, when you do this, it’s pretty crazy. While in a hotel room, assuming you ignore the casino across the road, you work from around 8am to 12am, take out eating time, it is around 14 hrs or so of ‘work’ per person. It is a crazy amount of focus and the results are great, at first. Once all the easy stuff is taken on, we then have to address the bigger problems and we start to slow down. But we can work through it and it’s a heck of a lot easier when you have completely removed yourself from your routine.

At the end of week 2 we have learned the following:

  • It takes 5 min to turn a hotel room into an office but the wifi sucks, the tv can’t use a PS3, and anything but pizza is way overpriced.
  • Not having kids wake you up at 6am doesn’t mean you won’t be awake at 6am.
  • The US side of the falls gets a rainbow in the afternoon.
  • The Starbucks coffee is never hot, Tim Horton’s wins
  • As a team we can take each others grumpy moods and swear it out until everyone is laughing again.
  • Hotel chairs spin really well, and provide a great distraction near the end of the day

Why have we done this? Because we are still a very much a bootstrapped startup with plenty of distractions (wives, kids, other commitments) in Waterloo, and if we are going to get anything done while things are still so early, we have to immerse ourselves and get to work. It’s uncomfortable and exhausting, but it’s productive, energizing and we love it.