The start-up ChatWerk has been going digital full throttle for a year
Home office, digital working methods and meeting marathons. All virtual and without cookies. The pandemic has completely turned the working world of many people upside down. Others don’t know any different. Just like ChatWerk. The start-up gets companies, big or small, to chat with their customers. The kick-off meeting of the young team took place in the middle of the Corona summer of 2020. Online of course. Now, almost exactly one year later, the ChatWerker met live for the first time.
A field report on the advantages and disadvantages of working digitally
Messenger communication for medium-sized businesses. Simple, clear and affordable. With this mission, Oliver Kremers founded ChatWerk in August 2020. The corporate start-up is part of the Müller Medien family of companies, known among other things for the Yellow Pages, The Public and The Telephone Book directories. After five months of intensive preparation, the product is released: a smart inbox for WhatsApp & Co. Then everything happens very quickly. As early as spring, the messenger service was integrated into over 850,000 directory entries and established itself as a permanent fixture in messenger marketing. ChatWerk now serves cross-industry customers throughout Germany who have sent over 160k messages via the platform since it went live.
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This success was made possible above all by a team that works very well. Even without a shared office and classic routines. Here it paid off that the founder relied on digital working methods right from the start: “Good people are few and far between and they don’t necessarily come from the region. I was able to search all over Germany for ChatWerk and concentrate fully on the skills of the people.” He is also able to respond to different life situations.
For example, from young parents who often want more flexibility in the organization of working hours. “It’s not an issue for us. We coordinate the schedule together. It doesn’t matter who completes his tasks when and where. That opens up a lot of freedom, which everyone here really appreciates,” explains Oliver Kremers, who is the father of a school-age child himself.
Put innovative power into the product
His previous remote experience helped him set up the workflow. The online marketing expert is used to commuting and traveling a lot. Transparency and short distances are important to him. You don’t have to reinvent the world for this, he says: “We don’t develop anything of our own for working in a team, but use mature solutions such as Slack or Google Business Tools. We prefer to invest our creative energy in the further development of products and customer service.”
He also knows that the challenge increases with the size of the team. The four-person start-up team has become eight permanent employees in one year. All from different cities including Berlin, Dresden, Cologne and Saarbrücken. In addition, there is the development team in Poland and a network of freelance creative people who are also spread across Germany. “Project management tools help, but our way of working requires a high level of self-discipline from each individual,” reports Oliver Kremers, who prefers to rely on intrinsic motivation instead of control mechanisms. Talk about having fun!
(No) team spirit out of the box
That’s why the topic of team spirit is particularly important to him. “We’re a wonderfully mixed bunch, we come from different regions and have different roots: America, Brazil, Germany, Austria, Saarland.” (laughs) Without the common day-to-day business, however, this wealth is somewhat lost. To make up for this shortcoming, he set up a kind of online regulars’ table. The idea: simply send everyone a box with a good wine plus a surprise and sit together in front of the screens in the evening and tell stories. “It works quite well to begin with, but what is actually missing is exactly what makes a chat together: the spontaneity, the random threads of conversation between two or three people who are just sitting together and suddenly find a common topic.”
A little “old school” is good
The ChatWerker don’t want to do without the networked and thus free way of working. Nevertheless, the first joint meeting in August showed how irreplaceable personal encounters are. “It was extremely good for us to meet very ‘old school’. And not between door and hinge in a packed schedule, but with plenty of time for professional and personal discussions,” summarizes the managing director. The team came out of the event visibly strengthened and highly motivated. So motivated that Kremers is already working on introducing new “old school” tools. That means: regular meetings in different settings – from small topic-related working groups to the big joint summer event. “Because one thing is clear: we remain human and that is exactly right.”