6 Subjects in 60 Minutes with Ryan Carson

November 7, 2012

I recently came across this talk on a relatively new site called BeSquare where you can watch primarily web development focused conference talks. I’ve watched a few so far, but this one stood out from the rest. Full disclosure though, they’ve all been pretty good, so I might talk about a few more in the future.

The talk I watched was by Ryan Carson – CEO of Treehouse – and he talks about a lot of things, hence the title. The segments of the video that fascinated me though – as a young, business-concious developer – are the business aspects of how he runs Treehouse. I’ve embedded the video here, but included some notes of my own after the video.

Note: It’s an hour and a half long, but worth every second for anyone looking to learn about how to run a successful business.

Ryan Carson, CEO of Treehouse (6 Subjects in 60 Minutes)

Some Employment Niceties

When asked what it’s like to work for Treehouse, Ryan explained a little bit about how employees are treated.

  • A 4-day work week for all employees – most work Monday-Thursday, but there are exceptions and overlaps
  • 19 days (paid) vacation – plus holidays – for all employees
  • Each employee receives a 1-month sabbatical for every 3 years of employment
  • Treehouse pays for lunch for each employee every day
  • $5000 is allotted to new employees to get set up with a computer, peripherals, and their desk area
  • Each employee is given an iPhone and Treehouse pays the contract
  • Treehouse matches pensions up to 6%

If it’s not clear, here’s the bottom line: People are most important asset to the company.

Some Numbers, Thoughts and Regularities

  • Treehouse has quarterly meetups in Orlando and all out-of-town employees are flown in – the last one cost close to $25,000
  • Ryan records and releases a weekly video update to employees
  • Only 40% of all employees reside in Orlando at the Treehouse headquarters
  • Ryan said he would prefer to have all employees in one location, but people also can’t interrupt or be interrupted as easily this way
  • Along similar lines, it’s silly to believe that the best of the best have to be in your local area
  • Ryan is very transparent with everything, including company finances, to the entire company

A Day in the Life

Treehouse uses some of the following services to stay on task day-to-day.

  • trello.com (manages to-dos)
  • campfirenow.com (company chat – because no one should be working 100% of the time)
  • use gotomeeting (for multiple people) and skype (for one-on-one conversations)
  • teamgant.com – use gant charts to get a glimpse of the big picture
  • google apps for mail, calendar, charts – photo booth (mac)

The last remaining thing that I found interesting was regarding how Ryan Carson decided it was time for him to give up working on projects and focus on the business. His reply was interesting and spot on. He said: “You should always hire people that are better than you at producing web work. And you have to stop doing that web work when you’re no longer the best at it.”

You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryancarson