One of the most important pillars of a culture is what it celebrates, which often reflects the values it is built upon. When it comes to culture I believe that the most important aspects are authenticity (celebrate what you actually value) and consistency, and so with time we developed several traditions & celebrations at FindHotel that are worth sharing.
The commercial milestone - Daily bookings record
On 29/01/2018 we crossed 1.000 bookings per day for the first time, which was 7.5 years after starting what became FindHotel. Given that on 14/03/2018 we reached 2.000 bookings per day, it was quite a contrast that 1k to 2k took only 45 days. It took us over a year to reach the 3k showing that execution & results are not always parallel lines and helping us appreciate the effort of ‘past generations’ as we bare the fruits of scale later on. This led us to start marking each 1k booking milestone with a message, a celebration and for the large milestones like 5k & 10k a memorable one-day event such as hot air balloon trip for the entire company. Below is an image of what 2021's records seasons looks like (we broke the daily k milestone 8 times so far this summer).
Why we chose this milestone?
The biggest commercial challenge in a relatively mature market such as consumer facing accommodations, is to reach significant scale. Scale enables access to 'better everything’: Better infrastructure, more resources to build a better product, better commercial terms, economies of scale within customer acquisition, more data to work with in the product etc.
We chose bookings per day (known internally as BPD) as the sole commercial milestone to celebrate because of its simplicity and the fact we focus on profitable growth and are thus unlikely to fall into the trap of wasteful top-line milestone chase. BPD is often the criteria we mark when choosing which projects to prioritize as it is easy to measure, is customer centric (‘new bookings’ largely equals ‘new customers’), and indicates our focus on growth. Delivering that next BPD milestone is something that actually drives us to innovate (and de-facto raise the bar which is one of our core values) and the ‘records season’ of travel’s peak season Q3, is often jam-packed with experiments and wild ideas that make it to production especially fast as the thrill of the next milestone is always around the corner and we don’t want the constant party mood to end.
The team milestone - pirate anniversary at 5 years
At the end of 2018 we had our two longest serving team members, Omer & Luca, marking 5 years anniversary at FindHotel and we were wondering how to note the event. With a reference to our favourite Steve Jobs quote “It is better to be a pirate than join the navy” (Booking.com replaces Microsoft as our navy), Lee, our first Head of Product, suggested making a ‘pirate painting’ in their homage.
This tradition evolved into a ‘pirate painting award ceremony’, a ‘pirate countdown’ that the veterans count towards ('10 months to go'), a ‘pirate year' which is the list of achievements of a pirate in an anniversary after their 5th year and a ground floor filled with pirate paintings at our Amsterdam office.
We celebrate every person's anniversary with a Slack message from their manager to the whole team listing their contributions (professionally and even more so - culturally. Imagine being the person in charge of our office beer tap, hard to be more worshiped than that for your contribution to the team’s well being…) and these messages become more colourful the longer someone ‘serves’, as they form many more relationships, own a lot more at the company and leave a greater mark.
This tradition marks a lot of what we value (Trust, Ownership, Be a Team-player are three of our six company values) and helps build the strong bond many people feel at FindHotel.
The yearly company trip - Our one get-together
In 2015 we begun what is now a yearly tradition: a company trip to a great destination with little agenda other than to have great time together and discover different cultures.
Our very first trip was to Lisbon in November 2016 with a group of 12, staying in 2 adjacent apartments and forgetting to even take a group picture (but the selfie stick photo with most of us is a good substitute). At least we wrote about it on our blog.
In the following year we kept the wintery trip tradition but chose a slightly colder spot in Prague. Taking this photo at -2 was an act of bravery (notice Sasha and Katia not even daring to put on a t-shirt, it was freezing!). We travelled with ±30, staying in a hostel and while we had lots of fun we made a promise to never travel so cold again…
The next trip took us to Valencia in June 2018, after skipping the 2017 year… How come? 2017 was a difficult year which caught us off-guard. We grew the team substantially in 2016 but overestimated our trajectory and ended 2017 in crisis, from which we rebounded at the turn of the year.
2018 was thus a time of rejuvenation and we chose for a week-long trip to Barxeta (near Valencia), mixing work with lots of outdoors time. (While hard to believe we’d aim to get significant work done on a country side backdrop, we ended up working on both our newly formed values and on launching our new platform which was then 6 months in the works). This proved quite a challenge in the remote finca we stayed at, with patchy internet that kept on crashing… after which we vowed never to mix work and fun in a company trip again
In June 2019 we travelled to Mallorca which set a new standard: full itinerary of fun events while enjoying excellent weather, food, views, hikes, sailing and everything that is nice in life. We travelled with ±45, with some people arriving in Europe for the first time and many flying directly to Mallorca from Poland, Russia, Israel, other parts of Spain and naturally the majority packing quarter of an airplane from Amsterdam.
Having had to skip our 2020 trip due to the corona restrictions which made international group travel nearly impossible, we will soon double down on a 5 nights trip to Greece with a group almost twice as large, taking together with us all FT from around the world who can legally travel to Greece at the time.
With our growing remote presence it will be a chance for many team members to meet each other in real life for the first time, while others who were unable to travel to Amsterdam from Russia or Ukraine for over 1.5 years will catch up with old colleagues in person. We will keep this trip as ‘fun only’ and hope to forge many memories to take with us for the future.
As you can see we love to mark a milestone or countdown towards a big event and in general enjoy sharing many happy moments together, which means that office Fridays are usually a mini-celebration regardless of the occasion. We are also in a real growing spree, having added 17 new team members in July & August to our team of 70 (pre-summer), as we target 200 FTEs by the end of 2022.
You can read about our open roles on our career site or feel free to reach out to any of our team members, as we’ll gladly share some more colour on our plans, overall direction and of course the upcoming celebrations! And to quote a Dr. Seuss saying we like to use: It won't be smooth, but oh, the places we will go!