Asynchronous Work is Changing the World with Shannon Lincoln, Chief Financial Officer of Oyster HR
About this episode
Welcome to the Launch Lessons podcast, where the world’s brightest founders and executives share their insight.
Today, Sam will be talking to Shannon Lincoln, Chief Financial Officer at Oyster HR. They discuss how she navigated the challenges of growing the team from 17 to 500 employees in under two years, how they've leaned into asynchronous work practices, and tips on how startups can build a diverse workforce.
Shannon and the team at oyster built a unicorn in just over two years, scaling the team and product at a rapid pace. It's not easy to be a Chief Financial Officer in this difficult macroeconomic environment, so Shannon shares some of her tips to navigate startups through this turmoil. All of this and more right now on the Launch Lessons podcast.
Sam Kothari (00:01):
Welcome back to the Launch Lessons Podcast, where the world's brightest founders and executives share their insights. Today I'm talking to Shannon Lincoln, the CFO of Oyster HR. Shannon and the team at Oyster built a unicorn in just over two years, scaling the team and product at a rapid pace. We'll talk about how she navigated the challenges of growing a team from 17 people to over 500 in less than two years, and how they've leaned into asynchronous work practices. Shannon also shares her tips on how startups can build a diverse workforce. We'll also talk about how Oyster hires executives, which is a notoriously difficult thing to do in fast-growing startups.
It's not easy to be a CFO in this difficult, macroeconomic environment. Shannon shares some of her tips to help navigate startups through this turmoil. All of this and more right now on the Launch Lessons Podcast. I'd love to start with just an introduction to you, Oyster, and what you've been up to in the past year and a half.
Shannon Lincoln (01:01):
Great. Thank you for having me. Excited to be here. So I'm Shannon Lincoln. I'm the CFO of Oyster. Currently in San Francisco, originally from Toronto. And Oyster has been on a pretty incredible growth journey over the past 18 months or so. We're a global employment platform, so we are on a mission to create a more equal world by letting companies everywhere hire people anywhere. And we went from a seed stage company about 18 months ago to a series C company in April this year. So it's been a wild ride.
Sam Kothari (01:37):
I'm sure. I think going through that kind of growth, I'm sure there's a lot of challenges and opportunities that have been unlocked as part of that growth journey. And that's something I'd definitely love to dig into. But before we start going into your journey with Oyster, I'd love to understand how you ended up in this high growth tech space because obviously I think you started out your life in Canada and then moved into consulting. But maybe talk us through what drew you from the professional services space into working in these high growth environments.
Shannon Lincoln (02:08):
So I was actually an auditor at PWC. So, a little less exciting than the consulting side. But I wanted to switch to the other side and really be part of building something as opposed to coming in every year and checking and pointing out what had gone wrong and trying to fix that. So I moved to the Bay Area about seven years ago and joined a startup right after their series A. And let's say I got addicted to company building and seeing the impact that the financial experience that I had could have on an early stage company with a very fast feedback loop, especially working with others who didn't necessarily have that financial perspective. I found it pretty exciting to see the changes that we could make so quickly, and the impact that can have on growth.
Sam Kothari (02:59):
Were there any major lessons or take-aways from your journey at PWC? Because you spent a fair bit of time there. I think six years. So any of those lessons outside of obviously the technical skills I'm sure you would have picked up that you would have been deploying in your roles post PWC?
Shannon Lincoln (03:16):
I guess I would say, at the end of the day I think it's always about the people. That was true as far as me joining PWC as opposed to other firms, and also as far as the clients. We always had the best results when we had a team that was really on the same page, and the communication was flowing. So I would say that's always the first step that I look to is the people.
And from there you can achieve a lot, you can resolve differences in opinion. You can get everyone marching in the same direction around a common goal, and then, like you said, I think the technical was a prerequisite as well and not to be ignored. But I think the relationships that you build with the people you're working with are probably the most important thing, and that's the hardest part to get right as well.
Sam Kothari (04:04):
I wanted to share a little recommendation that I found on your LinkedIn. This is from 2015. But it's definitely one of the most glowing recommendations I've ever seen in my life. And so I wanted to quote a little bit and really try and understand what makes you tick and whether there were experiences that were foundational to your approach and style in your professional life. We'll obviously link to your LinkedIn profile in our show notes. But I recommend everyone have a read.
But some quotes from that recommendation, "Shannon asks all the right questions. She gets information from you in a manner that you realize you know a lot more than you think. She makes you feel confident after every conversation. She taught me the value of asking the right questions. She talks so little. She listens a lot. And when she talks, it is so well paid for the time you waited. And she dares to make great decisions and makes them with 100% confidence."
That's obviously a wonderful recommendation from a former colleague. And it's one that I hope I can get as well on my LinkedIn. But help me understand where that style and approach has come from.
Shannon Lincoln (05:13):
Yeah, I would say you're definitely cherry picking. But that was actually from a client as opposed to a colleague, who I worked really closely with and helped through some tough challenges. We had a pretty close relationship. So I guess I would say I don't know if it's a Canadian thing, but I usually default to listening and figuring out what other people know before sharing what I know. And I think that's important. I think it lets me come into conversations with confidence because I've heard the other side of it first.
And I think you figure things out much faster that way as opposed to coming in assuming you're the smartest person in the room. I think it's always better to assume that you're the dumbest person in the room and then add the pieces that you can add. I think if everyone took that approach, you would end up better off. You might be a little slower to start, but I think everyone's got a little piece of something to add. And they should be able to add it.
Sam Kothari (06:25):
How do you think about that approach in a leadership context? Because I'm sure the Oyster team would be looking at you as the CFO, senior executive, expecting you to come into discussions with strong views and strong opinions. So how do you balance that now that you're in quite a senior leadership role?
Shannon Lincoln (06:59):
I think that's a great point. I think, one, you have to hire people that you trust. And I heard, I think it was Patrick Collison, say something in an interview that when you hire someone, you want to be sure that if someone is wrong, you're just as likely to think it's you who's wrong as the person you're talking to. So I think the first step is hiring the right people where you can really trust that they're going to do things in the right way.
And then I think as I become more senior, I think I've learned that it's more about setting the high level of direction and then letting the team really bring the experiences from the field and being able to run with it. And I think letting them lead gets you to a better answer in the end that's not the exact way you would do it. I think the ownership that the team takes is going to balance any differences in the way that you would have approached a situation if you did it personally.
Sam Kothari (07:42):
Makes sense. So let's talk about the Oyster journey. What drew you to joining Oyster, especially in a senior role at a very early stage?
Shannon Lincoln (07:53):
So, the recruiter who asked me to join Oyster reached out with a Loom video on LinkedIn. And usually I ignore recruiter messages, but I had to watch it. My interest was piqued. And then when I heard the Loom video, Oyster was a bit of a light bulb for me. It just made complete sense on so many different levels. I was a complete remote work convert from the very beginning. You couldn't drag me back into an office kicking and screaming if you tried. So, to me, it's inevitable that the world is going to move that way in the long run. And then the growth opportunity associated with that is huge if you believe in the future that I do.
And the people is another big one, the people and the mission. So Tony is a second-time founder. And he's sort of been there, done that. And this time he's actually trying to change the world, which is not something you come across every day. And he's committed to hiring a great team of people who are really committed to that mission and purpose for the company he's trying to build. So I can go into more of the founder story. But I think to find all three of those things in one opportunity is pretty rare.
Sam Kothari (09:15):
So I've read online that hiring executives into a startup is quite challenging. I think I read a stat somewhere, 50% of executive hires leave the business within 12 months. And so the hit rate seems to be not fantastic. Obviously, you and Tony have found a really positive working relationship, and you're going from strength to strength. What did you do? What did Tony do? What did the broader Oyster team do to, one, ensure that there was alignment in your styles and values, and two, that you were best positioned to be successful within the organization over a longer period of time as well?
Shannon Lincoln (09:54):
That’s a great question. So Tony realized the importance of hiring a strong leadership team from the very beginning. And he actually partnered with an executive search recruiter from before they were a seed stage company. So, we apply a fairly rigorous process to every exec hire that we make. There's a case study in particular that all candidates need to do, and they prepare a deck, and send a pre-read, because a lot of the work that we do is asynchronous. So it's a test of those skills, and then also a live presentation for about half an hour followed by a Q&A. And I think that's the biggest thing I would point to as far as getting that upfront alignment and making sure that people are on the same page at the same time as well testing the skills required for the job.
As far as once people are hired, I think Tony applies what he calls a servant leadership style, which is all about empowering your team to really do their best. And he encourages us to push work down, and he pushes work down to us. He comes to conversations asking how he can help as opposed to handing out instructions. He sets the high-level strategic direction, and then he really allows us to take those balls and run with them. So that's the way I love to work, and I think it's been a very successful strategy.
Sam Kothari (11:22):
Amazing. I really like the concept of the case study that mimics your real work environment with the asynchronous practices. Interested to dive into that a little bit more. You're a remote-first company. You've got other employees all around the world. How do you manage having people in different time zones? Do you still come together? How much of the work is actually fully asynchronous? How do you balance building that culture in that remote-first way?
Shannon Lincoln (11:56):
So, we've got over 600 employees in about 70 different countries. And we default to asynchronous work wherever possible. So what that means is, we use long-form written communication wherever we can. And that information is public by default. So it can be consumed asynchronously by a lot of people at once. If something is better shared verbally, then we will record Loom videos explaining things and allow people to consume that asynchronously, and watch them two X, or pause it if it's no longer relevant to them.
And then if we do get together for a discussion, it's just that. We're not repeating any of the information sharing that has already taken place. It's really about debating and discussing the issues. And so I think you're able to move a lot faster that way because you can do things in parallel, you're not constrained by people's overlapping synchronous availability.
And the other thing that it does is, it really democratizes the decision making quite a bit because you can share that information with a lot more people and get input from a lot more people really well.
Sam Kothari (13:05):
How do new hires get onboarded to adapt to this way of working? Because the style still seems very new, right? It's still something people are unfamiliar with.
Shannon Lincoln (13:16):
So, consistent with our asynchronous approach, we have a very extensive onboarding program that's a series of Notion pages, and Loom videos that talk about all of these things that seem trivial but are really important to know. Things like putting your working hours in Slack, or best ways to use Slack, best ways to set up your calendar and organize things. And the tools are important, but it's really about getting that alignment about the way you work that I think is more important. But I've been very pleasantly surprised by the rate at which people can onboard because all of this is written as opposed to relying on people to verbally share how the company works and how we like to work.
Sam Kothari (14:08):
You're still a very young company. I'm impressed by the discipline in your documentation, and the rigor that you've got even in the onboarding process. Because I know when I joined Airwallex, we were 200 people, and I don't think we had anything written down at that point. It was a lot of information in a lot of people's heads. And even today, we're still building that muscle and that habit. So was that something you had been doing from the start? How has that evolved over time?
Shannon Lincoln (14:36):
So, it is actually something Tony invested in very early on. Before he hired me actually, he hired a remote work consultant, who then became part of the company. And he believes we are building the product essentially. We're encouraging people to become distributed global companies, and therefore, it's our job to lead the way and model how to be the best distributed company in the world. He invested in a team, a remote work team who essentially would audit our practices, and really invest in all this documentation to make sure that we were growing really efficiently. And I think without that infrastructure, it is hard to grow as fast as we did. It's hard to grow as fast as we did even with that infrastructure. But the infrastructure definitely enabled that [inaudible 00:15:26] growth.
Sam Kothari (15:27):
I'd love to dive into some of those challenges. So your headcount has gone from double digits, sort of 17, 18, to I think you mentioned 600 plus now. And in probably less than two years. That's obviously a lot of new talent. The culture would have shifted and changed a lot over time. And I'd love to dig into the culture piece shortly. But I'm interested in what some of those challenges were as you were onboarding, recruiting, and growing this rapidly.
Shannon Lincoln (15:54):
I think the pace itself is a challenge. Like I said, the asynchronous work allows things to move more quickly. And at times, people can feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that is thrown at them. I think also even though everyone was worried that remote work would cause people to work less, what they found was that it actually caused people to work more.
So, I think burnout is a real risk with this environment because there's a tendency for some people to think they always need to be on since somebody at the company is always on, literally, just because of time zones. So I think we set a good tone at the top there. Tony doesn't work on weekends. I don't receive emails on weekends. We do focus Fridays where people can sort of flex the day and take personal appointments if they need to. And we explicitly state that the expectation is that you set your own hours, and you work within those. So I think that's how we've combated that. But it's something we need to continue to work on and make sure that new joiners understand.
Sam Kothari (17:01):
It feels like this has been quite a deliberate journey. Even though it's been quite fast, it feels like it's been planned. You've made a lot of strategic decisions. Even now when you talked about modeling the behavior for the rest of the employees at the leadership level. What are the companies, or stories, or insights you were drawing on? What are the best practices you're leaning on to help you figure out how you want to be building Oyster?
Shannon Lincoln (17:33):
We talk. We make a few different analogies when we do fundraising pitches, and we talk to employees. One that Tony likes to think about is Tesla, and that they open source a lot of their technology to allow others to benefit from that. He's a big fan of that, to allow other people to become great distributed companies, because as he says, this is a movement, this is a new category we're building, and we need others to adopt this way of thinking as much as we need them to buy into Oyster specifically. And so Tesla is one that comes to mind.
There's others, like Salesforce, for example. It's selling sales software obviously. And arguably, they've invested in having the best sales team in the world. They're modeling the behavior that they're selling. It’s all part of the product essentially.
Sam Kothari (18:27):
I'd love to chat a little bit about diversity. Oyster is, I think, quite a diverse company already. I think it's something that companies, all companies, are striving for. Because the understanding now exists in the market that diverse organizations across multiple dimensions tend to outperform and have advantages. But achieving that is difficult. I think that's not something you can fall into if you don't think about it explicitly. So how have you been thinking about that and designing your organization in a way that promotes and builds a diverse workforce?
Shannon Lincoln (19:05):
This is something I think is very important. You pointed to one data point about why it's important to have diverse teams, because they perform better. But I think there's lots of reasons. I think it's the representation by population argument essentially that is often applied in [inaudible 00:19:22] government.
But essentially, you have a small group of people, leadership for example, making decisions on behalf of a bigger group. You want to make sure they represent the group they're making decisions on behalf of. And so we have 50% of women in leadership. The world is made up of 50% women, for example. Therefore there should be 50% of women in leadership if you follow that logic.
And what Oyster does is basically take that argument three steps further by saying you shouldn't just look at it from a gender perspective, you should look at it on every relevant dimension of diversity. And essentially, our company should look like the world. And the way we enable is by global hiring. So it becomes much, much easier when you're tapping into a global talent pool and hiring people from all over the world to hit these diversity goals.
There is an element of intentionality where Tony is encouraging the leadership team to hire diverse teams, and we are encouraging our managers to hire diverse teams. But a lot of it is the fact that we hire globally and that we're enabled to do that. And if you believe the talent is just as good if not better outside of the Bay Area, or wherever it is, then the rest is really just going to happen naturally.
Sam Kothari (20:38):
Can you talk me through some tactics you use as part of, whether it's your recruitment process or your sourcing process for talent, which allows you to make sure this is front of mind for your managers?
Shannon Lincoln (20:49):
So, then we post jobs... And there are practical limitations to doing this as well. Remote work is a newer concept, and so a lot of job boards like even LinkedIn and Indeed, who are investors in Oyster, don't typically let you just post a job that's labeled remote. You have to pick a location because they need to know where to advertise the job. And so that's something they're actively working on.
But in the meantime, we will post four versions of the same job rack to four major cities to try and cover all the time zones and show that we are hiring anywhere. Even with that, you will tend to get more applications in those cities, because people assume we want somebody in that specific city. But I think we've got a lot of branding showing that we will hire people anywhere, and these roles are truly meant to be global or mobile. So that's one piece.
And then we monitor it. It's nothing formal, but we do track the stats. We check in on that. And we will naturally try to improve them. But we'll share nudges if we're getting off track in certain areas. And Tony especially, he's really passionate about hiring in emerging markets, so he pushes that from the top.
Sam Kothari (22:09):
I think that's really helpful, especially I think the point you made around even the recruitment platforms today aren't actually set up to support this new world we're starting to operate in. Something to be mindful of. I'm interested in your personal journey into leadership. What are some of the difficult issues you've faced as a woman in the workforce transitioning into a senior leadership role?
Shannon Lincoln (22:30):
I would say two things come to mind. One is, I think I naturally Lean In, and a lot of documentation about women in the workplace, people say you can't be what you can't see. And often there are fewer women in positions of power. So, I think it's important to have mentors. I had some very influential mentors early on who really looked out for me and helped pull me up along with them. I think that's important. And then I think it's also about advocating for yourself and [inaudible 00:23:12].
There are stats about how men will apply to a job if they have less than 50% of the qualifications. Women will apply when they have close to 100. I'm sure I'm getting those numbers wrong. But I think there is an element of confidence and just making sure you're being the best advocate as well, independent of whether you have those mentors and people who can help you.
Sam Kothari (23:36):
What advice would you give to other women around the world who are facing challenges rising into these roles?
Shannon Lincoln (23:43):
I think it's important to pick the right organizations in the first place and make sure that people are going to be supportive of you based on your merit, independent of your gender. Like I said, I think that it's important to advocate for yourself and make sure you're positioning yourself in the best light possible. Not to think of it as arrogance or self promotion but to think of it as what's needed in order to get attention, and to be recognized appropriately.
Sam Kothari (24:21):
I'd love to switch gears a little bit into talking about your role as a CFO in a fast growing startup in the midst of what feels like a market meltdown. I'm sure you're going through some interesting challenges. You've been part of a number of fundraisers in your role at Oyster. Let’s talk a little bit about the role you've played as part of those fundraisers. What's the right partnership between a founder and a CFO going through those fundraisers? And then we can talk a little bit about the market today and how you're thinking about navigating the business through the next couple of years.
Shannon Lincoln (25:00):
I think in fundraising it needs to be founder-led as far as the pitch, and oftentimes the relationships as well. I think especially at the earlier stages, VCs are very much looking to build those relationships, and they want to see the founder understanding the numbers as well as the high-level story. That’s the first step. But the role of the financial support person is not to be diminished either. And I think the more that the financial role takes or shares in coming up with the narrative and the pitch, the better the outcome will be, because you need the story to align with the numbers at the end of the day. And the financial person is going to understand the numbers inside out. My biggest recommendation is that it does need to be a true partnership. They can't be disjointed pieces of the same process; they need to work together.
Sam Kothari (26:14):
How do you think about the projections you're putting in these decks? Now I'm not going to ask obviously what the Oyster numbers are and forecasts. But one thing I've observed, even seeing startup pitch decks, is often the goals are very ambitious and the numbers are ambitious as well. You're coming from an audit background where you've had training in modeling and financial projections and operating now in a high uncertainty environment. How do you think about your role in balancing what's realistic, what's ambitious, and really tapering, whether it's founder or investor expectations?
Shannon Lincoln (26:51):
I would say you need to be ambitious with your fundraising projections. It's very common to have two versions of the numbers. You have the one you show to the board, which I typically try to under promise and over deliver on. And then the fundraising forecast, which to be frank, you should not be outperforming, or else you're likely discounting the value of your company, because the VCs are going to discount it for you. So you want to make sure you're presenting projections that are as ambitious as any other projections they're going to see.
At the end of the day, VCs aren't stupid either. They're not taking a blanket haircut across all forecasts. They're going to look at your actuals, and your trends, and they're going to know, to a degree, how ambitious your forecast is. So I would say you have to be careful about where you play things to the extent that you are. And there's ways to do that that are going to be more successful than others.
But at the end of the day, I think it's better to understand your business. And I think the VCs are looking to you for that. They know you understand it better than anyone else. And as long as you can explain it to them and it makes sense, and you build up credibility throughout the process when you talk about your numbers, and when you show historical numbers, I think you'll get a smaller discount on your projections. So, that's also a balance.
Sam Kothari (28:22):
How do you help other folks in the leadership teams get close and stay close to the numbers, whether it's the founders, or marketing, product? I feel like your role, while it's focused on a particular function, helps build confidence and trust in other functions. And you definitely want founders who understand the numbers, product leaders who understand how what they're building impacts the numbers. How do you advocate and build that shared level of understanding about where the business is and where it's going?
Shannon Lincoln (28:51):
That’s something we've been doing even more in the current environment. I think there's more appetite for it from employees, and other departments, and something we're very happy to provide, and have been providing [inaudible 00:29:10]. So I would say the first thing is to involve the other departments in coming up with those projections in the first place and working very closely with them on that. And that's the best way to get a forecast that you're going to hit, and also to get alignment across the business and make sure everyone is moving in sync.
And then I think the data is another big piece of that. And I think as much as possible, you want to have a single source of truth. And there are various ways you can do that. We have a very strong data team who have set up a very robust instance of Looker that everyone looks to as a single source of truth. And they can self service their data needs from there. So I think people are hungry for the information. And as long as you can provide it to them in a scalable way, that goes a long way in terms of keeping everyone on the same page.
Sam Kothari (30:00):
Let's talk about the market downturn. How has your role shifted in the last three to six months as the economy has started to take a turn?
Shannon Lincoln (30:09):
Like everyone, we took a step back and reran our numbers, and made sure we were being realistic, and that we have enough capital to survive [inaudible 00:30:20] our very likely to be choppy fundraising waters the next time we go out. I think those are the basics. I think the next part is, you have to be very closely monitoring your results against that point. You can't create a plan, and then stick it in a drawer, you need to realize that things are changing very quickly. And so the most agile companies are going to be the ones who survive this.
So, again, back to real-time data, and dashboards, we added a few more of those, and are getting more attention now. And also, I think my role has changed in that I'm... Like you said, I'm working on providing more visibility to the numbers to fully use them for the company. So we've been very transparent with our employee base about where we are financially. Lucky that we're in a great spot because we raised funds in April before all this happened. So we couldn't have been luckier in terms of timing. And that makes it a little easier. But it's helpful to provide that comfort and share that information with employees so they can be comfortable that the business is financially sound.
Sam Kothari (31:32):
Your role would shift, I assume, if departments like marketing are coming to finance and saying, "Hey, I want to go to this event." or "I want to sponsor this..." A sports team or whatever it is they're looking to do. I'm not a marketing expert, so I’m not coming up with the right examples and giving my marketing colleagues the right credit. But is your team now saying no to budget requests and headcount increases? I often feel like the finance team is the one that often gets left with that difficult job of adjusting people's expectations around what's okay now in this environment versus what's not. Is that something you are going through? And if so, how are you ensuring you maintain the right relationship between your team and the other teams and departments?
Shannon Lincoln (32:22):
So, as much as possible, we did the upfront work to get the high-level alignment about what's happening through a series of presentations that I did to our executive team, and to the company to align on the big picture. And then I think once everyone is on the same page about that, they understand when you make changes to the amount that people are expecting to spend or the amount that we're expecting to hire over the next little bit.
I would say, once we set those budgets, and yes, we are enforcing them a lot more closely than we were. We're still trying to give people as much flexibility as possible within that. So if they have a new need, we encourage them to tell us what they can trade off to support that as opposed to just send them a blanket no. At the end of the day, we don't necessarily care what it's being spent on and we trust that they are the best people to make those decisions, we're just trying to give them the high-level objectives and help them to stay within those guidelines.
Sam Kothari (33:27):
And then when it comes to investors are you chatting to them more regularly? Has the cadence changed? And the questions they're asking you and your team, has that shifted as well?
Shannon Lincoln (33:38):
We're talking to our board more frequently. They were part of the exercise that we did to make sure everyone is on the same page and aligned. I think the most important thing there is that you get good investors in the first place who are going to be supportive of you when you're doing well, when you're doing poorly. Not that we're in that position now, but who knows where everyone is going to be in two years. And I think the first step is getting good investors who can support you.
And then the second step is exactly like you said, keeping them in the loop and making sure you're minimizing surprises as much as possible. So that's another thing that we do that ties into the asynchronous work. Our board meetings are mostly asynchronous where we share all of the materials, and Loom videos in advance. Our board meetings are much more about hearing the board's feedback, as opposed to these three hour marathon sessions where we're talking at them, and they may be looking at their phone or listening. It depends on what it is and what they've done on that day. So our board loves that approach, and they're very receptive to that. And so we've got a very good relationship built on discussion and two-way feedback.
Sam Kothari (34:58):
It's amazing that it actually extends all the way to the board meeting. I didn't realize how seriously you’re taking the asynchronous approach. And just to maybe dive a little bit more into Oyster, your platform, and the reluctance that companies today may have, or founders may have in using platforms like yours to build a distributed team. So what are some of the challenges you think founders today are running into when they think about, "Well, maybe this might not be the right next step for me or my organization." Because they're nervous for whatever reason?
Shannon Lincoln (35:38):
I think the biggest constraint there is about the time zones. And I don't blame people for not understanding how this could work. If you haven't seen it before, it's hard. So. I think that's part of it. I think some people, depending on their leadership style, might not believe that employees' work can be monitored this closely. We're very much about monitoring output instead of input. It's enabled by the remote work environment.
I would say the people who come to us are generally already excited about global hiring. People often come to us with a hire in mind. And then the constraints are more about just figuring out all the logistics. How does parental leave work in Spain? How hard is it to terminate someone in France? It's a little different than at-will employment in the US. And those are more of the questions we get. And that's exactly what Oyster is designed to help with, to figure out all of that stuff for our customers and make that really easy to navigate. And we navigate as much on their behalf as possible, and then give them the information they need to make the decisions they need to make in the context of global employment.
Sam Kothari (36:55):
It feels like Oyster is also riding a broader macro trend, with this distributed workforce as well. And there are other companies like Oyster that are spinning up, growing and scaling just as quickly. Are there nerves internally with the competition, as more and more startups realize this is actually a space that is, one, both aligned from the macro trend perspective but also potentially highly profitable as well?
Shannon Lincoln (37:25):
Yes, there are a lot of players that have come into the space who have recognized the market potential and the paradigm shift. It's not something you can just spin up with a few engineers over the course of a few months.
Sam Kothari (37:40):
How do you think about the legacy players in this space? Because there have been payroll companies that do global payroll. Probably not with the technology first approach that you've taken. But what's their reception been? Are you seeing them start to pivot and try and push towards the space you're playing in now?
Shannon Lincoln (38:04):
I think like with anything, legacy players because things are done manually, there's generally more errors. I'm speaking very broadly about legacy players here, and I'm not meaning to target any specific competitor. But generally, they're seeing price pressure because we've come in, we've automated things, we're offering a lower price point. We’re seeing responses to that in terms of the competitors and their pricing. And I think also, the way that they acquire customers has traditionally been through a lot of partnerships, and I think it's going to be tough for those to continue to scale in that way. And I think we're building a new category essentially, even though there are legacy players in this space.
Sam Kothari (38:48):
I want to ask you a little bit about how you personally manage the role and responsibilities you have. You're navigating a 600-plus person organization through some pretty unprecedented times. What keeps you going? How do you make sure that you're not letting the doom and gloom with the macro environment get to you and make sure that you're able to bring your best self to work every day?
Shannon Lincoln (39:14):
I can take that a few different ways. I think remote work is also an enabler of that because we can disconnect and take time to exercise when we need to, whether it's the middle of the day or at the end of every work week. So that's another big thing. But I won't pretend that it's not stressful at the same time. And I think one thing that Tony does very well and that the employee base at Oyster really appreciates is he's very open about his feelings, whether they're excitement or anxiety. And he shares that. And I think that gives other people permission to be open at work and talk it out. And that in itself, I think, can help improve any of the negative feelings that might be coming up. So we've got a very supportive work culture. And I think that's also huge. And we encourage people to bring their whole selves to work as people say. So that's another big part of it.
Sam Kothari (40:16):
Amazing. Congratulations by the way, very excited for that next chapter for you. What advice would you give yourself if you could go back and talk to yourself at the start of your career? So before you joined PWC, what's one piece of advice you'd give yourself?
Shannon Lincoln (40:29):
I guess I would say don't shy away from the scary opportunities. They're often, I think, the places where you grow the most. And there's going to be ups and downs. But I'd rather go through those ups and downs than be at a company that's been in steady state for years and emerge on the other side not having developed very much or learned very much. So it's not all sunshine and roses, but on the whole, I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Sam Kothari (41:08):
That's amazing. And how can our listeners be helpful to you and your mission?
Shannon Lincoln (41:14):
I think if you're at all interested in global hiring, we can definitely put you in touch with our sales team to help you learn more. I do think that as people are looking to be more efficient with their hiring in this environment... I mean, global hiring is not something we do because it's cheaper, but the reality is that very few countries pay the same as the Bay Area in terms of salaries. And so if you're looking to manage your bottom line at the same time as growing your company, global hiring is a great way to do that. And we're very happy to help with that.
Sam Kothari (41:56):
And are there any pieces of content, books, or even other podcasts you think will help founders who are thinking about global hiring for the first time to really get an overview of what their company or business could look like in the future?
Shannon Lincoln (42:13):
I'm sure other people in the company can answer that question better than I can. But we have put out quite a bit of content on that. And Tony does a lot of podcasts where he talks about this. There's also a few, very influential, studies in terms of the macroeconomic impact. So Bryan Caplan argues that you can triple the world's GDP if you remove the concept of borders from talent mobility. There's also a study by [inaudible 00:42:42] that talks about the talent shortages in the Western world and the labor surpluses in the Eastern world, and how we can create a much more efficient global labor market if you allow those two to meet. They estimate it's about eight trillion dollars of economic loss every year because of these local talent markets. So if you're looking for the macro justification, I would look there. And then we have a lot of content about how to make a global asynchronous workflow.
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