Last Friday, Jason and I were up in Atlanta, visiting the groovy cats at Mailchimp, the well-known Internet newsletter company. Our own Daily Cartoon runs on their platform; it is the centerpiece of how we talk to people.
We had been invited to give a “Friday Coffee Morning Talk” to their staff. We chose the subject, “Why Art In Business Matters”. Afterwards we met a lot of the staff, and hung out with the CEO, Ben Chestnut, who I really clicked with. It was a great day out…
Here are some thoughts from the visit:
1. I don’t do a lot of public speaking the way I used to, so giving a talk was a nice change of pace. [Instead, we’ve found that me doing live drawing (and going on stage at the end of the event to talk about the creative process) gives much better value, and allows me to do something unique, something that no one else does etc.]
2. I asked Ben why he chose to base Mailchimp in Atlanta, when all the cool kids are killing themselves to move to San Francisco, New York etc. He replied that, i. Simply, he is from Atlanta, and ii. When he and his partner, Dan found Mailchimp in 2001, people still believed that the whole point of the Internet was that it allowed you to work from anywhere. So why not his hometown?
3. There is art all over the office, as one would expect in a company with such a strong, well-articulated culture. Of course, I would say that: We are biased; we think Art is the best way of immersing people in ideas that matter. But it’s always extremely validating when we see really successful companies that concur.
4. In a market where they constantly need to be reinventing themselves, Mailchimp manages to stay agile (and relevant) by realizing that not everything has to be perfect, that striving for perfection all the time will slow you down in the long run. Most big companies pay lip service to both reaching perfection and staying agile at the same time, without acknowledging the obvious disconnect. This leads to seriously expensive mistakes, often. A great lesson to think about- Thanks, Ben 😉
5. Half of their 280 employees are in customer service, which is about the same ratio as Zappos.com. You can tell the minute you walk into the office, they care A LOT about customer experience. It’s utterly palpable.
6. It was fantastic to see a remarkably valuable internet company that is i. growing like mad, ii. helping millions of businesses market what they do, and iii. have their CEO say that his job was to “stay out of the way”, so people can just do great work.
7. Mailchimp mails billions of pieces of email a month for their seven million customers. From our own experience, we know that creating great email (the kind that people actually want to open and read; that they actually look forward to getting) is much, much harder than it appears (Not to toot our own horn, but Mailchimp told us that our emails are among the top performers in their world). We don’t have a lot of day-to-day contact with people in the (indirectly) same business as us, so it was great to meet people you can share ideas and talk shop with.
8. We came away with a big idea: We are going to work on a plug-in, built on the Mailchimp API, that allows folk to put cool cartoons into their emails, the way our emails do, to help boost their performance. If you think you can help us build that app, we’d love to hear from you: [email protected]
9. Thanks Again to both Dan and Ben for an awesome day out!