Impressions of a Company that Thinks Beyond the Next Quarter: SEOmoz

This is a guest post from Shawn Cohen. I asked Shawn to share the story about his tour of SEOmoz. Shawn happened to time the tour perfectly – the day Rand announced to the world they completed an $18M round of funding. The story is not really about the tour, though, as you’ll see.

I looked to my left and not three tables away sat Rand Fishkin, the well-respected co-founder of SEOmoz, eating lunch with one of his staff.

My day couldn’t have gotten better.

I was eating lunch with friends at Pike Place Market before taking a tour of the MozPlex. This was also the day that Rand announced that SEOmoz had landed $18 million in venture capital.

As he was leaving, I went over to Rand, introduced myself and congratulated him on their funding success. He was as genuinely excited and upbeat in the restaurant as he is on stage, on Whiteboard Friday videos, and in his blog posts.

Obvious excitement

When my fiancée and I got to the SEOmoz office we were greeted by Aaron, the help desk manager and our tour guide. Everyone was huddled around Rand who was announcing details of the funding to the team. We couldn’t hear what he was saying but it was obvious everyone was excited.

seomoz-from-elevator-davidmcohen.com

Photo credit: seomoz.org

Like Rand, Aaron’s excitement about SEOmoz was completely authentic. As he walked us around the different areas of the space that SEOmoz occupies, I picked up a sense of openness and transparency that was refreshing.

Each team member is given a healthy amount of workspace and despite the relatively small size of the team, there were several rooms available for them to collaborate in.

Since I’m in product development, I asked Aaron if his help desk team passes on information that eventually turns into SEO tools. He responded in the affirmative but said that I could contact Adam Feldstein, the VP of Product, to get more details on how SEOmoz develops its tools. More on that later.

Company culture

I also wanted to feed my growing interest in company culture so when we landed back in the lounge after the tour I started asking questions about Moz culture. Aaron was happy to let me dig deeper into what makes SEOmoz the legit organization it’s become famous for.

When we went through the spacious kitchen, I noticed two things: six packs of Black Butte Porter on the countertops and lots of post-it notes on the windows. The beer was pretty distracting but the post-it notes were in the shape of comic book characters and superheroes.

seomoz-from-post-it-notes-wars

Photo credit: Jamie Steven

Aaron must have seen me looking at them and explained that SEOmoz was in a post-it note war with its neighbors across the street. Sure enough, the windows of the building on the other side of Market St. were filled with characters they had made out of post-it notes as well.

While some companies might be concerned about the cost of each note, not SEOmoz. The profit of fun outweighed the cost of the notes.

Beer = fun. Post-it note wars = fun. SEOmoz = fun.

How do people get hired at SEOmoz? And are they weird?

Back in the lounge, I asked Aaron how people are hired at SEOmoz. He said the process is rigorous: each candidate is interviewed about four times. Not only do they meet with their potential supervisor but with every team member they’ll work with.

He also noted that everyone at SEOmoz is a little weird. Or a lot weird. If a candidate isn’t weird, they probably won’t be a good culture fit at SEOmoz.

SEOmoz takes care of its team members. Aaron told me they have four different types of coconut water and different kinds of Coke simply because they’ve asked for it. Oh, and there’s also a liberal bring your dog to work policy. I think there were three dogs there, all extremely laid back and friendly – probably an indication of their owners’ personality.

TAGFEE

By this time, my fiancée was nudging me to let Aaron get back to work but I had to let him keep talking. The last tidbit he shared was about how the SEOmoz team is evaluated. Yeah, they’re evaluated on all the usual stuff just like the rest of us but with one important addition: TAGFEE.

If you know Rand, you know that TAGFEE (Transparent & Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional) are principles he takes very seriously.

Just before we left, Aaron and the office manager presented my fiancée and me with SEOmoz goodies – Moz t-shirts and travel mugs. On our way out I asked Aaron for the VP of Product’s email so that I could reach out to him. He gave it to me and I felt like I had struck gold – a chance to talk with the VP of Product at SEOmoz.

I emailed Adam a few days later and heard back right away. He offered to give me 20 minutes to ask him some questions about hiring a VP of Product for our company.

More transparency, authenticity, and generosity

Adam and I talked a few days ago. He gave me 30 minutes instead of the 20 I asked for and speaking with him left me with several actionable items to implement as well as strategic considerations when it comes to product development.

If you’re into comics, superheroes, and espousing TAGFEE, SEOmoz might be a great place for you to work. And if nothing more, it’s worth asking for a tour when you’re in Seattle just to experience the sheer awesomeness of company that cares so much about their people and their customers.

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  • http://www.randfishkin.com/blog Rand Fishkin

    Shawn – I’m really psyched that you had such a positive experience at the Mozplex and with our team. That was a crazy day, but such an exciting one, and I hope you got to feel some of our passion and emotion from the high. Please do drop by anytime you’re in Seattle – we’ll be moving offices late this year or early 2013, hopefully to an even more amazing space!

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thank you, Rand for stopping by. And thank you to you and your whole team for proving it’s possible to run a company with excellence and to deliver on the promises you make. This is a story that will continue to be told as it continues to unfold.

    • http://www.learningisdiscovery.com Shawn Cohen

      Yeah, it was a great visit and I’ll definitely stop by the next time I’m up there! 

      And thanks again for taking the time to carefully craft such an amazing team, they’re an extension of your values and that’s a breath of fresh air.