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Managing at WLRP

WLRP is a Budapest based company that mainly sells tourism and nightlife entertainment related services (guided tours, pubcrawls, pubs, etc...) for their own services or services of third parties. I joined the company early in my career as an in-house graphic designer and a few years later returned as a manager. Their business model is based on creating SEO centric websites and selling these real-world services online. Because of that half of the operation was "on the field" (drivers, guides) and the other half was in the office creating and maintaining these "Google first page" websites. I was responsible in leading the latter.



I say "managing" because it was a mixture of people management and project management, basically I was handling all operations inside the office under the owners. Our team consisted of a graphic designer, a back-end- and a front-end developer, a marketing specialist and a few contact-people at each business we were working with.


They hired me to completely reform and modernise the office processes over a half year period. The work methods were outdated or even lacking a modern structure, since the company was originally not specialised in development but evolved to basically a web development agency - but the management were not properly educated how to handle this kind of work.


I started with a thorough audit of the status quo, including HR issues, workflow, processes and other factors as well.


Project management issues


Uncoordinated workflow

Their original process was very much improvised. A new project arrived from the owners, the designer created the designs based on verbal instructions and it was handed over to development. The projects were not estimated, not documented and if they were taking too long, they cut corners that caused problems in the future. There was also some tension in these cases. The employees were also not very engaged and passive, they were following instructions, but not contributing much to the core concept - it was not their fault, they were never included.


Improvements in the workflow

Many things were needed to be done and a whole lot of new systems were needed to be implemented without disrupting work too much or overwhelming both the employees and management.


Organised meetings

First and foremost we needed structure. I created a shared "company calendar" that was synced with everyones devices and arranged some recurring meetings and ceremonies. This is what it looked like:


MONTHLY Project Kick-off Meeting (this was the timebox of every project)

In this meeting everyone in the office participated and even stakeholders from outside the office were included given the chance. The idea was that everyone can give their professional input early on the project and shape it to it's best form. This also improved moral, since everyone was on board with the idea from the start. On this meeting we also organised priorities for the upcoming month.

Finally there was something other on the whiteboard than just the Wifi password!

WEEKLY Sync Meeting

This was the other meeting where everyone was present between the monthly big one. We basically checked the progress of the project, reorganised priorities if needed and handled ad-hoc tasks.


WEEKLY Stand up

A quick meeting during the middle of the week with the employees to check for blockers and to keep everyone in sync.


MONTHLY Retro

We gathered together to summarise what went well and what didn't during our last project, besides being a safe place to talk about issues and places for improvement.


+ Automated Slack check-in

It's more of a meeting substitute, but it was handy. I implemented an automation tool in slack that checked in with people in a public channel... it was a quick 3 question survey: "rate your weekly mood with an emoji", "what were you working on during the week" and finally "is there anything that's blocking you?" - this helped me to keep my finger on the pulse and also highlight if there are any blockers between our meetings.


Communication issues

The people in the office were relying on live conversation, but since there was no trail, this caused tension and also left those out from the loop who were not in the office.


When not in the office, they were using messaging apps connected to their private social media profiles between each other or had unannounced phone calls. This was more of an issues for the employees, since it was hard for them to set boundaries.


Reaching the "non-office" employees happened through phone calls or emails, but usually people didn't have the contact information to all the involved colleagues, so lot of times projects stalled because information was unavailable.


In a nutshell, the company lacked a communication channel that allowed employees to professionally converse and reach each other freely. The platforms they were using were also not suitable for transferring files and other resources properly.


Introducing a modern work-centric communication platform

Most of these problems were solved with the introduction of Slack. (Although it was not easy at first, management needed to be reminded many times to abandon social media for reaching the employees). We created several channels:

- office channel (management, development, design, marketing)

- a channel for everyone - this was rarely used, but it was useful for announcements

- developer channel

- channels for every individual project - these included the core office team and the contact person from these projects, they proved to be very useful


And most of all, now everyone who was involved in the company was available through Slack, so people didn't have to go through management to get contact info if they had to collaborate with someone. Slack also allowed people to have quick voice or video calls or to share their screens if needed. An additional benefit was that Slack can be set to automatically be muted after work hours, so it helped to improve employees mental health by giving them a break from work when they were at home.


Lack of documentation

Nothing was documented except a few lines written on sticky notes and txt files here and there. Not only did this cause a problem when an older project needed some bugfixes or rework, but when an employee departed everyone was left in the dark around their work. This caused a lot of headache after the lead developer left the company years ago - not only was it an additional frustration for the people working at WLRP, but also to the former developer who was being ringed up to answer question about a project he worked on in his former job.


Embedding documentation in the process

I introduced Notion as an easy-to-use platform for our documentation needs and trained our developers to document their work during every project. Later when we caught up, we also collected many non-development related information here regarding personal development, social media strategies, etc. and spent a few weeks going back and documenting former projects (while they still remember them). Additionally to making reworks and fixes easier, even though we were not preparing for anyone to leave the team, this still reduced the risk if someone did.


The hardest part of this was probably convincing the leadership to assign proper time for documentation.


Security issues

The company was handling dozens of social media accounts, servers, billing information and was working with several tools and platforms. The passwords were not regulated in any way. Some former employees still had access to certain things, while current employees had to dig for passwords in chat conversations. This was not safe or practical at all.


Introducing proper password management

We used LastPass (a product a vaguely worked on in a different company) to centralise passwords. We created groups with different levels of clearance. From this on departed employees could be stripped of their access with one click and new ones assigned access the same way.


The social media manager also got access to all accounts and platforms and could become more independent.


Not to mention that this was a much safer way of storing passwords credit cards.


People management issues


Some employees were more motivated than others, but in general there was a lack of motivation or proactivity. This was caused by many factors:

- no growth opportunities

- little say in strategy or daily work

- lacking work environment (both software and the physical office)

- no company identity and sense of belonging for the employees

- low salary and inconsistent or unpredictable raises


Providing growth opportunities and a transparent system

I started with doing an "interview" with all employees individually in complete discretion. I was looking for their painpoints, their goals, what motivates them, what are they interested in. Of course the answers varied by person, but there were some common patterns.


I also made them self-evaluate their current skills and work, and based on a generic understanding of role "levels" by other companies (junior / medior / senior) I self-categorised them into these roles. After this I planned several steps:

  • - We defined together some opportunities where they can grow in a direction they are interested in and what would qualify them to step a level upwards (ex.: the "medior" front-end developer needed to improve their independent work and take on some management tasks in order to be qualified as "senior").

  • - We defined a timeline for this and scheduled some check-ins so we can track their progress

I synced with upper management about several steps we need to take:

  • We needed to consolidate salaries for the levels so there are less differences between the employees wage on the same level

  • The raises needed to be transparent. There needs to be a basic level raise every year that somewhat correlates with inflation and other larger raises should be tied with promotions.

  • If the goals that we set with the employees for reaching the next level, they need to be promoted within a reasonable timeframe

  • Resources (such as books, courses, tools, conferences) are needed to be provided for the employees within a certain budget, this brings lots of value to the company as well

Improving the work environment

I talked a lot about the improvement we made around the virtual work environment, so I won't detail it any further, but I will outline some needed office upgrades below.


The most interesting revelation around these improvements is that all the employees ranked them as a non-issue when I surveyed them, but then reported that they feel much better about the workplace after we did the changes.

  • We put in a recurring order for coffee and tea, so there is always available hot beverages in the office

  • We started to renovate one of the rooms to become a breakroom - before everyone was eating at their desks separately and there was no non-work area for breaks (or even a phone call)

  • I encouraged longer team lunches outside the office - getting some fresh air and bonding over other things than work is great for interpersonal relationships and general moral

  • Started recycling

  • We created a meeting corner (there was already a desk available, so we just needed to add a tv and a whiteboard) - this allowed the employees to present their work and discuss matters without hunching at someones desk

Brand Building

The owners of WLRP always claimed that they don't need a brand, because the company itself is not present anywhere - each services they provide have their own brand. This was true, but there was no drawback of having a supporting parent company, it actually provides some benefits in their case:

- the individual brands can be tied together and they can be cross-sold to customers

- it's easier to hire new employees, because the company is transparent and can be looked up

- employees feel better about the place they work at and can show it off with some custom swag



The new logo of WLRP used some fun colors


We didn't dive deep into brand building, but we created a basic foundation:

- Created a logo and basic Brand Identity Guide with colors, typography and some other recurring elements

- Started a presence on LinkedIn

- Created an introduction website for the company that we could use for hiring people

- Consolidated the styles of the new websites under the new brand

- Added "by WLRP" to all the logos of the services


Other changes

Design process improvements

Designers were using outdated tools such Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator for designing the websites. I introduced Figma for designing and handover both to designers and developers. This improved and modernised the design and handover process greatly.


I also introduced Miro as a place to brainstorm or co-work with even non-designers.


Start of a design system

Most of the websites created under WLRP used a similar formula and shared lots of elements, but they were always hard coded from scratch, which caused a lot of wasted time when they were designed, created and even when maintained.


I started a basic design system where we placed the recurring components and started to work on developing it slowly with the front-end developer. Every time we added something it cut down from the effort of a new project.



The new colors of WLRP used across every service

The centralised styles manifested in different ways accross the services:





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