Thank you for reading Freshtrax!
On August 9, 2022, btrax celebrates its 18th anniversary!
Did you know that according to a recent study by McKinsey, they found that the average life-span of companies on the S&P 500 is less than 18 years?
Knowing that while also being based in one of the toughest markets to own a business, Silicon Valley, we are very excited to be celebrating btrax’s 18th birthday.
The last couple of years didn’t make it easy with the pandemic continuing since 2020. Thanks to all of you who supported us to be here.
At btrax, our San Francisco and Tokyo offices work seamlessly to support the global expansion of our clients’ businesses and services.
Since COVID, btrax staff has continued to work remotely with our team while gathering once a week in our San Francisco office.
In this issue, we would like to introduce some of the unique aspects and initiatives of btrax, 18 things btrax is doing to be a better team.
(1) Once a week, team building sessions are held for both Japanese and U.S. teams
At btrax, we have team building time on a weekly basis.
As part of the “Weekly Team Building,” staff from both Japan and the U.S. participate in discussions on a variety of topics.
Along with the meetings focusing on topics such as Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, we have brainstorming sessions for improving company culture.
In fact, some of the ideas for btrax’s 18th anniversary came out of these team building sessions!
(2) Get To Know Your Team Gatherings
The btrax San Francisco office plans fun events when staff members from the Tokyo office travel to the SF office.
We go out to play ping-pong, make use of our spacious office and do fun team building exercises/challenges like building cardboard prototypes or participating in escape rooms.
We also take advantage of our location in San Francisco and visit nearby destinations such as Napa, a famous wine region, for winery tours.
(3) Activities focusing on understanding the cultures of Japan and the U.S.
Not everybody in the btrax office is Japanese and we have many staff members who are interested in Japanese culture.
Our end of year team building in 2021, the San Francisco team took the lead in making Strawberry Daifuku.
It was a fun experience for the teams to make Strawberry Daifuku while checking out each other’s progress online!
(4) Weekly Japanese Class
To help the non-Japanese team understand both the Japanese language and culture, there is a weekly Japanese Class.
Japanese speaking staff who also work in the San Francisco side lead the class.
Lately we have started to hear American staff members say with perfect pronunciation, “Good job!” in Japanese at the end of meetings.
(5) Coffee chats using Donut kicked off during COVID
We have random 1-on-1’s with different staff members using Donut, a service that can be linked to Slack.
It gives everybody at btrax a chance to communicate with others whom they may not often collaborate with on projects or tasks.
(6) Diverse and fun Slack channels
Although btrax uses Slack to communicate about work-related issues, there is a wide variety of other channels as well.
The team has worked hard to create an atmosphere in which all staff members feel free to share different kinds of information, even when it is not related to their work.
For example, in the channel called #photrax, you can find photos of offline workshops and events, informative infographics, and even people’s pets or what they had for lunch that day.
Various photos are shared daily. In addition, the #news and #random channels are used as a place for staff members to share what they are interested in.
(7) Happy Hour at the San Francisco office
As the COVID-19 situation has gradually improved and regulations have eased, the San Francisco office has resumed its regular Happy Hour.
We invite people from outside the company to join us, and by actually meeting and talking with them face to face, it has become a good opportunity to exchange information and build relationships.
The office is spacious with beautiful views of San Francisco.
(8) The Tokyo office holds a team gathering once every two months
The btrax office in Tokyo has a rooftop that can be accessed for small events.
When the weather is nice, we gather on the roof to catch up with each other and enjoy food and drinks.
(9) Everyone is serious about dressing up for the Halloween party
btrax is serious about its events, especially Halloween every year.
Before COVID, we used to have a costume party at the office, but not gathering in person hasn’t slowed us down and we’ve held an online costume party for the past two years. Every staff member is particular about not only his or her own costume, but also the background of the meeting.
(10) The managers lead by example
You might think that events like Halloween parties are led by younger staff members, but at btrax, the managers can be seen take every event seriously.
In a short video celebrating Pride Month 2021, the CEO and managers were seen lip-syncing to a song to celebrate Pride Month.
Everyone, regardless of age, enjoys themselves and tries to balance having fun and working hard.
(11) Every week, a culture leader is chosen
Every week on Monday morning we have an “All Hands” meeting where everybody gathers.
At this meeting, the staff member leading the meeting selects somebody who really showcased btrax’s cultural values in the previous week.
It can be difficult to see the efforts of all the staff working on a variety of projects and through this meeting and Culture Leader shoutout we are able to learn about the efforts of the team from different perspectives.
(12) We celebrate “Workiversaries”
“Workiversary” is the day you start working at btrax.
On each member’s workiversary, we share congratulatory messages on Slack and if somebody has been with btrax for a long time they may receive a gift.
It’s something staff may not even notice notice when it’s their workiversary and so can be fun to get acknowledged for the work each person has done giving them a chance to look back on their year(s) of working at btrax.
(13) Holding in-house workshops
Always Be Learning is a theme behind btrax’s In-house workshops.
Typically, workshops are led by the design team giving other departments a chance to try using tools that the design team normally uses.
Recently, JC, a lead designer in our San Francisco office, conducted a workshop to learn the process of actually creating a website using Figma and Webflow, a website creation platform mainly used by the design team!
(14) New staff self introductions
New btrax staff members are asked to give a short self-introduction presentation during our weekly 30-minute team building sessions!
After the presentation, staff members are encouraged to ask questions about the new member’s presentation and a popular topic is foods the person likes and hobbies.
It is a great opportunity to connect with each other and on top of that as btrax is a small company it is followed up with one on one meetings to dive deeper into learning about each other.
(15) Events are held across Japan and the U.S.
btrax hosts events where staff from the San Francisco office take the stage at events held in the Tokyo office, and vice versa!
At a hybrid online/offline event held at our San Francisco office in May 2022, we collaborated with both the U.S. and Japan offices to host and run an event.
We will continue to plan various events in the future so that we can provide valuable and fresh information to those wanting to learn more about US and Japan trends and insights! We hope you will join us at our next event. Stay tuned for more.
(16) The San Francisco and Tokyo offices work seamlessly together on projects
At btrax, the San Francisco and Tokyo offices do not work separately on projects.
Due to the time difference, meetings are held in the morning in Tokyo and in the evening in San Francisco to check the progress of projects and have a variety of discussions from client meetings to team building meetings.
Also, because we have less time for discussion and immediate communication, we place importance on communicating through platforms such as Slack.
(17) Project Retrospective Meetings
At btrax, when a project is completed, we always have a retrospective meeting to discuss highlights of the project, areas for improvement, and any concerns or ideas that were brought up.
In an effort to always be improving while also celebrating wins, Project Retro is a must have.
We believe that each time a project is completed, even if it went really well, we can find ways to improve.
(18) No Silos and Clear Communication
At btrax, each team has specific skills and sometimes can work on projects without thinking about what other teams are working on.
In an effort to keep everything going smoothly and make sure the team understands the project goals, we work to make sure communication is transparent.
There is an ethos at btrax in which we always work with respect and appreciation for other teams.
These 18 things are just the tip of the iceberg as to what btrax works on to be a great team.
Some of these efforts may have been quite unique, as we have offices and staff in both Japan and the US.
Because btrax is a company that rarely works face to face, we have worked on ways to provide opportunities to better understand each other, communicate often, and express our appreciation for daily efforts.
We will continue to value teamwork and strive to solve our client’s business challenges through the power of design. Thank you for your continued support!
If you would like to learn more about btrax or are interested in our services, please visit our website.