Ricky Yean
Co-Founder and CEO Flow Club

Ricky is the Co-Founder and CEO of Flow Club. Like a lot of people, he's constantly looking to improve how he works. The most impactful thing he's done there is surround himself with people who challenge him to be better in all kinds of ways. With Flow Club, he hopes to bring that to more people. Ricky tracks how he spends his time in half-hour increments and audits at the end of the day. If he reaches 12 productive chunks (6 hours), he considers that day a success.

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Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 218. Today we have Ricky from Flow Club about the use case or business case for why his customers use Flow Club.

Flow Club provides structure and a social backdrop for people who want to work on things.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Hired Raise The Bar In 2023

Show length: 28 minutes

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Music:
Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup:
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Ricky on from Flow Club, and we are learning about the business case, the use case for why his prospects and customers use Flow Club. So, I can’t wait to talk to Ricky and learn more. So, Ricky, would you do us today a favor and introduce yourself and Flow Club?

Ricky:
Sure, and thank you for having me. I’m Ricky and a quick intro. I caught the startup bug when I was at Stanford, a common story, not so common back in the day, but very common now. And this is my third company. I’m a second time YC founder. The whole time I’ve been building B2B companies, and this is the first time I and my co-founder decided to work on something that’s a little bit more consumery, still targets B2B, but from a very consumery standpoint, and that’s Flow Club. The way I would describe Flow Club is, it’s the Peloton of virtual co-working, and it’s designed for modern day workers to approach work with a little bit more intention, little bit more focus, balance, control, especially as work gets increasingly more demanding and complex as we work all more independently, remotely, and flexibly.

Ricky:
We create the environment to help support the workers, to do their best work and feel good while doing it. And the main primary mechanism is we do it through time boxed work sprints that happen in small groups, and led by a host. And the magic is coming into a Flow Club session, seeing that there’s only 60 minutes on the clock and the first five minutes, the host takes everyone through the ritual of sharing your intentions for the hour. So, you can say I’m here because I have been in meetings all day, and I’m just here to knock out some emails and gather myself. Whatever goal you want to share with the group, and everyone goes around, shares the same thing.

Ricky:
And then when the sharing segment ends, the clock starts and the host will curate some music, everyone turns away from the camera and goes to do their own things. And at the end, a gong goes off and everyone comes back and celebrates each other’s progress. And also commiserate, if there’s inevitably distractions and setbacks that happen during work, but we keep encouraging each other and support each other throughout the way. And rinse and repeat over and over again. And, that’s Flow Club.

William Tincup:
I love so many things of what you said, so we’ll unpack all of them. So the Peloton of a virtual co-working. On one level, we’re setting ourselves up for, it’s not just about virtual co-working. That’s a category and it’s important. And it’s important to look at work in a different way. We’re coming at it from a different perspective and more interactive, and just there were bikes before, right? Okay. Peloton came along and said, “Mm-hmm, yeah. There’s a different experience that needs to be here.”

William Tincup:
It’s not just about getting on an exercise bike or a stationary bike. And first of all, that’s cool, if that’s what you need and that’s what you want to do, but there’s a different experience that could be unlocked. So, did I get some of that right?

Ricky:
Yeah. And it’s really what you’re talking about is Peloton was inspired by boutique group fitness, and it’s all about, yes, you have that bike and yes, you have that work you have to do, but staring at someone, booking a session, attending, making the commitment to attend already helps you bring a little bit more intention. Having a leader, in our case, we have hosts who are all members of the community. Anyone can host sessions. Having a host and a small group there with you, so each session has up to nine people. And just being present, seeing other people’s faces, hearing about other people’s goals and seeing other people’s intentions, that also raises your game.

Ricky:
And also makes it more fun than just feeling like you’re grinding away on the thing that’s supposed to be good for you, that you know you have to do, but still feels like a chore. And work is very much like that. We all love what we do but there’s just times, and times the day or types of task that you have to handle, that just requires a little bit more motivation, a little bit more inspiration. And that’s where we come in.

William Tincup:
So time box means that there’s what I call Def clock. It’s an old fashioned way of thinking about it. But basically it’s a countdown.

Ricky:
Yes.

William Tincup:
You only have so much time which is great for everyone, because then we’ve all been on those calls. We’ve all been in those sessions or rooms where it’s great, and then there’s a diminished return. It just stops being great. No one called time of death. So, what I love about this is you start with that framework of saying, “No, this is 60 minutes. [inaudible 00:05:19] not 61, not 65, not 58, 60.” And I think that helps people. I think that structure helps people.

Ricky:
Yeah, it’s a extremely focusing mechanism, especially as your days blend into each other and work and life, you can’t separate it because you might not even be going into work, and the hours, you blend it. At the end of the day you have no idea what happened. Having a intense focusing mechanism with the countdown clock forces you to be as intentional as you can with every hour of your day. And we obviously have shorter sessions, longer sessions, but the idea is the same. Is to treat the time you have with intentions, so that it’s not just about doing more work.

Ricky:
Yes, that does happen. But also so that you can shut down at five or six or whatever, and feel like you did a good job and go to dinner with your family without the lingering anxiety that takes you out of the present. The whole idea is to be able to support a more balanced and fulfilling life.

William Tincup:
So, I love this on so many levels. One is the productivity side of just being able to focus, it’s focused on being able to focus and shut things off. Shut things down and with intentionality, you communicate to the group, which holds you accountable. You hold yourself accountable, but also you’re in a group and a group can be as big or small as it needs to be. But now you’re saying, “Okay, in the next hours, here’s what I’d like to achieve.” Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. And then at the end, there’s a reconciliation or a reflection on how did you do? If I have that right, do you find that folks share where, like say the example that you gave, I want to go and just crush email. 68 emails down.

William Tincup:
I really just want to just crush this stuff and just get it done and get it off my plate. And that’s what I want to use the hour. And okay, something happened, and that didn’t happen. I got tossed into social media or whatever, and they got caught up with something else, they didn’t do it. Is there feedback at the end of that? Or is there just some sharing that goes on at the end?

Ricky:
Go ahead. And that’s the best part, is people come in and they do a good job being very intentional, being very specific and say, “I want to knock out 68 emails,” and oftentimes what happened? It doesn’t matter who you are. You could be big, powerful CEO person, or you could be lowly worker, whatever, and everyone has to do emails by the way. And everyone gets distracted, or at the end of the hour, you might share like, “Okay, goal was 68, but I only got one done, because it was a really hard one to write,” or whatever. Or “My kid stormed into a room,” or “I had to take the dog out for a little bit, and that completely interrupted me.” So, life happens and it happens and everyone shares and that’s the norm in the Flow Club community is to be open and to be supportive, encouraging.

Ricky:
We don’t pry and we don’t take ourselves that seriously, and we know work is hard, and we know we get interrupted and that we share them and we celebrate them and we celebrate just showing up and making that commitment and that intention. And it’s very leveling to be able to see that. That you’re not alone. Instead of just feeling bad, like, “I suck today.” Or, “I didn’t get anything done.” When in fact you made a ton of attempts and probably got a lot done, but maybe you have to be more reactive today than the other days. And you feel crappy about it at the end of the day. That’s not great.

William Tincup:
Yeah. Let’s get out of that business. Let’s get out of the business of feeling bad about not accomplishing as much. I think that’s what I love about this is, it’s also, we learned a lot through the pandemic. If Flow Club would’ve launched three years ago, I don’t know if people would’ve had the awareness of themselves, or companies would’ve had awareness of their employees or et cetera. Now I think that awareness level is pretty high. The people get mental health, they get burnout. They get it at least better than they did three years ago. Maybe not totally get it, but they have a better understanding of it.

William Tincup:
So I love that people now are more receptive to these discussions. I can just tell you [inaudible 00:10:14] interacting with recruiting in HR all the time. It’s easy to talk about mental health. Again three, five years ago, nothing. Very taboo. Now, during the conversation that’s had, where at some level you’re talking about, “Hey, this is where I am right now.” And it’s not location based. I know people will ask the question on, can people be anonymous or is it tethered to a profile? How do you all deal with the person?

Ricky:
Yeah. So, everyone shows up and enormous to keep your video on. And obviously if you need to turn it off, you can turn it off, but enormous keep it on as much as you can. And also there is a sharing component about what your intentions are for the session. And we have people coming from all lines of work. Some are more cognizant of privacy than others, and people just share something really vague. Like “I’m just here to work on a document.” What document? [inaudible 00:11:21] document.

William Tincup:
Yeah. I’m not building a nuclear weapon, however, fair enough.

Ricky:
Yeah. We keep that pretty much like you have leeway to share as much or as little as you want, and it’s no one prize, and that’s why every session is moderated by a host who are all community members that have seen this happen and they know how to do it. And, we have a lot of respect of people’s time, people’s work. We don’t judge, or pry or you can make any comments. It’s just, we’re here, everyone’s here for one purpose, and we know that and stick with it.

William Tincup:
With work sprints, do you see that in time, do you see that there could be the potentiality of other types of sprints?

Ricky:
Yeah. So, there’s a component of the host also is curating the music, but you can turn off if you don’t like it. So, it started with different hosts bring in different musical themes. Like, we’re going to work to game of throne soundtrack on Friday to make our mornings more epic. And then it went to, “All right. I’m going to take that five minutes of sharing. I’m going to add 30 minutes of breathing exercise or a little mantra, or a little trivia effect.” And then it helps people break up their day. And, any extra level of breathing, meditating, introduces a higher level of intention anyway.

Ricky:
And then, all the way to writing Flow Clubs, or we also have side project Flow Clubs, where the idea is that, that’s all try to come here and work on the same things together. There’s also an evening shutdown Flow Club, where we all try to, at the end of the session, be able to do the whatever journaling we need to do or whatever final. Take stock of what we did for the day and just shut down. So we’re starting to see that happen. We can see that evolving to not just working, working, but supporting different types of healthier habits around supporting your work still.

William Tincup:
And what’s great about that is the community will take you there. That’s the beauty of something like Flow Club, is you don’t even have to really design it. They’ll tell you what… We’re using it like this, which is, you’ll wake up three years from now and people will be using it all kinds of different ways, which would be beautiful. Dumb question alert. Is Flow Club more of an app or is it more desktop laptop version?

Ricky:
It’s a web app where, so you type in the URL and then you’re there.

William Tincup:
Got you.

Ricky:
And we have plans for it to work better. You can use it on mobile and tablets. And some people do, some people bring a second laptop or put it on the tablet so that they can focus on their computer and have it on the side. And we hope to make that easier in the future.

William Tincup:
That’s smart. That’s smart. So with the enterprise, if not now, in the future, do you see… I shouldn’t be assumptive. Do you see a way for businesses, companies to use this internally?

Ricky:
Yeah. Currently we already have employers that are paying for their employee subscriptions.

William Tincup:
Cool, but that’s like a perk. That’s a benefit for them.

Ricky:
It’s a perk, and it’s interesting in that, it’s a philosophy that’s maybe slightly different from most of the remote tools, which is about wanting everyone to work together with the coworkers, and having water cooler conversations with the coworkers.

William Tincup:
We’ve lost this sense of talking at the water cooler. Do we even have water coolers?

Ricky:
Yeah.

William Tincup:
Come on. Seriously.

Ricky:
So, this is about basically the employer saying, “You can access this space that’s for you, to do the things that you need to do.” Which just obviously helps the company, but as they pay for the subscriptions and our members bring their coworkers and their friends to the platform, they bump into each other, which is the serendipitous thing that you might bump into someone at the company hallway or lobby. And we do see that, and that does make it more fun to say, “Oh, at the two o’clock session, I bumped into William,” whatever, whatever, and that’s fun and yeah, we can make that work a lot better.

Ricky:
And obviously at the end of every hour, we ask, not only are we keeping track of things that were done, or what they intended to do and what they did, we’re keeping track of the total number of hours that they spent in pursuit of flow. We’re also getting their assessment of how well they did at the end of the session. So, all that stuff we see it as something that employers really, really want to support.

William Tincup:
What’s funny is as a perk, you can see people just thinking about benefits for their employees in much different ways today than they did a few years ago. And especially with mental health burnout, all kinds of fatigue, great resignation, all of those buzzwords, it’s like they’re trying to figure out ways to engage. They’re really, really trying to figure out ways to engage that are substantively different and better for the employee, not even tethered to the company. I’ve seen it in learning, which is really fascinating. Like, “Hey, listen, do you want to learn wine tasting? Fantastic.” “You want to learn how to roll cigars? Great.”

William Tincup:
It has nothing to do with you being a full stack developer. Great. Fantastic. We want to engage you in a different way, which I hope we never go backwards. I love this. Let me ask you just a few things on the technology side. When you show Flow Club to folks for the first time, what do you love about their reaction? What do you love about showing them, “Here’s what it is. Here’s what we got.” And their reaction to that.

Ricky:
The best part is at the end of trying it out, people said, “This is surprisingly, or almost like, what’s another word, like comedically effective or surprisingly effective. It’s so weird. But I was surprised that it worked for me. And I think it’s because if you look at it, it’s pretty simple mechanism. If you look at a room of people writing a stationary backed going nowhere, you roll your eyes a little bit, maybe.

William Tincup:
Right, right. This is like a money Python, the skit. On some level or an SNL skit, this is a bit. So we’re going to get together, but not get together. Act like we know each other, but not act like we know each other. Yeah. Okay.

Ricky:
Yeah, and then at the end you’re like, “Whoa. Either I got so much done or I didn’t notice the time pass,” or “Holy crap, I didn’t know that.” I think this part about being unable to articulate why you’ve been feeling crappy about working from home or working on your own. Some of it is that humans are magical. Being part of something bigger with other humans, that is magical. And most of us don’t really know how to articulate that missing ingredient when we work from home, or remote. And also, treating work with intention. Obviously how often days just hit you, and you feeling like you don’t have control, you’re just reacting all day. Most of us spend our days just reacting. And taking control and feeling like you have agency, that feels magical. Even if it’s just for one hour.

William Tincup:
Right. How do you use Flow Club?

Ricky:
I use it all the time, but the most recent thing might be surprising. So, because I’ve been working on Flow Club too hard, I have been slipping on my health stuff. So, I’m getting back on my intermittent fasting routine. And my eating window is 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM, which means I get really hungry at noon. So, I’ve booked the Flow Clubs at noon to force myself to sit with my work and sit with my focus, and distract myself from the hunger pains, and to make sure I stay on the good habit. So, I do that.

Ricky:
I also use Flow Club to make sure I write. Every week on Saturday morning, I write a personal newsletter to my friends. That’s one of the few ways that I stay joyful and I stay balanced with the demands of startup work. I just want to be able to write something fun for my friends, so I use Flow Club on Saturday mornings to protect my writing time.

William Tincup:
I love that. And I can see how people would do that for all kinds of different reasons. They’d use it as a way to block, when they need that time to do those things for themselves. Which again,, you’re investing in yourself when you do that. So I love that. Two questions left. One is, where do you see folk club in let’s just say three years?

Ricky:
I think we will be able to bring this type of environment. We don’t even think of ourselves as a productivity tool. We think of ourselves as creators of the most conducive environments you work. So, whatever that means. Right now, it lives in the form of almost like in video meetings, small group video meetings. And we hope to be able to create different types of experiences that are conducive to different types of people in their work. So, right now it’s really good. If you want to work on something that you’ve been procrastinating on, you want to work on something that’s flowy like writing or programming.

Ricky:
But for other types of work, we want to be able to support that. That could be longer sessions, shorter sessions. And then, we also see it as a way to bring like minds together. And I think in three years with a much bigger community, you’ll have opportunities to find somebody who are working on the same thing that you’re working on, and going through the same set of struggles, and be able to build that relationship with them over time, just from working next to each other.

William Tincup:
Which gets back to the Peloton reference because that’s something that they’ve done really, really well, is build that community. You’re a part of something. I love that. The last question. What’s been your favorite workflow? You mentioned your writing time and protecting your writing time. Could be something you’ve seen other people do, but it’s just you’re like, I started a company, co-founded a company, [inaudible 00:23:47] really wanted to change this and this person, yourself or your co-founder or somebody else just really unlocked it, which is really cool.

Ricky:
Yeah. Let me think about that. On my end, my favorite workflow, I keep track. I keep an audit log of how I spend every 30 minutes of my time. So, and at the end of the day, I look back at, in the Flow Club. And a typical Flow Club, it being an hour, I would have two items on the list. And at the end of the day, I audit to see how I feel at what I did, how I spent my time today, and Flow Club helps me keep track of that. Because I can also look at the history of what I’ve done in Flow Club to make sure that I’m accurate. So, I really like that.

Ricky:
The other things that I like about what I’m seeing other people do, is when you book sessions in Flow Club, we send you a calendar invite that literally blocks it out for you. And as you book it, you can actually type in what you intend to do during that time. And on the calendar block, it would say like emails or pay bills or whatever, something like that. And then people’s coworkers see that calendar item as blocked off, and it’s a very effective way for people to not schedule meetings with you. It’s also a really effective way to get out of meetings. Like, “Hey, I got to go, because I have to go to this Flow Club,” and people people don’t ask questions.

William Tincup:
No, no. And you know what, it’s also a sign of mutual respect. It’s like, “Okay, well, hey man, go do you. Go do you.” Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what. You’re paying bills, do an email, whatever it is, it’s you need to go do this and you need to go focus, which I think, we didn’t talk as much about, but it’s the underpinnings. It’s how we’ve lost the ability to really really focus because of so many things that are thrown at us at once. And, probably the rise of ADHD and everyone’s over caffeinated. There’s probably many factors, but this is just beautiful. It’s beautifully propositioned to then say, “Hey, there’s a bucket of time and you just need to focus on whatever, whatever it is.”

Ricky:
One of our most popular theme sessions on Flow Club is, do not disturb, which is crazy because the whole thing about Flow Club is, do not disturb. But naming the session do not disturb, and then having the host, and the description says, “Hey, put away your phone, close slack. The world won’t burn down without you for an hour.”

William Tincup:
100%.

Ricky:
And having the host say, “Hey, you have permission to ignore all that noise for this hour.” Just having someone remind you of that, even though that’s probably what you came to Flow Club to do anyway.

William Tincup:
And the permission part, what’s great about that is sometimes that’s what you need. You’re so in the woods. You’re so in the woods, you’re so close to the trees, you can’t see the forest. So, you need that person just like Peloton. Again, we keep referencing them, but you need that other person to look at you and go, “You can do this. You can do this. It’s okay. Start slow. Pace yourself. It’s going to be okay.” That moderator of someone saying “Put away your phone, it’s alright.” Seriously. Not just put it over to the side of your laptop, like actually go put it in a different room.

Ricky:
Right. And, the crazy part is, we don’t need a celebrity influencer to tell us that. We can tell this to each other.

William Tincup:
Yeah. The odd thing is I wouldn’t believe a celebrity influencer, but I would believe somebody, Tommy, that’s a software engineer at sun micro systems, whatever. I’d believe that, but if Kim Kardashian said the same thing, I probably wouldn’t believe it. [inaudible 00:27:53] anything like that, but just, I would rather it be someone that’s real. So Ricky, I could talk to you forever. You’ve built a wonderful, wonderful product, and I hope you are super successful with it.

Ricky:
I appreciate it. Thank you.

William Tincup:
I appreciate you, and coming on the podcast and thanks for everyone that listens to the Use Case podcast.

Ricky:
Thanks for having me. Thanks.

William Tincup:
Absolutely.

The Use Case Podcast

Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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