Keeping the team at attention at Scout Military Discounts

A former army officer and first-time startup founder on how he uses Slack to be a better leader


For a sleep-deprived, first-time entrepreneur, Cody McGraw, co-founder of Scout Military Discounts — an app that supports U.S. military service members in locating nearby resources (like crisis support centers) and stores offering military discounts on products — is mighty chipper.

McGraw is a former army officer, so is his co-founder. Scout’s team of developers rejected more stable job offers to take a chance on them and their mission, something for which McGraw is extremely grateful.


Cody McGraw
Cody McGraw, co-founder of Scout Military Discounts


“I honestly well up with pride every time I see those green lights on,” he says, referring to the indicator in Slack that denotes when team members are online.

Two years in and the Scout team is officially in the app-making business. They recently secured their first round of funding and are working hard and fast towards the next.

With a co-founder handling the technical side of operations, McGraw is in charge of the company’s finances, attracting new users, and keeping the team motivated towards their goals (without burning them out). And for that, he relies on Slack.


“When I look at my Slack channel list, I can instantly tell which conversations I need to be in and which ones I can catch up with my co-founders about later,” he says. “It gives me automatic prioritization, so I can just get straight to work.”


Less context switching, more decision-making

It’s not surprising that a tight-knit team like Scout’s would gravitate towards group discussions. At first they’d resorted to strings of group text messages, but switching between conversations made it impossible for McGraw to keep sight of which ones he actively needed to be in.

Since they started using Slack to organize their conversations into clearly labelled channels, McGraw spends less time catching up on conversations and more time moving plans forward. And for quick reference, he’s starred the channels that are most relevant to his work (namely anything sales and marketing related).

“When I look at my Slack channel list, I can instantly tell which conversations I need to be in and which ones I can catch up with my co-founders about later,” he says. “It gives me automatic prioritization, so I can just get straight to work.”


Using apps to watch over operations as the #familygrows

One thing McGraw mastered during his military training is maximizing efficiency, and he’s carried those skills over to his work as an entrepreneur. He and the team have been exploring Slack apps that pipe notifications from different apps and services they use into their Slack channels.

In channels like #appdev, notifications from the team’s project management app Trello gives an instant view into the status of the latest bug fixes and app updates in the works.


team collaboration with Trello integration


Meanwhile, in the #familygrows channel, McGraw has plugged in an app called Notify that gathers all the company’s social media mentions from different platforms. He’ll then coordinate with the team’s social media manager on responding to fans.

Having a channel like #familygrows not only keeps team members more connected to their users and their feedback, but thanks to their speedy diligence in responding to their fans, they’ve quickly managed to grow their Twitter community to over 13,000 people, many of whom have turned into active app users.


Prioritizing personal productivity

McGraw’s a big believer in balance, and on this he makes sure he leads by example. He set up a non-work related channel called #morelife and mandated every team member join. There, he encourages everyone to post about their hobbies and activities outside of work as a reminder to take some time for themselves to recharge, himself included.

Now that they’ve worked together a while, the team is more comfortable setting boundaries around their work needs. They’ve collectively agreed that updating their custom status in Slack to show their availability is a must, and if a team member is on Do Not Disturb — so they can snooze Slack notifications to focus for a while — everyone knows not to expect an immediate response.

McGraw says it’s these courtesies that make the strain of startup life easier to weather as a team. And so is having a sense of humor.

“After we got our funding, I made a custom emoji of our investor’s profile picture in Slack and now we post it every time there’s good news in the finance department,” he says. “It’s the simplest thing but making room for these kinds of inside jokes really pull the team together.” [#}

Lima Al-Azzeh’s favorite custom Slack emoji is :dancingmeat:


Visit Slack to see how we can help you and your team get more done together.


Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.