To be honest, it has been a while since I’ve seen startups being built truly remotely. Most of those that try, definitely lose some efficiency in the process. You see, when the developer is working in the same office you are, you could literally look over his shoulder every step of the way, if you wanted to. Managing a startup remotely takes that control away from you, and you’re left without the advantage of regular-office dynamics and hierarchy. It can be quite intimidating if you don’t know exactly how to handle it. But luckily for you, that’s exactly what I’m going to cover today.
Changing the game
How remote startups are thriving today
Regardless of how difficult building a remote startup can be, in the last couple of years, we’ve seen companies that started small and have successfully built their team up to 100 people. Take for instance InVision, they raised $200 million, and there are now 650 talented professionals working 24/5 on this app. They have grown rapidly and have been even more effective than a regular company. But how?
The recipe for success
Mastering remote management
The most important thing when building a team remotely is effectiveness. It’s so easy to lose track of each other and the tasks at hand when your colleagues are not occupying the same physical space. The way to counterbalance this situation is through clear and constant communication, using the tools that today’s technology provides:
1. Remove the barrier
In a normal workspace, you can walk by someone’s office and check on that report, catch up with your developer by the water cooler, or ask for your partner’s feedback on the presentation you just finished while you both have some coffee.
However, remote setups don’t have these natural channels of communication, so YOU have to open them. Use video communication: hop on a video call with a colleague and just keep it on to ask whatever you want, whenever you need. I’ve seen companies set up TVs with a permanent video conference between remote work spaces. Remove the physical barrier and create the virtual space for quick updates, casual business meetings and organic feedback. Don’t forget to record your meetings and keep track of your goals.
2. Keep everyone on the same page
Every member of your team should have a clear idea of the priorities, tasks and deadlines at hand, and tools like Trello, Asana, Basecamp, help us do just that. Having a common to-do list, keeping it updated, and making it a regular part of everyone’s daily work routine will ensure things get done when they need to get done. It also helps to keep track of each other’s work, and offer or ask for help whenever something is taking longer to finish than expected.
3. Make knowledge accessible
This might be an obvious one, but make sure you have a clear knowledge management system or a shared directory where you define company procedures, documentation, etc. Be consistent with the tools you use, since this will be a huge advantage when handling and growing a team remotely.
4. Chat, but keep focus
Chats are powerful, they provide quick and assertive communication, plus records of your conversation, that you can go back to and review at any time. A downside of chats however, are notifications since they can be distracting, and a remote team must be allowed to focus. That’s why tools like Slack are awesome; you can turn off notifications, and your colleagues will know when you’re trying to focus, but if they need to, they can still force the notification for something really important.
5. Don’t forget to make friends
Getting to know each other is very important, so you have to cultivate and encourage personal interactions. There aren’t many “naturally-occurring” opportunities to hang out in a remotely managed startup, so again, we have to create those opportunities for our company to thrive. A company I worked with a while back had a video conference with 20 or 30 people simultaneously for the “Monday kiss”. In this unorthodox Monday morning tradition, every manager shared what they had achieved the week before, what they had planned for the current week, team news, birthdays, personal milestones, etc. You should know and appreciate who you’re working with as a person, not just a professional.
So there you have it. With these principles at hand, you’ll be able to handle the intimidating task of remote startup management like a pro. And you’ll be glad to know that this blog post is a “two-parter” because effectiveness is not all you need to succeed, there’s more to life than crunching numbers. So, next week I’ll cover how to create a remote management company culture that nurtures your employees and strengthens your entire startup organization.