Remote teams · Entrepreneurship

How to build relationships with my remote team?

Anonymous

August 2nd, 2015

My team is mostly remote: myself and one other team member work in person but the rest of our 7 person team is scattered across the country. How can we build relationships (past a working one) that will bring us together and make us motivated and excited about working together. How can we build a culture when we're never in the same place? Tips? Advice? 
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Brett Fox Respected, Results-Oriented CEO, Entrepreneur, Author, and Coach

August 2nd, 2015

You have to do the same things you would do in an office environment and then some. Communications is going to be key: - Be on the phone every day with your team - Have weekly 1:1s with your team - Have company meetings (video conference) every week, so everyone understands what is going on Then you need to go above and beyond just phone/video communications: - Visit each team member - Have the whole team assemble on a regular basis face to face... - And have the meetings at various locations, so it isn't just at your facility It's going to take extra effort to make this work, but you can make it work. Good luck!

Joe Clark CEO at Prana Business, Creators of the Line-of-Sight Portfolio

August 2nd, 2015

Hi Natalie, There's a book called Remote by the guys that started Basecamp (37 Signals). It's a great book for this exact thing. Cheers, Joe www.pranabusiness.com

Haim Toeg Customer Success, Services and Support Executive - Available For New Opportunities

August 2nd, 2015

One more advice on top of Brett's excellent list - make sure your team members talk to each other regularly. If they don't create a reason for them to do so.

Brett Fox Respected, Results-Oriented CEO, Entrepreneur, Author, and Coach

August 2nd, 2015

Haim is absolutely correct. And this brings up one more crucial point: - Open communication is critical I would be 100% open and honest about everything going on in the company. From its finances, to customers, to anything else. The team will fill in the blanks if you are not open. The remote environment makes this even more important for you to do.

Julien Fruchier Founder at Republic of Change

August 2nd, 2015

We're building a virtual (no HQ) organization. My biggest point of reference is Automattic, the company behind WordPress. They are 450 strong, all working remotely from around the world. Their turnover rate is something like 2-4%.

Watch this interview as a starting point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMGb2UoNFYM  

Julien Fruchier Founder at Republic of Change

August 2nd, 2015

PS - Use Slack. If you're bootstrapped, Use a wordpress theme called P2. This is the child theme of P2 that we use to run team communication. It's a free Twitter intranet if you will, where you can upload files and centralize all of your communication. 

https://wordpress.org/themes/mercury/ 

Benjamin Olding Co-founder, Board Member at Jana

August 2nd, 2015

We found video made a difference - but culturally, not tactically.  So, when we started, there was no "a-ha!" moment and no obvious benefit over audio-only meetings.  After 3 months, everyone said it helped, even though no one could say why exactly.

Beat theory someone suggested that I liked is that ~1/3rd of our brains is devoted to vision.  Everything is connected to everything.

Regardless of the reason, I am now a believer: but you have to take it on faith a little at first - it doesn't make the meetings feel different, but we really feel a difference in team dynamics.  We use it both for daily standups and spontaneous 1:1 chats during day - we rarely do audio-only now.

Slack + hangouts is our combo of choice to make the friction pretty low.

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

August 2nd, 2015

No-one has mentioned trust. That is a two way street and often where these arrangements fall down. A daily meeting is a strain on everyone and will paralyse you. Don't do it. Regular meetings are essential by any tool that works for everyone. You can't mandate video links if one of you is on a slow connection because frustration will build and destroy team spirit. Focus on fast and efficient comma. Meet with good agendas and end with clear actions and reporting timelines. 

Make sure everyone knows their role and their authority within that role - that last point gets overlooked. Give them trust until they prove otherwise. Progress gets reported but not micromanaged. You trust them and they trust you.

Culture is about having a clear vision of what you do and where you're heading and not about where you are. It's a style of doing business that you need to clearly articulate. Your business ethics. 

A word on openness. Being 100% open will not only open up conversations you don't want to have unless youre running a collective, but can also look like you aren't leading and will eat up your management time. Some things aren't for discussion or debate. Be clear and share stuff that is ready for prime time. Don't circulate confidential spreadsheets unless you want them in the hands of your competition. Share what is appropriate but lead and don't lie.

No collaboration tool is perfect for everyone and there is a vast choice. Understand what you need from the tools to run effectively, audition a couple and pick the least compromised. Don't blindly adopt a tool because everyone says it's great. It may be for them but not for you.

Bringing everyone together physically at the putset sets up and cements relationships. Consider how you might do that at least cost.

Peter Kemball Member Issuers Committee at Equity Crowdfunding Alliance of Canada (ECFA)

August 3rd, 2015

Natalie,

A lesson from days of yore, touchtone phones no less, at the beginning meet in person two or three times to get  sense of each of the others and then migrate to remote. Some really good suggestions have been made to you so take a few, e.g., a tradeshow, and do attend together them migrate.

In addition, I would seek to compensate for "remote" by having each person do some profiles, such as HBDI, sales aptitude, cognitive capability, and share them, something which should be done in any case to provide additional insight into workmates. If you really want to get results, push the boundaries and have 360 sessions where each individual appraises the others and provides that information to the person being appraised, a must for the CEO.

Let us know what you do so we can all learn, perhaps remote does not reduce the odds of success as much as Sam Altman at Y Combiator believes.

Peter Baltaxe Consultant, product leader, serial entrepreneur

August 4th, 2015

You need to get together more often than you think to create the foundation for all the phone calls or video hangouts.  You can do double duty by assembling the team when you have new hires (and the new people get to know everyone in person), when you kick off a new project (get everyone on the same page), celebrate a launch or a big customer win (celebrate success), do any regular cadence meeting (quarterly product strategy review, etc.).  That way you are investing in assembling the team at the most impactful times.

I agree that video is better than voice and it is so easy to do now. Seeing people even on screen creates a familiarity that hearing them does not.

Over communicate.  As someone else said, share financials, customer wins, product demos, etc. so that everyone feels part of the company