In this post, we’ll look at how to build remote teams from some of the best podcast episodes on the internet.
We will hear from the CEO of WordPress, a billion-dollar company, the CEO of Zapier, who runs his entire team with remote workers, and we’ll look at several other incredible podcasts to deep dive into this subject.
Hopefully, in the end, you’ll have learned how to find, build, and keep an excellent virtual team.
Zapier Is Fully Remote
Let’s zap right into our first podcast with Wade Foster, who appeared on “The Future of Work” podcast with Jacob Morgan. Wade is the co-founder of Zapier, a well-known company that allows you to integrate and connect apps that usually wouldn’t connect.
The company, started by Wade and his co-founders, Brian and Mike, began with the idea to connect and integrate apps. The freelance jobs they were getting as young side-hustlers were all about integration.
They thought of building the Zapier app to allow users to make their own integrations without hiring developers.
The beauty of this genius company is that its 250 employees all work remotely around the US and in 23 other countries. This means that they don’t have any office buildings, and they don’t work together in person.
Remote Work Is The Same To Manage
Wade explains on the podcast that managing a remote team is no different to having an in-person team. He says that the only way to know if someone is getting work done is if the work gets done.
It doesn’t matter if you see them in person. There are plenty of unproductive office workers who sit at computers all day and get nothing done.
Wade outlines the most critical factors for managing a remote team. These factors include building strong relationships, connecting staff, and growing as a team.
Nothing Connects Employees Like a Donut
One tool they use is an app called “Donut,” which integrates with Slack, the collaboration and messaging tool. Zapier has said that Slack is the way they get business done.
“Donut” is an app that matches three employees on Slack. They can connect and talk about things they have in common. This tool is a quick and easy way for remote workers to get to know each other.
The app can also connect employees looking to learn new skills from other employees within the organization. Employees can be 1000 miles apart and still stay connected and growing in knowledge together.
Zapier holds retreats every year. This way, all employees can connect in person. These retreats put faces to the names and bring more life to the company.
Self Motivated Individuals
Remote work isn’t for everyone. It requires people who will enjoy and thrive in a remote working lifestyle.
Wade said that they try not to overthink when looking for employees. Being a remote manager is the same thing as being an office-manager. They look for employees who are self-motivated and with a go-getter attitude.
If their personality aligns with their work experience and skill set, they are a suitable fit for remote work.
Nathan Hirsch Launches FreeUp For Remote Workers
Nathan Hirsch is another expert in remote work. He appeared on the “Click & Convert” Podcast to talk about hiring a remote team. Nate has sold $25 million worth of products in his eCommerce business and is the founder of FreeUp, a marketplace for freelancers and remote workers.
Founder of FreeUp Reveals Advantages of Remote Work
On the Click & Convert podcast, Sean interviews Nathan and uncovers his expert opinion as a remote-worker entrepreneur. He runs all his companies using remote workers.
One of his companies, Freeup, is all about connecting remote workers, so his expert opinion is perfect for understanding remote work.
Nate had all the classic doubts of hiring as a young entrepreneur. He thought he could do it all himself, and that there’s no need to hire outside work.
However, after suffering from a crippling social life, 20-hour workdays, and way too much mental stress, Nate made his first hire.
He hit a home run with his first hire, but after that, it was a series of bad hires after bad hires. He made every mistake in the book, and he developed his process from these humble beginnings.
Advantages of Hiring Remote Workers
Hiring in person limits you to the town you’re in, and owning offices means having to pay overheads. It limits your employees to the 9-5 hours, and it’s harder to hire part-time.
The average person is more productive sporadically and might do their best work in the early morning or late at night.
With remote work, you have more flexibility as an entrepreneur, and your employees do too. In business, things change all the time, and all companies have their ups and downs. Avoiding the overheads of an office and strict full-time employees gives you more freedom to try new things. Remote hiring gives you this flexibility.
You can do more trial and error with remote work because you can hire multiple people with part-time assignments and have access to talent around the world.
You can end projects, or double down on the ones that are working. There is also so much talent in the remote working pool, with many people now looking for remote work so they can travel or work from home.
The Honest Downsides of Remote Work
Nate points out some downsides to remote work and gives the solutions you need. One of the biggest struggles, Nate points out, is communication. In an office, communication is often more accessible and more direct. With remote work, you sometimes have language barriers, and the distance-factor is out of your control.
The key to solving this issue is to be clear and direct in setting expectations. If you focus on yourself and ask yourself, ‘how can I be more clear and set better expectations?’, then you’ll communicate effectively and get more done.
Be willing to ask where you’re going wrong. Nate asked his employee this, and she told him he was too harsh and direct with his Philippine employees. Their culture preferred more emotional communication and a more familial working environment.
Nate learned that you need to set basic expectations for remote workers like showing up on time and getting projects done by a certain date.
Once you set these expectations, the next step is asking remote employees to keep you immediately updated if there are issues with their availability or delivery dates. Once you clearly communicate these ground rules, then and only then can your operations have a chance of running smoothly.
Hiring remotely can have other technical issues since you can’t control employees having poor internet, blackouts, or personal issues that come up. Nate says to focus on what you can control, how you communicate, treat people, and setting expectations.
It’s All In The Job Descriptions
The key to getting the work done is to write an excellent job description about what you expect, what the job is, and what you consider good, bad, failure, and success. Everyone has different expectations, and remote workers often work for multiple clients at once.
By communicating your expectations and what your deliverables are, you’ll often get what you ask for. If you don’t lay it out clearly, then you may not like what you get back.
EOFire Asks Nathan His Secret Success Habit
Nathan also appeared on Jon Lee Dumas’s podcast, EOFire, where he shared more about his hiring techniques and his habits of success.
After Nathan built a team of 70 people on Freeup he built a team of 20 people on Portlight, his e-commerce company. He accomplished all this by putting people in a position to succeed and to manage other people.
Nathan shared a tool he used to contact his workers and clients. The tool “Yet Another Mail Merge” allows Nate to bulk email his employees or customers and keep track of everyone who’s opening and replying.
Self-Habit of Success
Nate then shared some of his habits of success, which have led to him to be an optimized entrepreneur who can manage a remote team effectively.
He said that he started waking up early after reading an article about it and then lived by it himself. He wakes up at 6 am to go through emails and is ready to go to work before most clients or employees are even up. This habit allows him to make the most out of every day.
Nate left some parting wisdom from this podcast where he said, “If you’re not improving something every day, then you’re not doing your job. Something needs to get improved one day to the next.”
Employees are Internal Customers
In an episode of “How We Solve,” a podcast that serves entrepreneurs in an ever-changing landscape, GQ Fu interviews Joshua Chin. Joshua is the founder of the Chronos Agency, a leading e-commerce agency that he grew from a side hustle to over 60 people in just two years.
This done-for-you email marketing company helps e-commerce brands increase their profits by an average of 20-30%. They set up email automation and campaigns and allow brands to enjoy hands-free earnings without worrying about copywriting, design, strategy, or integration.
Joshua explained that a side hustle is a one-man operation with a one or a few people doing everything all at once. In contrast, a proper business has systems in place with lots of people running different systems that all come together.
Joshua started with minimal experience building a team. He didn’t have much work experience either, so he had to learn everything from scratch. He stopped trading time for money and moved towards building systems and teams.
This shift to a long term growth focus allowed Joshua to get away from the day-to-day tactics. He built a team around each aspect of what he was doing in order to systemize the entire business.
The Main Aspects of An Outsourced Team
Deciding to start a remote team was practical; it was because of cost. A remote team requires no office space, no management of an office, and that’s an enormous burden off your shoulders in the beginning.
Joshua explained that he built a team around all the significant aspects of the business that involved him but needed to be outsourced. The main four areas were client services, what he calls ‘Fulfilment’ at Chronos agency, admin and finance, sales, and marketing.
Joshua let go of marketing, sales, admin, and finance and found talent that he could rely on. He looked for strategic thinkers to take the helm of these departments and acted himself as a personal advisor and consultant to those teams so they could build the departments from scratch.
Where Can You Find Remote Work?
The best place to find talent is everywhere. Joshua said he looked on job portals in Malaysia and the Philippines and opened up hiring channels on all the websites and job boards he could find.
His goal was to find talented individuals who could take risks, think strategically, and be a leader of a team. Since starting a team involves building things from scratch, breaking it down, and using trial and error, Joshua needed to hire people who showed initiative.
If someone had started a side hustle or had a proven track record of thinking with creativity and initiative, then they were a viable candidate.
How To Find Talent
Talent acquisition is very important, and Joshua said he learned a lot about it and wished they taught more of it in universities and schools. The thought process, he explained, is very similar to digital marketing. It’s all about attracting, converting, and retention. He says, “employees are like internal customers,” so finding them is like finding customers.
The key is to understand the process from the candidates’ perspective. No matter how big or small your company is, know your strengths as a company. His company was a new and exciting opportunity and gave employees the freedom to implement their own ideas. He knew to avoid the experienced people as he didn’t have the resources to hire them.
Then it all comes down to the job description page where you must communicate using the traditional marketing techniques.
The “Traffic” To Your Remote Team
Joshua sees sourcing as the initial stage like traffic is to digital marketing. He goes on social media, Facebook groups, and networks of friends and people he knows. Then he extends that search to traditional job portals and finally uses LinkedIn as another resource to find talent.
He says you must use a personal touch, not a mass approach, and manage every one with a simple spreadsheet. Joshua now uses “Workable” an applicant tracking software. However, for most startups, it’s fine to just use a simple excel spreadsheet.
Not Everyone Loves To Use Remote Teams
Gary Vaynerchuk argues the flip side of the remote-team in his “AskGaryVee” podcast. He was asked, “How do you feel about remote workers?”
Gary replied, “I’m not into it.” Ironically he comments that remote teams have proven to be a successful way to run a company. He continues by talking about Jason Fried, the founder of 37 signals, who would ‘punch him in the mouth’ if he heard the way Gary was bashing on remote teams.
He adds that the founder of WordPress and Automaticc, Matt Mullenweg, built his billion-dollar company using only remote work. Gary said that although he doesn’t enjoy having satellite offices, he thinks it’s all about self-awareness. He prefers being around people and enjoys having an emotional connection with his staff. Perhaps, he simply hasn’t found a way to connect emotionally with a remote team successfully.
WordPress Founder Gives His View On Remote Teams
Since Gary V mentioned Matt Mullenweg, we hunted down a podcast by Venture Stories, where Erik Torenberg interviews Matt Mullenweg and Andreas Klinger on remote teams and distributed work.
Matt says that hiring remote workers can increase the talent pool. He fell into “distributed work” by accident because his roots were in open source. When using Linux, people worked around the world on a single project. When he started WordPress, it made sense to keep working with these people.
Stop Fishing In The Small Pond
While every other startup was having trouble hiring talent, Matt was doing just fine. He stated that instead of “fishing in the small pond of the Bay Area,” you can find talent in the “ocean of the bigger world, where you have access to many more potential candidates.”
Although Matt loves using remote workers, he also understands the flip side argument. He thinks distributed companies are the future. However, he believes it’s not right for every company. The best argument Matt has heard against the remote-work philosophy is that the biggest tech companies all work with offices. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other enormous tech companies are all in-house.
He said that for many managers and workers, who prefer to work in person, in an office with other members of the team, distributed work isn’t an option. In this way, he agrees with Gary Vaynerchuk in saying it’s not right for everyone.
For many startups, however, Matt says people are now doing the opposite. Recruitment is getting harder, and employees are looking for jobs that allow them to work at home or whoever they want.
When he started his remote team, the tools were terrible, but now the tools are so much better. Matt says that even if you run a distributed team, you need to get together. He says that we are “fundamentally human and in person, interactions are still important.” People want to break bread together and connect face to face.
How Matt Helps His Remote Team Stay Focused
Matt encourages people to not sign into Slack for at least half the day so they can focus on their work. It’s tempting for people to respond quickly, but really, employees should prioritize their work.
The tools are agnostic, so employees have to focus and work on self productivity to be the most effective.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
Stop Fishing In The Small Pond And Join The Ocean of Talent
Matt, the founder of WordPress, explains that hiring remotely is like fishing in the ocean. There is a world of talent out there, so don’t just look in your local area for a potential candidate.
Managing Remote Teams Requires Communication & Connection
Managing a remote team is no different an office team. It requires good communication, clear work deliverables, and connecting employees through apps like “Donut” and “Slack.”
Hold Retreats In Person
At Zapier, they hold retreats every year so all employees can connect in person. These retreats put faces to the names and bring more life to the company. Matt at WordPress agrees with this, and so does Nathan Hirsch and the other podcasts guests.
Hire Self-Motivated Individuals
Remote workers need to be self-motivated individuals, so they are more likely to get work done even while being away from a traditional office. This also means they will be better suited to come up with ideas, solve problems, and proactively work with team members through messaging platforms.
Remote Work Gives You Freedom And Lowers Your Costs
Remote work can provide you the freedom and flexibility you need as a startup entrepreneur. You’ll avoid the costs of overheads like offices and remove the limitations of having to hire in your town. Freedom and flexibility are key reasons why remote hiring can work.
Find Talent Everywhere & See it As Traffic Sourcing For Digital Marketing
Use social media, Facebook groups, and a network of friends to start hunting for talent. Use job portals and messaging boards for digital work. Finally, use LinkedIn to look for people and always stay personal in your approach. Track everything using excel or a tool like Workable to track your applicants.
How Matt Helps His Remote Team Stay Focused
In order to keep your remote-team focused, Matt Mullenweg suggests telling them not to log into their slack or messaging tools for at least half the day. This allows them to be free to focus on their work and not feel like they need to reply instantly to every message.
How the CEO of Zapier Leads a 100% Remote Team
Helping you redefine how you hire for your remote team with Nathan Hirsch
An Easier Solution to Accelerating your growth through remote workers with Nathan Hirsch
Joshua Chin reveals some steps to managing remote teams on the “How We Solve” Podcast
Gary Vaynerchuck shares his thoughts on remote teams on the “Ask Gary Vee Show”
Matt Mullenweg, WordPress, discusses remote teams on the Venture Stories Podcast