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Note from Sean: This week we have an epic guest post from Mike Sims, the owner and found of ThinkLions. He’s been able to transition from soloprenuer to someone who manages a fully remote team of workers seamlessly from anywhere in the world. 

It’s not uncommon for people to start hiring remote team members full time or even part-time as they see some growth in their business, so even if you’re thinking about hiring an assistant for a few hours a week, this is great advice. 

Take it away, Mike!

Believe it or not, there was a time when I almost completely quit my business.

It was five years ago.

I was on a much-needed vacation with my family, and we had just set our spot at a fantastic beach in Tybee Island, Georgia. The kids were excited, my wife was excited, and after many long entrepreneurial nights, I needed the relaxation.

Then it happened.

I made the mistake of looking at my smartphone. There were 7 missed calls, countless emails, and several panicked text messages from clients – and I knew I had to address them immediately.

Instead of burying myself in the sand and enjoying time with my family, I was once again burying myself in the work that I tried to release myself from for just a few hours.

I needed help. I needed employees, and I needed them fast.

While I already had several freelancers I worked with, I needed real employees – individuals who I could train, who were committed, and who could deliver work to clients at the level that I did.

But how could I accomplish this?

My business didn’t have an office, and even if it did, as much as I traveled, I would never be there.

This team would have to be remote, which led to many other questions. How will I find remote workers? How will I manage them? Most importantly, how will I build a productive team culture with employees who live across the country from one another?

There were challenges, it was difficult and I made mistakes along the way.

But, it worked. Today, I have a team of employees from all over the country who I effectively manage no matter where I am.

If you’re looking to build a productive remote team that can you manage from anywhere, your journey doesn’t have to be as hard as mine.

In this post, I’ll share with you everything I learned to build an awesome remote team from anywhere!

Why Hire A Remote Team?

Before deciding to hire a remote team, a decision must be made as to whether you need employees at all.

It’s a big leap going from a one-person business to a full team. Suddenly, people depend on you to pay them on time, and even when business slows to a halt, you have obligations to your employees.

I learned very quickly about hiring too fast. While my beach moment was a breaking point, there were many other times when I felt overwhelmed and considered hiring someone.

My first employee, I had to let go after two weeks. Although I was overwhelmed with work when I hired him, sales slowed down immediately and without warning. I no longer had enough money to keep him. He would have made a fantastic employee had I hired him at the right time.

When the time is right and an employee must be hired, the rise of technology now gives you the ability to hire remotely. However, hiring remotely has both pros and cons.  

Pros of Building a Remote Team

Compared to hiring an on-site team, there are several reasons that an entrepreneur would consider staffing their business with remote employees.

For me, there were three main reasons:

1. Savings made employees happier.

I didn’t need to rent an office or pay for equipment. I didn’t have to keep fresh coffee stocked or keep extra ink cartridges on-hand for the printer.

Staffing remotely saved money and this meant that I was able to give more back to the team. Instead of ink cartridges, I gave larger salaries. Instead of coffee, I gave them more perks.

Employees enjoyed the freedom to work where they wanted, and these conditions combined gave them a joyous outlook on their job position.

2. Freedom made me happier.

I wasn’t constrained to the four walls of an office. There weren’t employees knocking on my door all day. And I could maintain my travels or work from the park while my kids played. Plus, I never had to wear slacks or a necktie.

As a result, I was happy as a leader in my business. My employees enjoy working with me, turnover is low, and I rarely feel the level of anxiety that I felt that day on the beach.

3. Happiness made us productive.

For me, the greatest benefit of having a remote team was that we maximized performance. Hiring the first employee tripled my output; and by the third hire, we were already processing ten times as much business as I did on my own.

A happy remote staff didn’t just minimize my stress, it maximized my business’ capability and drove revenues through the roof.

Cons of Building a Remote Team

However, hiring remotely isn’t all sunshine, mermaids and fairies. There are some major challenges in hiring this way and managing a remote team isn’t successful for everyone.

build a remote team lonelyRemote organizations are known for having high turnover. Some employees long for the social connections they make in an office environment.

In fact, 21% of remote employees feel that loneliness is the largest pitfall of remote work.

Failure to implement an exciting company culture can quickly run away your most talented employees.

Left unaddressed, a social disconnect can minimize employee performance.

In an office, co-workers can collaborate in a meeting room, discuss projects face-to-face, and quickly build common excitement around a new project.

In a remote environment, this rarely happens naturally and a plan must be put into place to mimic the collaborative advantages of an office setting.

5 Steps To Building a Successful Remote Team

You’ve decided that it’s time to build a team and that hiring remotely is the right decision.

Now what?

In my experience, there are five critical steps you must take to build a fantastic remote team that you can manage from anywhere.

Step 1: Develop Consistent Processes

Don’t assume that other people can do what you do, exactly the way that you do it. Unless you have the time to train each individual on exactly how to perform tasks, you will need dedicated processes that they can follow.

Even if you do train them individually on an exact task, without a standardized process in place, they will eventually begin missing steps.

Creating processes can seem time-consuming at first, but the long-term payoff is tremendous. When processes are standardized, staff performs quicker, success becomes more consistent, and the need for your input vastly decreases.

As you perform tasks, begin documenting each step from start to completion. Turn these steps into official processes that can be easily learned, followed and duplicated.

While processes are always important, they are even more important when hiring a remote team.

In an office, employees can turn to a co-worker or visit their boss’ office for help, but this isn’t always the case in a remote environment. Make things easier on yourself and your future remote employees by giving them the step-by-step procedures they need to deliver successful results.

Step 2: Use the Right Software Solutions

Remote teams don’t work without the right tools in place.

To establish a high-performing team, you will need to rely on several different types of software solutions.

Remote teams don’t have meeting rooms where everyone can come together, whiteboards where projects can be plotted, or lunchrooms where coworkers can congregate. Often, remote employees only have their computers and the tools available on their devices.

Here are some tools I used to manage an awesome remote staff:

Slack:

For my company, Slack is our office. Slack is a communication and collaboration solution that allows employees to engage with one another in a chatroom-style setting. Different channels can be assigned for specific projects, media can be easily shared, and the upgraded packages even have calling features. You can even send GIFs to one another!

G Suite by Google:

When it comes to team collaboration on documents, G Suite by Google is the most efficient solution. For our business, having several members working on a single document simultaneously is common. Having to constantly share the most updated file with everyone can become tiresome. Google Suite’s tools are full-featured and allow for easy sharing, editing, suggesting, and advanced collaboration.

Toggl:

One of the most important elements of running a business is tracking time. This is important to ensure that your employees are paid correctly, but also to monitor team efficiency and performance. Toggl is an easy-to-use time tracking system that allows employees to track each task through an online dashboard or desktop add-on.

UberConference:

We use UberConference whenever we need to have large team meetings or when we need to have a team call with a client. UberConference gives us the ability to call in from anywhere in the world, discuss projects, and even set up screen shares.

Gusto:

When it comes to hiring remote staff, you don’t get to pass out paychecks at the office. Instead, you need to rely on strong payroll software that can automate and distribute payroll electronically. We chose Gusto. This solution made payroll a breeze, ensured that all of our employer taxes were submitted, and provided all the documents I needed for easy tax filing.

Step 3: Hire for Culture

Hiring talented people is extremely important, but what’s equally important is finding people that will excel within the team culture. Talented people tend not to perform well in situations that don’t fit them, and even an extremely skillful person can hold your team back if their personality does not mesh with the rest of the team.

Before hiring anyone, think about the type of team you want. Do you aspire to have a fun and playful staff or one that is uber focused on their tasks? Do you want a team that is collaborative or workers who perform within their own bubble?

When you know the type of team you need to hire then you’ll know what type of team members you need to hire. Yes, hire talented people, but also hire people who have the qualities that will benefit the overall culture of the team and help you build the internal culture that you desire.

Step 4: Encourage Collaboration

Remote workers often work alone, and it can be easy for them to feel disconnected from the “team.” Find ways to encourage collaboration between your employees.

If they aren’t given the opportunity to work together, chances are, they won’t collaborate on their own. Without collaboration, performance will suffer.

remote team collaboration

In fact, studies show that 76% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration as the top factor that leads to workplace failure.

Successful collaboration isn’t just employee-to-employee.

When you hire staff, your business is no longer just your business. Your employees become stakeholders, and often, they have ideas for progressing the business as well. Open up the lines of communication and allow employees to share their ideas.

Be transparent about your business and allow them to collaborate in the decisions that you make. Not only will this increase your employee’s value within your organization, but it will also make them more loyal to you and your brand.

Step 5: Be Flexible

Let’s face it, people decide to work remote jobs because they enjoy the flexibility.

According to the State of Remote Work report, 43% of remote workers state that the biggest benefit of remote working is a flexible schedule, while 15% state that its to spend more time with family. Another 12% say it’s the ability to travel. Since flexibility is important to your employees, it should be important to you too.

Find out what your employees desire in their position and why they chose to work remotely.

Instead of holding those things against them, support it. If your employee is working remotely because they want to spend more time with their family, consider providing a travel allowance or additional paid time off to show them that you want them to do the things that make them happy. If they are working remotely because they want flexibility over their work schedule, find ways to schedule meetings around their availability.

Everyone loves a boss who works with them to achieve their goals, and this is even more so the case when remote workers are involved.

Before You Make Your First Remote Hire…

Here is the most important thing to know about building a remote team that you can manage from anywhere…

If you want an awesome team, you’ll need to be an awesome leader.

Bad relationships with managers can cause employees to underperform or even leave – 50% of employees have left a job to get away from a manager.

Before you hire anyone, know who you are as a leader and why you are hiring them. Of course, you are hiring them to make your life easier so that one day you don’t end up at the beach with your family, stressing out about clients.

However, with each person you hire, you are adding to the culture, the personality and the mission of your brand.

It’s easy to hire a remote team. But if you want an awesome remote team, be the leader that can manage one!

Mike Sims is the owner and founder of ThinkLions; a team of app developers and business plan writers that have helped dozens of startups bring their technology to life.

With a background in business development and marketing, he works closely with entrepreneurs around the world – consulting them through challenging situations and identifying valuable strategic opportunities to advance their businesses.

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