A startup can be one of the most exciting things you ever do in life. Especially if you are in your early 20’s. However, you will realise soon that you can’t do everything on your own – acquiring clients/customers, building product, hiring, managing finances and the list goes on forever. Pretty soon you will realise the core need of delegating the tasks you thought nobody else, except you, could do.
But if you have the minimum funds to delegate those tasks, it becomes a whole new challenge.
The one and only solution to your bootstrapped startup’s growth? Interns.
With digitisation going forward at the speed of light and the acceptance level for startups going higher (especially in developing countries like mine), you can find young people who are looking to make an actual contribution to a startup.
So, here is how it came for me and what I learnt out of it.
What is a remote team and why did I need one?
For those of you who are still alien to the concept of remote work (may God help you :p), it means teams/individuals working from different locations (and even different time zones).
The one question that would resonate with almost every early stage startup is
“No money. How can I hire?”
With a remote team of interns, I had to
- a) Pay no office rent
- b) Pay less than what a regular employee would take
But the most important thing was that these interns, who willingly opted to join a work from home role in a startup, were mostly interested in learning more than anything else.
That is one of the biggest things that worked for me. In a startup, you always need people who are first willing to learn and grow rather than make a quick buck off your next round of funding.
How did I select the right team of remote interns?
Well, to be honest here, I had to face some pretty disappointing times with people in whom I invested a lot of time and energy and had to let go off because they were not the right fit.
In terms of numbers, in order to build a good team of the initial 4 core members, I had to let go of 7–8 people who I thought would be a good fit.
And it is not that I made a mistake in the hiring process. I conducted robust interviews, did case studies, made phone calls, Skyped, and what not.
And people even did good with their work. But the right attitude to do great work consistently is one of the biggest challenges you will ever face in your company.
So, how do you make sure to hire the right people?
- Always start with a 4–8 weeks paid trial. Get to know their work, but more importantly get to know their attitude towards work
- Don’t believe in the resume. Ask questions and give case studies on real life problems in your business, and ask them to solve it
- Deeply understand the drive of the candidate when you ask them “why do you want to join a startup?”
- Run away if someone says they are doing it for the money that is going to come from your next funding
How did I manage to run a remote team at my first shot on entrepreneurship?
Well, there are a lot of things I could tell you here. But the one thing that it all boils down to is
Effective communication. And more effective communication. And some more.
Doesn’t matter which project management tool, time tracking, or communication tool you are using, the basic point behind a successful remote team is to have smooth communications in the shortest span possible.
I will talk about tools and tips that can make life easier for that in the later part of this post.
How some of the most successful startups have nailed the remote work culture?
Some of the companies that you might be familiar with are KISSmetrics.com , Bufferapp.com, MySQL and GitHub.
Here are some of the stats that would surprise you:
- MySQL has 400 employees distributed in 40 countries (mostly working from home)
- 60% of GitHub’s team is distributed.
- Automattic (known for WordPress) is one of the biggest examples of 200+ people distributed remotely.
The best ways to manage a remote team successfully
Here is some of the best advice I can give from my experience:
- Focus on effective communication – use one tool (Slack/Skype) but make sure everyone is super active on that
- Quit email for task management – sign up for Asana or Basecamp and make sure all your tasks are documented there
- Take a video team call – I have done only audio calls for a long term. It is pretty unsexy. Having a video call every time you discuss something with your team makes it a much richer experience.
- Meet in person as often as possible – if you are in nearby cities, you should definitely invite your team members over (and pay for it). This gives a feeling of belonging that no Skype call can do.
- Get your core team in the same office asap. Remote work is cool, but it would be perfect if you can get your core team in the same office/workspace as soon as you can. There is no (and will never be) any digital technology that can beat the physical experience.