How to Structure a Remote Team… That Actually Works
How to structure a remote team so that you can move fast, break stuff, and build culture in your startup - even with a remote team.
The glamour of working for a startup has become something like out of a Hollywood movie. Visions of small groups of millennials frantically typing away on the most cutting edge laptops, receiving lattes from their personal barista, all while being sure to take a break from their sleep pods to play a game of ping pong. There is certainly nothing wrong with a company taking care of their employees in style - who wouldn’t want an onsite barber or dentist?
However, the things that make a company or team truly successful can’t always be purchased.
We believe that in order for startups to create truly amazing products, they must first focus on creating and fostering a culture, that produces an amazing team. Don’t get us wrong, we love our product like Kanye loves Kanye, but what we love even more are the people that help us build and improve Simplr everyday.
Our team is spread out across the country (from Boston, MA, to San Francisco, CA) and is more than just our full-time employees. We have partners working on our designs, and work with additional agencies for MEV and PR. While our work stems from teams spread out across the country, fostering culture across remote teams has to be intentional every day.
Here are three values that we believe add to a healthy, remote team culture:
We value communication over presentation
Communicating effectively is the key to moving fast in our world. As mentioned before, we’re spread out over a lot of locations. We focus using tools like GSuite and Slack to facilitate the open communication that is essential to keeping on schedule and moving projects forward. We prioritize a quick, timely updates over taking days to build decks, prepare for too-long meetings, or presentations on data that is weeks old. We are hungry to improve our product on a daily basis, so that means focused calls, bi-weekly weekly touchpoints, and reserving the right to pick up the phone and call. These are all expectations that help keep the communication frequency high and dead-end meetings low. No matter if we are hiring designers or developers, the ability to effectively communicate is high on the priority list. Using the right tools enable us to chat from buses, cars, airports, and our offices.
Tools to improve communication:
- Slack - By dogmatically utilizing the right slack channels, we stay focused and informed. We even have one for our Fantasy Football draft!
- GSuite - Real time collaboration and the ability to search our shared drive for any document or information is a must!
- Zoom - Zoom allows us to schedule and attend necessary meetings from anywhere. With added features like recording, screen sharing, and remote desktop control put this on our favorites list.
We value collaboration over isolation
At Simplr, we are passionate about hiring extremely skilled and experienced people. We don’t just mean business experience. We look for people who have wildly different backgrounds and expertise because we know that ultimately it will make our team and product better. Getting the most out of our team’s various backgrounds and insight can only happen when we are focused on collaboration, instead of isolation, across our projects and goals. The goal is to avoid working in silos. We do this by sharing daily and weekly metrics across our entire team and showcasing hypothesis to Slack channels that others can willingly join. We believe that everyone’s feedback is what helps us make the best decisions. Trello is another tool we leverage to help bring visibility into the short-term and long-term goals across all environments and teams. We’ve adopted specific practices such as making detailed notes to every card so that anyone who reads it will understand the HOW and WHY of each actionable item - no matter who they are or what their role is. We know that work created in silos doesn’t always breed the best results. Without extra eyes on our projects we could potentially build features or implement strategies that at best make minimal impact, or at worst breed negative results. These practices also foster transparency as UX designers can see the horizon for our AI/ML projects, or our ops team can help our dev team drive innovation necessary to reach our next product milestone.
Tools to inspire collaboration:
- Trello - We are empowered to stay honest about what we are testing, creating, and developing since our boards are completely visible across all teams.
- Basecamp - This allows our team members to see big picture and granular checklist items for projects. Basecamp also allows celebration when milestones are hit, items are checked off, and projects are completed.
- Figma - A great tool for UX and design teams wanting to collaborate on design projects in real time.
We value team transparency over everything
We like to say that teams truly move at the “speed of trust.” Our foundation of daily communication and collaboration allows our team the ability to test, refute, discuss, and disagree without it feeling personal. Trust and transparency empowers our team to poke holes into any document, feature, and metric at any time. We know our team rises and falls together. Whenever there is a win, we try and pause to celebrate all those involved. Whenever we fail (which is often) we showcase what we learn and realize that the knowledge is just as valuable of an asset. When working with remote teams, a high level of trust can be the difference between creating a good product and a great one. Transparency also helps foster the type of encounters that produce the next great big idea, or uncover the next potential pitfall.
Tips to increase trust and transparency across your remote team:
- Create regular reporting channels where all teams can view progress (public Trello Boards, open Slack channels, etc.).
- Be intentional about celebrating life milestones and important dates for team members (birthdays, anniversaries, birth of a child, etc.).
- Establish regular cadence of all-team meetings like a quarterly review of successes, failures, and what’s next.
So why are these values at the core of our remote team dynamic? We believe that communication, collaboration, and trust are the raw materials needed to build a great culture. For co-located teams, it is typically assumed that culture will happen organically as people live and interact with each other. The unique dynamic of remote teams forces you to be intentional at creating a winning culture. Your startup or team may not be hanging out in one of Forbes’ top 10 coolest offices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a dynamic team moving fast, breaking things, and building culture along the way.
Do you work with a remote team? Let us know how you foster collaboration and community in the comments!