There is no single recipe for running a successful remote company. Still, we want to share a few things we did to make our teams feel at home without seeing each other every day.
We started Airpush as a tech company with no office from a very beginning: there were 20 of us located between Russia, Ukraine and Barcelona, all speaking one language and never actually caring about having an office. We didn’t have a 9-to-5 schedule (rather 24–7), saw each other maybe once a year and have never heard a term “corporate culture” before — just worked like crazy to our way to the top.
In 7 years we grew from our virtual garage into an international team of 130, with subsidiaries in US, Shanghai and India and heading towards IPO. We now speak English, use around 50 different tools in our daily work and even have our Employer Branding Strategy (yes, corporate culture is now not a word from the book).
We could only dream where we land few years back then, but all the way from day 1 we knew that hiring remote is a huge advantage and access to the best people in the world.
Sure thing, there are pros and cons to running a remote company.
You have access to global talent — we hire amazing people and it doesn’t matter where they live. You don’t have to lose people just because they’re moving somewhere else. We spend so much time onboarding and building teams that we don’t want to start over for such a stupid reason as relocation.
You need to communicate a lot more precisely and create a healthy and productive work environment. When you walk into a room, you pick up on energy, based purely on body language. You can’t have this luxury with a remote team, so you’re basically flying blind. You don’t see any of that non-verbal communication. You need to be purposeful and transparent with every call, email, and chat. In other words, this is the price of freedom: productivity vs loneliness.
So, how it works for us?
There 2 pillars on which a remote company stands (at least, for us):
– Technical — these are all the tools we use for every aspect of a company’s life communications, hr, devops, data, etc. Every request and process is transparent, searchable and trackable. Policies and processes are documented as Wiki pages.
-Emotional — what you do to make your team-mates, from Shanghai to Ukraine, feel part of the team and cope with loneliness? How do professional development and team-building work? These are really tricky. Today, even with all its advanced technologies replacing everything, it is hard to replace a simple face-to-face cooler talk or 1-o-1 performance review.
Tricky part started for us with a combination of 2 factors: rocket growth and remoteness of teams, scattered in different time-zones. From one hand, people are overloaded with work and things-to-be-done-now. From another, they might feel lonely, under-heard/undervalued or confused.
How do we run it?
All sorts of sources say that you have to create your own corporate culture and only get those people onboard, who culturally fit into it. For us, this idea is as old and outdated as going to the office Monday to Friday. Instead, we totally share this one with Buffer — we rather believe in Cultural Contribution and Values Fit. Four core principles help us create a powerful remote team:
I. We are remote:
- Every call is a video call, pj’s, cats or humans in the video are not frowned upon
- We are able to gather for meet-ups and workshops very quickly to dive into complicated things as needed
- The office is where wi-fi is
- Timezones are solvable- we duplicate important calls so both China and US are in
II. We are multicultural
- We speak 8 languages and live in 16 countries
- Team holidays we celebrate round the globe
- We share knowledge outside our job description — all our processes are transparent and everyone is here to help
III. We are results-driven
- We as teams don’t provide reports — we analyze what was done, why we succeeded and why not
- A good idea might take 1 week from idea to execution when pitched right
IV. We are engaged.
- An HR manager met a publisher? Product knows a good recruitment agency? Brand-manager came across a usability issue? Share and help
- Not there for a meet-up? Join via Zoom
Don’t forget to have some fun!
When you’re working from home, talking business all day, sometimes still sitting in your pj’s at 6 pm can drive you crazy. We have channels in our slack for all sorts of our of office activities: useful reads and links sharing, girls-only and a separate channel for birthdays, informal announcements and flashmobs. We do pizza days once a month and now try video lunches (next one with wine!).