Episode 7: How To Build A High Performance Distributed Team
Run your business without an office
Almost every single person we interview asks us, “Where are your offices? How is it possible that you run such a power team so effectively without having offices?”
In this episode, host Niel Malan reveals how he built Elite Inc., a multi-million dollar company, without having an office, and with a high-performing team distributed all over the world.
He also gives you the exact steps to follow and resources to read if you want to do the same.
“Want to know more about how to start your own highly-profitable digital marketing business?”
Resources referenced in this episode:
G Suite: google.com/apps
Books referenced in this episode:
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
Scaling Up – Verne Harnish
Traction – Gino Wickman
Measure What Matters – John Doerr
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to episode number seven of the Elite Entrepreneur show. Today I’m going to talk to you about how to build a high-performance distributed team.
As a quick little backstory, our company is exploding with growth right now. To give you an idea, at the time of this recording, which is towards the end of August 2019, we started this year with I think, 10 employees; and the year before that we had like five up until the middle of the year. We currently are sitting at 30 employees and every month we are adding another three to four to five. But not just employees; absolute A-players. Our company is exploding with growth. We’ve got a phenomenal team. These people are absolutely brilliant. They are at genius-level performance.
The one thing that everybody that we interview cannot understand is, “Where are your offices? How is it possible that you guys are running such a power team and how can you be so effective without having offices?”
So today I’m going to talk to you a little bit about how to have an officeless office of A-player employees. It’s a bit of a paradox. If you haven’t yet, I do advise to first watch or listen to episode six, because in episode six I mentioned the importance of building a team and why you don’t really want to go solo or stay solo for too long. Please make sure that you go and watch or listen that before you go through this one because I gave four great resources in that episode, which I’m going to refer to in this particular episode.
Assuming that you’ve now done that, let’s dive straight in.
The first question is, why on earth go distributed? Distributed basically means your team, they are not in an office. They can be anywhere in the country. We currently have people that work for us globally. I’m a little bit embarrassed to say this, but the other day someone asked me where all of our team members were and some of them I wasn’t quite sure. I know what sort of state or province they are in, but I wasn’t quite sure. That’s just because we don’t have offices. So why go officeless? We understand the merits of having people in an office, but why go officeless?
First of all, what we found after we started doing this, it is a massive attraction tool for talent. You see, there are a lot of people out there who are just sick and tired of commuting. They are tired of sitting in traffic for 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours a day. People have got to get up early and they’ve got to drop off the kids and not spend any time with the kids, just to get to work to grind away, only to rush back and cook dinner, you know what I mean? It’s like a lot of people feel like their life is just humdrum. Maybe that’s why you started a business or are interested in starting a business, right? The employee that’s going to come and work for your company is no different.
It’s a huge attraction tool that people don’t have to do traffic. It’s also a huge attraction tool that people can relocate and live wherever they want to. I’ll give you a couple of examples. One of our A-players in our company is a lady called Monique and she is absolutely phenomenal. She was one of our first employees. She heads up our Client Love department and she really just showers our clients with love. She is actually terrific and we appreciate her a great deal. Her partner just got an opportunity to go to Abu Dhabi. I don’t even quite know where Abu Dhabi is on the map. I think I know it’s more or less Middle East.
She approached us and said she has got this transfer and could we make it work. I said to her, “Monique, it’s very simple. Close your laptop before you leave and when you get to other side, open it up again and it’s business as usual. It doesn’t matter where you are”. It’s awesome for her because she can relocate to another country without having to get green cards and visas and look for a new job and go through the financial pain or be unemployed for a while and having to do interviews across countries. So that’s a huge attraction tool also for employees affected. The fact that they can relocate, they can go and see the world or just live in another town or another city. Many people want to stay closer to the coast. They actually want to stay in a quieter, smaller kind of environment. With a distributed team they can live wherever they want to. So you could access talent you otherwise would not have access to.
Second example, we just appointed a new head of performance marketing, a guy called Jason. He is absolutely awesome. He is exactly the individual that we are looking for. He has been running performance marketing agencies for many, many years. He is a real genius at performance marketing. He just joined us. I said to him, “I’m really curious; the companies that you worked in the past were these multinational, huge international conglomerates with vast resources. Why did you join our company? Why did you say yes to the job offer?”
He said to me, “To be quite honest, two things… The first is I want to go back to my hometown.” He resides in South Africa and he had to work in Joburg, Johannesburg, because that’s where all the jobs are at this point and he wants to live in Cape Town. He said that there is just no job of this calibre in Cape Town. That was one of the things.
The second thing is, he said he has always wanted to work abroad. But you know, for South Africans to get a green card and to get work permits, it’s really hard. With this business, you know what, again, close the laptop and open it up when you get to the other side. So I don’t think unless we offered that we would have had someone the calibre of Jason actually joining our crew. Maybe he would’ve, but it definitely played a big role. So it’s a big talent attraction tool and you can cast a wide net. You can employ people all over the world, all over your country, and you never have a skills shortage. So that’s a big reason.
The second reason is you’ve got a bigger employment catchment area. So you can literally go… I’ll give you another example. We are starting a software development division, early next year, early in 2020. We are going to have developers in a couple of different countries. If you, for example, look at Eastern Europe you can find brilliant coders and developers in countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Bratislava, all these kinds of places. You can find brilliant developers in India. It’s not uncommon for people to farm out development, but for us it’s just business as usual. It’s not something that we have to get used to. We can have a high-level CTO sitting in the US, we can have a development team sitting in South Africa that can do certain kinds of work, we can have other teams sitting in other parts of the world, and it doesn’t really matter.
We are also planning to grow quite a big media buying team internally because we are very aggressive about our growth. We’ve been growing 400% year-on-year for three years in a row. We are planning to do it again next year. So we need a proper big media buying team. In South Africa there is a shortage of high-quality media buyers.
Because we are distributed, we can go and find them in places like Ireland where there is a large number of media buyers because they all work for Google and Facebook. So the guys get burned out at Facebook and Google and then they can come and work for us.
There is another big benefit of why go officeless, and it has got to do with no overheads that go with it. That’s a very obvious one. You don’t have the lease. You don’t have the monthly operating expenses of water, lights and utilities and gas. You don’t have to have a cleaner for your offices. You don’t have to buy coffee for the office. You don’t have to get out the insurance and all of that.
So removing the overhead layer of offices out of your business makes you more competitive. You can be much more competitive as a distributed work team because you can employ a big part of your workforce in cheaper areas of the world, and you can not have the offices, the overhead of offices.
If you just think about; if you are the firm competing against aggressive but well-established competitors, but you are that lean and agile, you can invest more in your marketing. You can invest more money in your product development. You can move faster than anybody else because you don’t have those physical constraints. It’s very exciting.
Here is the interesting thing, when it comes to productivity – we only realized this after we started doing this – your meetings are more productive. You know, it’s so funny whenever we ask people, why do you want to leave corporate and start your own company? One of the big things people say is meetings drives them nuts. And then if you dig a little bit deeper, so ask them, what is it about meetings? It’s always the same answer, how much time it wastes.
What we came to realize is if people work in the same office, there is like a perceived safety net. People just pop in, they talk around the water fountain, meetings are unproductive because there is a perceived safety net because people are just around you. When you’ve got a distributed work team and you have to schedule a meeting and communicate via a tool like Zoom, your meetings are more productive because people show up prepared. They show up with a meeting agenda. They show up with clear outcomes that they want to accomplish, and it’s intentional. We find that whenever we have meetings, people are hyper-focused. Everyone is super focused on getting the job done and then moving on to the next scope of work. Also, there is nobody that can barge into your office and interrupt you. You are working in your own bedroom or in your own home. So I find I am much more productive than if I’m in an office environment.
The next thing is it also forces you to implement management-based practices. Let me talk to you a little bit about this one. One of the greatest failings of entrepreneurs is micromanaging people. There is a good reason why. Entrepreneurs have usually had a couple of scenarios where they trusted people to do things, they didn’t do it properly and it cost them money. So entrepreneurs usually become paranoid and they become micromanagers. Here is the paradox. If I go and employ someone because they are genius at something and I micromanage them, I cannot tap into their genius, because I’m telling them how to do a job that they should be telling me how to do that job. You see, Steve Jobs said, “We don’t hire talents so that we can tell them what to do. We hire them so that they can tell us what to do”. And that’s very, very clever.
One way to prevent yourself from the temptation of meddling in everything, becoming a micromanager is by not having the people physically around me. So you cannot observe how they do things, but you can observe what they’ve done. The way you do that is with scorecards. I want to talk to you guys a little bit later. Every employee in your business must have a number. There has got be a measure of success. In our Client Love department, the number one thing that they have to do is get us ratings with clients who say, “I’m satisfied”. As long as our ratings come in – it’s literally a hundred percent satisfaction level at this point – then we know that they are doing a great job.
In our Fulfillment department, we are looking at two majors. Number one is graduation rate, how many of our employees graduate; and number two, what’s our Net Promoter Score. As long as those numbers are achieved, that tells me that everything in the department is working. Do you understand? I don’t have to be a micromanager. All I need to do is I need to look at the right numbers. If I look at the right numbers, I know the department is working. Now I can set challenges for the guys to improve the numbers. They get energized by it.
Let me tell you something, people love being treated like adults. People love being treated like adults. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t believe this, but your team members are capable of greatness. They are capable of doing things that are beyond your imagination, but they need your trust. They need your trust. They need your support. They need you to set challenges and to create straight goals and to give them space so that they can do their finest work. But you’ve got to hold them accountable for doing what they said they would.
So coming back to this point, having a distributed office, it forces you to implement management-based practices. Management by Objective has been around for a very long time, but very few people do it. If you’ve got a distributed workforce, it kind of forces you to do that because otherwise you really don’t know how well the people are doing.
Next one, and guys, it’s much easier to not micromanage people, to rather focus on outcomes and to focus on areas of strength. Another huge factor is you can scale faster. Think about it. Our company is growing 400% year on year and in fact, in terms of staff compliment, we are growing faster than that. Here is the interesting thing, nothing breaks. Nothing goes haywire despite this aggressive growth. Why is that? One of the reasons is because we don’t have to get bigger offices every single time. We don’t have to find more people in the same town and we don’t start running out of skills resources. We can move faster than our competitors. We can scale faster than anybody we are going to be competing against because we have set up our business in such a way that it is scalable.
Another big factor is less capital expenditure. One of the big challenges that startups have is nobody wants to lend me money. Nobody wants to invest in my business. Guys, quite frankly, most businesses are not investable. Think about it from the mind of a bank or an Angel Investor or a Venture Capitalist. Why would you invest in someone that hasn’t got a proof of concept yet, that hasn’t yet got a business that’s stable and that’s rocking and that’s growing? Most people won’t. So very few entrepreneurs actually attract finance. Therefore they bootstrap. If you have to bootstrap, but you have big capital expenses in the forms of equipment and servers and kit-out for offices and big deposits and that kind of stuff, it’s going to drain your cash resources. So it’s much cheaper to just scale when you don’t have the big overheads. I hope I’ve now convinced you about why to go officeless.
How do you do it? This is a really, really big topic and I’m going to be talking about this right throughout the entire Elite Entrepreneurs show, because it’s a kind of thing that you need to really wrap your mind around in small little building blocks. What I’m going to try to do in this episode is I’m going to give you a five-step framework. I’m going to give you five building blocks and I’m going to give you some information to get going. But each one of them warrants a couple of episodes in and of their own right, which I will give to you as time goes by. So I’m going to refer back to this show as I do future shows. But I’m going to give you the five building blocks I believe are some of the biggest building blocks to succeed with, that helped our company.
The first is that you have to equip your team with the right tools. Working from home doesn’t mean someone can sit on their bed or the couch with their feet up. I mean, they can, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not an office. It is an office. You guys can see here I’ve got a banner behind me. I’ve got my equipment. The reason why I’m lit up is because I’ve got a ring light in front of me. I’ve got a microphone. I’ve got the tools for the job. I’ve got a very big Mac in front of me. I’ve got all the tools.
What we do with our teams, we sometimes get power outages, so every team member gets Uninterrupted Power Supply, a UPS. It gets shipped to them when they start. They get a brand new high-speed laptop that can function while being online every single day. Every single person gets a router. They get a high, the fastest internet access we can possibly buy and it’s uncapped and any other equipment. For example, a producer would get all the studio equipment that they are looking for. Someone that has to create content, someone like myself will get a media wall. They get the lights and all that kind of stuff. It depends on the position.
You’ve got to make sure that you invest in the right tools and you must remember, all the money you are saving by not having offices, don’t spare a dime. Get your team the very best equipment because the last thing you want is you’ve got a management meeting and someone shows up and you can’t see them or hear them because they’ve got patchy internet access or their computer crashed or it’s doing updates. You know, that’s contra productivity. So make sure that you invest high quality tools. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be the right tools for the job. So that’s building block number one. Every single one of our team members, as soon as someone signs a contract, they get appointed, Annalie, our Head of Finance, she is brilliant with that, she creates a pack and she carries it off to everybody and everybody has got the right equipment. That’s the first thing; make sure your team is equipped.
The next thing, you’ve got to use the right software tools for collaboration. We use Google Apps for everything. You can just go to google.com/apps. Google Apps is brilliant. Our emails run on Google Apps, all of the documentation. Word documents, Google documents, we do it online. Spreadsheets, we do it online. Presentations, we do online. Those of you guys who prefer Microsoft Office, you can still use it. Just make sure it’s uploaded online with Google Drive. That’s where we stole all of our documents and that’s why our teams can collaborate. You’ve got to get document management right and I highly suggest that you guys use Google Apps for that because they’ve got a feature called Google Teams where each team can create their own folder structure that’s appropriate for them. So they can share videos, they can share documents that they work on, spreadsheets and all that kinds of stuff.
Guys, let me tell you something, once you get used to it, the Google suite of products look different to Microsoft. In certain instances, I still prefer the Microsoft product, but emailing spreadsheets back and forth, you lose track of which version you are on. The stuff goes corrupt. It’s just a mess. If there is one spreadsheet online, there is only one spreadsheet, right? So get the collaboration tools.
The next thing is you want to buy a tool called Zoom. Zoom allows you to do video conferencing and allows you to call people without the normal call charges because they’ve got a phone app now. It allows you to use instant messaging and you can have webinars if you sell online, if you sell digitally. Zoom gets used extensively. I would say that every team member of mine probably spends three to four hours a day on Zoom. It just doesn’t break and it’s awesome and that’s what makes you feel connected. The reason why it’s hard to understand how it works when people don’t work in the same office is because you think of people working in their own homes and there is nobody around them.
But right now you and I are connecting because you are watching my video. Would you agree with me? So you are not alone. There are two people. When there is a video conference and there are 5 or 10 team members, all of those 5 or 10 team members are connecting in the same way as they would have in the form of a meeting. So it’s not like you miss sociability or connections other people. It doesn’t work like that. So make sure that you get Zoom. It is just the best out there. We don’t use Skype. It’s just not as reliable or anything else. Zoom is the best.
Then what you need to do is, you need to have some kind of a lightweight project management collaboration tool. We use a tool called Samepage. It’s not necessarily the best; it’s just a tool that we use. There are some really cool new tools. There is one called Airwave, which I’m quite liking at this point because it can do spreadsheets and Gantt charts and kanban views like Trello and so forth. And there are a lot of them. Don’t go heavyweight. Don’t go for expensive tools. Don’t go for things that are complicated. It’s just if there are projects, make sure that there is a little lightweight project management tool that you can use. Trello, my team loves a Trello. A lot of people use Trello. I don’t… For me, the limitation of Trello is that it doesn’t use Gantt charts. There is the Gantt chart plug in, but I don’t know…
Anyway, one thing that’s usually important, scorecards. Every department and every person must have a number. You will know if your business is running well if you’ve got the right information. I’m going to give you an analogy. I want you to imagine that you get on a plane and you are about to go on a holiday. You walk up the stairs and you hear one pilot asking the co-pilot and he said, “Listen, we are about to take off, but can you remember if they filled up the tanks with fuel, with gas?” The co-pilot says, “Yeah, I’m sure they did”. The pilot calls the head air hostess and says, “Listen, can you remember if they filled up with gas?” She said, “You know, I didn’t see the truck, but they usually do it, so I’m sure it will be fine”. The pilot says, “Right. No problem. Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats”. Will you stay on the plane? You probably won’t, right? You will get off. Why? Because you can’t take flight unless you know.
Well, a business is no different and unfortunately most entrepreneurs run their businesses without knowing if there is fuel in the tank, proverbially. So what’s my point? A pilot has a cockpit full of gauges. The one gauge tells them if the landing equipment works. Another one tells them if the LT meter works. Another one tells them if there is gas and whatever else gets measured. I know nothing about aviation, so I’m really screwing this up, but you are getting the idea, right? There are gauges.
I’ve got in my business, I’ve got a company-wide scorecard that tells me the main numbers I’m looking for, which is really marketing numbers because that’s how we grow. So I know how many webinar RSVP I will get a day. I know how many of our Roadmap programmes we are selling. I know what our conversion rates are. I know I’m any AFT programmes we are selling. I know what our revenue is. I know what our client satisfaction score is, how many five-star ratings we are getting from students. We’ve got a scorecard that I look at every day, every week, and every month and every quarter and every year that tells me how the company is doing, high level scorecard. I will probably do quite a few sessions on how to build scorecards.
Then every department has a scorecard. My Client Love department, we want to go in deeper, we want to know, what is the average turnaround time from when someone submits an inquiry until the ticket is closed? We’ve got a benchmark of maximum eight hours. We want to know average client satisfaction score and so forth. There are quite a few things that we want to know. The Marketing department also needs to go quite granular and the Sales department needs to go quite granular. We use a tool called Klipfolio. You can use Google Sheets; you don’t have to use Klipfolio. I just like it.
Every department has a scorecard and the company has a scorecard. Don’t overdo scorecards. Don’t feel intimidated by it. We grew into it. I just sat my team down one day and I said to them, “What are the most important things that tell us if we are going to make money?” I’m not talking about an income statement here. I’m saying about activities that tells you if your business is doing well or going to do well. We just put in five or six metrics. The following month, took a view, we added another two. The following month we took a view and added another two. As we created departments, we created more scorecards. So don’t feel intimidated by it. It’s really not something you have to nail. You just have to start somewhere. So make sure you’ve got scorecards. I use Klipfolio for that.
Then what’s really important is that you need to have a tool for engagement with your team. You’ve got to be able to see how your team, how they are doing and you’ve got to help them prioritize. So we use a tool called 15five.com. It’s a really cool team engagement app. In short, what it does, every team member every week has to submit a 15Five. Really what they do is answer a couple of questions. How am I feeling on a scale from 0 to 5? If everybody is stressed out of their brain, you’ve got a problem. If everybody is rating between 4 and 5, the pulse is good, as I call it.
They have to write down what went well the previous week, celebrate wins. They’ve got to identify priorities for the coming week and they can give shout-outs to team members. It’s really, really simple and it’s deadly effective. It takes a couple of minutes. It’s called 15Five because it takes 15 minutes to submit it. It’s a really, really cool tool. We are going to build something similar. I will keep you posted. But that’s a tool that we use that we get great feedback from.
Then also for people to call your company and to have some kind of shop front, you need to use a Voice Over IP system. There are many. Google Caller is one. We use a tool called Just Call. It just works quite nicely. But I really can’t recommend one over the other to you. That’s just to have a telephone number. Some people, if they want to do business with you, they need to be able to call a number and they need to have an operator answer it. That will be one of the team members or you can outsource it.
Building block number one, making sure people have the hardware. Building block number two, making sure people have that software. I suggest software as a service only. Don’t have anything that has to be installed on servers and as little as possible on desktops, because desktops crash and they get stolen.
By the way, I asked my team to put in links to all of these software tools. You will see a resource section with all the links of these software apps and all you can do is click on them to make life easy for you.
Number three, what’s the next building block? I’ve covered two so far. The next building block is effective communication. I’ve surveyed tens of thousands of people and I say to them, “What’s the number one failure of your previous company?” Most people will say communication. Communication is a problem. Yet most people complain about meetings, too many meetings. How is it possible that there are too many meetings if communication is the problem?
There are lots and lots of reasons for it, but the biggest problem with communication in companies is a lack of structure. I read a book by Verne Harnish called Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and I highly recommend that you do. It talks about meeting cadences. A meeting cadence is just really regularity. What regularity do you have meetings and what do you do? We do a 2-day, sometimes even a 3-day offsite planning session. Our leadership team and mid-management get together and we plan the year ahead. We work on American calendar and we get together in January. It’s custom for people to do their annual planning before the start of the new year.
The problem is by December, most people are busted. They are really tired. So we do our budgeting the year prior. We sign off before we knock off for December break. But planning happens really early in January. From there, quarterly planning. Again, I recommended having it offsite where everybody physically gets together. Just for that, I do recommend getting physically together. And that’s also one- or two-day planning session.
Monthly planning is a full day training session. That happens on Zoom. There we don’t get together and we include leadership team and mid-management. By the way, if you are looking for agenda points, read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and also the book Scaling Up. But I think it’s in Rockefeller Habits. It will give you a sample agenda for each one of these things. It’s a great book.
The next three are crucial. The next two, actually. A weekly Level 10 meeting. Last week, I recommended, or in the previous episode I recommended a book called Traction by Gino Wickman. He is actually a disciple of Verne Harnish who wrote Rockefeller Habits. He wrote the book called Traction, so it’s very similar. But he has got a weekly meeting called a Level 10 meeting. A Level 10 meeting means that at the end of the meeting, 90 minutes everybody has to vote how effective the meeting was on a scale from 0 to 10. Your goal is to have everybody rate it 10 out of 10. That tells it’s being effective. Again, he provides a really cool agenda in there.
The weekly Level 10 meeting is absolutely crucial because that’s where you do check-ins with one another to say what are we celebrating last week? That’s where you look at your high level company numbers. How are we doing? You look at the goals that you’ve set for yourself, which I will address a little bit later. You look at the to-do list from previous meetings. You have to hold everybody accountable to implement what they said they would. That’s why people hate meetings, because they have discussions, they make decisions and often they don’t even make decisions and next week they have the same discussion again. And that’s just called being irritating.
Then what you to do is you have an issues list; things that you want to discuss, problems, opportunities, threats, anything that’s relevant and salient to your leadership team and each department can end up having the own huddles. At the end of the meeting you finish off by saying, what are our to-do’s from all the issues that we discussed, what messages do we need to cascade down to our team members and how do we rate our meeting in terms of effectiveness. It’s 90 minutes. It’s at the same time every single week with us. My leadership team and I get together at 9:30 on a Monday morning, every week. We start exactly on time and we finish exactly on time. It’s an incredibly disciplined structure and it works like a bomb. It just creates the tone for the week. Then each department has their own Level 10 meetings also.
Then what to do is we have a daily huddle. A daily huddle is a quick 15 to 20 minute meeting where again, your leadership team gets together and your departments get together and all they do, they just say, what were involved yesterday? What’s up? What’s my main thing for today? Are there any constraints in the next 24 hours that can prevent me from doing what I need to do? It keeps everybody aligned. It keeps everybody on the same page. Finally, every quarter we do an All Hands with everybody, the entire company, our contractors, our external stakeholders, everybody gets online. I basically tell people what happened the last quarter for the company, what lies ahead the following quarter and then each department will share a little bit about what happened and what lies ahead.
Entrepreneurs resist structure. They hate structure. Usually about 70% of entrepreneurs, like I said, are ADD and they are really not fund of structure and all this process kinds of stuff. I resisted the hell out of all of those. There wasn’t one part of me that liked the idea of committing myself to a daily set time and it just didn’t resonate with me at all. But I knew what I did in the past didn’t work and I knew the problem isn’t out there. I knew if somebody doesn’t work, the problem is in here. It’s my own lack of knowledge or it’s my own resistance to run a company well. I decided, Niel, what do you want most? Do you want to have the freedom of not having meetings and have no business or a business that’s constantly struggling, or do you want to mature as an entrepreneur and run a business that is successful? I chose the latter, and that’s a decision you also have to make.
You can get the detail on this by reading two books, the book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by a Verne Harnish and the book Traction by Gino Wickman. Implement the meeting cadences. Again, don’t try to start with everything. Start with one. Start with the weekly meeting and get that discipline down. Then introduce a daily huddle and so forth. So again, start small. Don’t let any of this intimidate you. I’m just explaining over the course of a year what you want to implement. That’s your third building block.
The next thing that you need to do… the next building block you need to do is goals. Setting goals for people, there’s a whole science behind it. I recommend you read a book called Measure What Matters by a guy called John Doerr, because he has a goal-setting method, I’m not going to go into the details today, but I will probably do future episodes on it. But what I can tell you is the “why” – “why” it’s important. Very few employees really know what’s expected of them. It’s surprising how few people really get, “what does my company expect from me most; what matters the most and what should I really be focusing my time on?”
As entrepreneurs, we often assume people should know this. We assume, we think we communicated it. Usually, we haven’t. We also assume people should know, but they don’t.
I was guilty of this for the longest time and I kept on getting frustrated with people. You know I’m a reader. I read this book by John Doerr and I thought, well, let me try it. I have nothing to lose. I implemented a thing called OKRs, Objectives and Key Results. And that’s his method for setting goals; and Key Results are how will I know I’m getting there? It has changed my business. I think it’s one of the things that has had the biggest impact on our company, having clear, defined goals for every single team member, every single department, and giving people the freedom and the space to figure out how to achieve those goals. Read the book. I will do future episodes on how to set OKRs.
Finally, the fourth building block is one-on-ones. People need to have one on one time with you, your leadership team. If you are building a business where you now have a leadership team and they have their own teams, their teams need to have one-on-ones with their managers. The tool 15Five that I mentioned, you can set an agenda and you can have a talk once a week about whatever is on a person’s mind. It is surprisingly effective. Again, did I feel like having a whole bunch of one-on-ones every week? Absolutely not. But I felt like running a successful company and I said, “Listen, if it’s a best practice, I’m going to do it”.
I implemented it and it adds tremendous value.
There you go. There is a lot more to it, but these are the five building blocks that will get you going.
I’m going to do a quick recap. Make sure that every team member has the right hardware. Make sure that every team member has the right software. Make sure that you’ve got the right meeting cadences, and then make sure that you set goals for everybody. Make sure that you’ve got regular one-on-ones.
Those five building blocks will take you a long distance.
Do you need to do everything at the same time? Absolutely not. Don’t let this overwhelm you. Start learning, start reading the books that I’m recommending and have fun with it.
Now, it’s over to you. What actions are you going to take? I want you to tell me what your questions are regarding building distributed teams. What do you want to know? Please go and post it in the comments box, and I would love to answer your questions. Also, give me your opinion. Do you think this will work for you? Do you think you’ve got the kind of business?
I want to make something very clear; you can’t run a distributed retail store. You need to have a physical office. If you are manufacturing goods, you can’t have a distributed team. The factory workers have to work there. Many of you guys will have to have at least a component of your business that is office-bound or location-based, but your knowledge workers can often work remotely. But I want to know what you think, so please remember to go and comment. I don’t know what you think, so just scroll down and you will see that there is a comments box there.
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Those of you guys who want to get going with running a digital business and feel it’s time to take a step forward and to set up your own company, but you want something that’s viable and something that’s successful and you want to help, feel free to book a complimentary 15-minute call with one of my qualified coaches and we will see if we can help you.
As always, I want to tell you that I appreciate your time. I don’t take it for granted. I know that there is a lot of things that you have to do and there are many, many different things vying for your attention, and the fact that you are listening to my words or watching me right now… I want to thank you for tuning in. Please stay tuned for future episodes and tell your friends about it. Let’s build the entrepreneurial community together. I will see you in the next one.