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This article was published on August 17, 2010

Startup Lessons Learned: Managing a Remote Team

Startup Lessons Learned: Managing a Remote Team
Danny Wong
Story by

Danny Wong

Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award-winning luxury menswear company). He is also a marketer-at-large for Conversio (an all Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award-winning luxury menswear company). He is also a marketer-at-large for Conversio (an all-in-one ecommerce marketing dashboard), Tenfold (a modern phone intelligence platform) and Big Drop Inc. (a web design and development agency). Want to connect? Reach him through his website.

Editors Note: This is another guest contribution from Danny Wong, co-founder of Blank Label, a custom men’s dress shirts startup that has a number of interesting team dynamics, such as managing a team that was split between Orange County, Boston, NYC, and Shanghai. We’re delighted to have him share his thoughts and experience on building startups here.

Managing a remote team can be incredibly difficult, especially if there’s no likelihood of the team gathering together for a monthly meeting, and it can be especially hard if the team is working out of different time zones. But when your startup needs good people and finding those people locally is too difficult or too expensive, and moving you and your current team elsewhere just isn’t a feasible option, having a remote team or just a few remote team members is a reasonable alternative.

To effectively manage a strong, remote team, you need to keep the following in mind:

Be conscious of each other’s work schedules. When working remotely, it is very likely that team members will be on flex hours, especially if your team members are in different time zones, you should only be contacting the other team members during their work schedule, otherwise it’s irritable to be contacted during times you aren’t looking to be working.

Have clear accountabilities. It’s tough to make sure everyone is working and producing results when you work remotely because you don’t see each other in the office every day, you aren’t clocking in the same hours, and you aren’t able to see who is dilly-dallying and who is giving it their all. So, it is important to make responsibilities clear and set metrics for those responsibilities to show that team members are “on track” with performance.

Don’t keep stressing the disadvantages of and hardships with working remotely. When you do that, team morale lowers and everyone attributes failures to the fact that you are disadvantaged by working remotely. The fact is, you are optimizing your current situation by working remotely, otherwise, you’d probably have one or more of the following: i) a really weak local team, ii) a really expensive local office which you probably shouldn’t have allocated a budget for, iii) an expensive local employee.

Have some ‘family time.’ Just because you work remotely does not mean you can’t somehow get together, whether it be virtually or in-person. Have a monthly video conference call with a service like ooVoo which allows you to do multi-way video conferencing. If one of your team members doesn’t live too far away from you, call him up for a beer outside of work hours. Develop deeper relations with your team members just so working remotely can feel more real, and so your team can feel a bit more cohesive.

Anyone else have experience in managing a remote team? Advice on how to effectively do it?

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