The rise of the remote company.

Words, Katelyn Smith, The Remote Nomad

One by one employers are learning the benefits of operating remotely. This includes overhead cost savings, increased productivity of staff, increased employee satisfaction, less employee sick days and less of the environmental impact that commuting creates. I had the chance to chat with Grant Phillips, Founder of Growth Labs. Grant shared with me his thoughts, opinions and experiences of owning a business that operates remotely.

What does Growth Labs "do"?

We are a full service Inbound Marketing Agency and Hubspot Partner. We help companies succeed online by helping them with SEO, content & inbound marketing, PPC, web design, development, etc. If it's something to do with building a better business online, we can help. 

Have you always been a remote company? 

Yes, we've been operating remotely since we opened in September 2011. For the majority of our time as a company we've had an office located in Prague that any Prague based employees were welcome to use, however the majority of the team has always been remote.

What made you want to operate remotely?

I knew I wanted to be a remote company when I created the company because of all of the benefits it offers. I've always wanted the freedom to work anywhere I wanted and I knew employees would value this as well. 

What are the benefits of operating remotely, as a company?

The benefits of running a remote company are really quite numerous. One of my favourite benefits is that you are no longer constrained by location in terms of finding quality people you can hire. An employee could be half a world away and you can still work perfectly with that person. So, instead of scouring the local job market and being stuck with who you can find, you can cast your net across the whole world in search of great employees that have the qualities you're looking for.

As a business we save money on a lot of our operating costs. I don't have to rent an expensive office in the middle of town and pay for all of the electricity, office supplies, furniture and janitorial services. 

For the employees there are a lot of great benefits as well. They are free to work wherever they'd like. Some of our employees work from home while others choose to work in shared workspaces. Working remotely allows them to choose the most comfortable and productive spot for them, which usually has the benefit of being cheaper in terms of transportation, food costs etc. 

Removing the commute out of our employees day is a really great thing about working for a remote company as well. No one likes wasting 2 hours a day driving to and from work, dealing with traffic, paying for gas and all the other annoyances that come with transportation.

Another benefit that I really enjoy and we see a huge rise in is productivity from the lack of defined office hours. This means as a remote worker, they are free to set their own hours as long as the work is getting done well and they are not missing any scheduled meetings and putting in the full hours required. I find this makes people a lot happier and much more productive to not be constrained to the usual 9-6 hours. It also allows them to deal with little life issues like running to the bank or waiting for the cable guy without dealing with the pain of requesting time off and missing work because of it. 

There is also the added value that since everyone is working remotely, they can work anywhere in the world as long as there is a stable internet connection. This usually means they don't have to live in the big city and pay all of the costs associated with that. At the end of the day, the salary that they are paid likely goes further because their costs are likely to be lower.

What city and countries are your employees based in?

In no particular order - Billings Montana, Prague Czech Republic, Mikulov Czech Republic, Sofia Bulgaria, Bath United Kingdom, Goshen Indiana, Cleveland Ohio and Barcelona Spain.

How do you maintain a strong company culture and team dynamic?

There are two main ways that we maintain a company culture. First, we use Slack as our primary communication tool. This allows us to all be connected instantly while having some channels that we can chit chat in and show each other random interesting things. Second, we have monthly game nights with everyone in the company. So, we all hop on Skype and start to play a game together. We rotate the games that we play but primarily we've been playing League of Legends. This is a really great team building event and has gone over really well. People can kick back and have a bit of fun and get to know everyone a bit better.

How does your team stay connected?

  • Slack: It's a messaging app for teams that keeps communication in one place.
  • Teamwork: A project management tool that keeps everything in one place and allows members to collaborate. 
  • Google Drive: An online place for all of our files.
  • Google Hangouts: This allows us to message, make video calls or voice calls from any device.
  • Skype (sometimes): This allows us to message, make video calls or voice calls.

Will you ever operate as a location-based business?

No, probably not.  The only thing I really miss about being local is that you entirely miss out on local SEO when you have a distributed company. You can't constrain yourself to one single market and really dominate it without hurting your chances in other markets. At least in no way I've found yet. Sure, you could set up multiple sites for each location you wanted to target, but i've always found that to be spammy.

What's your advice for a company looking to operate remotely? 

The most important thing I've found required to be successful as a remote company is that you absolutely require structure in terms of your projects. We use the project management tool TeamworkPM both with our employees and our clients. All of our specific project communication is done through this. This creates clear expectations for clients and for employees it clearly outlines deliverables that need to be finished - it keeps everyone happy. 

Also for payments use Transferwise. It's an amazing payment service that makes sending money to a variety of people in different countries, with different currencies, really simple to do. It also has the added benefit of being very low cost.

Any last words or thoughts on being a remote company? 

Truth be told, I think remote companies are going to become to norm in the very near future (5-10 years). At least with the services that translate well to being fully online. With everyone being connected so well in terms of internet and technology, the costs of travel and expenses of being in a big city just don't make sense when you can work from home or even from a beach somewhere. I think it will cause a radical shift in the way we live our lives since so much is dependent on your job and where it's located. 

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