Are absolutely separated corporations the longer term?
July 18, 2021 6 minutes to read
The opinions of entrepreneurs’ contributors are their own.
I founded Great.com with a mission to build a completely remote organization that uses technology to connect talented teams from around the world with a common goal: to make as much money as possible so we can donate 100% of it. When I set out on this assignment three years ago, it seemed insane to many (if not most). But now that the global workforce is digitally changing and advanced technology is making it easier to work from home, that idea seems far more doable.
I’ve learned a lot about remote teams over the past three years – from setting goals and building accountability to developing a corporate culture online – and have learned, along with many lessons, that the flexibility of working remotely can be a double-edged sword. Many entrepreneurs are re-adapting their business building strategies and are likely exploring a remote-first approach. So let’s dive into this model and address some of the questions, obstacles, and opportunities that come with it.
What are completely remote businesses?
As the name suggests, such a business works entirely online. These organizations don’t have a physical location – their teams interact with each other and with customers digitally.
A fully detached company relies on technology to run its operations and is completely dependent on digital solutions.
What do you need to run one?
First, you need a digital infrastructure – both consumer and internal. Building it requires the right technology and the development of scalable systems.
Entrepreneur JJ Hebert has been leading MindStir Media remotely for more than 12 years, and he and his team have adapted to the digital workforce by finding software solutions like Basecamp and Salesforce that streamline internal and external activities. “Technology is at the heart of all these interactions,” he writes in an entrepreneurial article from May 2021, which contains tips on the ergonomics of the home office and ways to set clear boundaries between work and private life.
When I wanted to build Great.com as a completely remote company, I knew we would be inherently dependent on technology. While this may seem daunting, I actually found it liberating. Technology is designed to solve problems, and applying it vigorously in developing a business from the ground up can potentially create a less organizational framework.
I came from the traditional workplace, so I knew some of its limitations – especially when it came to communication and project management. I prioritized these two areas specifically when developing our remote infrastructure. For example, to help with communication, I wanted to arrange frequent video calls. Most of our employees are from different parts of the world and have never met before; Visual interaction with each other is important to building a relationship in the team. Zoom has become the solution and we have held weekly virtual meetings through this portal for the past three years.
Like any business, a fully decentralized company needs an infrastructure to manage processes, workflows, and organizational tasks – and technology can make all of this easy. It can actually give such companies an edge over the traditional workforce model, as remote workers are already technology dependent and potentially more adaptable and less resistant to new solutions.
Related: 3 Smart Tips for Successfully Managing Remote Teams
Can fully separated companies eliminate silos?
As you ponder whether a remote-first business is the future you aspire to, ask yourself why this structure solves certain problems. To answer this question, you need to address one of the greatest challenges in running a business. “Silos” within an organization are essentially departments that work independently and do not exchange information with one another. For example, many companies have sales and marketing departments; While you might think it’s obvious that these two departments would work together, often they don’t. The marketing team may sell one product and the sales team another, resulting in disrupted messaging and a poor customer experience.
Suhail Arfath von Hloov – a “data, technology and service company” with the mission to provide a climate-neutral infrastructure – recently wrote in Entrepreneur about the digital transformation in the construction industry and how “when a digital approach” work has to be the data democratize the entire supply chain. ”He went on to point out that nearly 96% of the data collected in this sector is wasted – critical information, not least because it provides context and insights that can be used to make better strategic business decisions.
Fully decentralized companies by themselves do not eliminate silos, but they can facilitate the exchange of information between departments. Additionally, digital companies tend to collect more data, which means more insights.
Related: 4 Warning Signs Your Team Is Working In Silos, And How To Destroy Them
How do you build accountability on a remote team?
Operating fully remotely is not all good – there are downsides, and one of the biggest is accountability building. Johannes Larsson, CEO of Financer, has a team of 45 remote employees. When asked about accountability, he said, “The main reason our team performs well is that they are interested in getting results and actually adding value.” And that thrive in this environment. Since it is a completely remote structure, such an environment usually offers autonomy, flexibility, and metric-based goals.
I think Larsson’s sense of responsibility is incredibly important in remote teams as it comes down to finding the right people for specific situations.
That sounds good, but how do you put it into practice?
First, find people who are in line with your vision. I’ve made my 50-year vision for Great.com transparent to every employee and I’m looking for people who share my passion for driving real change in the world. I am also not afraid to discuss the negative aspects of our company and our industry with every potential new addition. Too often, companies hide their warts from new hires only to reveal them after the hiring process.
Accountability is a huge hurdle for the fully deposed employee, but finding the right people can go a long way in alleviating this problem.
Related: Accountability: The crucial inner work that leads to success
Is Full Remote Business the Future?
It is impossible to say for sure whether society will move to a predominantly remote workforce, but there is no denying that many companies have recognized some value in remote engagement. From reduced overhead and improved employee morale to agile solutions and more flexibility, remote workers are proving their worth. When considering moving to a completely remote company, know that you are not alone.