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👆🏼 Click play! This episode is a sample of what we regularly stream to seanwes members. Enjoy! – Aaron

If you want to grow your business, you’re going to need help.

Some of the most talented people—the people with the skills you need to help you finish your projects or level up your business—are not in your city (or even your state).

Many of them don’t want to relocate or commute to an office to work. They want to work remotely, from home.

Finding and managing remote team members is challenging:

  • Where do you hire remote workers?
  • How do you actually get things done?
  • How do you communicate?
  • How do you avoid repeating yourself?
  • How do you stay in touch, make sure people have what they need, and make sure they feel taken care of?
  • How do you collaborate with people who are thousands of miles apart?
  • How do you make sure your team members feel connected, understand your vision, and stay focused on the important work that will make a difference for your company?

Join Sean and I as we discuss how to build and manage a remote team and make sure that the important work gets done.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • When you’re hiring, look for the people who are already inspired and passionate about what you’re doing.
  • Leverage your employees’ inherent selfishness by aligning what they need to do with getting them closer to their own goals.
  • You don’t need contractors to be passionate about your company, but you need your team members to be passionate about your company.
  • No amount of talent or skill can make up for the wrong mindset.
  • Give responsibility to the person who’s seeking it.
  • Don’t focus on micro tasks, focus on goals.
  • You don’t need to meet someone in person before you hire them, but if possible, talk to them over Skype.
  • Figure out how to enable people to work in their natural environment on their time.
  • The biggest benefit to working with remote team members is that it opens up the pool of talent that you can draw from.
  • Get regularly scheduled calls with people on your team on the calendar.
  • It’s really important to have regular verbal and visual communication with the people you’re working with.
Show Notes
  • 02:23 Aaron: Two Mondays ago, I talked to Justin Michael (our handsome developer). I was talking to him about feeling overwhelmed, and he said, “You know, I feel that way, too. Lately, I’ve been writing down every single little thing that I do every day. As silly or small as it is, I’ve been writing it down.” I’ve started doing that with RescueTime. I’ve been using it to keep track of how I spend my time.
  • 02:50 I have it set to where after four hours of productive work, it pops up a browser window and asks me what I’ve been doing. I went back and I reviewed last week, and I was like, “Wow, I got a lot done last week!” Saturday night or Sunday morning, it told me that I spent 60 hours on my computer.
  • 03:17 Most of those hours were productive. I did watch a movie on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon, but it was a good, busy week. I don’t know if you saw, Sean, but I did a lot of podcasts last week.
  • 03:33 Sean: You did a lot of podcasts last week.
  • 03:38 Aaron: Lots of shows. Really, we wanted people to know about seanwes conference.
  • 03:43 Sean: I love RescueTime, by the way.
  • 03:47 Aaron: It’s really great. That’s one of those productivity, getting-things-done hacks.
  • 03:54 Sean: I have my RescueTime dashboard as what comes up when I make a new tab in Chrome.
  • 04:03 Aaron: Same here.
  • 04:03 Sean: It shows my productivity and how I’m doing. If I spend over an hour on distracting tasks, I get a little popup thing. It keeps me on track. I’m not saying you necessarily want to do this for your team, maybe do it for yourself, but they do have a team plan. It’s not so much, “Oh, your employer is tracking what you do.”
  • 04:28 It’s more of a competitive thing, where we can see how each other is doing and compete. It has to be a cultural thing, because if the people on your team aren’t on board, they’ll just be like, “Uh, you just want to track what I do,” and that’s totally not the point.

If you’re going to hire someone, you want to find the people who are interested in making the most out of their time every day.

  • 05:08 Sean: It’s all about finding the right people in the first place, not getting the wrong people to do what they should be doing.

Finding the Right People

  • 06:02 Aaron: We’re talking about how to build a remote team and actually get things done, and you just brought up a fantastic point. You need to find the right people for your team. Sean, what kind of people do you look for when you look for employees?

I want people who are self-starters, who are driven, motivated, and already taking action on whatever their own thing is right now.

  • 06:18 Sean: I’ll work on aligning what I need them to do with getting them where they want to go, but it doesn’t matter much unless the person is already taking actions that lead them towards where they want to go.
  • 06:49 I ask, “What are they doing on their own projects? What are they doing to help get them where they want to go right now? What are they taking action on?” That’s what I care about.
  • 07:10 Aaron: Also, you want someone on your team who will tell you if you’re not doing something right. In this case, Sean, I now have to tell you that we were supposed to talk about Chris Lema, and how he’s going to be talking about this at our conference.
  • 07:27 Sean: One of the speakers at seanwes conference is Chris Lema. If you don’t know Chris Lema, he’s a daily blogger, very talented guy. I got to see him speak at Digital Commerce Summit. I got to talk to him for a few minutes, and I was telling him about CommunityTalk.
  • 08:01 Chris helps businesses with onboarding new team members, working with people, and building remote teams. I’m looking forward to hearing his talk about building teams at seanwes conference.
  • 08:29 Aaron: Absolutely. If you enjoy this conversation today, you will definitely want to be at the conference. Let’s get back to the topic; hiring the right people. You want people who are self-starters, people who are already motivated. Speaking as an employee, I believe that you should not work for people who aren’t doing something you are passionate about. Your goal should be to find work you care deeply about. We got a question related to this: Scott Campbell asked, “How do I inspire team members to care about our thing as much as I do?”
  • 09:07 It starts with good communication, communicating your vision and mission. You should also be looking for people who are already inspired and passionate about what you’re doing. On the flip side, if you want to be a remote worker, don’t go to someone and say, “Hey, can you please give me a job? I really want to work from home. I don’t really care what it is.” No, you need to be passionate and fiery about the mission of the company.
  • 09:33 Sean: This is a good one. Can we tear this apart a little bit? There are three pieces to this that I’m seeing. One is, yeah, if you can, find people that are already passionate about the mission you have, what you’re building, and where you’re going. If you can find people that are already on board with that, that’s great. The second piece is, you have a responsibility to communicate that vision and that mission to your team, to get them excited and share where you’re going so they are on board. Everyone is looking out for themselves—we’re all a little bit selfish.
  • 10:18 There’s nothing wrong with looking out for yourself. You have to look out for yourself. You have to put on your own mask before you put on someone else’s mask. When the air pressure destabilizes inside an airplane, within a matter of seconds, you will be completely unable to help anyone else or yourself if you don’t put on your oxygen mask. You do have to look out for yourself.
  • 10:55 Aaron: It’s ok to be a little selfish.

Incentivize and leverage your employees’ inherent selfishness.

Figure out what matters to them, and align what they need to do with getting them closer to that.

  • 11:19 Sean: What matters to them? Do they want more time? Do they want more freedom? Do they want to travel? Do they want to spend time with their family? Do they want to make more money? What is it? You should know what’s important for everyone who works for you. Do they have a side project they need help with? How can you help them? It’s about aligning.

Contractors vs. Team Members

  • 11:41 Aaron: We were talking about this before the show in the chat, about how it’s not always important to inspire people to care as much. Sometimes you can just hire contractors for their skills. This is why if you want to be successful working remotely, it’s really important to have a strong skill set. That’s one of the great things about being able to hire someone who is remote; you don’t need them to be a permanent part of your company, you can just hire them to get a specific job done.
  • 12:15 I know someone who just hired a web development team for $180,000 to build out a certain part of his online business. He doesn’t need them to be passionate about his company or it’s mission, he just needs them to be really good at this one specific project.

You don’t need contractors to be passionate about your company, but you need your team members to be passionate about your company.

  • 12:54 Sean: I think what you’re saying is true. You don’t necessarily need contractors to be super passionate. You do need team members to be passionate. The real question is when do you hire people as team members vs. hire them as contractors? This is a difference in approach. A lot of people immediately default to contractors. They’re like, “If you don’t need to hire them full time, hire them part time.” Always part time, unless you really need them full time and you can justify that.
  • 13:29 I understand that approach. It’s better for your taxes. It’s easier. It’s simpler. It’s not as much stress. The downside is that these people won’t be as invested in your company. It comes down to how long term your vision is. Contractors vs. team members is a difference between short term focus and long term focus. That doesn’t mean that short term equals bad and long term equals good. It is a balance. I try to put as much as I can into long term focus, and I try to earn the right to do that by covering my short term focus.
  • 14:07 I would rather have super talented web developers and designers on my team instead of hiring super talented web designers and developers once. It is a luxury you have to earn. I like to hire proactively. Most people in the world hire reactively. “We have this work that needs to be done, so let’s go hire someone! We need an X person, so let’s go search the job boards. Let’s post on our website that we’re hiring.” “Let’s get someone to fill this slot. We need this built out, so let’s go get the person.” It’s reactionary. They hire reactively.

I hire proactively. Instead of hiring someone who has the skill I need, I hire someone who has the mindset I want, and then we train for skill.

  • 15:05 I invest in the skills of my employees. I give them the freedom to build their skills. I give them sabbaticals. If you have the most talented person in the world but they don’t have the right mindset, if they’re not positive or they’re a bad fit for your culture, you have to get rid of them immediately. They’re poison. It’s cancer. You have to get rid of them immediately. No amount of talent or skill can make up for the wrong mindset. To me, mindset is everything.
  • 15:38 I look for the best people because I want to build a world-changing enterprise. The position I try to be in—and we’re not quite there yet—is prioritizing money, getting cash in the bank, building up those cash reserves, so that I can hire the best people when I come across them before I even need them.

Qualities in a Remote Employee

  • 16:15 Aaron: I know it’s going to be different for everyone, but can you list off some of the qualities you look for when hiring remote employees?
  • 16:27 Sean: People who take responsibility.
  • 16:30 Aaron: I think you have a podcast episode about that.
  • 16:34 Sean: There’s responsibility and excuses. The one thing responsibility and excuses have in common is that you’ll find whichever one you’re looking for. Every single time you encounter any situation in your life, if you look for excuses, you’ll find them (Related: e250 Own Your Life by Taking Responsibility for Everything). You’ll find reasons why something happened to you, why something isn’t your fault, why this, why that. If you look for responsibility, you can always trace back everything that’s happened to you in your life to something that you are responsible for.
  • 17:03 It’s the difference between being a victim and being a conquerer. I want conquerers, people who take responsibility, who are hungry for and seek responsibility. The person who comes to my mind is my brother Ryan. I did an episode with him, and if you listen to this episode, you will understand what it means to take responsibility for everything (Related: e254 A Conversation With My Brother Ryan About Positive Mindset). He’s hungry for responsibility. “Give me responsibility. I want to take responsibility.” Most people, 99 out of 100 people, want to shirk responsibility.
  • 17:45 The word “shirk” means to avoid or neglect something that’s a duty or responsibility. Everyone is like, “It’s not me!” Few people seek responsibility, but those are the people I’m looking for.

You want to give responsibility to the person who’s seeking it.

How to Make Sure Your Remote Team Gets Work Done on Time

  • 18:41 Aaron: How do you make sure that the important work gets done on time?
  • 18:47 Sean: You’ve got a remote team. How do you make sure people are working? The obvious answer is you make them track hours.
  • 18:55 Aaron: You keep a webcam turned on on them all the time, 24/7. You watch them constantly.
  • 19:21 Sean: No! We’re not policing people. You do you. Get your work done. How do you make sure people are getting work done? You have to communicate with your team. Stay in touch. We do a weekly video team call. Even if everyone doesn’t need to be on the call, we’re still all on the call, because we want to feel like a team. It’s tough sometimes, with a remote team. You have different time zones, different states, different countries…
  • 19:58 It’s hard sometimes, but you smooth that over with communication and then more communication. When you have enough communication, add a little bit more communication. It’s all about expectations. Focus on setting goals instead of micro-managing.

Don’t focus on micro tasks, focus on goals.

  • 20:24 Communicate with everyone. What is our focus this week? What are we trying to accomplish? Everyone else, believe it or not, will be able to reverse-engineer it. Once people know where you need to end up, they will figure out how to get you there.
  • 20:43 Aaron: Especially if you hire the right people.
  • 20:46 Sean: Only if.
  • 20:49 Aaron: You’ll know when you hire the right person, because they will be coming to you and saying, “What can I do to help? What are we doing this week?” Or, “I’m done with this. I don’t have anything to do. Give me some more.” The right remote worker isn’t satisfied with sitting around. That’s probably how they got to where they are today. They’re hungry. They want to get things done. They want to be valuable. They understand that, to survive in business, you have to work hard.

Communication at seanwes

  • 21:26 Aaron: David asked, “What about coordinating remote teams? Is Slack a good way to do it? Or is it just another thing you need to check in on?” When do you text? When do you email? When do you use Asana, a To Do list, when do you use Skype, how do you communicate? How do we communicate at seanwes, Sean?
  • 21:47 Sean: It’s tough. It’s not that we’ve completely stopped doing this, but we used to use the Messages app on our Macs to chat. I would talk with Cory Miller, I would talk with Cory McCabe, I would talk with Aaron, I would talk with Laci or Justin, and it’s all these separate, individual, micro conversations that nobody else could see. They’re private messages.
  • 22:14 Imagine an actual office where you go in, there are cubicles, there are different offices, they have glass windows and you can see inside. You can stand up and see everyone in the cubicles (because the walls aren’t super tall).
  • 23:06 When you’re talking to a teammate on messages, it’s as if you stand up, your head pops up like a gopher, and you say to your cubicle neighbor to the right, “Hey, I’ve got something I need to talk to you about. Let’s go to the break room and close the door.” You go off, and no one else can hear you. The door is closed and nobody knows what you’re talking about. It’s a private message.
  • 23:34 Nobody sees, nobody knows. But if you’re like, “Hey!” You pop your head up like a gopher, but then you lean on the cubicle separator, or maybe there are no cubicle separators. That’s the new thing now, open offices. Just get a big long desk. Everyone has their laptop displays up. You can just talk. You just turn and you talk. Other people can have headphones, or they can listen in.

You’re building culture with your team’s communication, and you can’t build culture with private messages.

  • 24:15 Something that we really prioritize with the team now is, as much as possible, we use CommunityTalk for our own internal team communication. There’s a Team room the members can’t see, a secret hidden team room.
  • 24:49 Anyone who’s on the seanwes team is in the Team room, and we can talk in there. We have the same Conversations feature as the rest of the members. We can chat in there. Create a conversation and talk to your team mate in the Team room. That’s why the conversations feature is beautiful, because if the conversation is not relevant to someone, they can filter it out, but it’s not private, so it creates culture.
  • 25:14 It’s really incredible for building culture with a remote team. Someone asked, “Do you need to meet someone that you hire remotely, do you need to meet them in person before you hire them?” That has not been the case for almost all of the seanwes employees who work remotely. I would like to do a team retreat, hopefully this year. I want to make it happen. We don’t get in person all that much, but when we do, it feels really natural.
  • 26:09 Aaron: Speaking from experience, if you want to build trust and make employers feel like they know you, you need to have a good personal website. You should be blogging a lot, posting on Twitter, sharing your thoughts and your goals and your dreams and your personality. If you do that, people will feel like they know you even before they meet you in person. If you want to build the relationship even further, jumping on Skype calls can definitely help.

You don’t need to meet someone in person before you hire them, but if possible, talk to them over Skype.

  • 27:06 If you’ve been on podcasts or you write a ton of blog posts, people are going to feel like they know you, which builds trust and makes it easier for them to hire you.

Why Hire Remote?

  • 28:56 Sean: If you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “Managing a remote team sounds like too much work. I think I’m just going to make an in-person thing where people come in 9 to 5, clock in clock out. Everyone comes to a physical office and we avoid all of this hassle.” There are problems with thinking that way. The biggest one is that people want freedom.
  • 29:27 Workers want independence. They want to do their work when they work best, where they work best. Emily Carlton was talking in the chat earlier, saying, “It’s hard to find great people,” and we know! It’s difficult to find people with a good mindset in your home town, especially if you don’t live in a big city. It is difficult. We have attracted a lot of really awesome people, but the people in the Community are anomalies. They’re not super common people. They’re amazing people, but they’re hard to find outside of this context.
  • 30:03 Similarly, really great people, especially the ones you want to work for you, are hard to find. It’s going to be hard to find them in your own town, and if they’re not in your town, it’s going to be hard to get them to move to your town, to work in this little window at this specific place that they have to drive to and wear pants. Not everyone wants to do that. By hiring locally, you’re fighting the trend.

More people want more freedom, and that doesn’t mean they’re going to work less.

  • 30:43 You might be thinking, “They’re going to be distracted! How do you know if they’re watching YouTube or getting on Facebook?” You don’t know, but you already don’t know. It’s already happening at your company. People are distracted and they’re not getting work done, so why not let them have the environment they want? They’re going to do good work as a result. They’re probably going to get more actual work done in a day, even though they’re not in the office as much.
  • 31:07 Realize that this is the trend. This is where things are going. Be wary of bucking the trend. Also, we’re heading toward a virtual future. It sounds weird now, but so did iPhones. Just ten years ago, there were no iPhones. We had flip phones. There weren’t touch screens. You go back and look at the original iPhone announcement, when Steve Jobs was showing off Safari, and he’s like, “You can get on the internet on your phone.”
  • 31:43 He pulls up the New York Times website with three columns. He double taps on one of the columns, like, “Wow, isn’t this great? Not only can you access the web, but you can zoom into its newspaper-like columns and read with ease.” The world is changing rapidly. You go anywhere now, and if someone needs to wait more than eight seconds, they’re on their phone. Everyone is on their phone.
  • 32:08 That’s even true in social groups. You can say, “My friends and I, we make everyone put their phones in a basket.” That’s great, but that’s not where the future is going. Apple is going to release some kind of thing called Glasses or Glass, or whatever. You’re like, “Google Glass failed.” Yeah, a lot of things fail. They fail first, and then someone comes along and perfects it in the right time. Maybe it’s not Apple. The point is, Apple and Google and all the big players will be a part of it. It’s not going to look like this clunky VR headset.

You are going to live in a virtual reality future—you don’t think you are, but you’re already on your phone 13 hours a day.

  • 33:01 You’re in front of screens 13 hours a day. You’re staring at the computer, and you’re like, “Man, I need a break from this laptop,” so you go sit in your beanbag and you get on your phone. You’re like, “I should just stop. I’ll watch some Netflix.” You’re in front of a screen 13 to 15 hours a day. It’s not a big transition. You’re going to have some kind of glasses. It’s going to be seamless, but the point is, you’re going to work with people in a virtual office.
  • 33:32 Even if you go to the same office, you’ll use augmented reality. You’ll manipulate things that aren’t physically there. You’ll project something up on the wall and virtually write on it. This is going to seamlessly integrate into your life. It sounds uncomfortable, but I’m telling you how the future is going to be. When you’re building your remote team, you don’t want to fight this transition to virtual reality.

You need to figure out how to enable people to work in their natural environment on their time.

  • 34:01 That’s the future.
  • 34:03 Aaron: The biggest benefit to working with remote team members is that it opens up the pool of talent that you can draw from. You’re not stuck with the five people that are in your town. You can hire a really talented person from the other side of the world to do the work, and they don’t have to come to your office.
  • 34:32 You can just hire them to do a task, work on a project, or even be a part of your permanent team, if you can attract them with your vision and your goals and prove to them that you’re going to invest in them if they invest in you. You have more access to the right people.

Schedule Calls With Your Team

  • 34:52 Sean: If you’re worried about communication, get regularly scheduled calls with people on your team on the calendar. These calls won’t happen unless you make them happen. Sometimes people end up feeling isolated. I don’t deal with this as much, but this depends on your personality type.
  • 35:08 Aaron: Absolutely. One of the biggest things I struggle with is feeling isolated. It’s a little weird because I enjoy working in solitude, but I need people time too. Another thing I struggle with is working too much, like I don’t know when to stop. Sometimes, I wake up and I’ve spent 12 or 14 hours at home alone, and I feel super weird because I haven’t seen humans in forever.
  • 35:46 Getting calls on the schedule is important. When I started, I was so excited that I could work from home all the time that I didn’t reach out to people and say, “Hey, let’s schedule two weekly calls. Let’s jump on a short call every single day.” I was thought, “Woohoo! I don’t have to talk to anybody! I can stay at home!” You think it’s great at first, but it can become a problem.

It’s important to have regular verbal and visual communication with the people you’re working with.

  • 37:01 Sean: Video calls are huge. Honestly, I never met Cory Miller in person before I hired him. He joined the Community and we did end up meeting in person. Justin Michael, I worked with him on a contract basis and he did great work. He was a Community member before we worked together. I hired him, and we didn’t see each other in person until a year or two later. You don’t have to meet someone in person before you hire them, because we have great communication technology now.
  • 37:36 You’d be surprised how not-weird it feels to meet someone in person that you’ve already talked with on video calls before. When you follow someone’s vlog and you finally meet them in person, you feel like you know them. It’s amazing. Technology is amazing.
  • 37:57 Aaron: Take advantage of that and schedule regular calls with your team members, and let them know that the point isn’t just to check in on them and make sure they’re doing work. It’s that you want to invest in them. You want to make sure you’re on the same page. You want to make sure they have what they need and that they know what they should be working on.
  • 38:16 Sean: Can I speak to the feeling of, “That’s inefficient”? A lot of people can get to a place where they think, “I don’t have time to talk to everyone on my team.” If you have 800 employees, I understand that, but even then, I’d like to point to Gary Vaynerchuk as an example. Gary makes a point to meet all of his employees. He said he’s behind on 500 internal meetings right now, but he makes a point of it.
  • 38:43 You don’t have any excuses. You have two people on your team? Four people on your team? 12 people on your team? You can talk to them. You’re like, “That’s not efficient. It’s not efficient to schedule calls with them.” It’s not efficient to go without talking to people on your team. If they’re feeling isolated and disconnected and you’re not communicating, they will be way less productive.
  • 39:17 We could talk about this for hours, but we should wrap it up here. I know there’s a lot more to say about building a team, so I’m looking forward to what Chris Lema has to share about building remote teams and culture at seanwes conference 2017.