How I learnt to manage remotely
In my previous post I talked about the beginnings of Eventfuel. What I left out was the more recent history.
In the beginning of 2013 as Eventfuel was just in its infancy, my wife Teresa and I made the personal decision that within 2 years we would move to Australia.
So, as I was hiring employees, I knew that I had to create an environment that would allow the flexibility to work anywhere. As none of our clients were in the same country I knew this wouldn’t be as challenging as it might be for some other companies.
Jan and I started out working remotely for the first half of 2013 anyway just because we were cash flow poor. When we launched the private SaaS platform in Sep 2013, Vasco came on board and we finally started to work together in a great co-working space in the middle of Lisbon, Liberdade229, where I’d been working on and off for the previous four years.
When 2014 rolled around and we hired two more members of the team (Bruno and Guy), it no longer made sense to rent by the desk and we had to move out. So we rented an office in LX Factory, an awesome location underneath the red bridge in Lisbon, with our consultancy partners ThinkOrange and Plugit
Just as I settled into this office, my wife and I received the news that she had been approved to migrate to Australia and we booked to leave in May. Things happened quickly. We hired Helder as a dedicated support team member, I on-boarded these three new team members and then… very quickly… I was gone.
Reality Kicks In
Suddenly I was on the other side of the world from my team. I was staying with my parents on the family farm in Tasmania. In truth, I was a bit lost and in shock from the move. During the first month I was trying to keep up with the team without having video chat. The farm had something like 2GB/month download limit on the 3G “internet” connection.
Reality caught up with me pretty quickly when Vasco told me that he had taken a job somewhere else, as he had felt burnt out. This was a big slap in the face and a big lesson learnt. I had been treating Vasco and Jan like co-founders. They had been there for so long, like me, that they had been doing everything. While that interested Jan, Vasco wanted to be a great developer and not be constantly distracted by support or other business tasks.
My confidence in managing remotely took a dive. For a week or so I wasn’t sure we would survive and I thought the decision to move had been a terrible mistake for the company. Thankfully, Guy, Bruno, Helder and most of all Jan convinced me that they were committed to making it work and I committed to taking their personal goals into account into my planning and structure of the business.
Vasco left on good terms. I told him that it was a great loss and that I was disappointed in both of us that there hadn’t been more of a conversation before he had decided to leave. I also said I would hold his job for him for a time, so if he didn’t find his new job as rewarding, he could come back. This was as much about losing all his knowledge of the product as it was about recognising that I could have done much better as a manager.
As I made the move to Melbourne, we hired Rita as our in-house chief of design. At the same time my deadline for holding Vasco’s job open was coming to an end. Then one Saturday he asked to have a FaceTime, I assumed to let me know that he was happy and staying with the consultancy he had moved to. I was happily surprised to find out he was eager to return on the condition he could be focused on development and product.
Thanks to Guy and some of the methods Vasco had learnt in his time away, we started being a lot more predictable in our team communications. We began the practice of having a daily 10 minute “stand-up” meeting at the same time every day, all via Google Hangouts.
So despite not having made good preparation before I left, our team managed to reconfigure itself to work with a semi remote structure.
The simple change of having a daily meeting with clear goals has meant the team doesn’t feel as far away and I’m happy that I’m doing my best to support them.
The moral of the story is, don’t assume anything about your team. Transparent and honest communication has to be a 2-way street and your job as a founder is to let them know that.
If you want to hear more about Eventfuel.io and our trials and tribulations, leave a comment and let me know.