Sarah Riegelhuth is an entrepreneur, author and finance expert. Here she shares exactly how she scaled the businesses Grow My Team and WE LOVE NUMBERS with the help of teams based in multiple countries.
Right now I am literally driving (well Finn is driving, I’m in the passenger seat) from Denver to Las Vegas for the weekend. I’ve just finished the WE rebrand brief document, cleared my inbox and punched out a couple of articles, with the sprawling Utah canyons as my ever-changing backdrop.
Now that’s what I call living.
My journey into working globally began about 3 years ago when we were referred a graphic designer in Bolivia (who we still work with today), however has really snowballed over the past 18 months, partly thanks to Grow My Team who I’ve used to recruit and build our Philippines teams, oDesk, Freelancer and eLance for all the small jobs that need doing from time to time and I think (mostly) driven by my inner-nomad.
Personally, I hate being in the same place for more than a couple of weeks and am obsessed with travel, meeting new people and exploring the planet’s diverse cultures. ‘Settling down’ is just not for me, and thankfully I have a husband who shares my view of the way life should be lived. To it’s fullest and in line with what you want, not what society tells you you should be doing.
Working in a large remote team is not without it’s challenges of course (quality internet access being the main one), however the pros certainly outweigh the cons. By way of example, we launched our startup WE LOVE NUMBERS on the 15th of January this year. Finn and I were in Colorado when the website went live. The rest of the team were spread across Australia, Philippines, Bolivia, Romania and Bangladesh! We’d been working on WE LOVE NUMBERS for almost 18 months testing the model first within WE and then building our go to market strategy on the beach in Coogee. It really was no big deal for us to be out of country when we hit the go button.
It hasn’t always been like this and getting started was a slow and steady process of getting used to working from different locations, and building good systems and training programs that didn’t rely on us being face to face with our team mates.
We started with a single role that was repetitive and could be trained fairly easily. We created a brief for Grow My Team to recruit from and built a basic training program for our new team member. We already had a staff induction process, but I found this became even more valuable than ever when working across borders. Over the first week, I scheduled 30 min time slots with Michelle (she’s still with us!) to check through the work that I had allocated her in training, and give her feedback. It’s simply a case of being organised and setting time aside to get the training right.
Once I’d trained my first couple of Philippines team members, my eyes opened up to all of the possibilities within my company that weren’t location specific. In order to grow the team to where we are now, all our processes had to be reviewed and I trained the entire existing team on ‘how to train’ so that we could share the load and build the team faster. This, along with building out more robust systems, have been one of the really positive outcomes of working with a dislocated team. Our systems and processes are remarkably better than they were before and maintaining them is a constant focus for the team now. These days recruiting is recruiting, it’s the same process no matter where the person is located and we have freed our thinking up to look for the best talent all over the world.
Again, we needed to improve the way we managed the team now that we were all in different locations, ensuring that everyone still understood what was expected of them and could perform effectively at a high level. We use Google Hangouts to host our weekly team meetings, monthly meetings, quarterly planning days and team member reviews. We’ve always followed the Gazelle’s One Page Plan and other planning tools, and created clear scorecards and critical numbers for our team, we started doing this both locally and for our international talent and have more recently moved to Align enabling us to use all of the Gazelle’s planning tools online. Everyone has a login and we can all work together using the technology as the basis for our planning, meetings and tracking.
Get tech savvy
Technology is probably the biggest thing that we needed to continue to embrace as we grew, we use Jing, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Viber, Basecamp, Sweet Process, Xero, Better Book Club, Google Docs, Gmail and many other completely cloud based solutions that connect us and ensure we all have access to the same information.
One of the coolest things about being global from a business perspective is the increased level of service we can provide to our customer. WE LOVE NUMBERS is soon to launch our ‘Know your Numbers’ 24 hour support service. We can do this because we have talented and qualified people located in timezones across the globe. Even though our members are currently (not for long!) Australia-based only, the reality is that entrepreneurs are often working at all hours of the day and night. If it’s 2am and one of our members wants say, a financial report or urgent cash flow analysis, we can give it to them right away. They won’t need to wait until 9am AEST to get the answer they need, that’s pretty awesome.