Does a remote set up make it more difficult to build a successful startup? It’s a question that’s been stirring debate on the internet lately, so we recently asked ProofHQ founder Mat Atkinson to weigh in on the virtues and challenges of running a start-up remotely. He’s based in the UK with a virtual team spread out across the world and told us that for his growing company the arrangement works just fine.
Apparently, he’s not the only UK-based entrepreneur with a fast-growing company and a remote team across the pond. Ryan Carson, the founder of coding tutorial site Treehouse, recently took to his blog to explain how he manages his widely dispersed team of 40, including a main office in Orlando and remote workers across America, from his home in Britain.
And this dispersed structure seems to be working for him. “I’ve managed the company for almost two years from another country with up to an eight hour time difference. We’re doing $3,000,000+ in revenue with over 11,000 paying customers and growing fast, so we must be doing something right,” he writes, before offering the following tips on how he makes it work:
Outsource HR. We use TriNet to do all of our HR (payroll, insurance, employment taxes and pension contributions). If I had to administer this, there’s no way I could’ve scaled the Team remotely this quickly or effectively.
Don’t do your HR in-house. There are a ton of legal requirements and logistical details to make sure you take care of your Team properly and it’s a huge time suck. TriNet costs roughly $100 per person, per month and it’s worth every penny. The UX on their web portal is terrible, but it’s very powerful and has all the functionality you need.
Hire a Financial Controller / Office Manager. We hired Rich Pettit as our Financial Controller and Office Manager. I sit 4,247 miles from our office in Orlando, and there’s no way I could run the company without a reliable and hardworking Team Member looking after the day-to-day operations.
A lot of you will think you can’t afford this person early on, and you’d be right. Don’t hire this person until you are comfortable from a cash-flow perspective. But as soon as you can, hire this person. I think Mark Suster is really smart (which is why I invited him to invest in Treehouse and thankfully he did) and he agrees.
Use Campfire for company chat. When you’re separated physically you need a place to hang out and talk about random stuff or ideas. We use Campfire and it works great. We have a bunch of different rooms setup like: Chiggity Chillin (company wide hangout), Product Team, Dev Team, Firehose (commits to the Treehouse GitHub repo and deploys to Production).
Organize visually. We’re now using Trello for all our company projects. We switched from Asana because Trello is more visual and it’s a little easier to see how things are progressing. They’re both great tools – we just found the left-to-right kanban-style layout of Trello very easy to parse quickly. Each card is an atomic to-do and you can see it moving through various stages to completion. Above is a screenshot of our actual “Product Team: In Progress” Trello board.