290: How to build a remote team of 45 employees

I have 45 employees at my company, and the majority of them I’ve never met in person. In fact, most have never met each other in person. They’re located across 10 states in the US as well as Colombia and the Philippines. We’re able to operate smoothly and effectively because of the great staff that we have as well as our tech stack.

Of our 45 employees, 30 are in operations handling phone calls, collecting rent, and managing the vendors who clean and maintain our facilities on-site. 10 are in finance and acquisitions, and they figure out what to buy, underwrite properties, make offers, and close on facilities. The remaining 5 are in management, making key decisions, and managing people.

Technology 10 years ago was not where it is today, and this would have been much harder 10 years ago. Now I can look at my KPIs from anywhere, tracking how many people have moved in or out of each unit, what my rents are, the profitability of each facility, rental rates, ad spend, etc. It’s all pretty incredible, and costs about $150 each month per property.

We use Slack to communicate, Ringcentral for customer service, Notion to organize and centralize data, and Google drive for file storage. The most important tool for us has been Loom, which allows us to record our screen and face and talk through something, then archive it and share however we want. This is huge for documenting process walkthroughs and keeping a record for onboarding new employees.

The remote labor in the Phillippines really changed my life. We have 17 employees there dedicated to Bolt Storage and making $5 per hour, which is a fantastic wage in their country. They work hard, their English is phenomenal, and they handle complex processes including all of our customer service. Two have even risen up and entered manager ranks in the company. We were a bit apprehensive at first, but our experience hiring through SupportShepherd has really blown us away.

On top of an effective tech stack and cheap remote labor, effective delegation has been critical. As an entrepreneur, we need to simplify the job of each employee. If one person is doing 10 tasks, they can’t do anything well. We have employees focused only on emails and customer service, five on inbound calls, and three on collections. Once people are specialized, they can really focus on doing a great job.

There’s a lot of bad advice out there about what employees want. People will say that employees want autonomy and chaos, and for some that’s true, but as an entrepreneur we need to treat our employees like robots. We love the chaos, most employees hate it. They want to be told what to do, they want structure and a clear, repeatable path. You can’t do your job if you can’t provide that.

One key to effective delegation is how you handle employees that come to you with a problem. Some managers will say “Get out of my way, I’ll solve it”. They’re not teaching their employee to think. Others will guide the employee on the thought process and effective decision making. This takes more time, but it pays off tremendously in the long run; not only will you get to see how your employees make decisions, but they’ll start to approach you less often as they become confident doing it on their own, which will free up your time for more high-value work.

I firmly believe that entrepreneurs need to hire fast and fire fast. For roles that are simple, clear, and replaceable, you should hire fast. And the second that an employee isn’t doing a good job, you need to fire them. You’ll feel better when you get them out of the company. Workers rarely get better at making decisions and solving problems over time, so don’t wait for it to happen.

It’s hard to find good people, but entrepreneurs need to stop playing the waiting game. You won’t find great employees walking in and asking for a job, you need to take extreme ownership over your hiring. The Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart in your town have hundreds of employees at each location. Good workers exist. Go out and find them.

Culture is what will keep people around, and it’s not all about pizza parties and cocktail hours. Good culture is treating people well, showing them respect, not asking dumb questions, and not lashing out. Pay well, treat people well, and get rid of poor employees, and you’ll have a rockstar team working for you.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Technology has made it not only possible but easy to run a fully remote business effectively.
  2. Outsourcing labor to other countries can save you a ton in payroll costs while still providing great wages to your workers.
  3. Proper delegation, problem-solving approach, and culture-setting are key to running an effective team.

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About Me

I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.