From the Founder: How Leaders Can Ensure Results for a Newly Remote Company

We’ve seen a lot of Knackpackers post about adjusting to “remote worklife,” so, as a 100% remote company, we decided to share a series of posts covering some of our experiences working remotely.  From creating a workspace at home to working remotely with kids, we’ve pulled tips and solutions from our lived experiences that work for us.  

One of the main challenges of a newly remote organization is understanding how to manage and motivate team members while trying to keep your finger on the pulse of the business. 

Put another way, how do leaders keep the company moving forward in a new environment?

Advice for c suite leaders who have moved to remote systems

Below, Knack founder, Chad Mellen, shares some thoughts on what we do at Knack and how other team leaders can adapt to managing a newly remote group:

Q:  How do leaders ensure they know what is going on when they can’t check-in casually at the office?

At Knack, as long as everyone is working towards our agreed-upon goals, I’m comfortable that our regular formal reviews keep me in the loop from a business perspective. It also helps me to reach out informally to ask people what they think is working and not working. Often, I get the most value during these informal discussions.

We have one mandatory, one hour weekly conference call with the entire team to discuss weekly priorities and weekly performance against our Plan goals.  Each team member is responsible for a top KPI, and they share their progress. We break the goals down by week, so, in general, if the goal is 4X, then we make sure that each week we’ve hit 1X.

These weekly reviews also allow us to pivot and discuss new strategies if the original plan isn’t working.

We do a longer meeting (about 1.5 - 2 hours) to discuss and set monthly metrics the first week of every month.

<< Related Post:  Interview with Peter Awad, CEO of Mission Meats>>

How CEOs can manage a newly remote company

Q: How do leaders direct, manage and motivate a team now that they can't meet with them face-to-face?

This is a real issue since I find that once people turn off the video during our Hangouts/Zooms, they tend to multi-task and can miss key points during the meeting.  Also, a lot of the informal communication opportunities that come from running into someone at the office disappear when everyone is home. I find that I can replace some of these unplanned meetings with informal one-on-one calls with the team member at home.  I can often convey a message or help someone who is “stuck” better in a 5 minute one-on-one call than I can in a detailed 30 minute conference call with multiple people.

Also, I tend to get more relevant information/learning on the business during one-on-one calls than I can with a group conference.  I find that keeping up with personal communications is key with a remote team.

Getting results as a newly remote company - advice for startup leadership

Using Asana

Schedules and deadlines shouldn’t only exist on individual calendars, as they need to be in a centralized place everyone can view. Last fall we launched the Knack 2.0, and ASANA was critical to our success as a company.  Each department had key deadlines to meet, and ASANA allowed us to create an overall timeline, as well as get granular on specific deadlines throughout one day.


<< Related Post: Interview with Laura Foley Ramsden, Co-Owner of Foley Fish>>

Tips for growing a newly remote company

Q:  How do leaders ensure that people stay on task and deliver promised results without knocking on everyone’s front door?

The most important step in staying on task is to make sure that there is a clear Plan for how to move the business forward.  The Plan must describe a few important, measurable goals, and leadership needs to make sure everyone understands the Plan. Part of the Plan is ensuring that the key activities of people at home support the Plan and can be measured either quantitatively or from a time perspective.

I try to reinforce our Plan regularly in all types of communications and I regularly review results against key Plan activities either through our metric dashboards or though regular Hangout catch-ups.

How founders and CEOs can meet company goals = newly remote company

Q: When everyone is working from home, how do leaders ensure that the company's culture is not harmed and that the company remains a place where people want to work?

At Knack, we try to model aspects of the company culture even though we are not all in the same physical location.  I find it just takes some more work on my part since not everyone sees what you are doing everyday. How we treat people working from home, the tone of our communications with them, the respect we give them all contribute to reinforcing our company culture.  For Knack, it boils down to hiring responsible professionals, giving them a sense of shared goals and then trusting them to do their best to work toward those common goals.

How leadership can track results and scale - newly remote company

Final Point: Always Trust Your Team

No system or strategy will work if you do not trust your team to do their jobs.  At Knack, we hire responsible adults so we only have three simple expectations: do a great job with your responsibilities; complete your responsibilities in a timely manner; and be sensitive to the needs of your co-workers. 

If I don’t trust that someone will keep their commitments and get things done, I don’t hire them.  Those who are hired are given the freedom to do their job. Frankly, since I’m too busy to micro-manage others I don’t always reach out and ask people what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.  I expect them to come to me if they could use my guidance or help.

Strategies for growing a newly remote company

Looking for More Resources?

Be sure to join the Knack email list to hear tips and strategies about how the Knack team, as well as leaders in other entrepreneurial companies, manage challenges like working remotely. Subscribe here.  

Share Your Experience

We’d also love to hear your thoughts and suggestions about how your company is managing today’s new realities.  Please share your tips and experience in the comments!

What to Read Next - Remote Work Series

Here's a list of the other posts in this series: