How do you organize an effective meeting when you don’t have a physical space to hold it?
How do you manage workflows across different time zones, when some people are starting work as others go to bed?
How do you integrate new people into the culture when you don’t have a physical HR department?
How do you reassure clients on the other side of the world that you can fix their problems in time?
These are some of the questions we’ve been wrestling with over the past seven years. And now we have the answers.
In fact, we want to share them with you. We’ve molded a unique strategy for mobile working, and we want other companies to borrow from our playbook. Going fully remote is the best business call we’ve ever made, and we want other companies to do the same.
To this end, we’ve created our very own company handbook, which, as the title handily suggests, is designed to provide a blueprint for forward-thinking organizations. It talks a lot about our company, of course – it was originally conceived as an onboarding guide – but the techniques and technologies we discuss can be adopted by any remote organization.
In this article we share some of the key tips found within our handbook. We hope you go on to download the full guide at the end of the article (there are many, many more tips in there) but this piece should stand on its own two feet – providing a series of tips for readers to take away.
If you’re looking for a bit of TL;DR, we’re going to give you the Mobile Jazz guide to:
- Company structure
- Meeting policy
- Rights and responsibilities
- Workflow management
- Workations and other company trips
So enjoy. And remember, any questions, hit us up.
Our structure is very simple. Our co-founders, Stefan and Jordi, continue to lead the team, but the ‘organogram’ is really more of a flat line. Everyone earns the same wage, and everyone is expected to be a leader. We don’t believe in chains of seniority – frankly, that’s a load of bull-mess that only leads to tension and distraction.
A lot of people ask us how this works in practice. Do people get annoyed about the flat pay scale? Well, no, actually. We’ve found that if you give people the opportunity to take ownership of their projects, and fulfill the ideas they come up with, they’re happy with the idea of a single company-wide wage.
We’re not saying our staff get paid peanuts. Far from it. But by encouraging our team to pursue their own ambitions, and lead the projects they’re working on, we’ve taken the usual employee frustrations off the table.
Meetings are our lifeblood. As a completely asynchronous team, we rely on our team catch-ups to check in with one another and plan our strategy. If the meetings don’t work, the business won’t work either.
Here’s a quick guide to how we run our meetings:
- Arrive on time. This is massive for us. If people don’t arrive on time, they get pulled up on it very quickly. Punctuality is seen as a sign of respect for the company and its vision.
- Take minutes. This is also crucial. We always take minutes and we always share them via Google Docs. That way everyone is clear on the key actions and outcomes.
- Create follow-up tasks. We use a project management tool (more on this in the culture book) to create sub-tasks out of the meeting and assign them to one another. Again, it gives a focus to the meeting and leaves no-one in any doubt what’s expected.
- Keep it short. Get to the point, make the point and move on. When everything is covered, stop the meeting.
Rights and Responsibilities
If you want to build a new kind of company, you need to draw up a new kind of contract with your team. The old version simply doesn’t work anymore, especially if you don’t have an HR office to implement it.
Our agreement with our team is based on self-determination. Our team are allowed to take on side projects if they want to, and take any amount of holiday they want as long as the client is happy.
But in return we demand that, when working for us, our team are fully focused. One of our key expectations is that our team handle all problems proactively. If they see a problem, they jump on it.
Workflow and productivity management
Of all the things people ask us about our strategy, this is probably the most common. Managing and optimizing workflow is something a lot of other remote companies are still working out.
We have a central planning spreadsheet, logging the amount of time each team member is allocated for each project, and we stick to it. We also use a single time-tracking tool for the whole company, so we can see how much time each person is putting into each project, and analyze that.
The single most important aspect of our workflow management is honesty. If we’re struggling to meet our commitments for a specific projects, or we’re facing time constraints, we let the team leads know as soon as possible. We aim to all overlap for four hours each day, so we can communicate with one another in real-time and flag issues instantly.
As the company continues to grow, so onboarding becomes ever more important. This is, of course, the primary reason we created our handbook.
In addition to the handbook, we’ve created a system of mentors to integrate new starters, using our digital communication tools. We’ve found it’s a great way to help new joiners build contacts within the team, and enable existing team members to build their managerial skills.
We’ve also got a comprehensive guide to all our policies and procedures in our shared drive, and our co-founders aim to hold regular calls with each person in our team. We’ve found that the more we can speak to each new inductee, the better.
We’re a very sociable team and we’ve organized trips for skiing, hiking and surfing pretty much since day one (not that people have to join these activities. Each attendee is free to take part or not, and we organize loads of events around these core events).
Alongside these social trips, we now hold an annual remote week, which mixes work and fun and brings the whole company together once a year. We try to find exotic locations such as Thailand, Cape Town and Martinique, and we’ve found that these trips are a major pull factor when hiring and retaining top talent.
Individual team members are also encouraged to organize their own events and meet-ups. As a distributed company, we feel that the more time we can hang out together, the better. Again, we trust our team and if they say they can work from a specific location, that’s good enough for us.
If you enjoyed that…
There’s plenty more where that came from! This blog provides a introduction to our company’s strategy, but if you want to read more, you can find the full guide (which goes into way more detail) by clicking here.
And, of course, if you want to ask us any questions about how we work, you can reach us on Twitter, Facebook or by email.