Interview: Naeem Tee from ContentFly

Naeem Tee is the CEO of ContentFly, an Uber for Content – you can request high-quality content, on-demand, for a flat monthly fee of $250/mo, that is remote based. You can follow ContenFly in Twitter besides visiting its Website too.

1. Could you please let us know more about ContentFly, how many are you, from where do you work?

ContentFly, is an Uber for Content. We’re now starting to build more tools and features to make content marketing much simpler than it currently is. Our goal is to have one, all-encompassing tool to do all your content marketing. We’ve already built the world’s first automatic topic planner Genie. We want to make marketing dirt simple so people can just focus on their business – it’s way too complicated and technical today.

There’s 4 of us right now, and 3 of us are location independent so we work all over the place. I’m in Colombia right now with John (our COO), Annika (our CMO) is in Bali. Vasil (our CTO) is in Toronto, where we’re HQd.

2. How, when and why did you become a remote team or distributed company with employees working remotely?

I previously worked at Zapier & Toggl, both remote organization. I’ve really seen the benefits of remote in building high-performing companies – both those companies had immense employee loyalty and performance, and remote was a crucial reason.

I’ve personally been nomadic for several years, so we were always going to be remote from day 1. Zapier is probably the most exciting unicorn in the valley today, and they’re completely remote – they’ve really proven out the model.

We’re a 6 month old company, so we’re still young and a lot of the challenges haven’t necessarily manifested themselves – but I’ve learned so much from Wade (the CEO of Zapier) on how to structure strong remote teams. I’m confident we can hit the scale we want to hit while staying remote.

3. Which have been the advantages to become a remote company or having a distributed team?

It’s mostly just efficiency. When you work remotely, you work when you feel like working – when you’re the most productive. We’ve built a company that’s growing at the 99th percentile of SaaS companies (more on that here), but we all have great work life balance.

The best work environments are those that are conducive to each individual. I think Elon Musk said he realized a while ago that you can’t expect all of your employees to work at the same level – people have different needs. I’m a workhorse – I love to work all day and night. If we stayed in an office, our other employees would feel pressure to maintain my cadence, which is very inefficient.

In a remote setup, if you’re most productive working 80 hours, you can work 80 hours. If you’re most productive working 20 hours, you can work 20 hours. All that matters is that you get the job done, and enjoy life.

That’s how it should be.

4. Have there been any disadvantages and obstacles? How have you overcome these challenges?

For a small team, it can be tricky being so spread apart – Annika and I right now have a 13 hour time difference, so it’s a challenge at times to communicate on work. It’s not really a problem for us though – you just have to over-communicate, set proper handoffs and create structures that make the dissemination of work easier.

Most teams that struggle with remote just don’t have the proper structures in place. In a traditional company you don’t need to think much about structures, meetings, etc – they can be done fairly ad-hoc. Structure is immensely important in a remote organization though – good structure will let you thrive, bad structure will make you collapse.

5. How do you do to operate effectively as a remote or distributed team? Have you modified the processes, tools, organization and internal activities?

One thing I really benefited from my time at Zapier was learning how to build workflows. If you dive into the ContentFly slack channel, there’s more bots than humans – we’ve got these crazy rube goldberg machines to automate and manage all of our workflows.

The first step is communication. You need great documentation and hand-offs. We use Notion religiously – it’s super flexible. Our CTO has a kanban board for himself, I have a free-form place to manage work, we have our to-do-lists, etc. Our business is very operations heavy, so we have a ton of Slack commands that pipe directly into our app, and lets John run most of our ops on Slack.

The important thing is visibility. We have constant visibility on everything. New blog post? Notification on Slack. New customer? Notification on Slack. New revenue milestone? Notification on Slack. All of our intercom messages go to Slack. The most important thing you can do is build processes around Slack so all the information is organized and available for anyone to look at.

We don’t need meetings to catch up on stuff or do hand-offs, because it’s all very salient on Slack. It gets harder as you grow, obviously, but that just requires more of the same.

6. How do you do to hiring remotely? What’s the process that you follow?

We’ve only just started hiring, so I can’t talk on this too much – but I guess I can describe our process, it’s roughly what we used at Zapier as well.

The biggest thing for me is accessibility – one of the biggest, if not the biggest advantage, of being remote is that you get a global talent pool. You can compete with big guns in the Valley if you hire globally. Some of the most talented engineers I’ve met, for instance, live in small towns in Brazil – SV is missing out on that.

We anchor our salaries around global medians, and our goal is to make the jobs as accessible as possible to anyone around the world. One thing I’ve noticed is that people from outside of the US often have higher amounts of imposter syndrome, and straight up won’t apply for jobs – we’re trying to change that. We have a few ideas on how to drive more, from the type of language we use to the salaries itself, but I’ll know more on that in a few months.

But I guess to keep it simple: set processes in place. Candidates should go to a salient board like Trello, try to anonymize the responses, and try to keep it as objective as possible.

7. What would you say to companies that don’t believe to hire employees who work remotely?

I wouldn’t say anything – as long as companies turn a blind eye to remote, we’ll have the advantage! The best talent, and the most incredible company cultures I’ve seen were in remote teams – we’re also so much more productive than non-remote ones.

So what I would say to companies that don’t believe in it is to keep doing their thing – it’s good for me. 😉

8. Which are the tools that you use or help you to work remotely?

Slack, Zapier, Airtable. Those are the big 3 – if you aren’t using those aggressively, you’re going to fall behind. After that, we like Notion, Trello obviously. We use Intercom to manage all of our conversations, and Mailchimp to run newsletters.

Oh – and Segment. Segment is AMAZING. Add that to the big 3. If you’ll notice, all of these tools are about piping information around and reorganizing them. Again, the best way to make remote work is to over-communicate like hell. These tools really enable us to do that.

9. How do you manage the business, salaries and things like taxes as a remote company?

All members of the team (outside of the directors) are contractors – it’s their responsibility to take care of the taxes in whatever country they’re from. Unfortunately global legal systems are still draconian when it comes to remote work and haven’t put the structures in place yet to really take advantage of them – but we’re slowly moving towards a better world there.

10. What advice would you give to companies that are starting to work remotely or establishing a distributed team?

If you haven’t worked at a remote company before, talk to people who have. Hell, shoot me an email: naeem at contentfly.co.

Remote work requires effort – it isn’t easy, and it can go really, really wrong. However, if you make it work it’s going to be live changing – so make sure you do your due diligence before building a distributed workforce.

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