We want to share the interview done by Konrad Waliszewski, CEO/co-founder of the TripScout travel app. It provides mobile travel guides and self-guided city tours around the world.
1. Could you please introduce you? What’s the name of your company, what do you do, how many are you, from where do you work?
I’m Konrad, the CEO/co-founder of the TripScout travel app. We provide mobile travel guides and self-guided city tours around the world. Our local guides curate a list of sites for you and provide engaging audio guides on an offline map with GPS – so you can navigate around the city without using your data or international roaming plan. Explore cool neighborhoods, try local restaurants, sip the best coffee or cocktails, and see all the iconic sites while you learn about the local history, culture, and food as you go along. You can download the app on iPhone or Android.
We’re a team of 8 spread out all over the globe (DC, NYC, Cairo, Saigon, Sydney). I’ve been a digital nomad for several years and my last company (I was the COO of Speek which raised $6m in venture capital and was acquired) had about half of our staff remote.
Our team took our experience building a company as digital nomads and published a book. It’s a step-by-step guide for achieving location independence in your business or career. You can check it out on Amazon: How to Become a Digital Nomad.
2. How, when and why did you become a remote team or distributed company with employees working remotely?
I was working as a consultant to private equity firms and Fortune 500 companies. After an especially busy day of projects and conference calls, I had an epiphany. As long as I answered the phone and responded to the clients’ emails and instant messages, I could have been anywhere and no one would have had any idea or cared! If that was true, the bigger question was, “why the hell am I here, barricaded in my home office, in the middle of one of the worst blizzards in Chicago’s history?” I decided to do my work in Europe instead… then from the Middle East… then traveling up the eastern coast of Africa. I kept traveling, kept working, and have never looked back.
3. Which have been the advantages to become a remote company or having a distributed team?
There are loads of benefits. First, everyone is happier because they get to live wherever makes them the happiest. That has a huge impact on culture. Additionally, you expand your pool of candidates to hire, people are more productive without the constant barrage of office distractions, and the company saves money on salaries and office space.
4. Have there been any disadvantages and obstacles? How have you overcome these challenges?
It definitely takes much more effort to build culture and relationships. You have to overcome this by communicating as much as possible.
It also takes more effort to make sure your infrastructure is set up for you to be productive. I make sure to take the extra step to make sure I have strong Wi-Fi and a backup hotspot. I never want technology or connectivity to be a blocker to collaboration, so I will take the money I save on an office and spend extra money to make sure that everything is working properly. Finding a good co-working spaces also helps.
5. How do you do to operate effectively as a remote or distributed team? Have you modified the processes, tools, organization and internal activities?
This is a constant work-in-progress, but the key mix that I’ve found is to make sure half of the work day overlaps. This gives everyone half their time to be focused and get their work done without distraction, with the other half open for collaboration and discussion if necessary.
6. How do you do to hiring remotely? What’s the process that you follow?
The best indicator that I found for performance is actual performance. I always try to bring the person on for a short project first. I think this is even more exaggerated in a remote environment since it shows their ability to manage themselves without strict or natural boundaries.
7. What would you say to companies that don’t believe to hire employees who work remotely?
Jason Fried, co-founder of 37Signals and author of Rework, said it best when investigating the productivity and cost saving benefits from companies in his decade-long quest to find the ideal work environment. He researched the question “Where do you go when you really need to get something done?” He concluded, “I’ll hear things like, the porch, the deck, the kitchen. I’ll hear things like an extra room in the house, the basement, the coffee shop, the library. And then you’ll hear things like the train, a plane, a car — so, the commute. And then you’ll hear people say, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter where I am, as long as it’s early in the morning or late at night or on the weekends.’ You almost never hear someone say, ‘The office.’ But businesses are spending all this money on this place called the office, and they’re making people go to it all the time, yet people don’t do work in the office.”
Organizations are wasting millions of dollars on infrastructure, yet employees are going out of their way to avoid it when they need to be productive.
8. Which are the tools that you use or help you to work remotely?
I’ve geeked out on dozens of remote collaboration software, but now I keep things much simpler. Slack for chat, Zoom for conference calls, FaceTime/Skype for one on one calls, Dropbox for file sharing, Google Docs for doc collaboration, Github for code, Trello for project management, and Balsamiq for working through wireframes. That’s mostly it.
9. How do you manage the business, salaries and things like taxes as a remote company?
We are incorporated in the U.S., maintain a base in the States, and operate as a U.S. company. Keeps that simpler.
10. What advice would you give to companies that are starting to work remotely or establishing a distributed team?
Make sure distributed teams feel valued – it’s easier to ignore people you don’t see everyday. Trust distributed teams to deliver and avoid the temptation to micromanage – if someone needs an in-person manager to be productive, they’re not the right person. Set clear objectives and goals with everyone – ambiguity is more cancerous when people can’t chat at the coffee machine. Use technology, but don’t overlook human contact. Try to get together in-person. Make sure everyone on the team knows each other and builds a virtual friendship – not just people working together. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
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