With Millennials and Gen Z-ers beginning to take up a large part of the global workforce, their desires of having more flexible, meaningful work with a good work-life balance is becoming the new work standard.
Thanks to the digital age, the whole ‘work from anywhere, anytime’ has never been easier.
We hear many people today working from the comfort of their own couch, or on a remote beach in Thailand, or perhaps even whilst on an African safari…
Keen to do the same? Wondering “How on earth can I actually run a business remotely”?
We have recently established our Australian-owned social enterprise, youforher, all the while living on other ends of the earth. Jacqui is an Australian now living in the French Alps, and Hind has recently moved from Sydney to Dubai to be with family. We were friends from our old corporate Sydney life, and despite the thousands of kilometres apart, we wanted to start our own business together that gave us purpose, passion and flexibility. With youforher, we wanted to provide Australians with high quality, pure organic argan oil, whilst supporting women equality with our profits. We knew that with our distance it would be challenging, but still completely achievable.
Here are our top lessons learnt on running a business remotely:
Build a team you know and trust well.
This is the biggest most important point for those needing a team and working closely with others. This can be a major challenge working remotely as you don’t see each other physically every day (or at all, other than perhaps on video calls). If not well managed, teams can quickly become quite negative and counter-productive! So, we recommend making sure you get to know your team very well and develop a strong trust with each other as soon as possible. “If you can laugh together, you can work together” – Robert Orben.
How? Find out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, ways of working, general personal life, key personality traits and soft skills. If you are all open about this from the start, it is much easier to handle any potential mishaps down the track. For example, are you a high-level visionary type person, or care about the details? Do you like to check-in with your team every hour, or perhaps once a day, or every few days, with progress updates? Do you have children to also look after during your work day?
Align your purpose, vision and values.
You will often be pulled in many different directions. The best way to keep your focus is through a shared purpose and vision. It will allow you and your team to work and empower each other to independently progress as you always come back to your core values. This doesn’t only apply to teammates. Your business will work best towards that vision if you surround yourself with those who have similar core values. This means partners, investors, suppliers, retailers… basically any stakeholder!
Connect and communicate.
When working remotely, you don’t have the luxury of running into your colleague in the office hallway or grabbing coffee to chat with your supplier or retailer. You also may have many time-zones to manage! You need to put in the effort to communicate as much as possible to all stakeholders involved and team members. This ensures that despite the distance between you all, you are still highly collaborative and continually building trust. Internet-based comms is your new best friend! We rely heavily on Whatsapp, Totok (for the UAE), E-mails, Trello, Social Media, Skype and Facetime. If you’re naturally not so active on digital comms, it is time to change your habits!
Of course, it is even better if you can also make sure to see each other in the flesh at least annually as a team and trust-building activity.
Delegate and partner-up.
This will vary depending on your business and whether it is service or product-based, but delegating tasks and automating wherever possible will make your life so much easier. As a product-based business for us, if we were both in Australia we probably would have started out doing all of the bottling, labelling, storing, fulfilling orders ourselves from home (and no doubt working into the early hours of the morning). Being overseas, we didn’t have a choice. We had to partner with an external bottler and third-party logistics provider to do all that product handling for us within Australia. It may mean more costs up front, but if you set your prices well to include these costs, it sets you up for success in the long run, as your business will be already prepared for growth.
This is a given, but it is so important we had to call it out. If you’re working remotely you will have to cover all digital bases. Set up a website. Have coverage on social media and build a following. Set up a system for marketing automation. Invest in digital marketing. Be prepared to e-mail, message and call LOADS.
Be kind and grateful.
With each other, and with yourself. Life will throw a lot of challenges along the way, so just take a deep breath and tackle each one as it comes!
“My father always told me ‘life is not linear’. Personally, I went through huge life changes during the start of youforher. I had a baby and moved to Dubai for my husband’s job. When I was particularly scared to leave Australia during our launch, Jacqui sent me a beautiful card. It said: ‘I’ve got your back’, with a hand of Fatima, a Moroccan symbol for protection. My heart melted and I found new strength through her encouragement and support”. – Hind
Having kindness and love at the core of all decisions and interactions will help you and your team get through any challenge thrown your way.
“For all those sitting in traffic right now”(- Jason Fried, Remote), we hope you can try a different way of working and perhaps redefine how we all work together in the future.