How to Increase Agency Productivity with a Remote Team
Growing your agency means hiring great people to help you get there. And hiring top talent shouldn’t be limited by geographic boundaries. On today’s show, one agency owner tells us why his agency’s increased productivity and sales are the result of having a remote team.
In this episode, we’ll cover:
- Is it time to get an office for your agency?
- How to be productive with a remote team.
- Must-have technology for a remote team.
- Balancing a remote team business model.
- How to hire remote employees.
Tim Cameron-Kitchen is the founder and Head Ninja at Exposure Ninja, the UK-based digital agency he started four years ago. In addition to growing an amazing business in a very short time, Tim has also written four bestselling books on digital marketing. Today, Tim’s here to tell us why his agency’s office space has been vacant for three years and how that has increased productivity and helped him scale his agency.
Is It Time to Get Office Space?
Starting as a freelancer and occasionally farming out work to other freelancers, it was a no-brainer for Tim to work 100% at home. However, as he grew to a network for 15+ he was getting nudged by others into working from a “real office.” So he signed a 5 year lease and started commuting to it every day. The result was disastrous…
Tim hated his commute, he hated interruptions, and he hated being pulled into office politics. In addition, he had hired some local talent which turned out to be convenient but not awesome in terms of skill-level and effectiveness. Creativity, productivity, and sales were all down which Tim attributes to the new mandate of working in the office.
So naturally, Tim chucked the office… after only 6 months. As a result, productivity increased in the first month and sales increased the next.
How to Be Productive with a Remote Team
When you’re working remotely you can work around your lifestyle, which ultimately optimizes productivity. More work gets done in less time when there are fewer interruptions and distractions. It means working smarter, not harder. (It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re laying on a beach working… but you could 🙂 )
Thanks to technology, we can work collaboratively without being in the same physical location. Advanced technology allows us to work differently now than just 5 years ago. The software tools Tim and his team love to use are:
- Hubstaff – time tracking and accountability
- Teamwork – project management software
- Slack – communications, messaging and archiving software
- Email ticket system – filters, organizes and assigns tasks based on incoming emails
Even weekly department meetings are held remotely. Tim says internal meetings are done via Skype audio and meeting notes are posted to Slack. They’ve found it to be the most efficient way to keep each department on the same page.
Creating Culture with a Remote Team
It’s not an easy thing to create culture among a group of people who’ve never met. But, Exposure Ninja has a pretty strong culture, nonetheless. It can get lonely working from home full time, so they’ve found ways to alleviate that problem. Tim explained how they turned typical “water cooler talk” about TV shows, hobbies and pets into Slack channels. Co-workers can get more personal by sharing and communicating in group-chats on topics that interest them. They also do an annual holiday party or meet-up in order to socialize in person.
Balancing a Remote Team Business Model
Some love it, some hate it. There are people who thrive from working on their own terms and there are some who just can’t do it. Typically introverts like to work in solitude. Those with different personality types usually miss interacting with others during their work day, or aren’t self-motivated enough to work independently. This work style doesn’t suit everyone.
I actually once interview another agency that offered a hybrid of the traditional office/remote business model. The team has the option of work remotely or working in one of their multiple, global “creative spaces.” Using this business model, this other agency grew to $3 Million Agency with NO Employees.
Conversely, the remote business model doesn’t work for all clients, either. Some can’t handle having a remote agency. They want face-to-face meetings and personal contact. The remote business model can become an issue. But, if/when that’s the case then they weren’t the right client anyway.
Hiring a Remote Team
People are amazed that Tim has hired people he’s never met or even talked to… But their hiring process works and maintains productivity.
The formula for a successful remote employee = self-motivated + organized + think independently + work with very little management
So when it’s time to hire Tim doesn’t waste a bunch of time on rounds of interviews. Instead, they assign candidates an open-ended demo task. This helps filter out people who don’t fit the criteria, which is usually about 95%. There are lots of people who cannot demonstrate the necessary criteria, don’t handle the task as expected, don’t communicate as required, etc. Once they have it narrowed down then they’ll talk specifics on hiring.
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Building Your Digital Agency
When you are in the early stages of working with a remote team, you may be concerned with the levels of productivity but there are many benefits from remote teams and it’s also good to ensure a high level of productivity overall.
Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance on whether you are experiencing challenges as an established agency or a new agency unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.
As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show you how to recognize when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy by creating a process for performance-based pricing and how to keep your big-name clients happy.
Are you ready to create something cool and want more advice? Learn about my career and different experiences as well as tips, tricks, and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.