Alison Bernstein, founder and president of Suburban Jungle, created the real estate advisory and tech firm to establish a more efficient way for families to figure out where to live and secure a greater understanding of why.
"Bedrooms and bathrooms should be the last thing to consider when you are thinking of buying real estate," explains Bernstein. "Where you live has everything to do with how your kids are raised, and making the right choice is imperative to your happiness and personal and familial growth."
When the mom of four began to amass her staff she took a unique approach. She looked to a pool of people she knew well: mothers.
This included a majority of mothers who originally dropped out of the workforce to raise their children--and now, years later, wanted back in, but with the flex their lives as mothers continued to demand.
While other employers may have been turned off by the extended maternity leave enjoyed by these folks, Bernstein heard opportunity knocking.
"It was obvious," explains Bernstein. "Being an entrepreneur is everything to me, but you can't ignore that being a mother does take time. Why should women be forced to choose?"
An Untapped Talent Pool
Empathizing with the "mom guilt" she knew ultimately led to career crash-and-burn for these women, she began interviewing. Upon doing so, she was immediately astounded with the offerings of this enormous and untapped talent pool. Brilliant, hardworking women with former careers ranging from newscasters to private investigators, PR professionals to ad executives, were lining up for opportunities.
And this should be no surprise--as the roles were designed with a "Flex Is Best" approach, allowing employees to work from home on their own terms and on their own time.
"It's inspired by my own work preference," says Bernstein. "What we get out of it is enhanced productivity, overall happiness--and a greater work product."
She continues, "This arrangement is of course not for everyone, as the right fit for a role at our company must be self-motivated, driven, and not looking to take advantage of the autonomy, independence, and lack of direct contact supervision the job affords."
With technology getting smarter each day, staying in touch even on the fly has never been easier. To keep Suburban Jungle's employee base tightly in the loop, the organization built its own proprietary technology, with an emphasis on team connection that allows their clients to move seamlessly across different markets and functions. It furthermore facilitates instant communication between clients and staff. "We can officially be in all places at all times!" exclaims Bernstein.
When asked how she manages and makes the most of her remote workforce, Bernstein offered three tips for a successful virtual work setting.
1. Find the right people.
Self-discipline and drive is not something that can be taught. Finding the right workers is key to making a remote workforce rewarding for both employee and employer.
2. Rely on employee feedback.
There can be great value in regular one on one phone time between leaders and employees. Employees are the boots-on-the-ground and can provide firsthand feedback as to what's working, what can work better and trends they are seeing in the market. This allows for adjustment and evolution in real-time. Additionally, it provides employees with accessibility.
3. Stay connected.
Executing scheduled weekly calls and monthly meetings to keep everyone up to date on trends and happenings is imperative. It further keeps morale high and everyone on message. Apps like Slack are an effective option to update the team and keep an ongoing conversation about team accomplishments and the exchange of ideas to push the business forward. As for face-time, a monthly breakfast team meeting could serve as a sensational way to brainstorm, discuss industry trends and evaluate how you are doing.