After a grueling 23 hour flight, I arrived at the beautiful Sofitel Hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali. And while most people come to Bali for the beaches, luxury resorts and golf courses, I was there for something else.
The conference had over 400 attendees and a number of leading remote work experts, like Marcie Murray (Director of Support for Shopify), Mariano Suarez-Battan (CEO of Mural), and Zack Onisko (CEO of Dribbble), to name a few. There were also, surprisingly, speakers from a few venture capitalist firms--including Marvin Liao of 500 Startups and Anthony Pompliano from Morgan Creek Digital. Needless to say, I was excited to learn from the best of the best and further optimize my own remote team.
I thought I knew a thing or two about remote work (and I still think that), but this was a breath of fresh air. I learned some tricks, gained some insight into the future of work, and met some amazing people. Here are my biggest takeaways.
Remote companies are not "one size fits all"
When I founded Leverage almost four years ago, the idea of having a fully-remote company was unique to say the least. Very few people were doing it and, quite frankly, I had no idea what I was doing. There was a steep learning curve and I didn't have much to go off. There were very few companies to model and I had never even worked at a remote company myself.
Fast forward to the present and a lot has changed. There are better tools available and more companies are going remote... But this is still largely uncharted territory. There's no playbook to follow, and the reality is that keeping transparency, accountability, and a sense of culture with your colleagues halfway around the world is still difficult--but not impossible.
Ultimately, remote work looks different for every company. Tools like Slack and Zoom have been standard communication tools for remote workers and they're transforming the "offices" of today. Now, we're starting to see more tools like Mural (a digital whiteboard tool for teams) and Trainual (a process documentation tool for growing businesses) that are making remote teams even more viable.
These tools will give you the foundation your team needs, but other than that, there isn't a set framework that every company can follow. It can only be done by using the right tools for your situation, using them correctly, and implementing the right behavior changes across your company.
Every company needs some kind of remote strategy
I've always believed that remote work is the future, and this conference validated those thoughts.
Here's the problem that every company is either currently facing or will be soon: hiring locally is far too limiting. It would be crazy to think you can find all the top-tier talent you need within your local area.
The good news is that we are on the verge of having one connected ecosystem with a global talent pool that any company can tap into. It is already possible to find amazing talent around the world--the key is developing a system that allows everyone to seamlessly utilize said talent.
But the moral of the story is that if you're not setting yourself up to take advantage of this global talent pool in some way, you're at a huge disadvantage. Every company needs to be able to support some amount of remote staff.
Investors are starting to notice
Historically, most venture capitalists wanted nothing to do with remote companies. It was an unnecessary risk, as companies weren't able to prove the model could be successful, and there was no reason for investors to deviate from their standard way of doing business.
Recently, we've seen a shift here. With highly-successful, fully-distributed companies like GitLab and Buffer, investors have seen the value that remote work can bring. And they're paying attention. (There's a reason there were several major VC firms present at this conference.)
Remote work isn't just for single, globe-trotting millennials
Many people assume remote workers are living out of a backpack, hopping from country to country while they work from tropical beaches on their laptop. In reality, there are many different kinds of remote workers.
In almost all discussions about remote work I have to first explain the difference between:-- Andreas Klinger ️ (@andreasklinger) July 1, 2019
- digital backpackers
- workation tourists
- digital staymads
- remote workers
Very different people with very different lifestyles and needs.
Much like the employees at my own company, my fellow conference attendees were from all different walks of life. Ken Weary (VP of Operations at Hotjar) even talked about raising kids and building a family while working remotely, saying: "Why learn about World War II from a book when you can go to Anne Frank's house?"
The biggest takeaway? Remote work is becoming the new normal--and every company needs to be ready for it.