After Marissa Mayer summoned Yahoo's workforce back to the office in 2013, flexible and remote work trends took a major hit. Thought leaders questioned whether or not remote work could really produce the kinds of results that companies need to stay competitive.
ButHarbor City Capital is bucking that belief by deliberately building a billion-dollar alternative investment fund, specializing in digital marketing arbitrage, with its team of more than 20 people spread across the globe. Plus, it doesn't appear to be affecting productivity or performance; the fund's CEO, JP Maroney, says the fund has produced above average double-digit annual returns for investors since inception.
The investment funds' team is made up of full-time, contracted and outsourced staff in about 13 countries, including the US, Canada, Dubai, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Ireland. The company maintains office space in a Melbourne Florida high-rise, but even Maroney mostly works from his home office, when he's not traveling.
With his keen eye for profit opportunities, JP Maroney tends to buck conventional wisdom that pays off. "I've had expensive offices fill with people, furniture and equipment," says Maroney. Now in his 27th year of building companies, Maroney discovered the hard way early in his entrepreneurial journey that the trappings of an office won't make a company successful.
Talk to me
But this structure, while it works for Harbor City, is not without pitfalls. "One of the big lessons that I've learned in this whole process of building a remote team is that communication is absolutely vital. Many times, I've got my head down, I'm out flying and meeting with people or out on the speaking schedule, and it is easier for me to sort of step back from open communication with the team and get tied up in the day to day," Maroney admits. "I have found as a CEO, that it's absolutely a must and a requirement to communicate with team members as a group and individually to be able to stay on the same page, to be able to know that they're still in the game, that you're still in the game."
There's no shortage of tech solutions for remote work, and Harbor City uses a mix of remote-work-enabling platforms, including Google's 'G-Suite" of Apps for data and document sharing, Slack for real-time collaboration and conversation and Trello to manage project timelines. Citrix's GoToMeeting is their 'go-to' platform for one-on-one or company-wide video conferences. But Maroney believe that it takes more than just tech to make remote work work. It takes strategy.
"Deliberately carving out opportunities for communication is key to keeping everyone on the same page," Maroney says. "When you're not in an office building where you can just simply stop by someone's office or you pass them in the hall, you have to create specific opportunities to communicate, to share what's working, to talk about things that you need to overcome or challenges or to share solutions."
Recruitment of the right people is key for remote teams. Not everyone functions effectively on their own. A lot of employees find that it's easier to be productive with an entire office buzzing around them. Remote teams have to be built with people who can and want to work without the constant hum of other people around. "Finding people who have already had some experience working remotely and know that they enjoy that is a good indicator," Maroney says.
Harbor City uses its network to recruit most of the time, including asking existing team members to recommend newbies. "It's all about building a team that is truly exceptional at what they do," Maroney says, whether it is raising capital, investor relations, building marketing funnels that drive conversions or buying advertising.
Make it personal
If you're working 9 to 5 in your home office, it's easy for work to bleed into home life after 5. But it's not as easy for you to bring the personal to work. No spontaneous questions about the cute kid pics can sometimes mean that people don't feel as authentic or as engaged at work as they could, and that can affect productivity. The Harbor City Capital team works around that by finding ways to make work personal too.
"One of the things we've done is inside of Slack, our communication tool, we created a channel called Water Cooler," Maroney explains. "Inside that Water Cooler channel, people can post pictures of their pets, pictures of their kids, or personal achievements, and they can talk about things that interest them personally. It's a great way for team members to get to know each other on a personal level."
Now in it's fourth year, will Harbor City Capital continue to work with an exclusively remote team as it expands? No one knows for certain. But with a solution-oriented culture, it seems likely that the Harbor City team will continue to produce extraordinary results for clients and investors by leveraging what they've learned so far on this journey to building a billion-dollar fund with a virtual team.