You've heard that business is global now, right? But surely there are limits...you can have remote workers for a while, for example, but how in the world would it work logistically if members of your C-suite were in different cities, states, or even countries on a long-term basis?
Actually, it works pretty dang well, according to Mia Duchnowski (CEO) and Laura Cox (CMO), co-founders of men's skincare brand Oars + Alps. The pair run their company while living in Chicago and New York, respectively.
Why do dual-location at all?
Duchnowski says that the duo originally settled on Chicago as a home base for the business because of the city's connections to several CPG companies, and because Duchsnowski was already there with her family. And for a year, Cox was in Chicago, too. But with so many consumer VCs, manufacturers, media outlets, and other consumer entrepreneurs on the Eastern seaboard, it soon became obvious the co-founders had to establish a presence in New York. So Cox moved to the Big Apple while Duchnowski stayed in Chicago. Ultimately, the arrangement allowed the company to take advantage of New York's resources without spending too much on expensive New York space. They also had the benefit of Chicago's top-tier schools and talented workforce.
"Our relationships with media, VCs, and those in the startup space in NYC are much stronger and personal because of Laura being there," says Duchnowski. "We've also noticed that our team's relationships with vendors and partners are stronger, and more personal in nature, because our culture is 'call first, email second'. We are really proud of that."
Be prepared to talk it out.
As you might expect, Cox says communication is a must if you want to make this type of arrangement work.
"We are on the phone with one another 10 times a day at a minimum," Cox admits. "I start most days with a quick call to each team member to ensure we are on the same page. I usually talk to everyone a few times per day! Our team also does 'around the horns' each Monday morning for 1.5 hours. They FaceTime me in on a laptop and everyone else puts their computer and cell phones away. Each person gets 10 minutes to talk through wins and challenges from the week before and key priorities for the week."
Even with all the chatting, the pair admit that looping in the other person can be a thorn in their sides. Since the main Chicago headquarters move so fast, communicating decisions in real time to Cox takes a lot of effort.
Team bonding can be a challenge, too. Since Cox can't be in the room, more traditional approaches aren't as feasible.
"We do team events without Laura, and she's with us in spirit," Duchnowski says. "When she is in town, we always do something fun. We make it a priority to do one full team event per month. Our brand is very rooted in an active lifestyle, so we are at a lot of events and the entire team pitches in at them."
The potential new norm.
While the arrangement has its quirks, Duchnowski predicts that more entrepreneurs are going to follow in her team's footsteps.
"It's certainly much easier today to operate in different cities than it was just five years ago. In the last year, we have talked to more and more founders who are operating in different cities. It certainly does seem like it's more common. Finding the right person, with complementary skills, to start a company with might necessitate having a founder in a different city. Technology has enabled this and for that reason, we both think you'll start to see more duel city founders."
Considering this last comment, it might be that we're truly entering a golden age of partnership. It's been clear for a while that companies now have more choice when it comes to access to a broader employee talent pool, but the same applies to entrepreneurs who are looking to join hands with other entrepreneurs. Rather than settle for someone who "sort of" fits who's nearby, if needed, you can find an ideal partner who's really the yin to your yang who's hundreds or even thousands of miles away. That's foundational because leadership alignment, probably more than anything else, is what determines whether a company will sink or swim.
So take your time. Don't necessarily shake hands with your first opportunity. Know what you're looking for and what's important to you, and then, like Duchnowski and Cox, go and insist you get it.