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First steps to building a remote team from scratch

First steps to building a remote team from scratch

Table of Contents

Many businesses are still hesitant about going fully remote, which is understandable.

However, there’s plenty of reliable data out now that describes the ins and outs of remote working, so businesses no longer have to guess. Let’s take a quick look at what that data has to say.

Remote working is here to stay

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that three-quarters of home workers in the UK reported a better work-life balance. Improved wellbeing also happens to be the number one reason employers want homeworking to be a permanent part of their business model.

Remote working is almost definitely here to stay, and it’s working well. Major global enterprises, including the likes of Reddit, Twitter, 3M, Spotify, HubSpot, and Lyft, are now shifting their hiring focus to hybrid or remote working.

Business leaders are finding that remote working puts growth and productivity in the spotlight. So, how can businesses build and scale remote teams to unlock some of these benefits?

We'll get onto this shortly, but first things first...

Do you need a co-founder?

There’s much debate in the business community about whether startup founders require a co-founder.

Supposedly single-founder startups are 2.6 times more likely to remain profitable compared to those with two or more. But some studies show that investors are biased toward teams with two or more founders and tend to invest in them more regularly.

Does that equate to better outcomes? Not necessarily, as businesses with a single founder were still more likely to remain in business despite lower investment.

In the end, the decision to find a co-founder is a personal one. Many complex businesses require teams of founders to tackle their workloads, like Monzo, which had five founders. Others choose to venture forth alone. 

If you are in the market for a co-founder, before you do anything, read this.

Prerequisites to building a remote team

Before building the small initial team that will see you develop a product or service and bring it to market, consider the company culture, goals and vision. Then, consider the product and what resources are required to create it.

Some like to call this a startup roadmap or blueprint, which differs from a business plan. You can even buy software that helps you create a roadmap, like Roadmunk, which is designed for product development.

According to Forbes, these three steps are essential to creating a roadmap:

  1. Start with your resources

    Individuals usually possess resources for collective goals. For example, you and your cofounders might know how to build websites and set up socials for inbound marketing.

    Or someone might have industry experience in marketing products. You can’t build a team until you know what resources you have.

  2. Set goals and work backwards

    Building teams is about setting milestones and working backwards. For example, many startups’ first milestone is building the product, which requires them to assemble a product development team.

  3. Control the input

    Many paths can take startups to the same destination, so long as the input is maintained. Progress might not be linear, but it is guaranteed so long as team input is sufficient.

Building your first remote team

The first team will probably consist of five people or less. Once you’ve figured out your existing resources, you’ll know what resources you need to achieve your first milestones.

Most startup founders have a product in mind, but developing and testing that product requires strategy.

There are many ways to do this, but one of the most popular methods is the lean startup methodology, established in Eric Ries's 2011 book, The Lean Startup. Here, there are just three simple steps: “build-measure-learn”.

The 'Build' step involves creating a minimal viable product (MVP). This is what the first team is typically assembled around, and a remote team is no different.

Product teams might involve anyone from designers and creatives to small manufacturers or developers. If you’re developing a software product, look for a full-stack developer.

Other key personnel to consider include marketing leads and designers who can create initial logos and branding. Building a product, website, and marketing channels are early priorities.

As Kenny Schumacher, co-founder of Delesign says, “A startup should set up a website as soon as the founders have started brainstorming their ideas.”

Here are eight more individuals startups should consider adding to their team:

  • CEO
  • Product Manager
  • CTO
  • CMO
  • Sales Manager
  • CFO
  • Business development manager
  • Customer service representative

Scaling a remote team

Once a small team is assembled and product development is underway, startups have a decision to make. How quickly do they attempt to scale? Do they take a fast and furious approach to growth, or take things slow?

Entrepreneur Quarterly asked 31 founders that exact question. As you might expect, there are a few different takes on it. However, a glance through the responses does tend to reveal a fairly unanimous decision: slow and steady wins the race. 

Some words of wisdom from Bryan Sapot CEO at SensorTrx:

“You should go slow until you figure out the market and product, once you have repeatable processes it’s time to go fast. Before, I’d implement a product that was not ready, overselling our capabilities which led to unhappy customers.”

Take real care when choosing who you add to your remote team and how quickly you grow it. Regularly take stock and assess how the team is doing.

Developing effective remote teams

Developing an effective, well-bonded remote team will help a business take talent and skill with them all the way.

But there are two strains to this. One is hiring the best talent for your business, and the other is cultivating a fantastic work culture.

Finding the right candidates in the first place is essential for building an effective remote team. We go into this in more detail in this article.

As for building a strong company culture, the first key step is to create core values to align the team. Anyone who joins your team thereafter ideally ought to share those values.

Culture builds engagement. Engaged employees are more effective at their job and feel happier with themselves and in their roles. So never underestimate the impact of company culture.

Incentives like employee share schemes are a great way to align teams too. And not only does sharing equity help in that department, but it also boosts engagement.

Another way to strengthen the bonds between colleagues is to organise in-person retreats and team-building activities every once in a while.

Don’t forget the operational stuff

Culture and philosophy are essential, but remote teams also rely on specialist tools and technologies.

Choose your communication tool wisely. We use Slack to collaborate, learn from one another and generally chit-chat. Learn about our approach to internal comms.

Video conferencing tools fall into this category too. Be sure that everyone has a computer/laptop with a webcam and access to a platform like Zoom, for instance. That said, there is an art to video calls, particularly when it comes to welcoming new starters.

Project management software is also essential and helps keep remote teams working from the same page. We put together a list of popular tools that countless remote companies use to support and manage their teams.

Remote working has its benefits, but unlocking those benefits requires a carefully planned approach that respects the role of company culture.

Building an effective remote team is distinctly different from building a traditional office team. A well-prepared operational plan for how you’ll find and screen employees is crucial, as is putting effective tools and strategies in place to gel teams despite the physical distance. 

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are six highly successful startups with excellent company culture

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