After ending a 10-year career in the trading pits in Chicago, I set out to start an online stock and options market education business. I didn’t have much experience managing remote employees, but since launching my company, I have managed over 100 remote independent contractors and team members.
Learning to effectively manage a remote team wasn’t easy and I made some mistakes along the way. Despite early troubles, I believe that when managed well, a workforce that is scattered around the globe is ideal over one that operates from a single location.
A remote workforce:
gives you access to the best talent, no matter where they are in the world
allows your business to have broader reach and take meetings all over the country
Here are three things I learned first-hand about how to manage a remote workforce:
1. Cultivate a team environment
One of the problems with managing a distributed team is motivating remote employees to be passionate about their work. It can be difficult for someone who feels disconnected from the rest of the team to get excited about a project. That’s why it’s essential to stress a sense of community and foster a team atmosphere.
Every one of my remote employees is on our daily staff call, and I always let them know what new projects we are working on, even if they are not a part of them. This gets them more invested in other aspects of the business and helps them feel connected to larger business goals.
2. Communicate constantly
I can work from anywhere that has an Internet connection, but that means staying connected with my team is even more important. It wasn’t easy at first to coordinate between five different time zones, but technology has made it easier.
In addition to our daily staff call, we have weekly calls for different parts of the team to discuss projects. We use a task management system that lets everyone see where tasks stand at all times. We use software like SalesforceIQ to stay up to date on possible partnerships and to help avoid overlapping efforts and wasted time.
Communicate with your remote team just like you would if you were all in the same room. If you can be obsessive about keeping in touch with everyone, then your team will run just like it would if you were all in the same place.
3. Create a well-documented vetting process
If I can’t look over a new hire’s shoulder on a daily basis. When you’re managing a remote team it is difficult to know their true abilities. I learned this the hard way — a mistake that proved to be expensive.
I contracted a developer to work on a few small projects. He lived and worked in a different part of the country, but I was able to meet him in person before bringing him on board. As we progressed through the project, the scope got bigger. While he claimed to have the skills to deliver, deadlines continued to pass by with no end in sight. If he was in my office, things never would have made it to that point and we would have realized much sooner that he wasn’t a good fit.
When hiring remotely, go beyond standard background checks and try to meet in person. Someone who looks great on paper, has good references and otherwise looks like an ideal employee might not have the right personality type to work effectively in a remote environment. Another thing that I have done is to onboard new team members on a 30-day “tryout” period.
There is a lot of debate over the efficacy of having a decentralized workforce: individuals don’t feel engaged and the products they work on suffer as a result; communication is difficult; you can’t track what your employees are doing.
All of these are valid concerns, and that’s why anyone considering running a remote team needs to have a plan for how to address common challenges. The perks are worth it. They allow me, as a business owner, to build the best and most cost-efficient team possible, and manage it from anywhere in the world that has internet. With a little due diligence, you can enjoy the same freedom.
This article has been edited.
Andrew Keene is President and CEO of AlphaShark Trading, which he originally founded as KeeneOnTheMarket.com in 2011. Previously, Andrew Keene worked as a proprietary trader at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He began his career in the prestigious Botta Capital ‘clerk-to-trade’ program, and would eventually co-found KATL Group, where he was the largest, independent on-the-floor Apple trader in the world. Connect with @KeeneOnMarket on Twitter.