Does remote work really work for a Startup?

We are 4 co-founders, a rather large team. We’ve known each other for a long time, and get along great. We created a good product, that is getting good traction, making some revenue and growing slow but steady.

However, a couple of months ago, two in my team decided they wanted to leave the country and start a life abroad. One moved to London, where he got a part time job, and the other to Brazil and will be working full time with us from there. They insist this will be no problem, and keep quoting 37signals’ “Remote” as a source of reassurance. However, we are just us four, and at an early stage. With all the time difference, and the fact that we usually rely on each other for inspiration and support, I’m not sure this is gonna work. Work has also become far less fun and interesting to me this way, as I’m not a loner by any means.

Do you think this could work? Or are we at a too early stage to be working apart?

  • In my opinion 37signals is creating a lot of hype with remote work. You should always be a bit critical on all of their assumptions when they say that remote working works for them. It could work for you as well, but how do you personally feel about your team working remotely?

    • Even if we somehow manage to make it work, quite frankly I think work will become far less interest. It may sound childish, but I’m in this not just for the money or the challenge, but for the thrill of spending time with people I respect and with whom I enjoy to be.

  • Nope. At that stage you need people sitting down at the same table and working closely together. Would you all work well behind closed office doors leaving sticky notes to communicate with each other? Of course not. Cut them loose.

  • It can be done. I’m doing it. But it works at a more sustained pace than full on pedal to the metal and you need the right team and the right processes to make it work. It’s not for rookies. If you’re trying to figure out how to run a business AND how to remote work, pick one or the other.

  • My guess is it really depends on how organized the company is and how good your communication channels are. I’ve had a really bad experience working for a nascent startup “remotely”. They simply would not respond to my emails or calls and rarely told me anything about projects they were working on that had huge overlap (as in, drop-your-database overlap) with mine.

    I just stopped billing them. Serves me right for working on a verbal agreement at a cut rate hoping to get my foot in the door and some equity.

    Point being, if you aren’t going to treat remote workers like they’re a regular part of the team, or at least give them the information they need, you shouldn’t have anyone working remotely.

  • Definitely doable. Need all the obvious tools – chat, remote meeting tool , etc. Make sure there are scheduled meetings to keep communication open and expected. Working through many time zones will add complexity to this. Doable – but needs focus and planning to make it work.

  • I’m doing it now with a 10 hour time gap and 2 team members I can’t even speak with directly. (They are Russian and do well with written English but poorly with spoken English.) Thank god my cofounder is bilingual. We are using Trello and Skype extensively, have recurring meetings, etc. It’s probably not the same pace of work we would get with 1 room/1 language, but we’re getting it done.

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