Startups and corporations alike are turning to distributed working teams more and more as the global workforce evolves to gain access to a larger talent pool while hoping to work with the best talent in the world. Studies show that remote workers tend to have less stress and are able to be more productive than office workers. The benefits are real for employers and employees alike. 

While working as a remote team can be highly efficient and effective for some companies, most still struggle to create a culture embraced by remote colleagues. I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Shigeki Kakutani, the Founder and CEO of QURAS, to hear his views on building a successful business with a distributed team. Started in 2017, QURAS is a next-gen blockchain platform focused on privacy protection that has a remote workforce spread across over seven countries. Let’s dig in.   

1. What are three keys to successfully building a remote workforce? 

First of all, it’s important to work with team members who are deeply interested and enthusiastic about what they are working on, and, in the case of any very technical organization, the underlying technology itself. 

Secondly, you have to make sure there is a sense of culture in place that effortlessly enables your workforce to operate around your organization’s greater mission, along with the same guiding principles and ethics. Designing a culture for your team will help with expectations and goal setting on both the individual and greater workforce levels.

Lastly, there are vast advantages to building a remote organization that is distributed and not too concentrated in any one particular country or any particular team within the organization. Your team will feel more creative energy and varying perspectives by default by just operating in different locations. At QURAS in particular, we’re trying to build an organization that has concentrations of small to medium-sized teams across different functional working groups while mainlining a globally-distributed workforce.

2. How do you effectively manage your remote team? 

To manage effectively, it is important to allow your remote team to flourish in their knowledge expertise while having well-defined responsibilities and expectations in place. It’s also important to recognize how well we can work together with both full-time and part-time individuals and teams, and how they will enhance our organization’s value.

I recognize that concentrated teams that meet at the same office every day can create its own stressful environment. When we gather feedback from our greater team regarding a product release, the responses that the remote workforce of developers and non-developers is greatly beneficial as everyone brings their own unadulterated assessment. I think that if those responses are well reflected in the product, better things will be created and a more empowered remote team is also a result of it.

3. When QURAS first started expanding globally, what are some of the growing pains you experienced?

Since QURAS was originally made up of team members from various countries upon first becoming an organization, we have done a good job growing in a fashion that has minimized growing pains. One growing pain that cannot be avoided is managing time zones and when to schedule necessary conversations in a fitting way with daily schedules. 

Additionally, in the process of taking QURAS global, we’ve started to experience failed business transactions that are tied to particular countries. This is leading us to strengthen our due diligence when doing business globally.

Recently, I moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to have greater access to Southeast Asia, where we are focusing many of our go-to-market efforts on. This will allow me to take advantage of Kuala Lumpur’s centralized location in the region, allowing me to reach neighboring countries within 1 to 2 hours’ time.  

4. What collaboration tools do you find invaluable? 

Zoom is used heavily within our organization for online meetings with various teams. In addition, we have moved a lot of our daily communications to Slack. In addition, I use Skype for everyday communication; however, the tool cannot be used to manage tasks effectively. Another community collaboration tool we use as a remote team is YouTube.

5. How do you build and maintain a strong culture as you hire more remote team members?

Personally, I was inspired by the ideas of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. From Jack Ma, I learned how an organization can rally its team members around a common vision, and move its collective workforce in the same direction. It is a simple idea that has to be a part of your organization from the start while being maintained as you grow your team members.

In our case, QURAS is a blockchain platform that expresses its greater societal merits in quite a technical way, and yet our vision attracts people that align with our core purpose and mission. QURAS is focused on privacy protection, which has been neglected in the blockchain industry for quite some time. When individuals and businesses build their own projects on the QURAS platform, the project managers are rewarded through project-based transactional incentives, which has appealed to both users and new team members joining our team. 

To continue building a great culture, you need to hire individuals with good values. No matter how intellectually gifted someone is, we won’t hire anyone who is dishonest. I have tried to create a team full of sincere people. 

6. What are best practices when it comes to data security of remote workers? 

Data security is essential to operating a successful remote workforce. Given our company’s mission of enhancing privacy, security, usability, and scalability of blockchain technology in order to promote greater real-world adoption, our remote workforce understands the critical importance of data security at its core. 

We always recommend taking extra care of protecting your identity and personal information as well, as stealing one’s identity is a gateway for hackers to not only access bank accounts but also your private information that can affect your business.  

In terms of other best practices, we are careful to restrict access to important data to only those that need to have it for their working role. We build a trusting culture into our data security standards as well. If we need to grant data access to more individuals, then we look to our core team to sign off on the requests. 

To that end, we have been very careful to conduct proper due diligence and evaluation of team members and third-party vendors that will be granted access to anything that can affect the operational backbone of QURAS. 

7. With the continued evolution of the global workforce, what are some of the developments you expect to see with distributed work in the next few years?

Work is already being decentralized in various countries and the mobility of human resources is increasing. This will result in the world likely becoming a more level playing field, from a business and economical standpoint. This is a natural trend, which I believe also includes the peak of capitalism and the continued spread of the Internet. 

With the development in Artificial Intelligence, simple tasks will become more efficient, and more advanced tasks will be required, such as how to direct those simple tasks rather than performing tasks themselves. 

In many countries, the disparity between rural and urban areas is widening. In Japan, for example, the disparity between de-populated, rural areas and Tokyo is large and reaching a limit where the greater national government may have to step in to assist with general economic conditions of those in rural areas. Even with a growing distributed workforce, people are still flocking to urban, densely populated areas for more economic opportunities and a more connected lifestyle. As the working needs of the economy evolve, people will also have to evolve themselves to fit their workforce needs, or they may be left back in society.

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