2020 was an extremely unique and challenging year for businesses and entrepreneurs alike; it pushed leaders to stretch their imaginations, troubleshoot, adapt, and think outside the box. Not every business thrived and not every entrepreneur landed on their feet, but it’s safe to say that everyone learned some valuable lessons during such a tumultuous year.
One of the biggest takeaways for many businesses across the world was learning how to transition to a fully-remote team of employees. Every leadership team has had to think about creative solutions to maintain productivity, nurture a lively workplace culture, and keep everyone on task.
Francis Wolff is the CEO and co-founder of Digistore24, one of the world’s largest automated reseller and affiliate marketing platforms. In 2020 alone, Francis helped Digistore grow eight figures per month in sales. He’s a skilled entrepreneur with experience in digital advertising, email marketing, and affiliate product launches, and he’s an international partner to 15 brands in the United States’ digital publishing industry.
The majority of Digistore’s team works from home, from all over the world. During his interview with Josh on the Making Bank podcast, Francis shares some of his tips as an executive for hiring productive team members and cultivating a healthy culture, even when the team is strewn across the globe.
Your HR Team is Priority #1
As obvious as it may sound, having the right people in HR that can search for and recognize quality candidates makes a world of difference. Hunting for employees that you know will be working remotely is different than looking for employees that will work onsite.
There’s a further emphasis on trust, the importance of being a self-starter, the ability to be autonomous, remain focused, and hold themselves accountable. Before searching for anyone else to join the team in a remote setting, double down and make absolutely certain that your HR team is searching for a nuanced set of skills, especially if your advertised job descriptions haven’t otherwise changed.
Francis says on the podcast, “You can’t really grow a company fast unless you’re out there looking for the right people.”
Sales Team = MVPs
In one year, Francis helped grow the U.S. Digistore team from 5 employees to 60. He shares that something that helped keep the momentum while growing the company was to intentionally seek out new sales team members that already had existing relationships in their networks, which could allow them to hit the ground running at Digistore.
In an all-virtual environment, it’s crucial that sales employees are true go-getters and strong networkers. Once an all-star sales team is in place, Francis says, “It’s just a matter of going after who we want to target.” So, it’s worth it to take the time and be extra picky when hiring sales staff; you’ll save time later by reaping the benefits of seasoned sales employees with the right relationships that benefit your business already in place.
Create a Culture of Ownership
Of course, it’s easy to say you should simply hire amazing people. But how do you keep everyone on track once you have them? How do you keep up morale and motivation?
According to Francis, the real secret to a buzzing, healthy remote staff is to foster a culture of ownership. Employees should feel pride and confidence in doing their job well, and should take ownership of their results and their productivity. When a staff member feels pride in their work and “owns” every part of it, they will naturally be more focused and self-driven because they have that implicit dedication.
The key to creating a sense of ownership in your staff is to provide clear expectations, and measurable, trackable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
When your staff is remote, job expectations need to be clarified down to the finest detail. Leave no stone unturned. If there’s ambiguity, the task won’t get done at all, or it won’t be up to par with your unspoken expectations. You might realize you need to provide some additional training or support.
This is also a great opportunity to listen to your staff members’ feedback; are there areas of their work that can be simplified, streamlined, or delegated? Employees are more likely to assume ownership of their roles when they feel heard and supported by leadership.
Once job descriptions have been re-clarified for a remote work environment, make sure there are actionable KPIs in place for every team and individual team member. Every employee should know what’s expected of her or him on a daily basis, without needing to ask a supervisor.
To track and measure KPIs and productivity, look into using different online collaboration tools, such as Slack, Salesforce, Confluence, Trello, Monday, Asana, etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your teams to find the perfect virtual processes and workflow systems that work best for your business.
And then, of course, teach your employees to use these tools to track their productivity and measure their success. Having a visual, collaborative tool is great for accountability, motivation, and focus, and it also allows you to plainly see which employees are successfully completing the tasks assigned to them.
In 2020, business was “upside down,” as Francis says, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t positive learning opportunities. If you’re creating or growing a virtual workforce, start with HR and Sales, and then focus on instilling a culture of ownership backed by clear expectations and measurable KPIs.