Jay Friedman, Partner & COO, Goodway Group
When I tell CEOs that our entire 300+ person staff works from home, the look I get is nearly always the same. About 10% intrigue and 90% horror. After we get past their assumption that we spend all day video chatting (we use it occasionally but not often), they ask how being fully remote could possibly work. I turn the conversation into a series of questions.
- What if you could reduce your office space costs by 35% while making in-person get-togethers a celebration rather than a requirement?
- Would you like to hear how our average salaries are 20% less than our competitors’?
- Would an 80% better retention rate than industry average improve your profitability?
By now, the look is 50/50. Progress!
Discomfort with the work from home model typically boils down to four key concerns. It doesn’t fit the culture (or what the CEO perceives the culture to be), existing staff don’t fit a remote profile, work will be slower or not get done at all and the tools are an added cost.
The reality is that the solutions to each of these concerns are specifically what make our business successful.
Culture Around Working From Home
In so many office environments, an in-office person describes someone who is working at home, on a given day, with some condescension. After being asked where John is, someone often answers, “Remember? This is Tuesday. When he “works” from home.” At Goodway we made sure during our transition to a fully remote environment that remote employees were viewed and treated identically to in-office employees. That means everyone is accountable to the same metrics, and those metrics are business objective-based. Whether a business is 100% remote or only remote on certain days, coming to the office must be a choice at those times and not a requirement.
Hiring Right, At The Right Price
It should be really hard to get a job at your company. One way we do this is by intentionally putting every candidate at every level through a fairly laborious process. It consists of about three hours of assessments and three hours of interviews. The assessments don’t make hiring decisions for us, but shape our ability to probe with better questions in an interview to ensure they’ll thrive working remotely.
This has helped us achieve 80% less turnover than our industry average and allows us to hire anywhere in the U.S. for any role except outside sales. Whereas 90% of our competitors hire exclusively in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Boston, we have amazing people in Omaha, Merritt Island, Florida and Boise. The flexibility to hire in any market enables a 20% salary savings compared to our competitors’ markets.
I’ve met with CEOs who never intend to let any part of their workforce work from home. Despite this, each of them is still amazed and inspired by our documentation and process systems. These systems ensure we produce quality work, share knowledge and effectively communicate across the enterprise better than most companies that physically sit in an office together.
Even if you never let a single employee work from home on a permanent basis, try working from home yourself for a few days. Then allow others to do it for a few days. It will reveal gaps in your process and communication protocol that are valuable to fix regardless of our remote workforce plans. Rinse and repeat until the gaps are gone.
Most of the tools we use – Office365, Namely, Expensify, and others – are tools every enterprise needs to use regardless of where their employees sit. Our entire tool set costs less than $50 per employee per month, with our use of Atlassian’s wiki product, Confluence, being an odd obsession at Goodway.
CEOs often ask me, “Do you ever see each other?” Absolutely. We get together twice each year. We spend a week in Deer Valley, UT in the summer and then a week together around the holidays in Las Vegas or Orlando. It is a serious celebration. People who’ve never met leave as new best friends. We’ve had countless people fly across the country to visit each other (on their own dime) after meeting in person just because they found a new friend. We had someone move to a new state just to be roommates with a new friend. Ten percent of our workforce has moved states since joining Goodway without having to leave their job.
These two annual trips are definitely expensive. Combined, they cost around 65% of what office space would cost for the year. But these two trips produce longer lasting, stronger personal relationships than I’ve seen forged in an office environment in any other company.
In the words of Thomas Edison, reading this article and thinking about testing a remote environment is the 1%. The inspiration. The hard work is still ahead. Our transition took approximately three years and was never rushed. Start with small pilots in the most mobile departments. Start with one day and see what happens. Move to one day each week. Make sure there are no hiccups before you go any further. And even if you never do this at all, try it for yourself every so often only to see the gaps in your processes and communication to make your company stronger.
About the Author
Jay Friedman is a partner and COO of Goodway Group. In 2006, he joined Goodway Group to add a digital media component to the company’s offerings, beyond the existing print and promotional side of the business. It was a staggering success. So much so, in 2010, Goodway served its last print customer to purely focus on programmatic digital media, an area where it was quickly becoming an expert. Since launching the digital practice, Jay has helped lead Goodway to 10x growth, now making it the largest independent programmatic media company on the planet.
Jay is a nationally recognized and accomplished digital media expert, speaker, and writer, he regularly speaks at top industry conferences, writes for leading industry websites such as adexchanger.com and imediaconnection.com, and co-authors Goodway’s digital media how-to books, like 30 Days to PAID Digital Media Expertise, now in its 7th edition. (Learn more at goodwaygroup.com.)