We’ve been using Speak for internal audio calls and it’s proven to be one of the easiest ways to instantly connect. We asked cofounder Eric Bieller to tell us more about how they work and their team culture.
How many employees and contractors do you have?
Please tell us about the importance of location independence at your company.
Location is everything for us. Not having an office allows us to save money and to be more free as individuals. We believe that great work can happen regardless of where you are, so we try to live that lifestyle and are building the tools to enable it.
Did you start with the intention of having a distributed or nomadic team? If not, when did you decide to support people working remotely?
We’ve been distributed from day one. Since our product was meant to enable this lifestyle, it just made sense. that being said, we sometimes envision a co-working office of sorts where people can come and go as they please, but there’d be no obligation to have your butt in a seat.
What are some of the challenges you face as a team without a central location or office?
Timezones. They are a force of nature which no tool can overcome. But we do our best to structure our hours for maximum overlap.
Communication can suffer a bit too. Luckily we’re building tools that drastically improve communication, but there are still challenges. Finding the right sync / async tools is hugely important. We use Speak for formal meetings and impromptu discussions. For async communication, tools like Github issues, Trello, etc. help to keep everyone glued together.
What’s the upside that comes with not having a central location or office?
We don’t have to pay rent, so we’re able to save some money that way which is always nice. And since we’re free to roam the Earth as we please, we also benefit from having a much happier team.
Are there important non-office workspaces in the history of building your company—a favorite coffee shop, bar or similar space?
Definitely. Tom and I are based in San Francisco and have a handful of places we frequent. They each offer their own advantages and have been great for bringing team members together when they visit.
Workshop Cafe is a great pay-by-hour workspace, which works well for us since we like being able to come and go as we please. It also has super fast and reliable internet.
Capital One 360 Cafe is a nice spot and completely free. Only downside is their internet is never quite up to scratch.
Other than that we have a handful of coffee shops that we frequent like Another Cafe, Coffee Bar and Sugar Cafe.
What % of your company regularly works remotely?
Any advice or best practices for supporting the work styles of your teammates from a distance?
It’s all about finding the right tools. Patience is also a virtue. If you’re communicating primarily over text, always go the extra mile to make sure you’re not coming across as being rude.
What types of places do your teammates choose to work from when remote?
We each have a workspace at our homes, but we like to get out of the house pretty often. Usually to coworking spaces or coffee shops.
What qualities do you look for when hiring for a distributed team?
Hiring self-managers is key. When someone is remote you can’t just look over their shoulder or stop them in the hall. And they are also usually working in a different timezone, which means you aren’t always around to decide what they need to work on.
You’ve built great products that help the distributed workforce at large. Why did you choose to do that?
We’ve all worked on remote teams in the past and seen the challenges that come along with it. It was a problem we understood and wanted to solve.
What are your thoughts on Workfrom’s role in the way work is getting done—now and in the future?
We’re extremely happy that tools like Workfrom exist. It makes it so much easier to make the leap into remote working. It has also been a great help to me personally, having used it to find great places to work while traveling around the US. Keep it up!
Is there anything else you’d like to share? Our goal is to gain insight into your path as a distributed team and help others understand what it looks like to be successful in spite of the challenges often faced.
Working remotely is a challenge, and will continue to be until more people embrace the lifestyle. But we envision a future where great work can happen regardless of where you are, and we’re working to make it happen.