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Four Underrated Techniques For Remote Startups

Zach Boyette is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Galactic Fed, a fully remote growth marketing agency with staff in over 17 countries.

If you’re planning to launch a remote startup, you’re jumping on the right trend. Owl Labs’ 2020 State of Remote Work revealed almost 70% of full-time U.S. workers have worked from home during Covid-19. Even before the pandemic, remote work grew 216% between 2005 and 2019.

While launching a remote startup is challenging, there’s a silver lining in doing it now: You can design a business model that supports remote work right from the get-go. You’re not tasked to pivot and adapt. You can start with a solid foundation.

For remote work, the time is now.

It’s just the beginning of the “Great Remote Work Migration.” As the Owl Labs report noted, 80% of workers still expect to work from home after restrictions are lifted, and 50% would not return to a job that doesn’t offer remote work. According to FlexJobs, some would even take a 10%-20% pay cut to continue to work remotely. To be on the better side of the “Great Resignation,” it’s essential to offer remote work flexibility.

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Businesses are getting a taste of the benefits, too. They’re seeing increased productivity, reduced operating costs, happier employees and increased retention.

In other words, there’s no better time to launch a remote startup. But let’s go beyond those worn-out tips found through a quick Google search. Here are four underrated principles essential for moving the needle and driving business growth for your startup.

1. Adopt a people-first approach.

The pandemic has forced us to re-think where, how and why we work. Employees in particular feel more empowered to pursue flexible roles that better fit their lifestyles and needs. And you can offer that—with a people-first approach:

• Listen and adapt: It’s time to throw away cookie-cutter people management programs. Everyone comes with different lifestyles, backgrounds and experiences. Get to know each employee and create a working relationship that ensures their individual needs are still met within the larger team environment.

• Motivate over mandate: Gone are the days when employees felt forced to attend every meeting and social event. When you need an employee to be on that call, say so clearly. Otherwise, keep things flexible. If they can’t make a company-wide call, send them a recording. If you’ve organized a happy hour, participation should be optional. Integrate more choice into day-to-day activities.

Your employees are crucial to your startup’s success. With their well-being at the forefront, you’ll create a space for them to do their best work and feel like valued contributors.

2. Make data-driven decisions.

As a startup, you may come across a lot of trial and error. That’s normal. But to truly turn these learnings into impactful business decisions, you should always consult data.

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Here are two areas where data plays a big role:

• Identifying the right tools: You’ll likely try out many different digital tools to support your team’s workflow. When comparing tools and finding the right ones for your startup, ask yourself data-driven questions: Can this tool help streamline processes? Will it keep up as we scale? Crunch the numbers, and you’ll find your winner.

• Making fast, informed decisions: Every business decision counts when you’re launching a startup, which is why they need to be backed by data. Guesswork is risky. If you’re looking for concrete answers on how to improve your product and marketing, create the habit of asking: What does the data say?

Never assume, and don’t take best practices at face value. Instead, use data to create a path that’s right for your remote startup.

3. Over-communicate with your team.

According to Buffer, communication is the biggest struggle employees face when working remotely. It makes sense: Almost all communication is now conducted online, often asynchronously.

As a remote startup, it’s essential to prioritize clear and transparent communication. Here are some techniques I’ve gathered while working with my team:

• Emphasize clarity: Your top priority should always be clarity—from company-wide emails to Slack DMs. Get in the habit of tagging appropriate folks in your Slack threads and reiterating important details. Set expectations from day one so they become ingrained in day-to-day communication. In the remote world, being clear is being kind.

• Work out loud: Remote workers can sometimes feel like they’re working in silos. To prevent that, encourage working out loud and lead by example. Provide updates on your company’s progress, goals, and vision—and create a safe space for your team to provide updates on their projects, too.

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It’s always better to over-communicate. There’s no such thing as a silly question or too much information. Embrace this mindset to build a shared vision.

4. Be open to change.

“Running” a startup is just that—you’re moving at record speed. While you want to keep pace, you also need to be ready to adapt to challenges. That involves experimenting—and yes, sometimes failing. But don’t stop there. Take those learnings and keep moving.

Here are two philosophies that helped my team hit our stride:

• Blue-sky thinking: If there were absolutely no limits, judgments or consequences, what creative ideas would your team come up with? Keep an open mind to these out-of-the-box ideas. Then pose the questions: How can we enable this? How can we adapt to make it achievable?

• Fail fast: This is a growth marketing motto we live by. Failing fast is an iterative, hypothesis-driven approach that pushes you to glean insights as quickly as possible, so you can make changes and move forward in the right direction.

Nothing is set in stone—and that’s okay. The greatest opportunities come from unexpected change. If you’re prepared to pivot, that’s where the magic happens.

Through my five years of experience running a remote startup, these are the principles that have laid the foundation for our success. Be open, communicative and data-driven. And most importantly, be flexible. Your employees will thank you—and so will your business. As we say at Galactic Fed, you’ll see your results go up and to the right.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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