Hello! What's your name, your company name and your role there?
Joel Friedlaender, Red Guava, Founder
Can you give a brief overview of the company background and what you guys do?
Our company is called Red Guava, all we do is build www.cliniko.com. It's practice management software for healthcare businesses.
We're a team of 32 people, spread out around the world. We're focused on building the best software possible for healthcare businesses, but also doing some good in the world.
We've been around for 8 years.
What percentage of your company works remotely and have you always been remote-friendly? If not, what prompted the change?
100% of our company is remote. When I was hiring our first employee (a developer), I posted a job for a Melbourne developer (where I am based). Someone from Poland applied anyway, and was the best person for the job, so I hired them and we became a remote company. It was more opportunistic than anything. In hindsight, it was amazing for our company, remote work is a huge advantage for us and we're lucky it happened like that.
What do you see as the biggest advantages of working remotely?
There are few advantages that stand out for me:
- Hiring the best people available. If you're hiring locally, you're kidding yourself to think you're hiring the best. There's literally a world full of people, and a very small portion of that lives near your office. Opening your candidate pool up gives you access to more people and enables you to put together an amazing team.
- People get to work how they work best. Everyone works well in different environments/situations. There's no way to design a single office space that is the best for all the individual people that work in it. Enabling people to design their own workspaces/styles, allows them to optimise for their own productivity.
- Less interuptions. We find remote work goes hand in hand with asynchronous work. This means a lot less interuptions that could knock you out of "the zone" and allows more productivity every day.
- More diversity. We have people in our team from around the world, different backgrounds and cultures. It's so great for decision making to have such different view points and experiences.
- We focus on the work. When you're in an office, it's assumed you're working because you're at your desk. When you're remote, it's only the work that is seen. This makes the work the star, not the hours you spent doing it. A focus on work and outcomes is a great change for us.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and the obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I find this tricky to answer, as we've had such a positive experience with remote work. Perhaps the hardest is to have fair salaries globally. We like to pay people in their own currencies, as their salary shouldn't fluctuate periodically based on foreign exchange rates. This means even if you try to achieve parity, over time they will drift apart as exchange rates change. Instead of parity in pay, you can try to achieve parity in value received from pay (ie. taking into account GDP/country cost of living), but this is quite subjective and difficult to maintain. I think this is one where we've found there's no single right answer, and we're always considering it.
To start over, we'd be 100% remote again right away. No change there.
What do you look for in a remote employee and how do you hire for good company fit?
We aim to hire people that are smart, passionate about what they do, and nice. I don't think that changes remote or not.
I'd rather look for adding to the company, than company fit. When hiring, we want someone that brings something new (skills, culture, background, personality, etc.).
What elements make up a successful remote team? What’s the trickiest aspect to leading and managing a remote team?
I think the most important thing for a successful remote team is autonomy. With this, I mean as much autonomy as is practical for your business. For us, people work when they want, where they want, on what they want. There's no managers or hierarchy. We believe everyone in the team wants to do great work, and we support them in that goal.
As for leading/managing, I think my role is to ensure our goals for the company are clear and people understand why we do what we do. Also to support people however they need.
How do you nurture your culture and the personal relationships within the company?
We have meetups regularly. We offer anyone in the team to come to Melbourne, Australia (where we were started) any time they like, paid for. This usually eventuates in a couple of meetups a year with perhaps half the team at each. It's very ad-hoc and self-driven. We also have a full team meetup somewhere in the world every two years.
I believe these meetups are critical to the culture and friendliness in the team. We hang out during the meetups, all stay in the same venue, we eat and drink together. We do some work, but we also just spend time getting to know each other. Our team-mates feel like really good friends, and I think this is created by the meetups.
What advise would you give to a team just starting out as a remote company or a team transitioning to remote work?
I think you need to be completely committed to remote work. If you only have some that are remote, it's very hard to make it that the remote workers are treated equally and have access to everything those in the office do.
I'd also make sure you work your hardest to hire good people, and then trust them and support them. If you're the type of person that thinks people will mess around unless you monitor them and force them to do their work, remote may not be for you.
Also, team chat tools like Slack are invaluable.