About three years ago Julie's husband was transferred to Fort Lauderdale, FL. She was just returning from maternity leave when she told me they were moving. We had worked closely together for years, and I felt like it didn't matter if she sat three desks down from me or three states south of me. Julie is a valuable team member, and I didn't want to lose her. I asked her if she would be willing to stay on with IMC as a remote team member and she enthusiastically said, "Yes, of course!"
Our Sr. Director of Strategy had always worked out of her home in Chicago, so why not have Julie work out of her house in FL. With two key team members working remotely, we had become a remote team.
I will be honest; if someone had asked me a few years before about employees working remotely, I would have said, "NO." At that time I was a new manager and having face-to-face interactions in the office were critical to my team and me. However, as with everything, things change. Some of our business relationships had evolved, our team was reorganized, and our business strategy had shifted as well.
A few years after Julie left KY, I had the opportunity to move to Colorado. Having a great remote working relationship with Julie, I decided to pack my bags and head to the mountains. I have been working from Colorado for almost two years now, and love it!
These days we are pretty spread out and cover a lot of ground
1. Chicago - Nancy DeFauw, Sr. Director of Strategy
2. Colorado - Emily Wickerham, President
3. Louisville - Julie Brown, Vice President (moved back from FL about year ago)
4. San Diego - Alex Tomlinson, Business Development
5. Indiana - Carol Windell, Business Manager
6. Louisville - Stephen Reily, Chairman of the Board
Now, when someone asks us where we are based, we answer, "we are a remote team and work from all over the US."
Many people question or worry about how can you be sure that employees are working. I have heard of some companies taking random pictures (via the computer) of remote employees to make sure they are at their desk. I have also heard of people needing to move their mouse every so many minutes. These measures are likely necessary for big companies. As a nimble agency, the key is to hire great people, who work hard, whom you trust and who trust you in return. My old boss used to say, “you can ‘feel’ it when they are working,” and I have found that to be true. If anything my team and I have a hard time unplugging and stepping away.
Working remotely has taught me how to balance life and work better. I track my time with Toggl time tracker. The tracker helps me in two ways. I have documentation of my work, and it helps me make sure that I am stepping away and unplugging when I need to recharge. Your brain is a muscle, and it requires a break. If you aren't rested, you aren't doing your best work.
To make a remote team work:
• you must have trust
• you must have each other's back
• you need good technology
• you need to be willing to travel
As a remote agency, we travel a lot. We mostly travel for client meetings, trade shows, and conferences. When we are together, we make the most of our face-time. We have strategy meetings between client meetings, we do store checks, we catch up over dinner, and a couple of times a year, we squeeze in some fun activity.
Regarding good technology, we upgrade our cell phones every two years and computers every three years. We also upgraded to Office 365, and all have the same software. This enables us to access our files and work from anywhere.
Having access to a bigger talent pool is one of the top benefits of working with a remote team. When we were looking to bring on someone in licensing sales, we were able to get an experienced licensing sales executive. Our schedules are also more flexible than those having to keep office hours. We make sure we are logged in when we need to be, but can also work hours that are best for us personally. We work within four different time zones, so we are all pretty flexible.
Our remote team has over 75 years in brand licensing experience. We are in Chicago almost monthly for client meetings, in NY quarterly and also love traveling to other client locations. We are very excited about the future ahead and look forward to servicing our clients from all of our locations.