5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team
By Fotis Georgiadis | Originally posted to Authority Magazine
Daron Robertson sits down with Fotis Georgiadis to review the 5 things you need to know to successfully manage a remote team.
When we surveyed employees at the onset of lockdown to understand how aspects of their lives were changing, 63 percent indicated that they did not expect the pandemic to have much overall impact on their jobs at BroadPath. This feedback was affirming because lack of control and social isolation have been major pain points in the transition to remote work during the pandemic, increasing the risk for burnout exponentially. We felt reassured that technology and programs developed within our organization had already created a sense of connection and stability among our teams and, as proof, we experienced no disruption to business from the pandemic.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daron Robertson, CEO and co-founder of the virtual workplace platform Bhive and CEO and founder of BPO Service Provider BroadPath. Daron has redefined how remote work is conducted, recreating an open office environment while addressing common remote-work challenges — connectivity, accountability, and security — for thousands of his employees working from home offices in 50 states and 4 countries. To help care for employees mental and physical health, Daron enhanced Bhive with a unique wellness program, HiveLife, that features stress management, meditation, and nutrition classes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
My mom and dad had somewhat unconventional backgrounds which influenced my life path significantly. My mother was from Missouri but grew up in the rainforests of Costa Rica during the revolutionary period. Her father, my grandfather, was an Indiana Jones type figure who flew around with the pilot Jimmy Angel (for which Angel Falls, Venezuela is named) scouting for gold mines. He even had a Peruvian mummy stored in his attic for a while. My dad grew up in more conservative Arizona but spent years rock climbing and Alpine mountaineering in Europe with Jon Harlin, a well-known figure at the time. He was a perfectionist and extremely competitive in everything he did (e.g., high jumping, climbing, sailplane gliding).
With this backdrop I spent the first half my life collecting interesting experiences, which is to say I tried a lot of things but committed to little. For instance, for several years I nurtured a strong interest in sustainable agriculture and spent time in the rainforests of Ecuador and Brazil studying indigenous farming practices. After that, I pivoted into water and wastewater engineering for a few years. Then went to business school, had a brief stint at PwC for strategy consulting, then worked to open a rock-climbing gym in Chicago. I finally shifted into the healthcare field and helped grow a services business for several years.
After 20 years of this — jumping into disparate endeavors for three to five-year stints — I began to feel unfulfilled and lacking purpose. I needed to recalibrate.
In classic tradition, I quit my job and moved out west. Over the course of several months spent reading, road-tripping and rock climbing, I began to appreciate that part of my discontent stemmed from lack of long-term commitment. I was always searching for the next big thing (better job, better relationship, better city) and coming up feeling empty. Like a life tourist.
In retrospect it seems odd, but I made a conscious decision to just commit. Within the same year I proposed to my wife and started a new business, embarking on a ten-year journey where both family and work have blossomed into more fulfilling and enriching endeavors than I could have ever imagined.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In early 2009 I experienced a truly make-or-break moment for my fledgling company. The financial crisis had but the brakes on our initial launch, and I was the only remaining employee of BroadPath, working alone in my above-the-garage office and struggling to land my first client. Out of nowhere, a hot prospect dropped into my lap. It was the perfect first client: they needed help urgently, wanted to work with me, and I knew we could knock it out of the park for them. Most importantly, they were a Fortune 50 organization. Working for them would boost our credibility and could dramatically accelerate our growth.
There was only one hitch. For reasons unknown, their risk management department prohibited them from doing business with any home-based businesses. Given our neighborhood location and guest-house layout we very much resembled a work-from-home company. Moreover, they required a physical inspection of the office before they could move forward, and said inspection needed to occur the very next day to keep the tight deadline.
Panicked but optimistic (a state of mind that dominated the first few years of our existence), I consented to the inspection and began to scramble for a solution. Online, I found a checklist outlining their specific criteria for what defined a “real office”: a) building zoned as a business, b) permanent sign affixed to structure, c) office equipment visible, and so on.
After careful research, I discovered that my sister’s house was in fact one of a handful in the community that was dual-zoned business/residential. Bingo! Next, I bought a clear plastic sign, bolted it to the side of the house, and slipped our name and logo inside. Finally, I decided to purchase additional office equipment (even an old fax machine) to build out the business-like atmosphere.
The inspector, a very pleasant person, showed up and asked all the questions I knew were coming. She took a few pictures, checked the box “not a home-based business” and left. I won the contract, we knocked it out of the park, and they became a much-referenced client that put us on the map. We never looked back.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
So many mistakes to recount. In the early days, every misstep seemed almost existentially threatening to the business. In retrospect few things were. For example, I remember the first time we accidentally sent our pricing information to a competitor via “reply all” (yes, it’s happened more than once). I felt punched in the gut. As bad as that was, I am much more forgiving of mistakes now. In fact, over the years many of our competitors have returned the favor!
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Since our workforce has been 100 percent work-from-home for nearly a decade, we have made it a priority to recognize and proactively tackle burnout, both from the standpoint of compassionate leadership and also because our employees are on the front line as vital shapers of customer experience...