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Entrepreneurs have to spend a lot of time evaluating possible business changes. But as most business owners experienced during the pandemic, change can also be unexpected. When we launched our startup, my co-founders and I didn’t know we would shift from making an AI-driven assistant for individuals to creating a managed B2B marketplace.
On February 7, 2020, we launched Wing Assistant on Product Hunt, where it became the #1 product of the day. Yet, our business model wasn’t working during the pandemic since no one needed an app for restaurant reservations, travel planning, etc. So, we adapted and engineered a new software out of our backend technology that catered to businesses.
In the business of remote work
We are the only company with an in-house software suite designed for delegating work to remote talent. Our unique software allows us to deliver the highest quality work output in the outsourcing space. We also practice what we preach. Our entire company is working remotely and distributed across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, India, Japan, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and the Philippines, to name a few. Doing this ourselves–living and breathing labor outsourcing–allows us to remain on the pulse of industry best practices.
Working in a distributed SaaS company
Working in a completely remote team is simply fantastic. For one, we have a great deal of independence. Our teammates get to work from home — or anywhere they like — and even keep flexible hours at times. That said, being 100% distributed does require disciplined project management. Team members must be aware of their deadlines and with whom to coordinate projects.
Working in a SaaS environment, especially ours, requires high-performance teamwork. When the teams are distributed, exchanging information efficiently and effectively is paramount.
1. Communication is a priority
Remote work necessitates deliberate communication. To some extent, it needs over-communication. Since people aren’t just down the hall or at the desk next to mine, I have several daily check-ins with my team members, so we can iron out details and not leave things unsaid. These conversations are crucial when you work online because misunderstandings come quickly when you’re not talking in person. We have one-on-ones and weekly meetings with larger groups where people can clarify the direction they must take on an initiative. With several teams on interdepartmental projects, everyone needs to be as proactive as possible in understanding their responsibilities and delivering their output.
Finally, teammates work with each other more effectively when they get the opportunity to bond. So, we also provide opportunities for casual interactions through virtual happy hours.
2. You’ll need fresh solutions for old challenges
One of our priorities as a team is creating a seamless experience for our customers through whichever platform they choose to interact with Wing — whether this is the website, app, directly with employees, etc.
An example is our 24/7 live chat experience. Although this is common in other industries, it is still relatively new to ours. Many of the chat inquiries we receive are from prospective customers, so we had to ensure that we were registering these as marketing attributions. To do this, we had one of our engineers write a script to trigger an action when someone mentions a keyword in the chat. This script allows us to integrate our chat with ad platforms, reinforce ad algorithms and send more similar traffic.
3. You have to be good at delegation
Task delegation is crucial for business leaders, but many hesitate to offload their tasks. It’s impractical to have one person doing multiple critical functions. Even if they are efficient, they’ll eventually become a bottleneck. This is especially true in a remote setting.
Distributed teams need members who can trust that everyone will own their work. You need to hire people you can trust and train in your processes when working online. The more autonomy you allow motivated people to have, the more they take ownership and put effort into their work. If you don’t know how to start delegating, using the SMART goal structure is an excellent first step.
The advice I’d give my past self
Building a distributed SaaS team takes work, but it is rewarding. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I served in the military and earned my MBA. These backgrounds have helped form me into a leader, but the best practices from both align with large, bureaucratic organizations.
If I could give my past self advice, it’ll be to “just do it.” In a larger company, there are strict guidelines for achieving success. In contrast, there are fewer best practices or guidelines for success in a startup environment. Failure isn’t something to be scared of–but it’s something we need to account for.
Business leaders must study each failure to learn from it and not repeat the same mistakes. So, those who win big are the ones who aren’t afraid to take action and try new things. And thriving in a 100% distributed company is a big win we only have because we put our tried and tested processes to the test and changed them when feasible.