What divides an incredibly successful company from a relatively successful one? How they build their processes. Listen as today’s guest, Liam Martin of Running Remote, talks about the law of process and why it’s critical to build processes and systems that you can replicate.
The co-organizer of of Running Remote, which is a conference on building and scaling remote teams.
Resources and Referenced Links
Welcome, welcome. I am here today with Liam Martin, co founder at running remote conference Time Doctor and staff.com. Liam and I, I've known of you for years and years. We've both been in the remote Founder World for a long time. And last year in the before times, I actually went to your conference in Bali running remote and it was amazing. It was definitely the loveliest conference. Like space I've ever been to is right on the beach and a beautiful hotel. Yeah, I didn't have to think twice about committing to go to that conference. So I'm super glad to have you on the show.
Thanks for having me. Maren is definitely the the space of Bali was one of the major kind of characters inside of running remote for sure. You know, it's like that's One of those places if you have not been and you're listening right now, after over one day, I put it at the top of your travel list. It's absolutely amazing there. I'm actually by making space there, by the way. Oh, that in Abood because they're a quarter on the dollar right now. Yep. which we'll get into right. Like, that's something I have a bunch of theories about the future of remote work, where we're going to be and what's going to be happening, the biggest one being, I think digital nomadism is going to explode post COVID because we've had hundreds of thousands of six figure tech workers that are now freed from their physical space, and they can now roam free and they're not going to go anywhere near they're going to go probably throughout the United States and a lot of them are probably going to go abroad.
I think that's completely true. And it's actually interesting thinking about it. That's not that sounds something thought about before, but I that makes perfect sense because one of the things I'm like I'm itching just to to go again. And I lived I lived completely abroad. I did the digital nomad thing for about a year after my last startup before between San Francisco and New York, and it was it was life changing. It was such a amazing experience. I lived in Vallejo lived in Spain, I lived in London. I lived in Tokyo, and it just it changed. It changed my worldview. It changed my life. And now especially because I haven't been able to go anywhere. Like as soon as that is a thing. And I know people that you know, had 50 100 200 employees in San Francisco or New York, and now they're in a little surf shack in Hawaii, just working from there. And I think people are just starting to experience that. So that's actually really that's a good call the digital nomadism actually, like I mean, right now it's hurting, especially the companies that absolutely alert to that But I didn't really think about the the way it will blow up after this, which makes total sense.
I think about where we're currently at right now. We have no other time in history have we had a bigger influx of one percenters being freed from physical space? As we had post pandemic? And there's a whole bunch of other things. It's been a first obviously, over the last six months, which has been crazy, by the way, it's like, What's the date right now? Just that we it's August 31 2020. So, you know, some crazy shit has been going on in the last couple months. just crazy pandemic, all that kind of stuff. But fundamentally, when you see in a year from now, I think you're probably going to see let's just take Bali. I think you will see more than 5000 people that used to work in San Francisco and technically still do that are going to be either traveling or living in Bali by 812 months after COVID out avex right. And like when you think about those types of people, they're not the people that are going to stay in a backpack, backpack or villa. They are the people that are going to probably rent a four bedroom Villa for $1,000 a month, because they had a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco for $5,000 a month. Right. So that's a totally going to be happening. I think some other stuff is going to happen after that fact. I actually think we're probably going to see the end of kind of tech hubs in general, because I think just the distribution of talent due to remote work is going to create a very interesting phenomenon. But outside of that, you know, to me, buy up what that customer is going to consume in the next 12 to 24 months. And it's currently a quarter on the dollar or a dime on the dollar. It's definitely if you can cashflow it, I think it's a clear win.
Yeah, that's a good point. And honestly, it's I mean, one of the things that I'm the most passionate about just the Kind of the democratization of opportunity that remote work brings, I've always felt that as someone who, who didn't have like, the same kind of, I didn't have like a boujee went to Stanford background, I, you know, grew up in a smaller town in Texas and Nevada. And I always felt like when I was in San Francisco, New York, like a total outsider, and I kind of had a fumble my way for many years figuring things out myself, like putting together my own little MBA. Um, but but I, I love the idea that at any point in time, there are multiple roles that need to be done. And there are people somewhere in the world that are within a 90 to 99th percentile match from culture, from skills from passion, and thinking of how, like that's, to me the most exciting thing about remote work because it doesn't mean you have to be in a big city in a specific thing. It really if done right. You know, it can help, it can help raise, raise the tide, like raise all boats, um, you know, in, in theory and obviously there's a lot of work that goes into that. But that's one of the reasons that I'm the most excited about kind of helping connect people with meaningful work on from the remote front, because that that opportunities is massive and it's really it's really globally world changing because someone in Nairobi is just as talented to someone as someone in you know, San Jose, California, but from opportunity from there's a bunch of different things that go into it. But like high high level, it's really exciting to think about if these physical hubs dissipate and instead it's really more of a meritocracy.
Yeah, no, I have a does work empowers employers and employees to find the best of each other. And I think that that's absolutely true. And it's happening right now. One of the actually the short that we debuted Running remote, which you may or may not have seen was the story of for him and for him is a friend of mine who has Muscular Dystrophy lives in Dhaka in Bangladesh, and literally spent six months begging on the streets, getting enough money together to get a laptop, and enough internet credits to teach himself graphics design. And now he supports his entire family on Fiverr and Upwork, as well as a graphics designer, there's nothing there about him being disabled. They just basically hire him because he's the best person for the job. And he's really done a great job. And he just recently about two months ago, built a house for his entire family of 12. So it's just sort of like wonderful. Those are the people that I find. Those are the stories I find incredibly exciting about remote work is it just empowers people, wherever they are on planet Earth, whether they have that, you know, That that Ivy League education or not, if you're good enough, you're going to be able to have work opportunities that you just never would have been able to have access to. Pre remote.
Exactly. And it gives you the opportunity to like I like I, I learned, I dropped out of college, I learned I learned a ton through reading, I learned a ton through generous people who gave me their time, you know, just I cobbled together kind of my own little remote education, my own business education. And it took a lot of time and it took a lot of energy. But the only thing stopped, the only thing I had to invest was like, you know, I had Wi Fi I was lucky to have that. And then I could go to the library and learn and I could take books out and learn. And I love that remote is allowing people to do that. You know, maybe you are born with a silver spoon and that's, you know, not up to you. That's the genetic lottery like Warren Buffett says, and maybe you not you're born with nothing, but I love the ability especially when internet like becomes ubiquitous. The ability to allow people to like You can go as far as you you want and that's just like really exciting. So, so side note there. I always, this is like one of my favorite questions to ask people. What was your first job as boy?
That's making my brain work what was my first job I had lots of jobs. So I have been fired from or have quit. Almost every job I've ever had within about three months. I can tell you about my longest job. So this is why I got into entrepreneurship is because I recognized it was just pure survival. I cannot work for someone else I end up and I'll tell you what my longest job which was about two and a half months, I was selling water coolers door to door so I was a water cooler, cooler salesman. And like the Yeah, like the little machine you put in the big jug of water and the top and she had a knock door to door and you sold a $500 water cooler which you could buy at Costco for $200. But that was the job right selling these water coolers door to door. And I discovered that I could actually go into an office building. And instead of selling one water cooler, I could sell 30 water coolers to the office building manager. So I just started doing that. And I became the best. I became the top salesperson in the entire province. I live in Canada, so the entire province of Ontario. They're like, how are you doing this? And then they discovered that I was actually selling them commercially. And they said, well, we're not allowed to sell them commercially. We have to sell them only to residences, only residential contracts. So I was like, That's stupid. Why should I not sell them to? To businesses, right like this is great. I am killing it right and I was making. I was making a $500 commission every $500 water cooler that I was selling. I'd work for one day and make like five grand which was Amazing. Yeah, cuz you were making money off the deliveries, it was all about the water and water jugs that they were, you know, it was like the SAS subscription or school Association. So I was like, okay, that's stupid. I'm not going to do that. And then what I started doing is I did exactly the same thing. But I just started writing up 30 residential contracts to a single location. And they found me out in like, another four weeks and they fired me. But it was just one of those things that I was like, that's really stupid. And that's not the way that I decide to interpret reality and here's a better way of interpreting reality and they just disagreed with my interpret. Okay, so how, oh, that was not my first job. That was the most interesting one. How long is sorry, two and a half after after that, um, so How did you you find found a Time Doctor first or what he yes Time Doctor first and then very quickly afterwards a staff calm, which was how did that happen? I decided to get into that type of business online. I prefer talking about Austin. I was speaking at South by Southwest on a panel and I had been running an online tutoring company. Okay, until you started that I started Yeah, so that was another business that I started right out of graduate school. I was gonna I'm gonna go into academia. A ended up being a massive disaster. I taught my very first class in grad school, ended up getting the worst Professor reviews in the history of the department and the department had been running for 121 years. So I walked into my supervisors office and I said, I don't think I'm very good at this. And he said, No, you are not And I said, so what do you think I should do? And he's like, well, you got to get good at this lecturing thing, because you're going to be doing it for the next 20 years before you get to do anything fun. So figure that out or figure something else out. Four weeks later, I threw a master's thesis under his door. I was out of the PhD, they gave me a master's thesis, and they gave me a Master's thankfully, and I was out into the real world. And I started an online tutoring company, way old school, which was, I mean, that's 12 1314 years ago, and I was just tutoring kids through Skype, and that was the business. So the business was basically I would hire all of these graduate students to tutor university students to get through their pre med courses, and pre med courses. They're very, very expensive to get tutors for. So I was making quite a bit of money. And one of the problems that I had was I couldn't Couldn't acquaint for time properly. So us tuner would bill a student for 10 hours. And then the student would call me saying, I didn't actually work for 10 hours with my tutor, I work with them for five, seven, I'd have to go to the tutor and say you do work with me for 10 hours, and the tutor would say, of course, I build them for 10 hours. So I ended up having to refund the student for five hours and pay the tutor the full 10 hours. And this was really destroying the business. So I was at this panel at South by Southwest and I met my now business partner and the CEO of time Dr. Rob Rossen. And he had built a tiny little alpha, which basically was going to allow me to measure very precisely down to the second exactly how long a particular task took when someone worked remotely, which is basically what time doctor does and I recognized Well, this is totally going to solve my other problem. So I sold the business. I actually sold another consultancy as well. And went from making a good amount of money to making literally nothing for two and a half years as we built up the SAS business. And for those that are not listening, because I started off where's the surface? Yeah, software is a service businesses, which fundamentally have like a really low ramp time, because of just the way the model works. But the beauty about SAS is it has compounding interest on steroids, right? So once you get actually get a customer base, you just get more customers from that existing customer base. So that was really great. That was like eight or nine out. Well, the company's been around for nine years. And then stack.com was actually and this is something I probably don't want to say the name but a major tech company in the outsourcing remote workspace. That was a platform, wanting to hire one to basically buy our company but like within the first year of business, and it was a platform for hiring remote workers. And we just said well, we think that This is bullshit. We should make our own platform to send a million leads for remote workers, which was staffed.com. A long story short, that was a complete and utter disaster. Really? Yeah. Yeah. So the first year we did about 86,000 MRR, which is monthly recurring revenue, which was really great. Actually, it was great, especially for the first year. Yeah. And then by year two we were doing we were at 110,000 and change. So we hit a turn wall, in essence, what we had, we had 10% turn inside of that two sided marketplace. And the reason being, which was really interesting when you kind of look at two sided marketplaces, how they evolved right now. It was personalized interaction and people being adopted platform and we took a percentage of those salaries. That's the way that we made money off the platform and realized, like infinity into Uber. I don't need Maren, the Uber driver, I just need a Uber driver, right? So with our platforms, we're always hiring Maren, the Uber driver every single time. And eventually there was poaching that just occurred that was completely destroying the business, which is your clients are never going to tell you, they're never going to tell you Oh, well, we just decided not to work together anymore. You know, it's like, well, actually, I'm still working with them. I'm just not paying you.
So we have that experiences or tool from time to time.
Right. And that's one of those things that's just really an interesting mechanic inside of to market, two sided marketplaces, which we did not recognize at the beginning. Because that churn is kind of secret churn, no one really tells you about it. And then we realized, well, we're going to need like another $50 million to really get this to the point in which we can be competitive with the incumbents. So we said let's shut that down and stop calm is now an enterprise version of time Dr. fundament.
Oh, okay. Very cool. Oh, that's interesting. Um, so speaking of time, Doctor, you You said you, you know, that's been around about nine years now. Um, you and your co founder started together, scaled it up. So what like, are what's the size? Now? You know, how do you are there any, like growth numbers or numbers you share publicly just for people to get a sense? Well, we don't.
We don't share specific stuff. But we're eight figures. We have about 150 people in the company. You know, growing, growing about, well, when it's not COVID, probably about 60%. year over year. It's growing more with it open. Oh, yeah. I mean, for sure, right. Like it's one of those things that we had. We had a country deploy on our tool without telling us, oh, my god shut down our Asian node for 22 minutes, which was insane. So probably around April, we went from we had an entire, like feature rollout that we were going to do for the year and all of that was thrown in the garbage and the only feature was keep the software running and make sure it doesn't crash. Yeah, that was it. And actually ironically, we're on zoom right now. The same thing is happening which I've been blown away with is paid versions of zoom look beautiful. But if you have a free version of zoom, it's like you're on a potato it's because all of their infrastructure is only being redirected towards paid users.
And understandable like fair totally well we upgraded we finally we finally upgraded to I we got away my my company one of my companies now we got away with free zoom for literally three years and I was like, screw it. We're gonna upgrade it's worth it.
With Time Doctor, have you guys bootstrapped venture like self funded, venture backed How did you go about that?
Yeah. So Lily bootstrapped, completely bootstrapped. Yeah. That's, you know, especially to eight figures. That's amazing. Well, it's, it's interesting because with your background, because you raised money for zirtual. Right.
Yeah, but not until, not until three years in. Okay.
When, I don't know if you had this same resistance point, as we did, but we were remote first company at that we currently have employees in about 37 different countries right now. When we were about two to three years in, we were doing a couple million arr. And we wanted to raise a term sheet, right, we wanted to raise a series A, and we got term sheets, and they were good. And we hired we got some from San Francisco from New York, from Montreal from Toronto. Every single one and this was 2000 and I want to say 2015 ish. Yep. Every single one of them said, you have to move your entire team to that particular city. Yeah. And we told every single one of those investors. No. So we're like a tool for remote work like we're specifically in the the mission statement of the company is to empower remote work. So don't you think that's counterintuitive? And they said, we love Time Doctor, we love what you're doing. We love remote work. We're venture capitalists. Trust us. We know what we're doing. You got to move.
Yes. And I learned that from forget about the list before we didn't have I mean, we did we had a little office in San Francisco which like I spent no time x i did better working in cafes, but that's completely that was a like completely one of those things was it was like that I hate Yeah, that listen, we know better in retrospect, they didn't know better because following like the venture capital path actually, like broke our business model. So you guys did the right thing. But yeah, I love that even even since COVID um, I kind of started to begin the fundraising process at the beginning of this year. And I'm actually weirdly COVID made like I thought I wanted to raise money. I thought I knew what I want to raise it for. And now I'm like, Oh, actually, I don't not gonna raise money. I'm just gonna bootstrap from profits, which I like better. But it was interesting. Even in January and February I had I sat down with VCs and they were like, Listen, I think remotes probably a trend. And I was like, no, what are you talking about? And then as March and April run on it was like, you still think it's a trend? Right? Um, yeah, but absolutely that like a like, Well, you know, that that that obsession with San Francisco I think this year has it's the death knell for it or New York. But but that is that is funny, and that is so annoying, but I bet you're grateful that you guys didn't raise now and that you bootstrap because now.
Yeah, Well around. So I mean, what do you want? Do you want speed or time? Right like that. So if you raise money, you, you get speed at the expense of equity. Right? But if you have more time, then you can just go slower and the same business model applies.
Yeah. And also, time gives you the ability miss, like, everyone's going to make mistakes, some more than others. Everyone's going to have growth bottlenecks and problems. What they don't tell you when you raise venture is that that speeding up, you're still going to have the same mistakes, but you're going to have less time less runway to address them. And you're not even going to have the almost just the mental maturity of like, I look at myself now at 35 where I was at 27 as you know, a CEO and I've seen a lot more I've fallen on my face multiple times. I've seen other people I've seen success I've seen my entire dislike from before. standpoint and much different and how I could handle exactly the similar problems now as I did seven years ago would be radically different because I've had the time to almost like decanter so to speak. So I think that that's something that is actually there's like you really can grow too fast. And it really try and kill a company when there's just yeah, so so I agree with you completely. So you said Time Doctor staff calm, which is the enterprise version of Time Doctor, and then you have running remote, which you've done for a few years now, just like high level what's what's running remote and how to build and scale a remote team.
So if you want the playbook on how to build and scale a remote team from a founder or executive or HR director perspective, that's what we deliver. So what we don't do is we don't teach you how to be a digital nomad. We don't teach you how to get a job remotely right? Those are very different, like we fundamentally said to ourselves, we want to focus on a very, very small aspect of remote work, which is building the company and not focus on digital nomadism, which at the time actually was the that like a dozen digital nomad conferences, and there was one. There was one remote work conference that ended up shuttering. And so we said to ourselves, man, this is probably a really stupid idea. Because everyone else is doing digital nomad stuff, and not remote work stuff. I said, Yeah, but you know, I don't want to learn that stuff. Like I want to learn how to take the company from 100 people to 200 people to 500 people. Right? So it was kind of a ready fire aim type of situation. So we just cut a check for 100 grand for a venue in Bali. And I said, and we ended up getting joy Gascoyne who is the CEO of buffer, who is still currently the CEO of buffer. And we said to ourselves, okay, we have Joel gas going, who's one of the biggest influences remote work. And he's agreed to fly to Bali to speak. And we got this venue. Let's just do it. Let's see what happens. And worst case scenario, we end up being better at our jobs, right? If we could increase retention by 5% in the company, it would totally be worth it. Thankfully, we had about 500 people show up and we had about 600 ish for the second one, and we were going to have about 1000 people for Austin. But then COVID hit, and we had to shut down our Austin Austin event, which was really unfortunate, but we were running virtual ones, which is, which is cool. I mean, you lack the intimacy of a face to face event. And I know for a lot of people that are hearing that in St. Louis. Yeah, leave your Renault company. What do you mean you know, isn't that is not a stupid statement to make. Well, we do do like company retreats every single year, like just because someone's remote doesn't mean you don't need them. Right at any one point and that for me is really important is I think even role founders need their own version of a place to come to really interact and you know, share notes that kind of stuff.
I think you missed the you missed the human interactions even more when you when you run a fully remote company or even when you work remote, because most of your day is is by yourself behind a computer. So I that was actually one of the things I enjoyed the most about the last year running remote was just being able to catch up with people face to face, like buying a drink, being in the pool, like grabbing a bite, like just literally that that actual physical proximity. So that is one of the things that it's difficult. Um, I mean, it won't be forever.
The other thing too is is kind of interesting. Maybe I can get your input on this. But we were weird. Like, even up until March I remote first founders were really weird people like there just weren't many of them. And we thought very differently. And now it's just sort of like, okay, now everyone is remote. I'm concerned actually about the community that were that we were very, we were very aggressive at curating inside of running remote and how that's going to evolve. And we want to be able to make sure that we're evolving it in the right way, meaning, you know, not growing too quickly, to be able to make sure that people have the same kind of perspectives, I guess, then we do, or whether it's just going to completely transform into something else, right, like remote work is going to be a very different animal in a year from now than it even is even is now and it's completely changed since March, which is not totally it's just It's crazy the kind of stuff that's happening with remote work I tell my friends that are all remote first founders. It's like, we've had more movement in remote work in like the last six months than we've had the entire history 10 times over of remote work since it really?
Yeah, I mean, I've been I started my first little business when I was in college. So that was a 20. So I was 15 years ago. And I literally remember like going to a cafe with my bagel laptop and sinking up and I built an eBay store and then from there I started like, I you know, when Twitter came around, I started like, writing little ebooks on how to tweet I had a company called tweeter printer like entrepreneur but tweeter.
Oh, that's a little cringy but that's cool.
Oh man, it was so crazy. I also had a ebook when I was 21 a teaching you how to power sell on eBay called the power seller princess. I was like, well, Mary, you had some fabulous Back in the day, you know.
I think everyone's got one of those little skeletons in their closet, particularly of the generation that we're from where it's like, the very first couple years, like 1015 years back when the internet was really new internet marketing was so it was cringy it was fundamentally the thing and it was always like, power seller extreme or, you know, it's something like, and I still do see some of that internet marketing stuff that I don't think it works as well as it used to. Because honestly, is anyone that's listening right now, if you don't ever buy internet marketing stuff, what you should do is just go to YouTube, and type in what you want. And there will be 20 videos that are probably as good as you know the $5,000 course that someone want. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, but it's just it was one of those things that everyone has a couple of little skeletons in their closet. I had Have a I had an ebook for my tutoring company, which was how to study 20 minutes a day and get a 4.0 GPA. That was my ebook that I had arrived 20 minutes a day for planners. I can't remember the 20 minutes a day, or maybe it was 40 minutes a day. I can't remember. But it was it was cringy to actually read it about three years ago. And it was it was not good.
Well, the thing is, you know, Oh, I know I looked back at I found like my ebook somewhere on an old computer. And I looked at it and I was like, Oh my gosh, like, this is really bad. And now as someone who's writing a book and is actually put six months into it, like I have an editor, I have blah, blah, I'm like, Wow, I can't believe that. But you know what, like, it's good to do that stuff. It's good to you have to, you put so much out there as an entrepreneur especially when you're a baby entrepreneur, because you're learning at the same time. And thank goodness we did all those things because you don't go from like, Oh, I have an idea. Dia to a fully functioning company that scales without making a lot of mistakes and learning a lot along the way. And I mean, that's the thing like with where we're at right now and kind of the current stage, it's at what you're talking about, like scaling up fully or partially distributed teams. There's, there's good and there's bad, there's opportunities and there's pitfalls. And some companies are going to come through this and they're going to be stronger. This is going to absolutely break some companies, whether they're, you know, brick and mortar or whether they're digital native, but they they don't know how to make that shift.
Hmm. Oh, yeah, absolutely. I've seen it's been interesting because I've been talking to so many remote or whatnot remote. I've been talking to so many founders that have had to go remote in the last couple of months. And a lot of them are incredibly tech savvy, but even them, they're just having so many barriers to entry. The biggest one is fundamentally just communication barriers. And then process documentation barriers, right? So, you know, it's like, oh, well, the the watercooler chats, which were kind of the background form of education for this entire organization, are now removed. So in remote first teams, we usually have process documents, right? We have operational procedures and everything and they're digitized and they're put up in on a cloud system so that you can consume them. And those just don't exist, and they never existed because it was all you know, guys in a, in a, in an office that just exchange that information in kinda like the back channels of the company. And creating that documentation takes at least two weeks to do badly and probably on Monday, well, month. Absolutely. So then, you know, it's like a whole bunch of these people just went remote. And then they're like, how do we do anything? We don't know. Oh, well, Suzanne knows how to do that. Well, she's got COVID For the next 14 days, so you can't ask her, how do we figure it out. And that was just a constant barrage of stuff that was hitting me almost on a daily basis.
So it's interesting with the process documentation, I totally agree. And I think as someone now that started several remote first companies, what I noticed I do like, one of the first things I do, and it's like one or two people is I start that documentation and build on it. And like if if something is ever going to be doing done more than once, I'm like, document it. And one of the ways I talked to my team about it and is and maybe you have a different way is like you should literally be able to plug in a decently savvy person, like doesn't have to be a genius, just somebody who is basically competent, plug them in, give them access to your systems, and they should be able and you say, Go update, blah, blah, blah, go check out the HR tech and they should be able to do that through finding like the you know, a point of truth and an Knowledge tree. And it doesn't matter what tools you use, whether it's notion whether it's Google Drive, whether it's whatever, but you should set it up in a way that is so intuitive that a teenager could figure it out.
I have a saying which I edited slash stole from Napoleon. Napoleon said, orders shouldn't be easy to understand they should be impossible to miss understand that and have exactly the same perspective with regards to process documentation. Think of it once you have that switch, like once that flips for you, it's like okay, yeah, this these directions are pretty easy. And I would know how to do it the wrong way. That right you need to start thinking to yourself, what is the what isn't a complete, perfect version of this process it to call it perfect process to really bring it to a point in which a three year old could understand how to do it and once you're at that point, and A lot of people say to themselves, well, that's overkill. Like as an example, we have a lot of, we used to have a lot of support people in the Philippines, we still do, actually. But a lot of them back end support people. And their first language is in Tagalog, which is Filipino as well, we have an English version, and we have a Tagalog translation, because it's easier for them to consume in Tagalog. And, again, it's not just easy to understand, impossible to miss understand, that's what you really need to think about is how can I build that process to a point in which I can plug in any human being from outside of the organization and they have learned to do any single job inside of the organization, and that takes time and energy. But once you do that, you can come fortune 500 company, right? Like fundamentally, that's what fortune 500 companies do. is they literally just that are reliable. assessable is they have processes and systems that they can replicate. Yeah, absolutely. You know, you look at Very successful business, outside of their core disruption that they apply to the market. What divides a incredibly successful company from a relatively successful one? Same idea, same level of disruption is, how fast can i replicate that advantage before competitors move in and take it? So have you figured out how to turn $1 into $2? In two months? How, how many more dollar machines can I build in six months before my competitors catch up? Yeah, and recognize that the differentiators process?
That's it? I also think I think it's one of the encouraging things for people that are starting businesses, like you know, what are within, let's say, a year, two years zero to two years old businesses right now. They have the ability to pause for a beat and say, Hey, what do I want to do? like do I want to go back to my office do I want to and I know a lot of founders for San Francisco that have let go leases and like we're going remote first. And I've set them like if you spend a time and do it right, this will be an investment in your operationally in your business that that will pay dividends for life. Because a, you just went from incredibly expensive competitive talent in San Francisco to a global pool of talent. As long as you know how to recruit really well, and you put together systems and do exactly the same thing. And you will be able to just build, build the process. I mean, you know, when when we're at five or 10 people as an early stage company, I know that I'll build processes that we'll be able to scale up to 50. And then we hit 50 and tweak them to scale to 150. And we go on from there. And it really it's I mean, it's it's much more work in the beginning, but it saves you so much pain as things go on, versus how I did it. zirtual is we got to 100 people and we're like crap, we need to put some processes in and I mean, it was years of just grueling. Pain, trying to back into processes.
We have Caitlin in the company, who her only job is to keep all of our processes up to date. That's it. That is her job is she is a process.
The process Zarina.
Yeah, like it. So we also believe that processes are laws in our company, right? So like, it is a lot like, you can't shoot people. Yeah, you also can't sign your email that way. But it is a law. And the only way that you can change that law is by amending it is by actually saying I think this is stupid, there's a better way to do it. And this is the way that I'm proposing that we do it and then we have a discussion about it. And if that better way is agreed upon is the better way then we we get ratified.
Yep. I said the Constitution.
Right. And it's just like, that's a very simple thing to implement. But once you have that in place, It's It's It's amazing how fast companies grow. There's an honorable mention that I could I could grab for your your listeners, which is Dimitri who is the CTO and co founder of Git lab. He has the largest remote work repository on planet earth process document on planet Earth. It's about dot get lab comm slash handbook. It's 3200 pages is an open source document on absolutely everything that Git lab does. So if you want to know how many stock options you're going to get when you join the company, if you want to know how to sell, they sell get lab, it's all there. It's all open. You just have to fork it. So literally he encourages people to steal it. And then you can just pull out the processes that you want. At least that gives you a starting point to really kind of work if you're at zero right now and you're like, Oh my god, what do I do next? I'm just checking out all the processes there is probably a really good first Step just to kind of understand how a company doesn't another find funny, honorable mention too is. So Git lab, open sources everything, including all of their email exchanges. So if you google running remote, git lab sponsorship is all of the email chain for the negotiation because Git lab is a sponsor of running remote. All of the negotiations on our sponsorship are there and open source so you can see exactly how much they paid and how much they wanted to pay. And we don't think it's worth this amount of money. We think it's worth about this amount of money. And it was funny to kind of, you know, see it and, and, and it's there for everyone. There. That's a form of radical honesty that for me, just we don't do internally in our companies, but that's another big component of remote work. That A lot of people are into, which is just, you know, being very, very open. We're very open internally, like we tell everyone, everyone inside of the company has all of our revenue, numbers, metrics, all that kind of stuff. But Git lab does it externally, which is a really, it's a really cool company and a remote first company too.
Yeah, I remember like, literally like the first one of the first episodes of this podcast, like over a year I was in Barcelona recording it. And I interviewed Sid, and I was just like, blown away by how just like, nice and like, he's like, sure this about remote work, I'd love to help. I was like, wow, like you're probably really busy. But then just exactly what you said their their transparency and I've kept up with his EA over the years, like, you know, getting like, oh, here's a resource, blah, blah, blah. And I'm just like, I'm amazed how, how much they're committed to pushing forward kind of the ecosystem which is just really awesome. So in terms of what is your what is like your process stack, like a first So for us, I We use notion g drive process Street. I'm a huge fan of process Street. I nerd out on that at the founder at a conference and like he explained what they did. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I didn't know this existed. It changed my life. Yeah, we use tools like that, like what is what is your, you know, remote stack look like?
So we actually just recently moved over to a Google intranet website. And that's like, the high level document now. So we actually have like Google internet. Oh, yeah. So if you Google Apps for Business, you can literally build like a private website that's just for your company. And that it's just our own private, like we start with our culture Doc, who we are as a company, then all of the different departments and you just you know, go out in that direction. Oh, why that over something else? Why that over? So we, we started actually with Google Docs. Yep. Then we move too, we actually moved to our own deployment of a wiki, which was not the best actually like your WordPress or something. You can literally like you can open source like a week now, right? Like a wiki system, like it's a type of structure. And what we wanted to do was to be able to in when you go to Wikipedia, that's an example of a wiki. There's debates about every article. So if you flip the article to the next tab, you can actually see who wrote what and what the debates were. So we thought that it would be a really interesting organic model to be able to say, Well, if there are disagreements over a particular process, you can literally disagree instead of the wiki and then we can have an internal debate and a vote. That ended up going not too well. And then we ended up using our we were using our Google website, our internal Google website, and we're also using a tool called train Yule, which is a competitor to process street processing. is another one that's great to use.
We use train Yule as well, but we use it specifically for training. I didn't notice they had any like process stuff.
Yeah. So they're really kind of trying to pop up into more processed documentation. At least I believe that's the goal. And the other thing that's beautiful about it is I can assign a particular like a task to someone inside of Time Doctor, and it shows up as a task on their desktop application. So for us, we we built a really tight integration, and we just really liked the tool. So we built this tight integration. And that's great for us right now, because I can be like Marin, you need to learn how we do our YouTube content calendar process, boom, here's process XYZ in, we assign it to you and then you can literally it's a task inside of your task manager inside of Time Doctor.
And the task manager is tied up through The Internet. Correct?
Yeah. So it all kind of ties in, you know, notions of knowing for you know, we actually do use Asana too. So we use that for more kind of conversational tasks, I guess you could call it. We also use JIRA. We use Basecamp, for any type of long term memos that we want to discuss. So if we want to debate a particular issue, we'll put it on Basecamp as opposed to an email thread. And then we use slack as well. Yep, for for instant messaging. I just have like, a hierarchy of communication. For me, which is in person beats, video, video beats, audio, audio beats, instant messaging, and instant messaging beats email. So fundamentally, I just figure, where is this interaction going to occur? Is this a process document? Well, it really shouldn't even be on a slack exchange as an example, or are we having a disagreement about a particular issue and maybe we should Send 10 messages back and forth on slack. Immediately I push the zoom button. And I'm like, let's all jump on a call right now let's go to a sync mode and talk about this. What's the issue? Let's solve it and then we can get back to async. I don't know.
But your perspective goes, I love that it goes back to like the idea of laws and principles, like you know, I i've been I try we try to do that too. Like, like communication hierarchies and like, hey, if if if this then that, and I think when you have it, when you have that created and written down and you push go into it, I just had this this morning, we were going back and forth. I was like, let's get on a call. And I think, you know, it becomes second nature and then that that I mean, that's the only way you really can operate because again, it's harder. It's it's more difficult to set up the foundation to run remotely. But once you set it up and you use that muscle enough, I feel like everything gets easier, like by year like with my company over talent. We're a Remote focused RPO. So we plug into companies and help them do lots of hiring fully remote. We are just turned three years old. And the first three years was building out a lot of the processes ideation. And now, like 10 20% of my day is spent on that the team runs it, we've got things going like it's, but it took time to lay that foundation like a lot of time. But that you know, to see your three the next seven years that foundations laid and it'll get it'll get added on to but that was really important.
Yeah, I, the other point that I'd love your input on, and I don't want to interview you on your own podcast, but I like the very end of running remote. We had a debate between synchronous and asynchronous communication. So we had Amir who is the CEO of to do list, who his biggest app is his newest version where his his companies do is because AP is to do it but then he built another app called Twist, which is a async version of slack. So it is a version of slack that doesn't bother you. And that allows you to focus on deep work and communicate asynchronously. And then you interact with twist when you want, versus the CEO of helpscout, who is entirely all about synchronous communication. He's just like as much video as we can possibly do. Let's do this video. Let's let's move as quickly as humanly possible. And I'd love to hear your perspective on it. Because to me, this has been well, maybe I'll, I'll give you my perspective. First, originally, I was more on the synchronous side of communication. And I'm now increasingly moving as we're growing up in in company size. So as an example, we do a we do a leaders meeting every week, and then we do a ama every month. So those are the two biggest touch points that I have with like the larger organizational structure of the company. And our ama is we're now probably going to do completely asynchronously, because there's always someone that's, you know, going to be at three o'clock in the morning. Like there's never a perfect time zone, because we're now on all time zones. So we're thinking, we communicate a really high quality asynchronous form of video. And then we give that to everybody and they can consume it when they want. And then they can ask questions, and we can respond in that way. And we're just now the same thing with Wade from Zapier. He was having this same conflict, and he now has gone completely async and another person that is got amazing just Google X team running remote. There's this group called x team, which is a cooperative of digital nomad top tier 1% developers. And he has hired a professional video editor, just to do the weekly addresses in video. Really, if you look at the first three minutes of that video that we have for running remote, he spent two grand on, in essence of very professionally edited video. That looks absolutely it looks like it's out of a movie. And you know, it's like 120 frames per second slow motion, and it's got lens flare and all this kind of stuff. And obviously, he's, he's trying to serve his employees by getting something that people want to watch that they're really excited about watching. And I thought that was one of the most interesting aspects towards a sink, but yet again, a sink because everyone's distributed all over planet Earth.
I mean, I think I think at the end of the day, like my thoughts on it are twofold. I think a it depends on your culture, of the company, and that forks into your culture where it is right now when you're 10 people when you're 50, when you're 100, and your culture where where it goes when you're 500 versus 1000. mean stuff shifts, but also like how you want that culture to be like, you know. So that's a big, big difference. And some people, it's like it always comes down from leadership, like the leadership, some will be more more on the async side, some will people are more from business development world, they want to be on a conversation, I'd say my leadership style, my companies, were probably at 20 20% synchronous 80% non synchronous. One thing, though, and then then when the second question is, like, what, which is model is better synchronous or asynchronous? I think in reality, there's always going to be a combination, a sliding scale, again, depending on your culture and goals, but one thing I do push back against is, um, people are always like, slack is supposed to be the email killer. And then they have you know, now there's asynchronous versions of slack so you can focus on deep work, blah, blah, blah. But what I've never understood is at the end of the day, there's already something We all have that does all of those things. And it's called discipline. Like I'm doing this interview right now I have my slack turned off, I have my phone on airplane mode and my email isn't open. And I had to teach myself probably 10 years ago, because I was burning out to batch process my email and to batch process my slack. And I batch process my text messages. And I've gotten that's the kind of habit over a decade, and I work really well doing that I have deep work cut off in my calendar. And what I noticed is when people on my team will struggle with productivity with efficiency, if they're getting burnt out, I'll sit down with them and be like, let's talk about this. Like how you need to have there has to be time where you can do your own deep work. And there has to be time where you can be responsive, and you're usually going to struggle on one of those two. And then it's just just figuring out like training ourselves, like flexing those muscles until it becomes second nature. And I think too often we rely on technology like oh well, I'm there's you know, there's things You can set to freeze your inbox or, you know, freeze your phone. If you use too many games or whatever I'm like, you could do that. Or you could develop a habit over 90 days that will serve you for the rest of your life.
I'm more in the, the apps category to be completely honest with you. And I also hire people. So I have a productivity coach. This is super embarrassing. Actually. Not every Friday, we get on a call, I pay her real money. And her job is to watch me inbox. 00 Dude, that's amazing.
And I would do that's like one of my happiest things in the world. I sometimes Yeah, one of my people saying and I'll be like, or even tabs open. I'm like, Why are all those tabs open? Right?
So, that's amazing. That's a good money.
Absolutely. It's better than therapy. So you have 892 emails sitting in your inbox. That is mental energy. It's a question Cognitive Load. That's, that's Yeah, that's in your head. And I think a lot of new remote workers don't recognize yet how often you are subconsciously thinking about that stupid effing project that you need to get for Suzanne next week that's been sitting in your inbox and you're not responding to it because you're psychologically frozen. Right? And if you just have someone like my productivity coach, that's just like, okay, it's almost like your, your mom is walking up the stairs and you know that your house or your bedroom is a complete mess, and you're just very quickly putting stuff away. Yep, the hour before my Inbox Zero call. I'm on my email. inbox here. I'm just, I'm just going through as quickly as humanly possible. And sometimes I make it sometimes I don't. And then we just talk about, you know, what are your barriers this week? How can you make sure that you're going to be doing a better week Sometimes it's really bad, you know, sometimes I end up with, let me just check my inbox right now, I've got, I've got 23 messages, but that was I Inbox Zero before I did this call. So okay, I'm in pretty good shape. But some days I'll show up with like 800 900 emails, which I probably need to take action on maybe 20 to 25. But my actual stack is I pull it into Google tasks. So I use Google Apps for Business, Gmail. And there's a Google tasks app on a side panel, and you can just pull an email into a task. So I Inbox Zero, but then I turn an email into a task and then it pushes to my Time Doctor, you know, so that I can process that through quite easily getting things done.
I read that when I was like 20, or 21, and I reread it probably five or six times that book, get things done by David Allen. And it's it's old school, they talk about like file folders, but you can totally apply it to today. I think you No matter what it is, it's just like the end of the day. It's having a process and sticking with it. And it's figuring out whatever the process that works for you, whether it's a sick, whether it's sink, whether it's there's 1000 different tools, there's no like one right tool. It's just how can you do work and do it productively both as a founder or leader or as an individual contributor, and I think that is what we're gonna see in the next few months, even up to a year with all the shift to remote I think a lot of people that haven't done this for a long time, will burnout will hit ceilings and probably that's actually going to create a cottage industry of of remote work coaching and people being able to help you be your best I like I call it like thriving remotely like there's this term remote fluency that we use and then the idea of like, you know, you can be fluent you can you can get bait like I can basically pass by in Barcelona with like a little bit of Spanish, but there's a big difference between that and like being fluent and and there's a big difference between that And actually being able to, you know, read and write and then thriving in that environment. So I think we really do have to think about the, the nature of remote work as as a new language as a completely different pipe. Like it's like how internet proficiency became so important like around, you know, 2000 you couldn't not understand it like you could maybe in the 90s and I think remote is going to be that for the next 10 or 20 years. It is the largest. It is the largest single thing that's happened to labor since the Industrial Revolution is what's happened in the last six months.
And anyone that doesn't recognize that number one and number two, realize that if you are not actually proficient in this, this isn't a nice to have. No this will be what is required you it will be a requirement, right.
It's like learning how to get yep or you will get you will find yourself obsolete and That's another thing I think people don't tend to realize. And what's both an opportunity, but also scary is there's going to be robotics technology, a lot of stuff is popping up, a lot of stuff is taking away, jobs are disappearing. So you need to re skill and get fluent in these new tools. Before that kind of comes to a head.
Um, I think the other piece of that and then we can move on is the other variable that is really important to understand. There are more PhDs being graduating in India than there are university students in the United States. These are not bad schools. Yeah, this is a talent tool. So just you know, in the last six months, Twitter's gone remote, Pinterest just paid $89 million to get out of their lease. Holy walk by that building. Yeah. So they're, they're now gone. All of these companies are now going 100% remote and they're never go back into the office. And what's going to happen in the next 12 to 24 months is the talent advantage that I had in the market, which was I can hire someone in Idaho for 60 grand versus the $350,000 guy in San Francisco. That's how I was making. That's how I make money. That's how that's one of my biggest weapons that I have is I can hire and manage talent that's remote effectively. Once these large tech companies learn how to do that, the top 1% of developers are never going to have a problem. But the top 10% of the top 20% that's going to be a problem because the the PhD in India is going to be after your job, man. And he is he's not in San Francisco. He's, you know, he used to have to actually immigrate to San Francisco. Here's another interesting factoid over 1000 seat organizations in St. Francisco 53% of them are first generation immigrants. They were brought to San Francisco by those companies, that will no longer happen. That talent is just going to be in another country. And they're going to get them not for 350,000 they're going to get them for 100 grand, and they're gonna be stoked. And like that's a big talent crunch that everyone needs to recognize right now. Get get. Be a one percenter in something. And it doesn't matter what it is, but be a one percenter in something because the 10 percenters God help us the 50 percenters it's gonna be a lot more difficult for you to get a job.
Maren Kate 1:01:41
I mean, that's one thing we've been talking about. Like as we're as we've been reading, the going remote book is around you know, helping people think through finding finding work finding fully remote work. I completely agree it is more important now than ever to niche down not just to be a product manager, but to be very Specific like I focus on b2c within, you know, feminine products or something so specific and then like this is my passion and this is my interest and the kind of the like the the idea of like overlapping concentric circles to find what can you be? What can you be the best of the world at what can you be that 1%? Because if if you're not, if you're just generic, like, you know, I'm an SEO specialist, there's going to be 1000 of that, like how you have to be able to, I think professionals in the next decade or two will actually have to position and market themselves a lot more like products have been in the last 20 years.
Liam Martin 1:02:39
Absolutely. I think you're going to see the 1% 2.1% of a particular profession are going to make more money. And everyone below that are going to like it's just literally going to pull out into extremes, right? So you're going to see and that person is not going to be like Located in the United States, I actually think that there's probably going to be a net loss of dollars in the EU. You lose the amount of talent that at least for me, as a remote company could deploy in Eastern Europe, in Southeast Asia in Africa.
Maren Kate 1:05:15
You know, there's like some of the best customers in New York. Yep. And just like some of the best customer support in the world is in the Philippines. It's just like, it's figuring out like, you know, where that talent lies where the culture is. I mean, I interviewed an engineer who super solid like Junior middling mid level guy. And he is like his, what do you want it like ideal pay, like he'd be super shoved was 60 k USD. And you couldn't get I mean, you couldn't get an intern in a CS intern in San Francisco for that. And you just like, Look, I could have three people in Barcelona for one person in the states like why would they not do that all day long.
Liam Martin 1:05:56
We had someone and this was obviously pre COVID. They got a top five Finished in the Facebook global hackathon. They got a $500,000 deal from Facebook a $350,000 deal from Google. And they worked for us for 60,000. Because we said you can stay in Dhaka, you can stay in Bangladesh. And 60,000 in Bangladesh is like 500,000 in San Francisco. Yeah, it's amazing, right? Like, you've got no problems. And, you know, he worked for us for two and a half years and actually wrote a ton of code that we still use today, like a top level developer, that person that Facebook wanted to bring to bear, you know, from Bangladesh to San Francisco is now no longer going to go to Bangladesh. Facebook is going to go to them. Okay, that's that's the reality is that you have to realize that that talent is not those sorry, the talent is going to go somewhere else and those dollars are going to leave United States and I'm really concerned about when we talk about like The pragmatics of remote work, what's going to happen is not what I want to have happen. But it is what's going to happen which is and just preparing yourself for that, you know, if you're an employee right now and you want to get a job and you're thinking about what can I do to get a job in this new economy, it is niche down be the best person at x and literally like run through a list of like, you know, I would almost almost go to a point to say my the top hundred other you know, mine the top 10 person on planet earth for this particular task and just get oh I'm not okay niche down even more like just get to a point in which you're really really good. At this particular thing. I have a cousin of mine, who he is a he's a crane operator. And there are 27 people on planet earth that can operate this type of crane that he is licensed for. He makes couple hundred thousand dollars a year because there's 27 of these cranes and they're in less than 20 people can operate them properly. So he flies around the world and he operates this crane. Well, he's just niched down. It's like, Yeah, I know everyone else that operates this crane, do you want to work with me or not? Because like, if you don't, I can make your life a living hell. That's what I need to get to.
Maren Kate 1:08:25
I think the other thing too is that dun dun in alignment with your your personal core values and your drivers and what you're really good at that actually creates more meaningful work, it goes back to that idea of flow. Like when you're really really good at something super, super specific. You have that idea of mastery, you have purpose you have like autonomy, and that's a huge thing with remote work. So I think that's that's the other exciting part too is like, not only that, you'll be more marketable, but you'll probably enjoy your work you'll be able to be aligned with meaning for work more.
Liam Martin 1:09:02
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, for me, it's been, well, remote work for me has been the only way that I've wanted to work, you know, before COVID. And when I look at some of the things that I've been able to achieve, even inside of which was a very small niche community, right, pre COVID. Yep. You have a certain form of, you know, contentment from saying, Yeah, maybe there's only maybe there's only 1000 remote first founders on planet Earth, but I know a lot of them. And I'm pretty good at my job. And this is a really cool thing. That's, you know, very exciting and obviously with COVID it's now exploded a lot more and it's even more exciting. But having that type of ownership is just something that I very, I mean, statistics 90% of people don't like their jobs, like just dislike their job. I've always liked my job. I've just realized that that's such a gift is Oh, shoot job. And I think remote work only helps facilitate that.
Maren Kate 1:10:07
I agree. I agree. Well, this has been amazing. This isn't such a fun conversation. I have final three questions. Um, so first, what has been the most surprising change that the pandemic has made in your life? Surprising or impactful?
Liam Martin 1:10:25
I had the birth of my first child about, what two months ago actually almost to the day, and I would say for me, it was reorganizing my priorities. So for the first ever time in my life, I was in this I remember this so clearly around March. I was scared for the safety of my family and it pulled Everything into clear focus for me like the company was 100 priority in comparison to that priority, like I would have given everything I possibly had. And I almost did. I live in Canada, so we have socialized medicine. And we ended up getting a private practice private birthing center it which is ridiculously expensive for an uninsured individual in Canada. But we ended up doing that because it was just one of those things that I said to myself. I have to solve this problem, fundamentally. Right. So yeah, that was the biggest thing for me was just clarifying priorities.
Maren Kate 1:11:40
I love that. So a little bit of a change. What is your what has been your favorite podcaster book from the last year? And it doesn't have to do with business.
Liam Martin 1:11:52
Yeah, I just, I just finished one on Audible, which I really liked radical candor. Oh, that is So good. Yeah. Really like that was so powerful for me. And it is by a I can't remember the name Kim Scott. Yeah. So radical candor by Kim Scott, in such a powerful book because for me, I, I would always, never be radically candid with people because I wanted other employees to like me. And I realized that this was counterintuitive to them actually liking me because I would fire them. And they thought that they were doing a good job. And one of the biggest lessons that I got got from that book was any employee that is working for you, if you terminate them, it should never be a surprise, if it's a surprise, it is an absolute failure for you as a manager. And that was something that I was doing more often than not. So. I made a lot of changes after radical candor.
Maren Kate 1:12:56
Yeah, that's a great book, and we'll link to that in the show notes too. So lastly, how can people find you find out about you running remote time Dr. online, go to you.
Liam Martin 1:13:06
Ash running books, and I still put up a video about once a week. And we also have a free talk that goes up every week. All of our talks are available on that YouTube channel as well. So if you want to consume any of that content, go up there. And then just running remote.com go to website sign up, you'll be able to sign up for the next virtual event. And if you want to try a 14 day trial of time, Doctor, just go to town doctor calm.
Maren Kate 1:13:33
Awesome. Great. Well, Liam, thank you so much. This has been a pleasure.
Liam Martin 1:13:37
Thanks for having me. I hope that you invite me back. I love talking about remote work. Definitely.
Inde on Air is brought to you by indie.co the first remote focused professional network and sponsored by going remote the ultimate step by step guide to finding in landing a meaningful remote job In today's environment, preorder today, you'll get exclusive bonuses and access, just check out going remote book.com that's going remote book.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai