E285: Effectively Managing Your Team, Wherever They Are In The WorldOctober in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
Avid listeners to this podcast would know that the bulk of our team is based in Cebu City, Philippines. And I get asked a lot of questions about how we manage employees all the way on the other side of the world.
The quick answer is that I don’t. We have a terrific manager in the Philippines, Mia. She takes care of everything down there. We’re lucky to have such a great group of people working for us that, now, the process is locked down and the whole thing completely runs itself.
Today’s guest has a slightly different approach to hiring and managing a remote team.
I’m joined by Dave Nevogt, co-founder of Hubstaff, a staff monitoring, and time tracking software.
We’ve been using Hubstaff for a while now and it has made managing our team in the Philippines so much easier. From payroll to managing productivity, the software has it all.
The company and its main product were born out of a pain point he experienced in a previous business. In this episode, Dave talks about software features and shares tips on how to find, hire, and manage awesome employees all around the globe.
As always, here are timestamps to make your podcast listening better.
- The inspiration behind Hubstaff and the problems that it solved (6:00)
- Hubstaff by the numbers (12:24)
- The pros and cons of having a remote team (16:33)
- How Dave found people and built a remote team (19:16)
- The techniques Dave uses to manage employees all over the globe (23:20)
- The link between time tracking and good team management (28:24)
- Useful tips for starting a remote team (45:31)
Give a Hubstaff a try! Sign up by clicking on our affiliate link and use the code ecomcrew50 for 50% off the first month.
Interested to learn more about sourcing from China? Join our free webinar on October 8, 10 AM PST. Reserve your spot now!
Full Audio Transcript
Dave Nevogt: Pros and cons, there’s definitely pros and cons, and you have to be able to, I think, deal with the cons when you start a remote team.
Mike: This is Mike and welcome to Episode #285 of the Ecomcrew podcast and hello from Sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. Been hanging out here for a few days with some friends. Used to live here in Las Vegas for quite a while. So we come here for different reasons than most people do. Although we did get caught up into some shenanigans while here, but it’s been a lot of fun and cool hanging out with our friends. After this, we’re heading down to San Diego.
But while here, I was able to record a podcast with a company called Hubstaff, and I was excited to get them on the show because we use Hubstaff in our own business. And I love talking about tools and things that we do in our own business, especially things that have helped us. And Hubstaff is definitely in that boat. I always worry about these things sounding like a big 30-minute commercial. So I asked the guest to be able to offer some value bombs. And so in this case, it’s interesting about how he started a software company, which is always interesting, very different than e-commerce, obviously. But people that are out there that are interested in ever creating a software company can kind of see the journey there and then managing his own remote staff. And so for us, again, we have an office over in the Philippines with 12 people and Hubstaff is a critical part to that management, especially when it comes to payroll and things of that nature.
Now, one thing I do want to mention before getting into the episode is during the episode. You guys know, I always like to disclose everything that we are doing here, full disclosure with any type of relationships that we have, if we’re making any money off of doing this stuff. And so when we recorded the episode, we had no affiliate relationship or anything. We weren’t getting paid to do the episode because that was our intention. But after recording, so they were gracious enough to give us an affiliate code that would not only help Ecomcrew but would also help our listeners. So if you use our code, which we’ll do by going over to Ecomcrew.com/Hubstaff and that’ll redirect you over there. But the code is actually Ecomcrew50. And so what that’ll do is it’ll give you 50% off your first month of Hubstaff so you’ll save some money. And then we also get an affiliate commission so disregard again when I say in the episode about that, you don’t have to use the affiliate code. We do appreciate the support. We obviously don’t charge anything for a podcast and most of the content that we put out there. So these types of things do help keep the doors open over at Ecomcrew and we certainly appreciate it.
Now, before jumping into today’s episode, this is the last time I have an opportunity to mention our webinar that’s coming up, which is our importing from China webinar, another one of our free pieces of content, as I mentioned lots of free content. So there’s no cost to do this. There is no bait and switch. There’s no upsell after the webinar or anything like that although, during the webinar, we will probably mention one of our courses, but we always do that at the end. And that webinar is coming up on October the 8th, 2019 at 10 a.m. So October the 8th, 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Come join us on our Free Importing from China webinar. That’s going to be Ecomcrew.com/webinar to go sign up for that. Again, 100% free of charge. And if you do want to give Hubstaff a try and use our affiliate code, it’s Ecomcrew.com/Hubstaff and the code is Ecomcrew50. And we definitely appreciate it. Alright. Let’s hop in to today’s episode with Hubstaff. I hope you guys enjoy it.
Mike: Hey, Dave. Welcome to the Ecomcrew podcast.
Dave Nevogt: Thank you much. Thanks for having me.
Mike: Yeah. So people probably confused when I say, “Hey, Dave” and it’s a different voice because our Dave Bryant is also Dave. But this is Dave from Hubstaff and it’s so certainly great to have you on today. As I was mentioning before we hit record, we use Hubstaff in our business and we love to talk about the tools that make our business better. I always like to disclose any relationships here. You do not pay to be on the podcast. It’s just one of these things again where we use the software.
We’ve talked a lot about building remote teams and thought you’d be great to have on the podcast. So now that we got that out of the way because I think it’s important just for people to know that maybe in your own words since it’s your product, you can probably do a better job than I can. What is Hubstaff? Just so people can know what it is before we get into the interview and all that stuff.
Dave Nevogt: Yeah. So it’s basically a way to manage– a platform to manage your remote teams and track time, understand what they’re working on. We have screenshots, so you can see the work unfold. And, you know, we make things like paying your employees and contractors, you know, paying them the right amount. We take that all of that out of the day to day management that you may be experiencing and we make that an automatic system that you can, you know, allow you to focus on growing your business and making more revenue.
Mike: Perfect. So I think we want to break this interview down into two parts because I think it’ll be interesting for people out there who might be thinking of tiptoeing into building a SAAS program because a lot of times what ends up happening is in your own business, you end up building tools and systems internally. And then at some point you’re like, “Hmm, I wonder if other people might want to use these” and so that might be something on people’s minds. So I think it’ll be cool to kinda talk about building a software platform. But as we talked about before we recorded, the goal of the podcast always is to leave people with more knowledge and then they started with. So we’re gonna go over lots of aspects of how to build a remote team, how to find people, how to hire. So if you’re not interested so much in the business stuff, maybe just skip ahead a few minutes. But I think that this stuff always is interesting. So, yeah, I’m curious what inspired you to start Hubstaff and when did you do that?
Dave Nevogt: Yeah so I actually had an e-commerce business when I started Hubstaff and I kind of, you know, it was golf-related. And which was a great market, but we were kind of getting pushed out, you know, with advertising prices rising, this is back probably 2005 to 2009 timeframe. We get– you know, we started getting pushed out with more competitors and ad prices rising. And just a changing world that, you know, that was happening. And so, you know, I was kind of in the product launch cycle where I would launch a product to the database that we had, launch another product, create another product, launch another product. So it just got a little bit tiring for me to do that. So I started to think that software was where I wanted to be because the product would– you could grow it exponentially. So you add a feature on. But that doesn’t mean your old product leaves. It’s more like kind of doing a job for you, doing a job for your clients. So anyway, I started to think that software was where I wanted to be. And so I took– I bought into a company that was actually a software company, learned how to kind of run a software company or how to develop software.
I was not the developer, but I learned how to hire out that work and manage the processes and that kind of thing. And, you know, throughout this time, you know, I kind of had the problem of not knowing why projects were running behind all the time and why they were always not able to hit deadlines. And it kind of really was stressing me out, trying to figure out what people were working on, if they were working on the right priorities. I tried everything from, you know, daily e-mail follow-ups to, you know, these really complex software systems that would track everything known to man, you know, on somebody’s computer and nothing really felt right. So I started to kind of toy with the idea of building my own thing out, which I knew would be complex. And it has been complex. And mostly because we have desktop applications and we have, you know, Android and IOS, you know, applications and we have like six different apps. And that’s what makes our business super complex. But just the idea of needing to know what my own people were doing. So it was like a pain I had on my own that really we tried to solve.
Mike: Gotcha. So, I mean, this is really interesting to me because I didn’t know about this part of the journey, so it sounds like you had no development experience. You knew that you wanted to get into SAAS. So you just kind of bought your way into the knowledge gap by buying another company.
Dave Nevogt: That’s true. The company that I– that we bought into, it was an SEO company, so it wasn’t Hubstaff. So I started Hubstaff from scratch. The point of that– saying that I guess was just that I didn’t start Hubstaff without any knowledge of being in Software. It wasn’t my first software experience and I was– I’m really glad I did that because it was– I learned how hard it was and how difficult it is. Most people, a lot of people think I think that software’s pretty easy. And you can just pay a developer one time to get the work done and the product built and then you’re out the door. But really, I mean, we’ve been building for six years and there’s no end in sight, and it is not a fast and easy process. And if you think that it’s highly– especially now it’s highly based on the quality of the product and the quality product usually wins in the end. Consumers are smart and they are able to test several different options. And if your option is the best based on price and based on quality, then the chances of you winning are a lot higher.
Mike: Yeah, I agree. And I think that it’s probably the same rings true in the physical product world too, right? I mean, it’s the same stuff we teach all of our members and stuff in terms of having the best quality product. But yeah, I want to definitely echo what you’re talking about in terms of building software. I think everybody that’s never done software, you know, anybody that’s never developed any type of software thinks it’s easy, as you mentioned, until you start going down that road. And I did have a tech background. I’m not a programmer, but you know, I managed I.T. teams, but it’s tough.
I mean, you know, it’s tough to find reliable developers just like any other employee. But it’s particularly tough, I think, to find reliable developers. And you’re in this phase when you’re like a single developer shop that if and when they leave, you’re kind of almost hitting the reset button because, you know, every programmer is a little bit different then they got to kind of go back through and and look at the old code. And one thing about developers that I’ve noticed is whenever one developer looks at another developer’s code, they always have something to critique. They never say, oh, this is great. You know, it’s like why’d they do this or why didn’t they, you know, come at this better. And so it’s definitely a long process. It’s tough.
Dave Nevogt: Well, yeah, and I’ve seen people waste several hundred thousand dollars developing something and then have it be just totally torn to shreds and be unusable in the end. It’s just a– it’s something that I– that you go into very gingerly, not full-bore because it’s, you know, every decision. I mean they could– you know, when I first started Hubstaff, I mean, I had a developer that I was going to go with and he was recommending building on Java. If I would have done that my platform would have been outdated. I would spend a lot of money and have it been outdated in almost no time.
Mike: Yeah, no doubt. Yeah and so one other thing before I move on that I wanted to pick up on there that I also found to be difficult, I think you need the right disposition to be able to deal with this. But you’re mentioning how you’re basically never done, you’re always adding features and doing that type of stuff and I found it to be exhausting because you might release a version two, but the day after you release and you have the party, you’re ready to do new features, there’s always more things on the drawing board. And so I do like the, you know, the finality of developing a product and bringing it to market and then you’re kind of being done with that one and moving on to the other. And yeah, it’s definitely tough.
And then, the other thing that’s also tough with the platform like that is that, you know, you get thousands of feature requests from all of your users. To that one person, the feature they’re asking for is the most important thing in the world, but they might be the only one asking for it. So it becomes tough to maintain those expectations as well.
Alright. So, I mean I don’t want to harp too much on that because we aren’t a software company but I do find it to be interesting just to see, you know, why this stuff like I said, comes to fruition. And I mean, you guys have built a pretty legitimate company out of this and you had the unique position to write a blog post about some of that, which I think is cool. There’s a few people in the industry, and we’re included, that share revenue numbers. And I think that this stuff is cool for other business owners to see where things can grow into and kind of some of the struggles along the way. So, you know, if you don’t mind, I’d love to share some of those results here on the podcast. Just kind of what the financial journey has been like and where you guys are now.
Dave Nevogt: Yeah so I mean, you know, with us, I mean, it’s been very– I’ve been very surprised at how flat line it is. I mean, it’s very slow and steady. Right now, we just crossed six million dollars in annual revenue. So that is, I would say, successful. Some people think that, hey, you know, if you are at 3 million in 2017, you should be at like 12 million now. And that’s not always the case. It’s been slow and steady and by that I mean basically, let’s say $8,000 dollars added at an average per month for every month.
And there’s some highs and some lows. Some months you’ll do 14,000 new. And then all of a sudden, you know, the next month you’ll think that one of your tests really hit or whatever and the next month, you’ll add 7. So it’s been very slow and steady. And you would think that the more people you have using the software, the more people you have in your business. And this works, this is applicable to any business, really. I mean, whether or not it’s your database or your basketball training customers or whatever product you have, you know, you would think that the more people you have in the funnel, the more people are talking about it, the more people are using it, the more people that can recommend it and that kind of thing would give you some exponential type of return. But that has not happened for us. It’s been very slow and steady and flat. Linear.
Mike: Gotcha. But I mean, I guess on the positive side, it’s good knowing that you have recurring revenue to wake up to every month and…
Dave Nevogt: Yeah, totally.
Mike: It’s a stable business. And I think business owners tend to always look at the grass is greener. You probably look at all the frustrations that you have and how awesome e-commerce is and everybody else is doing the opposite so I would look at that as a huge positive because we wake up every month and the revenue board is at zero. You know, and you got to kind of start all over again, so…
Dave Nevogt: Right. Yep, totally.
Mike: And you know, obviously, when you have a good product like you guys do, I mean, we’re never canceling Hubstaff. I mean, we use it to manage our entire staff. You mentioned some of the functionality that it does. I mean, my favorite is just being able to pay people. I mean, we used to have to send individual PayPal payments to page one of our virtual employees. And, you know, that doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but when you’re doing that every two weeks and you’ve got to be around to– y’know because like I had to log in to PayPal to deal with that stuff and it became kind of a pain in the rear end. So we tied it in to PayPal mass payments in one click of a button or automatically. I don’t even know how it works. Mia handles the whole thing now. It just happens automatically. And then, you know that’s just one of the features that we use on the platform, which is awesome.
Dave Nevogt: Yeah, I know. Yeah. That’s what I was saying. Yeah, that’s the main thing, is that I’ve– over several years of doing this now, I think we started it on 2012. So like seven years now. You know, the main thing I’ve found is just– the main benefit that we found is that, you know, the business owner is busy and we’re always looking for more ways to save time that we can reinvest back in the business. And that’s just– the example you gave is just one of them.
Mike: Absolutely. Cool. So as I mentioned off the top, I mean, our goal with these is not to turn podcast into commercials. We loved to make things value bombs and one of the things, the reasons I really wanted to get you on the podcast today– I mean, we talk about hiring a remote team all the time and in fact, our business, I’m not sure if everybody realizes this out there. But we’ve really shifted. We’re all in basically on this remote team concept. We have one employee in the United States who is our COO, who I can’t imagine ever not having around. She really does a great job running the whole ship. But besides that, the other 14 people are all in the Philippines. And it’s great for me because it’s shifted us away from having to be in an office, which is what we were doing up until the middle of this year. And, you know, everyone works differently. I have a hard time sitting in one place.
And one thing that resonated with me, Dave, I noticed that you, you’re also big on freedom. You know, just be able to do what you want to do when you want to do it. And so that’s something that’s really resonated with me that became a core thing for me as well. And so I’d love to go through some steps that might be some gold nuggets to help people do what we’ve done and do what you’ve done, because some people find it to be really challenging. And, you know, so let’s go through how you’ve built remote teams. I mean, what are some of the steps that you recommend to go down that journey?
Dave Nevogt: Yeah, well, so I’ll just start off with saying, I guess like the high level, the reasons why. I mean, there’s pros and cons.
There’s definitely pros and cons and you have to be able to, I think, deal with the cons when you start a remote team. The cons are really, you know, the main one is that when you are all in an office and you thrive on communication and understanding those non-verbal cues that you get from your people, that really is hard to get in a remote team, especially, you know, even during video chats and talks and meetings like that. You know, it’s hard to get that same vibe from somebody. You know, you can’t go down the street and get a beer. You can’t go to lunch every day with your team. You can’t do these things that you do when you have a physical team.
But with those cons, you know, the pros really, I think outweigh the cons because you get so much of a cost benefit. Number 1, I would actually say is not the cost benefit. Number 1 is actually the ability to find really good people that are very capable at their jobs in the world really, not like locally. So I’m in Indianapolis, if I were to find somebody that was a good, say, C++ developer in Indianapolis, I mean, that would be very hard to find that person or, you know, if you find somebody with e-commerce experience that has worked with whatever cart that you’re built on, you know, say, Shopify or whatever cart that you’re on, right? I mean, you can find those experts worldwide very easy that have set up five stores, six or seven stores, you know, know things about that system that you don’t know. And you could find them in, you know, Romania, Czech Republic, Philippines, India, whatever it is, probably easier than you can in Indianapolis.
Mike: Yeah, no doubt you get to cast a net around the world instead of a net around Indianapolis.
Dave Nevogt: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, exac-, which is a huge if you think about that, is just a huge, huge benefit. That’s number one. The other thing is that, you know, there is a subset of companies that do require some portion of their people to be in-house and they have, say, their exact team or their top people in an office in house. And then everyone else is kind of remote and spread out so they can still have that close knit company feel without having everyone spread wide. And then the third, I think, is the cost benefit, because if I were to find that C++ developer here in Indianapolis, I mean, it would be– I’m looking at 150,000 dollars a year maybe. Something like that, you know, whereas somewhere else it might be more like 75, you know, you’re talking two for one kind of, so you get two developers, price of one kind of thing. So there’s a lot of benefit there. So you know, in terms of how I’ve built that team, you know, it’s trial and error. I mean I’ve found a lot of people on LinkedIn. You can search based on their skill. You can search based on their location. You can search based on the company they work for. So LinkedIn’s a big one. I also hire on–
Mike: I’ll just say that’s interesting because you’ve used LinkedIn for I guess for things like programmers and stuff like that. Have you found that it works for virtual assistant type, customer service type people or…?
Dave Nevogt: Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s as easy as finding somebody that works, you know, it’s as easy as going and saying, okay, let’s say you set up a shopping cart or let’s say that you have a competitor or you have a store that you really admire that’s doing a lot of things right. I mean, you can find pretty much all the people on LinkedIn and now you just go and try to say make them a better offer.
Mike: Interesting. Okay.
Dave Nevogt: So you could do that. I’ve used ÁngelList in the past. I’ve used WeWorkRemotely in the past a lot. We use WeWorkRemotely a lot that produces a pretty good result. I’m talking, you know, on any given job listing. I mean, we’ll get one hundred and thirty applicants and a lot of that is, like I said, in the beginning, not limiting your geographic area. That’s a big part of it. But so, you know, those are kind of the tools on terms of how we sourced our talent in for developers. We also use Stack Overflow a bit. So, you know, you find these job boards and things that can bring the talent in. And then you’ve got an interview process. I usually try to advise that you ask a few questions. You devise a test type of a task. So if I’m hiring a designer, for example, the first thing I want to do is have them make a design and I want to work with them. I don’t want to just see the previous designs. I want to know that they can actually mold into our design style, you know, so I’m going to have– It’s very easy for me to have look at their designs, find 4 I like and then say, hey, I’ll pay you each 50 bucks, whatever it is, to go make this small graphic and you’ll find that some respond back very quickly with an awesome result and you’ll find that some never respond back at all and guess that the one that has a better chance of getting the role at Hubstaff, you know, is the one that responds quickly and designs something good.
You’ll find some that respond quickly and give you something that’s totally off base. And some that respond quickly that give you something really good. So I usually have a test task or some kind of a hurdle they have to jump over in order to bring on the conversation and then we’ll bring them on pretty much on a full time basis, which still we kind of call a trial. I want to work with them for a period of like 30 days, kind of ease them in, bring them into– give them some easier kind of tasks and see how they operate in a remote environment. And then, you know, over the course of a while, months, years, that kind of thing, you’ll find yourself with a pretty good team, you know, over time.
Mike: Right. So I mean, it sounds like when you do hire people, I mean, you really are with these remote teams casting a worldwide net at all times. And so you’re getting people, and if you end up with 10 people, they could be in 10 different countries, all in different time zones and stuff. How do you manage that process? Because we kind of met with a hybrid model. I mean, we have a remote team, but they’re there in an office over in the Philippines and…
Dave Nevogt: Ok, I got you.
Mike: It’s not so remote anymore as far as a remote team. I mean its remote to me but they’re all coming into an office, because I– we’re going through that pros and cons list than I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I think when you have a remote team, it gets really difficult to have that beer with them or, you know, have those conversations and so one benefit for me of having everyone in one place is I get to go visit them once a year and we spend a couple of weeks a year with them. And obviously a couple of weeks is not the entire year, which sucks, but we at least get to have some face time with them, which I love doing. And when we have meetings, we have at least a weekly meeting. Everyone’s in the same spot. And I know it’s still only Skype, but man I could see having people all over the world like you could never have an all hands meeting because then you’d be doing it 3:00 a.m. for somebody and 3:00 p.m. for another. How do you deal with that process?
Dave Nevogt: Well, so we– You’re right. We do not have like an all hands meeting, we used to and usually what we used to do is have it around 9 a.m., we found that our European people would be able to make it, it’s like two there, usually one, two, three, four, that kind of thing, depending where they’re at in Europe. And then people like over in the Philippines or Asia. Usually that’s like, what, like 9 or 10? And they can stay up for that. I mean, it’s not necessarily convenient. They can be at home with a drink and whatever else and just, you know, sit in on a meeting and then people on the West Coast, I’m on the East Coast, the U.S. but so people on the West Coast, they’d have to get up a little earlier. You know, again, for a big meeting like that, they can get up that early for one time per whatever quarter. So it is possible. But we generally don’t do that anymore because it’s just our people have gotten so big and we’ve got 50 now. So it’s just a lot of– a lot of people listening and a few people talking and generally I found that’s not the best way to do things.
Dave Nevogt: So, you know, the one thing that we do is we require– now, we don’t do this for support, but people that like because support has shifts they have to hit. So we don’t require them to overlap with the rest of the team as much. So they work their shift. That’s their main responsibility. But the rest of the team, they usually have to be on starting at whatever time they start. But we want them to be overlap with our East Coast team until about noon or 1:00. So there is time to get questions answered. They have to do that. There is time to have meetings, they have to do that. So there is time for overlap to make things happen. And so it works out pretty well because, you know, if they have a question, they’ll just save that and move on and know that they can get our team in the U.S. here early in the morning until like noon right? So there is some overlap time and that tends to work well for us. We do not make somebody work like US hours. That does not work very well.
Dave Nevogt: I don’t think that it’s ideal for anybody to be working, you know, in a bad time for them because, you know, they’re gonna become unhappy pretty quick and then move.
Mike: Yep, couldn’t agree more, I mean, we– It was one of the things that early policies that we put in for our team in the Philippines, I mean, obviously I’d love for them to be working 9:00 to 5:00 Pacific Coast Time. But the reality is, is that that’s the middle of the night for them. And now that we’ve been there several times, I really see like the effect that that has on people. I’ve talked about that before on the podcast. I mean, there’s more activity in the evenings, at IT Park, which is the area of Cebu that we usually stay in than during the day. I mean it’s crazy because like most of these centres come alive for U.S. hours and yeah, and I mean I think it just creates– some people like it. So I mean– and obviously there are people in the United States that work a night shift and they like it and more power to them. But when you create an economy that only can survive because they need the job and they’re gonna, they’re going to take the one job that that’s available.
So they’re going to work the night shift and then the whole economy ends up working that way, the whole community’s that way. The result that we see is that families are kind of torn apart from this right? Because you have the kids that are going, or they’re barely ever seeing one of their parents or both of their parents because they’re leaving before they go to bed and stuff like that when they go home from school. And it just, it creates a bad environment. So we– we do have them come in a little bit early, like 7 a.m., which is definitely on the earlier side. But that gives us some overlap so we can talk to them at a reasonable hour and let them live a normal life. And so that’s what we decided to do.
Dave Nevogt: Yeah and going back to what you– it was a very long answer to the question. Basically, you know, you started out with freedom and the thing is that my viewpoint on freedom is not so much– it doesn’t do with me. It does have to do with being able to go out and mow the grass or pick up my kids from school or be at a special event that they have. I mean, I can do that pretty much 100% of the time which is great. But it’s also for my people. And that’s how we find a lot of retention. That’s why people stay, because they can’t find a different solution. That’s as laid back as what we offer. If they want to go hiking for two weeks, they go hiking for two weeks. If that’s the kind of person they are.
Some people are not like that and they’d rather just go to work from a coffee shop or they’d rather go work from their local pub or they’d rather– they want to work from 7:00 to 3:00 their time because their kids get off the bus at 3:00 and they want to spend every afternoon with their kid or some people just want to work out at a certain time, like you can do all these different things depending on your lifestyle. So we’re very flexible in that regard. And that’s where people, I think, really value once you’ve done that and you’ve lived that life and you can still make your salary and you can hit your numbers and you can make your family happy, you know, not having that’s a very hard thing to go back to.
Mike: Yeah, yeah I agree, and that’s awesome that you guys can– you can provide that for your staff, which is really cool. So let’s talk a little bit more about the manage the process part, which I think is a good segue probably into a lot of the tools and stuff that you have within Hubstaff. Again, it sounds like the software kind of came out of a need from when you were managing this SEO company way back in the day. So what are some of the things that you’re doing to make managing 50 people across the globe easier for you and not something that makes you wanna pull your hair out?
Dave Nevogt: Yeah, so I’ll say, I guess start off with that the number one thing I see is managers that are very bad managers. It’s not generally the people that are bad, its usually the managers. And so not having a system in place for how they manage is generally the problem when results go bad. And so like the example I always give is like– and I’ll look at myself in that same regard, you know, I mean, I don’t have a management degree. I was not trained in any way about management. It was all trial by error. And the example I always gave is like, you know, back when I had my golf company, my e-commerce company, I had a developer, I had one developer and he was sitting in my office. I had an office in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he was sitting in my office and I could not find out why every project was late.
I couldn’t find out why every project was late. So I would ask him and he would just say it took longer than expected and, you know, give all these complex answers. I couldn’t figure out why. So I installed a time tracking system within our company. And what that showed me was that he was spending like 40 % of his time on customer support. So I had me the manager had my developer working on technical problems for customers. They couldn’t download the link. They couldn’t find the download link. They could– They had to reset their password, they couldn’t log in. They could, you know, all these things that my lead developer was doing and I was paying my lead developer, I don’t know what, let’s say 35-40 dollars an hour, whereas I could have hired a customer support person to do all that work and reset that whole sides.
My developer was working on what he was good at. He’s happier because he’s being more challenged. The projects would have been done faster and I would have saved money in the end as the company if I would’ve known that information before. But the guy is a nice guy and he wasn’t– He looked at it and said, that’s the fire on my agenda right now is to help this customer. That’s the right thing to do, to help the customer. Well, that was not the right decision, but that’s not his fault. Do you get what I’m saying? The employee is not going to come to you and say, this is a problem. This is a problem. This is a problem. If you do this, then we’d be better off. They’re generally not going to say that. You can ask them like I did, and they still aren’t going to– they’re recognized as a solution.
So, you know, the number one thing is, is just understanding where your people are spending their time and what priorities they’re working on and having good blueprints or documentation for them to go out and implement, you know. And that’s really all on the manager. So if you don’t have those things, then it’s gonna be hard to manage your remote team. It’s gonna be hard to manage a team in general. You know, if you don’t have those three things, the priorities that they need to be working on and a system to track time to that. So you understand how much time is being allocated to that and then solid blueprints for what to implement. Those three things really, I think are the crux of the system for how to, you know, manage. And everyone’s going to say, well, I have those things, but really, if you dig deep, you might not have those things.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Dave Nevogt: And then, you know, we do, man– We have a project manager system in Hubstaff as well. It’s being released right now, its called Hubstaff Tasks. That’s like our– it’s a Kanban board, you know, and you can drag and drop and you can communicate with your team. And that kind of thing so we use that internally for actually working on tasks and we use sprints and we have– So we have weekly sprints that we have. We try to design how many tasks a person can work on in any given week. And then whether or not you design those tasks or they design those tasks is up to you internally. But like at least having those tasks and then some kind of buy in to say, yes, this is what I’m going to accomplish in this given week. That’s a really, really big thing as well. And then being available to answer their questions and kind of knock down any barriers that they have, whether that’s you or a manager doing that also is important. Those are my top kind of, I guess, the top tips for getting things done and managing the systems. You guys have things like that as well? Or do you do something different?
Mike: We do. I mean, we– so the procedure, though, the things that we do for stuff like that, we have like an internal Intranet, so a lot of the procedures and stuff are in there and then we have a manager out there that’s managing the entire process. So if anything along the lines of stuff you’re talking about comes up, they’re interacting pretty regularly out there to make sure that that stuff’s being addressed. It’s a lot different than if they were scattered all over the world. It might be a little harder to manage, but because they’re in one location, there’s a lot of being we’ll look over their shoulder and see what’s going on and then we don’t have the stuff like loaded into Hubstaff. That’s in terms of procedures and SOPs but a lot of things that they follow are in that Intranet.
Dave Nevogt: Yeah, you can use that and you can just do that in Google Docs. You can do that in Google Docs, but it’s just important to do or even like if you’re, you know, if you want the blue printing stuff, it’s like if you want a new article written like you don’t just say, hey, go write an article on whatever keywords you want to write it on. You know, you’ve got to give them some kind of indication, hey, this is an example of what I think is a good article. Here’s an example of what I think is a bad article, you know, that kind of thing. If you started doing those kind of things, I think that you’re going to get a lot better results in the end because you’ve laid out some framework for them to actually go model.
Mike: Yeah, it’s actually funny that you use that specific example because that’s a great evolution specifically for us because we do a lot of content writing and it’s funny you had this SEO background and I do as well. And so we’re constantly putting out content. And when I first got started, it was very much that I would tell the writer. These are the topics that I want and didn’t really give them reasoning as to why and one of the things we’ve really been working on with our staff is to have them really be the starting point of– So they have the ability to be the starting point to drive things that get done in the business instead of it having to be top down all the time, it can be some bottom up. And so we’ve been treating our content staff to be able to do that. And the evolution’s been from originally were I would give them the topics to write the article to, you know, showing them how to use a tool like AHRefs and going through specifically like how content has performed. So they know the results. And now, I get a list of topics and it’s amazing.
Dave Nevogt: Right.
Mike: I mean, and not only that, I mean, they’re spending more time and more thoughtful research than I have the time to do. And so I think that by having this process in place and investing in your employees, we’ve really seen some awesome results like that where they’re coming to us and they’re driving the conversation now. In fact, this quarter we had them suggests their own goals because we have quarterly goals that we set and we used, I think, more than half of their suggestions to build our quarterly goals for the fourth quarter. So it’s interesting just kind of how things evolve and how strong a remote team can be.
Dave Nevogt: I didn’t say that one, but that’s a huge one, just having KPIs and goals because that, you know, managing to those numbers, the numbers themselves aren’t even as important as like letting the people work to the base of what’s going on. So an example of in content writing, you know, like you can do it based on OK, so what’s the goal? Visits, traffic, recurring visits, conversions into a certain product, like what’s the end goal and like if it’s conversions, for example, you’re going to find that it’s a lot easier for them to say, I think in their mind like, oh, well, if that’s the goal, then I know I need to find the topic that is likely to convert. So they understand at a deeper level now how to do all this different stuff, where to put the CTAs in the article, what to start it off with, just everything. And so again, it’s all about saving you time, the business owner in the end and by developing these processes and putting these in place and the numbers is a big one. Numbers is a big one, that works across the board, not only in content writing, of course, but just across the board.
Mike: Yeah, great stuff. Cool, we try to keep these podcasts to 30 minutes, we’re already well over that. But I do want to ask one last question, if you don’t mind, to kinda wrap things up here. The thing that I get asked more than anything else, because people know that we have a remote team and I’m constantly glowing about them because they do just an amazing job. They want to do the same. But people often times, like, don’t know how to get started. And I think it’s also human nature to forget how hard it was ourselves when we did all this. You know, it seems so easy now. I mean, the whole thing just happens on its own because like, you know, we have Mia out there. We have– we’ve now hired a full time H.R. person. The whole thing just completely runs itself. But I can remember back to the day where I was having to spend all my time training Mia. We also had a lady named Heidi that was working for us. It was a lot of work. But I’m curious, like, what would your tips be like if someone wants to start a remote team? What’s the first step? Like what would you go do tomorrow to set up another team if you had to do it all from scratch?
Dave Nevogt: Well, I think you just hit the nail on the head by saying start another team, start externally, meaning if you have a business right now, just try one person in a different geographic area, give them a specific role. So it’s really tight and locked down what they’re supposed to do, design their first, say, 60 days, give them enough work for 60 days and make sure and that probably is like, let’s say, three projects or something like that. You know, not like 60 projects, like three projects, but have those three projects be, you know, decent sized and pretty well documented. So what you want to do, the reasons why we create specs at Hubstaff. So you’ve got the goal, you’ve got the requirements, you’ve got these different things, but just basic good documentation for the projects and then hire somebody externally to try to get that done. And I usually say, you know, start with the things that you as the business owner are doing day in, day out that are repetitive and they are taking your time that you could outsource and just document your process for doing them next time you do them, and then you’ve got a role basically to hire out. So I would start there and then get that person like HubStaff has a free account for one. So you can just come in and and have that person in and using it and or anything else doesn’t really matter. You don’t need anything, if you don’t want anything. But it’s free like I said.
So get somebody in and just start slow and you will find either A that person is a godsend and you love it, or B maybe you got the wrong person, didn’t work out just like a person inside the office can’t work out and you want to restart, but you kind of like part of it (inaudible at 39:07) or C you hate it and you’ll never do it. So one of those three things is going to happen, but at least you actually tried and it wasn’t a big financial– you can do– People will look for part time jobs. You don’t have to have somebody 40 hours a week. You can say, hey, I want to do 10 hours a week to start off with and are you okay with that? Some people are gonna say, no, I need a full time income and others are going to say, yeah, that’s fine. I have my job now. Like I’ve got a full time job. I can put in 10 extra hours in the side for you. That way we always hire like that because we don’t want to have somebody– like the last thing I want to do is to drag somebody away from a good job and then have to get rid of them because it’s not a good fit. Like I always try to have them do some work on the side and you might find that you find somebody you love and you love the process of remote work.
Mike: Yeah, so there’s a couple of things you said there. First of all, the number one thing. Give them a defined task, set them up for success. I don’t know what it is about people who think that when they hire someone remotely that they can hire this superhuman that knows how to do every single thing in the world. I mean, hire in the same ways that you would hire in an office. If you’re looking for a programmer, you’re going to hire a programmer. If you’re looking for a content writer, you would hire a writer. And if you’re looking for someone to do support, you would hire someone that’s good at customer service. When people hire a V.A., they think that they all of a sudden know everything and they can do all three of those like really disparate tasks. And that’s not ever going to happen. And the other thing I would just say, like you said, is just do it like if you don’t start doing it, yes, it will be harder in that first 60 day period, because it will take you longer to get the tasks done by having to, like write it up and train someone else. But, you know, once you get passed over this hump or past this, you get to the point we have a critical mass of a team. Then like your life becomes so much easier and you can, you know, the old saying you can start working on your business and not in your business. And until you have someone else to help you with those things, you will never get to that point. And it’s just absolutely impossible. So I think some great tips there.
Dave Nevogt: Yeah. I would close it out with this. I mean, I didn’t want to. I didn’t mean to sound– I guess at one point I think I sounded like, you know, you couldn’t have a beer with somebody and this and that. I mean, we do have a great culture. I mean, I know these people are my friends. I mean, it’s– I know their families. I know– they come to visit. We have retreats like I– they’re my friends. They’re my working friends as well. But they are, in the end, my friends. And, you know, so we do know each other very well. We joke around on Slack all the time and things like that. So it’s not like, you know, (inaudible at 41:28). It’s not like it’s that different than an office. You just can’t get those kind of like, you know, like I said, like, look over your shoulder as much with a remote team is all.
Mike: Yeah and I would say like I mean everything– there’s pros and cons to everything, and it’s same thing for the employees as well. And I think one of the big cons is you don’t get interrupted as much. I’m sorry. One of the big pros, I should say, not one of the big cons, one of the big pros is that you don’t get interrupted as much. There was just a study I was reading last week about something like the average person gets interrupted like 12 times throughout their working day. And it takes– it was something stupid, like 22 minutes to get restarted. And I thought that was just me because I’m like ADD but I find it really hard to get restarted so I mean if they’re off doing their thing and they’re remote. They may be more productive. And, you know, again, there’s a tradeoff to everything and definitely pros and cons. And the employees also have the benefits of all the things you laid out as well. So there’s certainly a lot of pros as well so…
Awesome. Well, it’s been great having you on if people want to start hiring or if they already have people remote. I definitely recommend going over to Hubstaff.com, it’s a great tool that can help you manage your remote teams and pay them. They also– one of the things we didn’t talk about it does screen tracking. You can do that as well. We decide not to use that feature any longer because we feel like because we’re in the office, I think that they actually stop using, maybe they still use it, I’m not sure but there’s just so much great stuff over there. Again, Hubstaff.com and Dave, if people want to find you or ask you questions specifically, what’s a great way to get a hold of you?
Dave Nevogt: Email, [email protected] is my email address and I respond back to almost every e-mail and email’s the best, I’m @dnevogt on Twitter. I don’t really use it that much, but that’s about it.
Mike: The great thing about being employee number one is you always get the best email address. Awesome, Dave. Thank you so much for coming on.
Mike: Alright guys, that’s gonna wrap it up for the 285th episode of the Ecomcrew Podcast. Again, thank you guys for joining us today and for your support and I just wanna mention one more time for anybody that did skip the intro, that we do have an affiliate relationship with Hubstaff now, something we didn’t have when I actually recorded. You can go to ecomcrew.com/Hubstaff if you’re interested in trying them out and you’ll get 50% off your first month with Hubstaff by going to that page and using the code ecomcrew50.
Again guys, we really appreciate your support for the ecomcrew podcast, it means a lot to us and as always, happy selling and until the next episode, we’ll talk to you soon.
Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.