“Oh, it’s so weird to be out at this time,” one of my employees said to me as we were going out to take a long break in the sun.
It was one of those times when we all felt overwhelmed with the amount of work needed to be done daily.
For her, being out and about, just walking around at noon, was a rare experience.
I’m not talking about going out to get lunch. But walk outside for a while.
Most people who work at offices feel that way.
They spend all their days underneath the fluorescent light, get in in the morning, go home late, etc.
That was not my fantasy when starting out Stardom.IO.
I was freelance for many years, and I loved the freedom of working from home, coffee shops or even when abroad.
I feel that freedom is essential to have a fully fulfilling lifestyle.
After a year in the making – I’ve decided to leap and implement that approach at my company, Stardom.IO.
In this post, I want to share with you the reasons for turning Stardom.IO into a distributed company.
Quick Catch Up
Stardom.IO was founded in 2017, but the company has never done an official commercial launch (yet!).
Since I started the company, leveraging my personal brand, we were able to get many amazing clients to work with, and we never got to launch the website or even officially announcing the company.
Growth is currently based on Word of Mouth.
At the peak of last year, we were a 14 people team (including interns, part-timers etc.).
We were sitting in an office space in the Center of Tel Aviv, sharing it with one other company.
Every day, our team members came to the office daily, sat together and worked together. Just like a normal company does.
Why go remote?
There are 3 main issues that pushed into trying to go remote.
- Hated going to the office.
- Not being able to hire top-performers
- For our type of company, in-house means limitations.
I’ll explain – starting with the dumbest reason
I hated coming to the office
I, the founder and CEO, hated coming to the office. I would try to avoid going.
Why? You ask.
Well, there are a few reasons:
- I was not getting any work done when going to the office. That would’ve been my least productive time of the day.
- When employees see the CEO, they want to grab attention. Most of the time – just for the sake of being seen.
- Most of the office time spend more about people eating, planning what to eat, doing coffee breaks. You only do real work for about 35% of the time.
- Everybody wants something from you – at that instant. If you don‘t have time for them by the end of that day, you’ll get a frown face.
- Being a small company, having CEO-time became a motivational boost for most of them. And they’ll ask for it daily. While I would love to spend hours motivating my team – there was a lot of work to be done as well.
- I’m a very friendly person, but being in social situations drains me from energy
Also, I spent most of my 20s as a freelancer, I’m used to being the master of my own time.
Suddenly being “chained” to the office, was making me unhappy.
Not being able to hire top performers
There are 2 aspects to this; location and talent.
For location, I won’t say much – because it has been discussed to death.
In a nutshell – top talent isn’t necessarily around you physically. They might be better SEO or CRO experts living in the U.S, U.K, Italy or wherever.
Only hiring people who can physically come to the office, means you’re losing all that global talent. That’s simple.
The second reason, that’s a big deal.
Working with top talent
I’ll tell you a secret – most agencies don’t have high margins, and it is almost impossible for them to compete with startup salaries.
If you’re a well funded Startup, you can afford to pay your data analyst, or top SEO employee a high salary. Meaning, you can attract the best people in the field.
Their performance is not tied specifically to the company’s ROI and the need for those experts don’t grow exponentially as the company grows.
For agencies, every employee needs to be accountable for their ROI.
You can be a rockstar SEO professional, but if you can only handle 5 clients who can pay X amount of money, it’ll be hard to financially justify the high salary.
Most agencies either settle for ‘OK’ employees or try to spot junior rockstars and train them. Train them for a couple of months – and once those start to justify their training and own to their star title, they leave.
The problem is that you train them for a couple of months – and once they start to live up to their potential, they leave.
Going remote gives us the opportunity to get those top performers, and our clients, better services and still be more affordable.
Why? First of all, the best players in the market, usually do their own thing.
Because they’re so good, their reputaion alone attracts clients and get them work, and they can do it on their own terms.
Working remotely gives me the opportunity to hire them because it can be project-based, or by the hour and they’re not tied up as ‘employees.’ But also, they are retained solely based on what their best at- and
But also, they are hired based exclusively on what they’re best at and none of the “overhead” work a company employee has.
Let’s dig deeper for a sec
The way I see it; every role is part ‘brain’ part ‘muscle.’
Brain being – strategy and decision making.
Muscle’s being – doing the step by step work.
With in-house employees, for most companies, in the beginning, it’s the same person. So you’ll have a brilliant (and expensive) expert, who’s doing strategy and execution.
You’ll be leveraging his expertise for only about 20% of the time. Other times, it will be a crazy expensive 80% waste.
Let’s go back to the SEO example:
A good SEO strategy is super important. At a task level, sending emails, doing outreaches, building links or whatever, that’s usually something almost anyone can do.
Most scenarios of the actual ‘muscle’ work can be done by juniors, or low-paid outsource and there will be no substantial change in results.
When a company grows, you’ll see the ‘brain’ function of a business starting to hire ‘muscles’, meaning lower level employees, so they can do the mundane labor.
Most agencies comprise on the ‘brain’ part.
Why? because someone who’s that good at what he does is usually very expensive.
They can’t or won’t afford that based on the ROI they can get from them.
They will take juniors and qualify them over time. And then they leave.
With this strategy in place, I’m able to bring my clients amazing A-players from all around the world.
Data analyst who’ve helped grow a company that’s easily work a few hundred millions. SEO person who’s worked on some the top-sites in the world. Creatives who’ve done international campaigns and more.
I can balance between brain and muscle time – optimizing costs for my clients while getting them an all-star team.
Not just an expert, but the right expert
Stardom.IO’s focus as an agency is growth.
This means you have to run different tests, using different channels.
Now, I can count about 30 different potential traction channels myself. Before even diving into verticals.
For example, If you’re selling a product on your site. Physical or digital. Did you ever ran a test to see how easy will it be for you to sell on Amazon instead of on your site? Probably not.
Why? because you didn’t get the time to research properly, and it’s a whole niche to go into.
Maybe you did, and it had poor results. Why? Because it was your first time using Amazon as a sales channel.
If you had an Amazon expert on your side, you would’ve been able to run efficient tests in no-time.
But guess what? You didn’t have one on your staff.
Why? because it’s ridiculous to have one ‘just in case.’
Building Stardom’s infrastructure in a way that will allow us to easily build different teams based on a client’s need is key for us to have the best solution always available.
In most agencies, you’ll see the company trying to impose its existing solutions on problems that need a different remedy.
Not because it’s a bad agency, just because most agencies focus on specific services and not specific processes.
It’s a different game.
I’ve been doing this ‘distributed team’ experiment for only a couple of months now, So I can’t conclude if it’s a successful move or a static mistake,
I can say that I’ve been enjoying the company much more since doing the move.
Companies such as Buffer, Invision, Basecamp, Github, duck duck go, Help Scout, Zapier, Upworthy all managed to build great products and services with a fully remote and distributed team.
It’s true you need to have a very specific DNA (As founder and employee) to make it work, but it’s definitely possible.
Not being bound to an office, working with top performers and being able to give my clients the experts they need, is certainly a model I can stand behind.
In future posts, I will talk about setting up for the transition, what we’re doing to build culture, tools we’re currently using, etc.
Are you working in a distributed company? If so, let me know in the comments. I’d love to get your insights.