How to grow and scale your remote team

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Deciding when to scale up your remote team is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make for your business. Do it too early, and the costs can take you out of business. Do it too late, and you can take on more work than you can handle and destroy your reputation.

There are plenty of signs that you need to scale up. You might be having to turn down opportunities because you just don’t have the manpower to deliver for your customers. Or you might notice that your current team is starting to burn out because they’ve been doing too much for too long.

The general advice is to think about scaling when you have a strong cash flow, and a good sales pattern. In other words, when your business is going well and there is minimal risk to the business.

But, as Des Traynor said during the Intercom World Tour in 2017, ‘No matter what the problem is like, it’s always a people problem’ and choosing the right people is fundamental to scaling up. Des learned a lot about scaling when they went from a team of 4 to around 400 in six years.

So, how can you make sure you’re ready to scale without causing people problems, and what’s the best way to find the right talent for you? (Spoiler: It’s hiring remotely)

The Stages of a Business

Start-ups are hectic. We’ve all heard the stories of how a handful of people do all the tasks a company needs in the early days, burning the midnight oil and multi-tasking to get things done. But when the business needs to expand, you have to make your early hires; you go from a team to teams. If you’re lucky and you get the second stage right, you’ll end up with teams of teams. Yes, we know, flat business structures are all the rage, but the truth is that once a business starts to gain traction, someone is going to have to direct what’s going on.

This means that it isn’t just the business that is going to change, it’s also your role. Chances are, you’re a maker rather than a manager. You might be a coder or an engineer, but the only way start-ups get started is by having hands-on people doing what needs to be done. As your company scales, that is going to change. As founders, you’re going to move away from making and into management.  Even if you’re in the later stages, and you’re a team leader who is going to manage two teams, the same applies. So, before you scale up, it’s worth doing some preparation work to make sure you’re really ready.

Preparing to Scale

In an ideal world, you’ll be thinking of scaling up before it actually needs to happen. It won’t be a case of landing a big client on Monday and realizing you need to recruit an entirely new team. Either way, it pays to stop and think about scaling before you do anything. Scaling means bringing new people and personalities into your business, a lot of things that have been taken as read are going to need to be spelled out. Your company culture is likely to have grown organically based around the people you have now, so what do you want to preserve?

If you’re going to be promoting from within, are your staff trained to be able to handle that? And is that what they want? If you’ve got a great coder, they may not want to end up as your CTO – but if they do, they’re going to need to learn a whole bunch of managerial skills along the way. It’s time to invest in the people you do have, to avoid problems further down the road.

You’re also going to need to get some clarity on things like your company mission statement so that your expanding team can all be in alignment with those ideas. Take some time out to refine your ideas of company culture, mission, and the how’s and why’s of what you do so that new hires know exactly what you’re about.

And be prepared to change. Bringing in new people will inevitably change the small unit that you have now. New hires will come with new ideas, new ways of working, and if you hire remote they are more likely to add to the diversity of your team. These can all be good things, but if you’re set in your ways then it can be an uncomfortable experience; if you know you’re not good at accepting change, do some work on yourself to make the transition easier.

Choosing the Right People

Now we come to our area of true expertise! As a boutique recruitment agency, specializing in remote, technical recruitment, we know all about putting people together in a way that will be productive rather than disastrous. Because, unfortunately, hiring the wrong people can be damaging to your business when you’re trying to scale.

Here’s what you need to be looking for:

  • Verifiable ability. Does this person really have the skills they claim on their CV? You can determine that partly by taking up references, by asking questions at the interview, or by setting a technical challenge.
  • Cultural fit. Remember we said it was important to get clear on this before you hire? This is why. You need someone who is going to fit in with your vision, ethics, and sense of humor.
  • Working hours. Do you need someone who works the same hours as the rest of the team, or would it be helpful to have a small overlap but keep production going for a longer workday?

Don’t fall for some of the common mistakes like hiring the first person you see, thinking you can hire someone more ideal later – the wrong hire can cause mayhem. To borrow the old adage about marriage; hire in haste, repent at leisure.

And once you’ve hired them, you need to onboard them properly. This is where all that preparation comes in because rather than giving your new dev a login and letting them sink or swim, you can help them get settled in so they can be a productive member of the company sooner.

The Remote Advantage

If you’re looking to hire the right people, then why fish in a small talent pool? The chances of getting a great developer, with the right experience and attitude increase exponentially when you have the whole world to choose from.

When you hire remote, you know that you have a self-starter and problem solver, because those are skills that remote workers really need. And of course, they’re more productive than their desk-bound colleagues.

But perhaps the biggest advantage when it comes to scalability is the speed of hiring. You don’t need to think months ahead as you do with regular hires. We can run through all the stages outlined above for you and give you a shortlist of candidates to interview. Rather than regular recruitment agencies who need almost a month to find you a candidate, we can do it in under two weeks. How’s that for responsive?

Scaling up is a challenging time for any company, but the rewards can be great. When you’re ready to look for the right people, give DistantJob a call. We’d be happy to help.

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a remote work advocate and thought leader and a specialist in persuasive writing. She has an MA in Creative Fiction, is a children's author, and a writer of award-winning short stories.