Building the Company You Want to Work For, with Erik Jacobson - DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency

Building the Company You Want to Work For, with Erik Jacobson

Gabriela Molina

Erik Jacobson is the Founder & CEO at Lemonpie, a full-service podcast PR agency that helps brands like HubSpot and Levels to talk to their target audience on podcasts they love. He is also the Founder of Hatch, a company that provides unlimited podcast editing and strategies for businesses.

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the Distance Job Podcast. I am your host Luis, and this is your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. Today I have with me Erik Jacobson. He is the CEO at Lemonpie & Hatch, companies that provide podcasting strategies for brands. Eric, welcome to the show.

Erik:

Thank you for having me, Luis. Really appreciate it.

Luis:

Yeah, a podcasting expert in this humble podcast, so I hope you’ll pardon our dust, right?

Erik:

No, no, no, no.

Luis:

Doing the best I can, but this is a very simple bootstrapped operation, so anyway.

Erik:

There’s no right way to podcast, so I judge no podcasts at all. I love podcasting and there’s really no right way, honestly.

Luis:

Yeah. What brought you into the podcasting thing? What were the podcasts that you listened to that really made you like, this is the thing? This is where I’m going to build my brand.

Erik:

When I got out of college, I was working at a job that I was pretty miserable in, and this was in 2011, 2012. I found podcasting back then, and podcasting was something that I became obsessed with because it showed me what is possible in life and business. And the two shows that I found that set me on this entire path was This Week in Startups and Mixergy, both of them entrepreneurship, startups related shows, and they’ve been around for about 10 years now. And I found those and I couldn’t believe that the information was free and what I was able to learn in them, and it set me on my path to starting my own companies and starting them inside of podcasting as the category that I created a company in. So those two shows were really pivotal for me.

Luis:

You were a very cultured listener. For the longest time I was only listening to shows about video games, so that was definitely not the same level of educational content that you were consuming. But yeah, I actually started with The 1up Show back at Ziff Davis Media. That was a fantastic show. I loved it. And then eventually when I started getting more into business and et cetera, I started listening to The Tim Ferriss Show, which is probably still the biggest or one of the biggest podcasts in the industry, I assume.

Erik:

Yeah, and that’s what’s cool about podcasting honestly. It’s niche and not necessarily just in size, but in topics. So any topics, and it was hard for me to explain to friends and family members back in 2014, 2015 what podcasts were, to be honest. But how I would describe it is any interest you have, whether that be health, sports, video games, business, anything, there are podcasts out there on it and you can feel a part of a community even though it’s not a conversation, it’s more of a one way conversation. You can feel like you are friends with the hosts of these shows in categories and spaces covering topics that you love. And so that’s cool about it. I just so happen to love business content, that’s what I wake up thinking about, fall asleep thinking about, and it’s just a passion of mine, but it doesn’t have to be just for business related shows as well.

Luis:

But it feels that, and maybe you’d like to speak to that, I haven’t thought about it before, but it feels like it’s a bit less siloed from it, meaning that, I mean, even though I was listening to gaming shows it was pretty easy and organic for me to find The Tim Ferris Show and other shows on other topics that I might be interested. Whereas for example, I’m a big book reader. I write books, I like reading books, and if I go to Amazon, let’s say, it’s very hard for Amazon to show me any book that’s not very similar to all the other books I read. They have that algorithm hone down to show me exactly my comfort food kind of books. Been the same in Netflix, but when I go to, I mean, for the longest time I was using Android and there’s a bunch of podcast aggregators there, but for the past couple of years I’ve been using Apple Podcasts and when I go there, it’s actually like, oh, here’s a bunch of podcasts of a wide variety of topics for you, for use.

Erik:

This is the very interesting thing about the form of media that is podcast, which is unlike pretty much every other form in the sense that it is not powered by an algorithm to your point. So if you go to YouTube, that’s an algorithm. If you go to Netflix, that’s an algorithm. If you go on social media, that’s an algorithm. And so it has trade offs in the sense that when you’re using the algorithmic feeds, theoretically you are getting served content that is personalized to you based on what you have watched or read previously. So there can be some helpfulness to that, but you do lose some of the serendipity and the word of mouth and the novelty of finding things that are a little bit off the beaten track like you just described in podcasting.

So podcasting is not centralized by any one aggregator or any one platform, and that’s what makes it impossible for it to be powered by an algorithm. So the real way that you find podcasts truly is through word of mouth for the most part, and through other podcasts that you’re currently listening to, and either they mention another show or they have another podcast host on and you kind of find it through the grapevine rather than finding it through a feed that just so happens to surface a new show. And there’s a lot of power in that, and I find it a little bit refreshing to be honest, that there’s not necessarily a gatekeeper, if you will, who can turn on or turn off how many people are seeing your content because they control the algorithm.

One of the major reasons podcasting is powerful is because of that, it can make it harder to grow, but it also is less susceptible to being taken away from you. Basically, you can think of it like an email list. When you build up your email list, you have that direct connection with the subscriber. Nobody else is the intermediary there. And this is the same with your podcast feed is people are choosing to come to listen to it, not because they landed on a homepage and your content just surfaced there, it’s because they’re seeking it out. And so that makes it more of an owned channel than a lot of the other options.

Luis:

Yeah, to your point, I mean, it’s still one step removed from email. Once people subscribe to your podcast, their data belongs to whatever platform they use to subscribe, and you still need to pitch them with something or something enticing enough for them to actually become part of your tribe. But you’re right. They’re subscribed to you, you have their ear as long as they’re subscribed to you through that medium so for sure that is true. But I mean, it does ring true the network effect? If I think about how did I find most of the podcasts I listen to today, it was because I listen to their hosts being guests in a podcast that I was already listening to. Not always.

I mean, again, I was listening to The 1up Show about video games, and it’s not like Tim Ferris dropped by to make a special appearance. That one I found through his books, through his blog or something like that. But for the most part, especially within that genre or parallel genres, I do find a lot of interesting content. For example, I listen to a podcast right now that’s called EconTalk, right? That’s not the kind of podcast that I would usually listen to, but the host was featured in a couple of the business podcasts that I do listen to and so I kind of graduated to his podcast so that is definitely powerful discovery tool.

Erik:

Yes. Yeah, podcast to podcast marketing is typically the primary way, the most effective way for podcasts to grow is to be featured on another show as a guest or do a shout out or an ad spot on it or an episode, put an entire episode of your show inside of the feed of other similar shows and things like that. And so I’m just such a big fan of this medium because it is more of a direct relationship with the consumer that is not powered by anything except for the listener’s intent to want to listen to a 45, 60 minute long episode, which is a significant investment and all the powerful features that are created from that.

Luis:

And it’s a really different kind of media because I’m personally not a fan of audio books. I love reading a book, picking up either in paper or on a tablet device. I’m more or less agnostic. I think both things have their pros and cons, but I never got with audio books and I was never the guy that could put on an audiobook and go out for an hour long walk. I just kind of drifted away from the book. But podcasts, they’re different from audio books in that they’re conversations, so it’s actually much easier to be engaged while doing something else, be it the dishes or walking or something like that.

So it is its own kind of medium and I rather enjoy that. But we’ve spent a bit a while talking shop, which I love. But I do want to get to the meat of the things that the listeners are here for, which is remote work. I mean I actually don’t know, didn’t do my homework here folks, I actually don’t know what percentage of your businesses are remote. So maybe we could start there and you could tell me about how remote work has impacted your career and your work life.

Erik:

Yeah, so Lemonpie was the first company I created six years ago. And then Hatch is a company that we created two years ago. Both of them have been fully remote since day one, so Lemonpie being remote since 2016. And so we were remote first in the sense that we designed the company from start to have a remote first culture even prior to the pandemic where a lot of companies were forced into that position. And so the reason why I created the company even back then with the intent of that is because I wanted to design a company that I wanted to work at personally. And I knew that I traveled a lot for work and I was always at various locations and things like that and about 75% of the time there was no need for me to actually be on location. I could have done the work from anywhere.

And that honestly just frustrated me and it didn’t make sense to me and I knew that others felt the same way. And so I wanted to build a place where we could have distributed talent, but also just fundamentally outside of the on paper reasons why it made sense, truly just creating a place that would be a place that I would like to work at, knowing that if it were one that I wanted to work at, there would be many other folks that would feel the same way and designing it as such. And back then you really didn’t have to do much to stand out in terms of it being compelling to want to work at your company if you were remote, simply if you were just remote. The demand was incredibly high back then.

We would put up job postings on platforms like We Work Remotely and other different things and just because we were remote, our application inbound was massive. And now I think there has to be a little bit more nuance to what your value prop is from a culture and hiring perspective outside of what can just seem like a surface level thing in some ways of just being remote. And so we’ve really tried to continue to be thoughtful about how we design the company and the culture from a remote standpoint to continue to stand out from all the other options of companies that are recruiting the same talent as us.

Luis:

So I have a couple of places to go there. So first, you said that you built a company that you wanted to work with. Why did that need to be remote? Did you just decide that I don’t want to work in a physical location? Why was that imperative for you enjoying having a company?

Erik:

Yeah, so what I realized is I wanted work life integration and I found it to be fairly impossible to be honest in a physical location, have to be at work at X time, have to stay until X time, have to ask people that are managers who can control the one hour I need to go to an appointment here, do this or want to get some fresh air and people in the office will look at me weird and all these kinds of things that didn’t allow me to integrate my life into the work that way that I actually wanted to. And not just from a, I don’t mean it in the sense, but a selfish standpoint of me being able to do what I want but truly the impact to my productivity by being able to design it in that way.

And so I was way more productive in terms of my output when I transitioned from the job I had into working on my own business that was remote because of that. And so I was able to design my work schedule, my work structure and then flexibility within that, the way that was optimal for me versus a rigid structure that was broadly applied to everybody the same, even though it’s very obvious. It’s kind of silly, it’s even a conversation standpoint, but everybody works differently and in the way that is best for them is different from one another. Yes, there can be a bell curve of normal distribution ranges of typically people working around these hours per week or these hours per day, but there’s a lot of nuance in there. And so that was the fundamental premise that I wanted personally.

And then I wanted to provide that to others and I actually thought that was going to be a competitive advantage for us because I thought that the best people would want that and larger companies were scared to offer that because they didn’t think they could control people taking advantage of the system. And I knew being a smaller company, number one, I would have more of a close connection with each team member. So I would be able to just know what was going on in the company a little bit more and I would self-select for people who were internally motivated and didn’t need the rigid structure and always being told what the next step is and at what time they need to do X, Y, Z.

Luis:

Yeah. And I’m surprised that conversation pops up as much as it did and to me it’s become pretty straightforward after over a decade working remotely that you can just measure people’s contribution based on deliverables, right? It’s not rocket science. You agree on a delivery day, people either deliver or don’t. If they don’t, you find out what happened, that’s it and you adjust from there. And if adjustment proves impossible, then well then that means that’s probably not the greatest fit but you go from there. It doesn’t make sense to simply say that, oh well I need to see people working. That’s kind of odd. But for the longest time, that was how things worked. Now you did mention, which is my experience as well, that pre-pandemic, it was very easy to find good talent just by promising remote.

The job was based on that assumption that, hey, our edge in recruitment is that we offer remote positions to people so people are going to jump at the opportunity of working remote. I found that that hasn’t completely gone away. There’s still a lot of companies that are resistant to remote work. And so there are still a lot of people hungry for remote positions, but definitely not as much as it used to be. So I’m wondering how have you upgraded your offer as a business to entice people now that remote is something that’s less unique?

Erik:

Our tactics have changed somewhat in terms of how we manage the team and different things like that, but the premise with which we operate the business has not changed. We’ve just gotten better at describing it externally to allow candidates to know we are a place that they might want to apply to. So it’s more about being able to articulate our positioning. If we think of our positioning, there’s two ways we can think of positioning. Positioning is how we describe what we do and who we are best for from a client perspective, but then also our positioning who we are best for from an employee perspective. And so we’ve gotten better at describing that and being able to back it up because it’s very easy to say one thing, and this is what is tricky for employees to candidates have to sift through is now lots of companies are remote, but they actually don’t have a remote first culture or one that is conducive to the way that they think they want to work when they’re applying to a remote company.

And so it can be hard to look through and sift and understand what companies are real when in terms of being able to deliver on what they say. And it’s not just window dressing. And so we put so much effort into literally our job descriptions, every job description we put out when we post a new role, we put so much care and attention to detail into positioning us as a company that if you are a driven, internally motivated person who is empathetic, kind, wants to take ownership and maybe has never had it a remote first situation or is looking for one that they can integrate their work in their life, even better. We want to stand out as one of the best options for that. And so it’s been more just about actually describing it than it has been changing our approach.

Luis:

Got it. Okay. So tell me a bit about as the team has grown over the years, I mean one of your businesses, the first was founded in 2016, so that’s already a company of a certain maturity level, I’m sure it’s grown throughout the years. So as it has grown, how have you managed to keep the team together and to keep the culture consistent as you onboard more people?

Erik:

So we’ve had such incredibly low turnover. We’re not a huge team, we’re about 12 folks right now. But what our goal is, is for us to be the favorite agency our clients have ever worked with and the favorite place our team has ever worked. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t hold high standards, but what that means is we allow people the flexibility to work in the way that’s best for them and then prove that they are person that they want to be at work without micromanaging them. So really it just stems down to who we hire. If we look at productivity as not how quickly you can get something done or how many things you can get done, but actually much more of a byproduct of what you are working on. I think in the same way culture is less about what you say what your values are and what your mission is and what your standards are. And it’s actually mostly about the type of people you hire because the type of people you hire are going to be the people that set the culture.

You can of course guide it and be thoughtful and have intentionality there. But I want to operate a company that has a strong culture with few rules rather than a weaker culture with many rules. And so if you have fewer rules, I would argue you will be able to have a stronger culture, but in order to have fewer rules, you need to have the right people on the team. And so you need to put a lot of effort into sourcing and vetting for the right people who map to the values you hope to have at the company. But knowing that once they get in, one of our things is like we don’t micromanage, so we trust people from day one and we don’t micromanage.

And the only way we can do that is by hiring the right people. So we place so much of an emphasis on hiring. And one of the things we did as time has gone on is to implement the Who framework of hiring. So Who is a wonderful book about recruiting and vetting candidates and then selecting the right ones. And so we’ve added some components that are pretty tactical instead of just gut feel. The first couple years is just gut feel to be honest. And just the culture’s a byproduct of me, but that doesn’t scale. So yeah, Who’s been a really wonderful book and then we’ve refined our values and we really just place 80% of our focus on who we’re hiring.

Luis:

Right. Okay. So you did say that you have a remarkably low churn rate, right? Why do you think that is?

Erik:

I think it’s because our team gets the ability to do their best work in a place that values their work, holds them to a high standard, but is kind, empathetic and optimistic in terms of the lens with which the leadership looks at everything. So I’m doing my job if I am not the one making decisions for the team, but rather providing the appropriate context for the team to be able to make their best decisions. And I think people like being able to take ownership. If we say we hire the best people and let them do their best work, that means inherently I cannot be making decisions for them. And I think people like that. I think they like having the trust of being able to make the best decisions for their department or for the problem they’re working on. And then in the same sense, I think culture is also a byproduct of what you praise and what you reward and punish, not in a negative sense.

So we don’t have a very reprimanding culture. Again, I’m doing my job if I’m the hype man for team members. And so if we want to positively reinforce things that we see, that we like, that means I need to be vocal about that. And so I think the team likes being at a place that not only do they know that the leadership and the company values their work, but they hear it and they see it and they feel it, from words, from bonuses, from gifts, from thoughtfulness, from random $50 gift cards for dinner for them and their spouse on a Friday, for random days off for not needing to ask for approval to take time off. And just knowing, hey, if you got to go do something, go do it. And as long as we’re getting our work done, all of those things combined I think just makes for a place that people aren’t scared. I don’t think most people do their best work when they’re scared.

Luis:

Yeah, I’d agree with that.

Erik:

And so that’s what we’re trying to design.

Luis:

Got it. Tell me a bit about the promotion or lack of promotion of social bonds between team members. I have a bit of an unpopular opinion on this, which is my opinion is I don’t care. People work together. If they decide to talk with each other about topics outside of work, that’s fine and I love it. If they just want to get in, do the best work they can do and get out, I’m absolutely fine with that. But I know that I’m definitely in the minority here. What’s your take on that?

Erik:

Yeah, so I’m in agreement. I think if I were to wait it, if the question was is it better on average across the board for everybody to be in the same location from a team bonding standpoint versus a remote standpoint, I think it would probably be the in person would take the advantage, not by as much as people think, because I do think there’s actually more people that would describe their preference exactly the way that you did than we realize. And that is not a net neutral. So if your preference is mostly want to focus on the work, of course interested in talking with team members here and there, but don’t want half your day to be small talk with team members.

If you’re in the same location that is going to happen, whether you like it or not, that is a net negative for you, the person that has that preference. So it’s not a net neutral. So I would say remote allows for that entire dilemma to be more default net neutral for everybody. And then you can customize it for the preferences of certain people. So some people like a lot of team collaboration and team camaraderie and things like that. So you lose some of that by default with remote. But you can add things in. What we do is there’s this app called Donut and-

Luis:

Yeah, makes sense.

Erik:

We add it to Slack and it just randomly selects two team members to ping them in Slack and says, hey, you two get on a 30 minute Zoom call and don’t talk about work and just stuff like that. But it’s not forced every day and you still have some of those components that you can bake in versus somebody fundamentally unhappy because they’re being forced into a work dynamic that they don’t want. And if you’ve applied to a remote position, you know if you’re a very extroverted team bonding sort of person, you’re not going to get that by default going in. So I think it allows for more flexibility there.

Luis:

Yeah, I mean I agree. For example, at DistantJob, we do have game time Fridays and I never go. So there’s that but rather a decent chunk of people enjoy going and playing games together. But I don’t like the idea that is an essential component to a working company. I think that it’s important for there to be the option for sure, create a situation where people can get that social connection if they feel they need it to do a good job. But I don’t think it’s necessary for a business to work remotely. That’s my take.

Erik:

Totally agree. And that’s why I love what remote work allows for, which is for you to design more optionality into how your team gets to work that is perfect for them while still maintaining a strong culture. So yeah, I completely agree because to your point, you can create these things that are more about team bonding and fun and things like that. And you don’t have to make them required. Like you mentioned, you don’t go to them and you don’t feel like you’re missing out and you still are a part of the team and a productive happy member of the team. So I think that that is so beneficial and we use the same strategy at our company.

Luis:

So next I want to jump to talking a bit about how you manage the two different companies that I’m sure they’re linked, I mean because they have the same CEO, right? And they’re within the same area. But nonetheless, because I’m in a similar situation, I’m not the boss of DistantJob, but I’m decently high up the company ladder that it feels like my company. But then at the same time I started my own company at the side that’s also about remote, that’s ThinkRemote, which is a media organization. We aim to be the number one source for remote work and digital nomad related news. And I have to admit, I find balancing the two jobs a bit challenging even though they are two completely remote companies. So how do you do that? How do you juggle working two remote works at the same time? Because I mean counterintuitively, if you were in a physical location and then you were hustling on your own business after you left the office, that’s actually easier, right?

Erik:

In a lot of ways, yeah. I think as with most things I’ve ever worked on or projects I’ve decided to do, I underestimated how difficult it would be and how much would be required for it to be successful. So I see a lot of talk on social media about having seven streams of income and seven different side hustles and companies and things and engineers working four different full-time jobs remotely and all these different things. And I used to be a fan of that and I have actually changed my mind on it. And I think that it seems like you can have more opportunity for success by doing more things, but I actually think that you are limiting the ceiling for what your success can be ever by doing more than one thing. And so I’ve learned that, but that’s fine.

Basically what I have had to come to terms with is if both companies grow a little bit slower or we can work on fewer things or there’s only so many hours in the day, that’s just something that I have to be okay with and not let it bother me. So it’s really about managing my own emotions with it than it is about these sort of actual day to day management of what we’re working on in the team. Because jumping between Slack channels, jumping between different company customer situations and things like that, the context switching is difficult, but it’s mostly difficult if you don’t put yourself in a position to know when is enough for that day, for that week, for that month, for that year, for each company. Because if you hold yourself to the standard of what you would hold yourself to, if you’re running one company as you are running two, you are going to burn out, 100%.

If we really just look at it, how many Fortune 500 CEOs are running two companies? Probably zero. And we could talk about Elon, but let’s just take him out of the equation. There’s probably zero. And so it’s a little bit crazy if you actually think about it, trying to run multiple things, but remote allows for it. And I think some people’s chemical makeup and some people’s passion and work ethic will allow for it. But I just want to encourage people to not get sucked into how cool it looks on a Twitter thread to write about the five different businesses you have or whatever, and just really think through and know the power of focus. And this has allowed me to really learn that lesson, but I still am very happy with what we’re doing with both companies. But it’s just one of those lessons you got to learn by doing.

Luis:

Yeah. So I agree with that. I would definitely not want to add a third job on top of it, but I kind of have, because at the end of the day when I finish my day, I go and I write some books that I publish. So that’s me going off the rails and then to a third job. But nonetheless, that definitely makes sense. But let’s transition then to getting a bit more in the weeds of how you organize things and why don’t you tell me working remotely, what does a typical day look like? And because you are working with two different companies, I assume there’s no such thing as a typical day. So what about a typical week?

Erik:

Yeah, so how I’ve set this up is I have leaders at both companies that are effectively managing each company’s teams. So just a reporting relationship. I have two direct reports, one from each company, and then the leaders at those companies report into that person. So I think it’s key, especially if you’re managing two companies, you cannot have 5, 6, 7, 8 direct reports, just thinking about the reporting relationships, it’s just too much. So the only way that this works is if you have leaders who can manage the team and those leaders report to you. So I have one, one hour weekly call with each of those folks and then ongoing communication as needed in Slack. And so those leaders are essentially focused on internal operations and delivery and fulfillment. My job currently is growth. For both companies, my deliverables every week are sales and marketing and I have help in those things, but I found it to be more important to offload from my plate anything related to delivery and fulfillment first, then to offload marketing and sales first.

Because I think founder led sales and marketing will get you further for longer than by bringing on internal marketers or internal sales. And you have to choose, especially when you’re bootstrapped, you can’t do everything. When you’re bootstrapped, you have to figure out the priority and the order of operations you want to scale. And so what that means is basically as the founder, you’re doing every single job and then along the way you get to find people to take those jobs from you one after another. And so the decision you have to make is in what order do you want to do that? And so at both companies, I chose to take off of my plate the actual delivery and fulfillment and keep marketing and sales the longest. And so the next step will be to take that off my plate in a very practical sense and then focus on mostly strategy and bigger picture, making the correct one to two decisions per year that will fundamentally make sure we are successful. But yeah so that’s my week actually, is sales calls, marketing, execution and syncing with the leaders who are managing the internal operations.

Luis:

Yeah, I mean that makes all the sense, obviously and touching upon what you just said. I am a growth professional so I see in a lot of cases where companies either startups or Bootstraps, they have a limited amount of budget and they want to hire one marketing person to do everything, to do social media and email marketing and content marketing, and PR and all of that. And the reality is that while it’s possible to have one person do that, the marketers who have that capacity are usually running their own businesses. You are talking about a very high level individual. When you want to replace a CEO, that’s running the sales and marketing, you usually need to replace them with a team. Could be a small team, could be two or three people, but it needs to be a team. That person that’s able to cover all of those channels of marketing, the word of that person is not feasible for you to hire them. They’re better off building their own business.

Erik:

It is such a good point and it’s one that I think is easy for entrepreneurs to get wrong where they think that the one magical marketing hire or the one magical sales hire will fix their revenue problems.

Luis:

Exactly.

Erik:

And the truth is-

Luis:

Infinite energy, right?

Erik:

Exactly. And they can manage all the channels, all the platforms, they can do the laundry list, because every entrepreneur, it’s easy to think they’re a marketer, to be honest. Marketing is one of those disciplines where everybody has an opinion because it’s easy to see and talk about, but it’s harder to execute. And I think that take with a great deal of caution, the idea that anybody will be able to do marketing or sales at your company better than you. And so if you aren’t able to figure it out and get traction and at least develop some initial playbooks to growth that you can then hand off to people versus having someone come in and figure it out, you’re going to be in a tough spot. But if you can get that initial traction, I think every founder should be able to get their company to 1 million ARR minimum.

Luis:

I agree with that, right? If you can’t sell your product, then you shouldn’t expect other people to be able to, right?

Erik:

Exactly. So that’s my focus and I mean personally, I love sales and marketing so it fits and I do empathize with founders who are more product focus or success and things like that but yeah.

Luis:

That’s why you have co-founders, right?

Erik:

Yeah, exactly. And it’s just part of the job. And so that’s my days, that’s my weeks currently.

Luis:

All right. Okay. So I want to move on to some rapid fire questions, but the answers don’t need to be rapid fire. Feel free to expand as much as you’d like. First I’d want to ask about your virtual office. What are the apps, tools, browser tabs that are open when you start your day?

Erik:

Honestly, I’m fairly simple. We have everything that probably most people do. So we use Slack, we use Google Drive, we use Notion. We used to use Asana, we don’t use that anymore. We switched that with Notion. And then for reporting and metrics, we use a tool called Databox, so that connects with HubSpot. So I use HubSpot for my CRM, which manages our sales pipeline and all the deals that are working through the pipeline. And then Databox, we created some custom reporting in there that I can pull up and have a dashboard and I can look what is our lead volume this month? Where have they all came from? What is our close rate? All of those sorts of things to understand what are the levers we should be focused on, are hitting the numbers that we know, the leading indicators of the numbers that we know in 30 to 60 days we will be where we want or are we lagging behind and we know there’s going to be a gap in 30 to 60 days. And so those are some of the tools that we use right now.

Luis:

Got it. All right. So next question. What was the purchase that you’ve made in the past six months to a year that most improved your work life fusion or work life integration as you put it?

Erik:

Oh this is a good one. Here’s what I would say and I know the impact it’ll have, and it’s not happening until Thursday of this week. So I’m cheating a little bit in the question because it’s coming up on Thursday. The answer is an office that is not at my house.

Luis:

Interesting.

Erik:

And I’ve done that before. Pre-pandemic, pandemic caused everybody basically to go back to their homes for the most part. And I have realized that I believe I do my best work outside of the house, even though it can feel like why invest in an office when you’ve got a perfectly fine one at home? But I think the separation you had mentioned you just had a child, I’ve got a couple kids. I think the separation between home and work is real difficult when you’re working remote and some people are perfectly fine, but it’s very easy to get of set in your ways and not be as inspired or motivated every day as you should. And I think having an external office will be a wonderful thing for me for purpose. And I’ve done that before and it was great.

Luis:

Yeah, I hear you. It makes sense for me too. I actually have the opportunity, but I just get lazy. It’s just easier to wake up, dress up, because I’m not that much of a slob, right? Dress up, have coffee and then just start working right away, but you’re right, I totally should because I do have an office space that I can use outside of my house. I’m just too lazy to get in the car and drive the eight minutes that it takes to get there.

Erik:

And I just think it’s good to mix up the routines that you have when you’re working remotely and try different things. What I’ve learned is just because it’s easiest or least friction doesn’t mean it always equals your best work. And so I think you can test, this is what beautiful about remote, you can test different things. What does it look like if you wake up at 6:00 AM and start working immediately? What does it look like if you don’t start work until 9:00, but you do, you’re exercising in the morning and you do all these sorts of things. And that’s the same with in an external office or in your home office. How does it feel to change that up? And I think that’s a good test.

Luis:

Yeah, I’d agree with that. All right. So you mentioned a great book before, Who, and I wanted to ask you, what are your most gifted books? What books specifically for people who know are starting to run their own business, fellow entrepreneurs, what books do you gift them?

Erik:

So there’s a book by actually a friend of mine named Dave Gerhardt. It’s called Founder Brand. So the entire premise of this book is that kind of what we were just talking about. You as the founder cannot expect anyone else to be able to get traction for your business better, easier or at a higher rate than you. And so the Founder Brand premise is that instead of relying being this sort of behind the scenes founder and relying on marketing channels that you don’t have to be the face of the brand for, it’s actually leaning into the world that we’re in now where people want to buy from people and they want to buy from brands where they can name people who work there. And so it’s about building your personal brand as a founder on social, on podcasts, on video, and having that be the leading voice for your brand and the strategies you can use to do that and why that’s a competitive advantage, especially against older, more stagnant competitors if you have them who aren’t going to do that. So I’ve bought a couple dozen of those and passed them out.

Luis:

Nice. Sounds like a great suggestion. And I actually haven’t heard of it, so the name is not unfamiliar to me, but no one ever presented the book to me, so I guess I’ll have to check it out. Thank you for the suggestion. Okay so my final question I guess is, well, let’s say that you are hosting a dinner. I don’t know what the restrictions are there anymore, but at least here we’ve moved on and everyone can do whatever they want. Let’s say that you’re hosting a dinner and you’re inviting the top executives, the decision makers from big companies all over the world, specifically in tech and you are having a round table about remote work and the future of work. The twist is that the dinner happens in a Chinese restaurant. So you as the host get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What is that message?

Erik:

I actually think it would be what phrase I just mentioned, and it can apply for employees and for customers. And I believe it is the brands that win in the future are those where people can name who work there. And I believe that that phrase applies for your employer brand as well as your customer brand.

Luis:

Got it. That makes a lot of sense. Look, at the end of the day, we are still people people. We like identifying. We like thinking about the people that are behind the company. We love that story of that founder, that person, obviously a company is built by many different people, but we are really attracted as human beings to that story of the guy or the lady on top that has the vision. And that is true sheer will power alone making things happen. There’s a bit of a fantasy there. It’s not entirely true. Again, these things, even when you’re writing a book, there’s always some people doing background work. If it’s a good book, there’s editors, there’s proof readers, there’s cover designers, et cetera. But it’s a much more solo thing. When it’s a company, it really is a team effort but every team still needs a captain.

Erik:

Yes. If brand is about your perception, your perception as a brand can be impacted so greatly by the words from the actual people who work there, whether that be the CEO or other executives or other employees. And actually just realizing that and there’s more ways than ever to get those words out. So yeah, I think it’s a cool time. It’s a cool time.

Luis:

It is a cool time. And this was a cool conversation. Thank you so much for being a part of it. Now I do want you to let people know where can they continue the conversation with you and where can they find more about your businesses and their offerings?

Erik:

Yeah. Thank you again for having me. This was a ton of fun. Yeah. So for us, if you are interested in just talking about podcasting in general, I’ve been talking about it for like 10 years straight and I still love it. You can find me on LinkedIn, happy to connect with anybody there. And then if you’re interested in being a guest on your customers favorite podcast, you can check us out at lemonpie.fm. Or if you are looking to possibly create a podcast that ends up being your customer’s favorite show to listen to, you can check us out at hatch.fm and we can help you there.

Luis:

Awesome. All right. Thank you so much, Erik. It was an absolute pleasure having you.

Erik:

Thank you, Luis. Really appreciate it.

Luis:

Yeah, it’s my pleasure. And it’s also my pleasure to have you, dear listeners on this, the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob podcast. And if you enjoy the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode and any episode really, and subscribe.

By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form. And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country, look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate, 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

Remote entrepreneurship is not an easy road, but for most, it´s worth it. Having a remote business enables you to take your job anywhere you want and to offer employees an attractive opportunity.

For Eric Jacobson creating a business from zero was all about building a place where he would want to get up to work every morning. Erik shares how his company manages to keep a low turnover rate and the journey of creating his two remote companies. He also provides interesting insights on how to build a strong culture.

Highlights:

  • Insights about his podcasting journey
  • How he created a fully remote company
  • Strategies to manage distributed teams (and boost company culture)
  • “Strong culture with few rules” mindset
  • How to keep a low turnover rate
  • Tips on managing two companies simultaneously

Book Recommendations:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Friday!

 

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