Finding the right people for your team with Sharon Koifman

Luis Magalhaes

Sharon Koifman believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to world’s top talent. That’s why he used over 10 years of experience in the tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob. His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s clients to get high quality IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost – with no red tape and within two weeks.

Sharon Koifman

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Luis Magalhaes:    Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to another episode of the Distant Job Podcast! I am once again with Sharon Koifman. Sharon, I’ve lost count of the podcasts that we’ve done. Sharon is the President of Distant Job and founder of Distant Job, and it’s what, like now the fifth time we’re talking? Something like that.

Sharon Koifman:    Number five, baby! Number five! Woop-woop!

Luis Magalhaes:    What’s going on? What’s going on in Sharon’s world?

Sharon Koifman:    Oh, you know, I’m chilling sightly like a villain Is that the … Not really like a villain, slightly like a villain. But, otherwise, everything is good. I’m very excited. Actually, we are about to hire a new sales person in our team, and that means people get to see us in more conferences, they get to be more visible, so I’m excited about that. That’s good times.

Luis Magalhaes:    Nice! So, as you know, because you listen to this show every week, don’t you?

Sharon Koifman:    Yes, yes I do.

Luis Magalhaes:    This is a show about building and leading remote teams network.

Sharon Koifman:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Luis Magalhaes:    And we give out a lot of advice. I talk with guests every week to get their best advice on how to build the teams and how to lead the teams, and there’s differences of opinion in several things that some people say, “You don’t need timezone overlap.” Other people say, “It’s impossible to do good remote work without team overlap.” Some people say, “You need to have video communication, you need to talk to your people every day.” Other people say, “No, you don’t need to talk to people every day, you need to let people focus.”

Luis Magalhaes:    So, there’s a lot of difference of opinion and that’s … Ultimately, I believe that’s because every person has their own optimal way of working and part of finding … I think you’d agree that part of building a great team is finding the right people for you, which is something that we help with, so.

Sharon Koifman:    Yeah, yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:    But, I wanted to ask you a different question today. Maybe a bit more trickier question, but a question that I think is [inaudible 00:02:27].

Sharon Koifman:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Luis Magalhaes:    When it comes to working remotely or building remote teams, what is the worst advice that you’ve ever seen given?

Sharon Koifman:    Oh, wow. The biggest mistake, the biggest advice that people give when it comes to remote, in my opinion, is when a technology company is making a choice to outsource just because of cheap labor.

Luis Magalhaes:    Oh, right.

Sharon Koifman:    This is … And when I say technology company that’s because of where we specialize in, but any form of specialization where people make a choice to take their core business and whatever feeds them, whatever people pay money for, to go and to offload it to another company with a completely different culture, with a different mental state, where there’s continous broken telephone because there’s always this unfocused manager trying to do the next thing. And this is, in my opinion, the biggest business sin of it all, right?

Sharon Koifman:    If you’re a real estate company, and you’re building … you go to building … Ah, buildings, real estate, or construction, and you want a web-design, outsourcing makes sense as a model. But, when you are an accounting company, and you’re outsourcing your work to another accounting company on the other side of the world because they’re just cheap labor…

Luis Magalhaes:    Yeah.

Sharon Koifman:    Oh boy. You’ve opened yourself a can of whoop-ass because it just doesn’t work, and you’re taking some major, major risks.

Luis Magalhaes:    Okay.

Sharon Koifman:    And I used to do that myself.

Luis Magalhaes:    And do you see this advice given out often?

Sharon Koifman:    Yes.

Luis Magalhaes:    Okay. So, that’s fair enough. So, I guess then my follow up question to that would really be: when it comes to managing remote people what is something that you believe that is true? Really, really believe it, you know? In your utmost capacity. But, you can’t prove it, you just have, “What’s your gut feeling?” You know? What is something that you don’t let go even though you can’t really prove it?

Sharon Koifman:    If you treat your people like family, or you treat them like friends, it will pay off. It will be much, much easier for you to run the company in the long run. That’s my story, yes.

Luis Magalhaes:    And you’re sticking to it.

Sharon Koifman:    No, I’m sticking to it, I didn’t formalize it will be the idea is when you treat your people well, and this is something … and we come from a different generation of beliefs. It’s not about treating your people well, it’s not that. In the 90s or the 80s CEOs were squared up as just greedy, selfish, angry stereotypes and things are changing. But, it’s even more important in remote, when you treat your people really, really well and when you care about your people, they’re just going to pay … it’s going to pay off. And I can’t prove it, I can’t prove it. I think in our company it works, but we’re still not a multi-million dollar company, so … when it will be then I can tell you here, the proof is a proof.

Luis Magalhaes:    Everyone pretty much should work for me, but have you seen it work somewhere else? Is there any company that you know does this and that you feel that was part of the magic?

Sharon Koifman:    I just had that conversation about a month ago with my brother. And I was using Google as an example because Google is a fun company that takes care of their people that … I find that they do something really annoying by forcing people, by detaching them from their place, and forcing them to come to wherever their office is. But, at least when they come to the office they really treat them well, they really create an amazing, fun, taking care of their own people type of culture.

Luis Magalhaes:    Yeah.

Sharon Koifman:    And so, I would say Google is the example, but my brother made a really strong point that companies like Google live in la-la land. They’ve created a product, they created a monopoly of that product. Nobody really can compete with Google on search engine, nobody sit there and is going to say, “I’m going to make a better search engine!” And if they are, they’re just so far, far away. So, Google has the luxury of being this Mr. Nice Guy and so even they’re not necessarily a proof. I’m a little bit stuck because I find that all the companies that are super nice have some kind of technological monopoly.

Luis Magalhaes:    Yeah, I guess that really is true, I mean they do have … It’s like since Gmail what have you seen Google come up with that was really good? And they don’t even monetize Gmail! I mean, they monetize, but it’s on a very low-scale. They really make 90% of their products from advertisement, so I guess lets talk about remote companies. What remote company do you think sets a good example? And I know that five years ago you used IBM as an example, that’s not happening anymore, so…

Sharon Koifman:    I love the WordPress guys, and I love the BaseCamp guys. They seem to be creating quite a happy-go-lucky, productive work, making sure all their employees are happy, kind of model. And everybody is remote, so those are two companies that really have been the model of what is a solid remote operation. And mostly, result-based operation.

Luis Magalhaes:    You know, a lot of people that I’ve interviewed so far in the Distant Job Podcast end up recommending some very good books, over the last months I’ve built a considerably big reading list, what book or books have you gifted the most?

Sharon Koifman:    I’m … So, my two favorite business books that I think that my model is based on these days is, “It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work,” and-

Luis Magalhaes:    From the Base Camp guys, another great remote company.

Sharon Koifman:    Yeah, and the second one is, “The Five Sins of Management … The five mistakes-

Luis Magalhaes:    Five Dysfunctions of a Team?

Sharon Koifman:    The Five Dysfunctions of a Team! Thank you!

Luis Magalhaes:    Oh yeah, I remember that book. It’s been recommended by a couple of guests. Why do you like that book so much?

Sharon Koifman:    Oh my god, that book completely changed my thought process. First of all, I like that the writer actually brought it in terms of a story. I love business books that are written in a format of a story. It’s such a … much more fun way of reading anything. But, the Five Dysfunctions of a Team really sets the guidelines, as far as I’m concerned, to a team that needs to change from the standard office, “everybody is responsible for one thing,” and move to an environment that everybody works together towards the same goal.

Sharon Koifman:    It is a book that promotes real teamwork and that is crucial for remote management, as far as I’m concerned.

Luis Magalhaes:    Yeah. And I mean, when I was reading that book it just felt, to me, very artificial. I don’t know if you felt that, but it’s like … Okay, so people come into the room, they have this discussion, they follow this structure, and suddenly they will just have a breakthrough and harmony will be created. In reality, I don’t think that it works like that. I think that people are awkward, right? It’s like people are talking about those things, some people feel awkward, some people don’t really say what they think, they say what they feel they’re supposed to. I mean, I’m not dissing on the book. Again, I enjoyed reading the book, I just think that it makes it a bit more simplistic than it is in reality.

Sharon Koifman:    It’s not … First of all, the book fired one of the persons that did not fit. No, actually I completely disagree with you on that because … First of all, this book is made for managers, and for the owners, and for the team. But, it also really comes to the lower level individuals in the company. If you don’t like an environment where you take ownership, where you take responsibility, you might not fit as part of a companie’s culture. Or, you’re not going to get promoted, or you’re not a fit at all, and it’s not your place, unfortunately.

Sharon Koifman:    And at DistantJob I hate replacing, I hate letting go of people, it’s the hardest thing in the world for me. But, if you don’t want to function in an ownership based company where when you take responsibility you own it, you can’t work well as a remote employee.

Luis Magalhaes:    Yeah.

Sharon Koifman:    Yeah, and so I don’t think it’s artificial at all. You’re right, some people don’t like it, some people don’t feel comfortable, and it’s up to a really good manager, and a really good boss, to make sure that people get around and understand the concept of ownership.

Luis Magalhaes:    Hey there, it’s Luis. Welcome to the intermission of the DistantJob Podcast. If you’re listening to this podcast there’s a very big change that you’re interested in building a great remote team. And to build a great remote team, you need great remote employees. That’s where Distant Job comes in, so here’s how it works. You tell us the kind of position that you need to fill, we talk to you, we try to figure out not only what are the exact requirements that that person should have, but also we try to figure out who would be a perfect fit for your company culture, because we really believe that that matters.

Luis Magalhaes:    Then, once we have an exact picture of what we’re looking for, we’re off to the races. Our recruiters tap into their global network, and we filter people very well so that you don’t waste your time interviewing people that are never going to be of interest to you. We make sure … because we are techies, and our recruiters are techies as well. So, when people get to you, they are already pre-selected, and you just have to decide between the cream of the crop. And once you make your selection we handle all the paperwork, we handle HR for you, we handle payments. And you get a full-time remote employee that’s among the best in the world and managed entirely by you, by your processes, and following your culture.

Luis Magalhaes:    If this sounds good visit us at And without further ado, lets get back with the show. Thank you for listening.

Luis Magalhaes:    Do you feel it’s the case of a fake it ’til you make it situation where they go, “Lets just take the team through these motions, and eventually they’ll get more comfortable and get it.” Or, is there really any strategy, any tactics, any specific set of words that you can use to get people at ease with the process?

Sharon Koifman:    You’ve got to make sure that people understand what ownership means. I remember that we had a situation with one member of our team … the member of the team learned about ownership, I tried to teach that person about ownership, then when it comes to implement he gave some work to another one of his colleagues and then … which was that person’s responsibility, and when he gave that work to that person he was complaining to that colleague of his, “Why don’t you own your work!?” But, he missed the point! The work belonged to him, he had the ownership, but nothing happened in two weeks and so, “This colleague of mine does not understand ownership,” it’s like, “No, that was your ownership.”

Sharon Koifman:    So you need … I think, unfortunately, repetition works. It takes time to teach your team everything, and it starts with your management. And your management really needs to get rid of their ego, to take their head out of their hole sometimes, sometimes you deal with such massive egos that they’re not capable of admitting wrong, they’re not capable of taking responsibility, they’re not capable of owning that this needs to be fixed. I don’t think it’s … And sometimes it requires penalties, it requires repetition, and sometimes it requires replacements

Luis Magalhaes:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sharon Koifman:    And people don’t understand. But, I personally think that you might be right that the Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a little bit basic and there should be more advanced techniques to it, but at the end of the day, this is a requirement. Get a team that is … that they’re thinking towards the benefit of the company.

Luis Magalhaes:    All right, so I don’t want to let you off the hook for what you said about … So, I agree with you, and I think that most people would agree that letting go of someone, firing someone, is really one of the toughest parts of the job.

Sharon Koifman:    Yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:    So, I guess when you have to do that, how do you prepare yourself? Especially when it’s remote, it’s even … maybe it’s easier for some people if it’s remote, but personally I think it’s even harder. I mean, I’m always in a situation where I second guess myself and I feel, “Am I firing this person because I wasn’t able to communicate properly? I wasn’t able to set the expectations properly? Was it me instead of them?”

Luis Magalhaes:    I find it very hard to fire someone with confidence, let’s say. How do you approach it? How do you do it? What’s your internal self-talk when you have to do it?

Sharon Koifman:    I’m a wuss. You know, I give as many chances as I can give to anyone to give them the opportunity to do better, right? As much as I can I try to give as many warnings, and as many constructive feedback, as possible. I try to create … That’s also part of the Five Dysfunctions, I try to create trust that they can come to me with any issue that they might have, right? And if I tried everything I feel more mentally prepared for letting somebody go.

Sharon Koifman:    I tell myself, I ask myself, “Did I try everything? Did I explain everything? Did I give input?” And if not, I’m happy to give it another shot. You remember, sometimes, how long it took me to let go of a person and said, “You know what? I didn’t do a good job at communication, let me communicate right now.” At least I can tell myself that I gave all the chances in the world. Once I gave all the chances in the world I feel somewhat better.

Luis Magalhaes:    So, what’s that conversation like? How do you initiate the conversation with the person? What do you put out on the table?

Sharon Koifman:    When it comes to actually … It’s very different. Your first question was how do I prepare mentally-

Luis Magalhaes:    Yeah.

Sharon Koifman:    And the second one is how do I fire somebody? As little words as possible.

Luis Magalhaes:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sharon Koifman:    It’s just … You know what? It is exactly like dumping somebody, not that I have huge experience with that also, right? But, it is … There’s nothing that you can really say that can improve the situation, so you just need to stick to basics. I have to apologize, we are changing our model, and this no longer works. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not an expert in letting go of people, so that’s one thing that I can … I can’t offer to our listeners such good advice, but what I do is keep it to basic because I don’t believe that anything that I would say would make a big difference.

Sharon Koifman:    What I do believe is that if somebody wants really real answers, “Why did this happen?” I usually ask, “Are you asking because you want to start a debate or are you asking because you want constructive feedback? Because you’re not getting your job back.” Right? If you really want constructive feedback, I will sit down and talk about this, but this is not … I don’t want to hear defensive … And I state it and make it very clear, “I don’t want to hear defensive feedback, I don’t want to hear anything. I’m here to help you with your next opportunity.”

Sharon Koifman:    But, that only happens after they digest it, after they accept it, when they still really want to learn. Most people, they come to me and ask, “Why this?” And they’re really just asking, “How do I get a bigger bonus at the end? Or how do I get my job back?” That’s really what they’re asking. They’re not asking, “How could I have done better?”

Luis Magalhaes:    All right. So, that’s fair enough. So, after that subject I guess I want to … And I always like to finish podcasts in the lighter note, with a lighter question, but practical as well.

Sharon Koifman:    Yeah, thank you, good. I’m so happy, I want to cry after this. This is like my worst nightmare.

Luis Magalhaes:    So, something that I like to ask people, that I like to ask my guests, and I don’t think I’ve ever asked you.

Sharon Koifman:    Yes?

Luis Magalhaes:    Is what is the … What’s the best or more worth-while investment that has allowed you to do your job better? That you’ve made in the past year or so. Let’s say it’s a price tag of around 100 bucks, what have you bought for yourself, either when it comes to education or hardware or software, that has made your job easier or more pleasant? Less stressful, etc.

Sharon Koifman:    100 bucks is hard for me. One of the biggest game changers that happened to be in the last three months? I hired an excellent executive assistant. And she is … it is so incredibly powerful to be able to offload things that are stuck in your brain, and cloud your brain, that you don’t want to deal with every day, especially with a messy guy like me. I’m very creative, and the thought-flow … Actually, I’ve got to say, in the past two weeks … In the past month and half, two months, I’ve been off-loading tasks and getting rid of tasks that had been cluttering my brain for a long time. In the past two weeks I’ve been so productive, right? Because suddenly my brain is flowing more, so I’m a huge believer in having somebody that lets you empty your brain from useless clutter. Even if it involves personal, taking and helping you with tasks that are related to your home or to your life, not just business.

Luis Magalhaes:    All right. Well, you know, I guess that’s a little bit over 100 dollars. You kind of outdid yourself there, but I think that it’s actually a good recommendation, you know?

Sharon Koifman:    Yes.

Luis Magalhaes:    So, everyone listening, invest in that virtual assistant. And if you have trouble finding an awesome virtual assistant, hey, Distant Job is here to help.

Sharon Koifman:    Boom-shakalaka. Yes! Honestly worth it.

Luis Magalhaes:    All right, thank you sir! I will see you when I see you.

Sharon Koifman:    Absolutely, chao chao.

Luis Magalhaes:    And so, we close another episode of the Distant Job Podcast. And, if you enjoyed 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, which are a joy to have for me. And I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well.

Luis Magalhaes:    You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcasts 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 it go to, click on your favorite episode, 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 actually purse the conversations in text-form.

Luis Magalhaes:    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 with that, again, is the perfect place to start.

Luis Magalhaes:    You will tell us who you 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.

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