How to Implement Effective Communication Strategies on Your Remote Team with Sean Hopwood

Sean Hopwood is the CEO of Day Translations, a thriving translation and localization company operating in over 100 languages worldwide. He has a fully remote team from all over the world and is helping individuals and companies expand their operations abroad. He has worked with Fox News, TED, Buyer, Facebook, HBO, AT&T, and many more.

Follow our guest on their social media:

Remote leader

Luis:

Ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your guests as usual Luis. And today with me, my guest is Sean Hopwood. Sean is the CEO of Day Translations, a thriving translation and localization company operating in over 100 languages worldwide. He built it from scratch by going door to door, asking people if they needed translations. And today he has a fully remote team from all over the world and is helping individuals and companies expand their operations abroad. He has worked with Fox News, TED, Buyer, Facebook, HBO, AT&T and many more. Sean, welcome to the show.

Sean Hopwood:

Thank you very much, Luis. Thank you for that introduction. I really appreciate it.

Luis:

Did I miss anything, anything relevant that you’d like to add?

Sean Hopwood:

No. Well, yeah, we’re just continue growing company. Yeah, it did started off just going from door to door, to different corporations, seeing if they need a translation and now we’re a pretty big company. We have offices, I believe in over 14 different countries right now. So yeah, we’re growing a lot and it’s really exciting. It’s become really exciting to grow this company.

Luis:

So you did pretty much the opposite of remote, which is have a job that actually require you to walk and then knock on doors. And now you have a fully remote team. What does the transition been like? Did you ever have an office with people in it or did you, as soon as you started expanding, did you go immediately remote?

Sean Hopwood:

We were immediately remote. For me it goes well with my personality. I’m all about function and getting things done and I’ve worked in office environments a lot. And I’ll just tell you straight up. I just don’t think they’re very efficient. I think there’s a lot of times if you’re working next to someone, you’re going to be gossiping to that person. You have of course harassment issues that could happen. You have people bringing cake to the office two or three times a day sometimes. I mean, all these little things of course, driving to work, it can take people up to an hour to get there an hour to get back. So I never really wanted that cumbersome part, the very byzantine way of thinking. I decided that I really wanted to make things more efficient.

Sean Hopwood:

And I think working from home is the most efficient way. People always ask me, “Well, how do you monitor people? How do you make sure they’re doing the work?” Well, I don’t breathe down their necks. We give them a task and make sure that they get the tasks done within a reasonable amount of time in the way they feel is best to get it done. So, yeah, I just started off remote. We’ve been remote for 15 years. We’ve been in business for about yeah, for 15 years. So this is what I is best.

Luis:

Nice, nice, nice. Yeah, that’s the real advantage that writers and I guess localizers have it, we were doing remote work before it was called remote work. I remember one of my best friends. He was a localization expert at Nintendo of Europe. And I was like, “Dude, it’s so cool, you work at Nintendo. That’s awesome.” And he was like, “Yeah, this is awesome. But I’d still rather be working from home because we all need it.” I mean, I was never in the localization. I wasn’t in the writing business and I still am to some extent. And when you work with words, I mean, I think that people who work with words and texts, it’s been recognized for far longer that we can work just as well or even better from home.

Sean Hopwood:

For sure. Yeah. I mean, we need to stay focused, we need to focus on our task, what we do and there’s a lot of things we do in person. Like you in-person interpreting where someone will require us to go to a hospital to interpret for a patient or for court. We have to go to court, but even the courts have adjusted and adapted. And even there’s a lot of cases in the United States going on right now where they can just be done remotely. I believe a lot of traffic things can be done remotely. Small things can always be done remotely. And we have an app for that too. So we actually prepared for a lot of these things. We have a video interpretation thing. So where you can just call up the interpreter and they’ll work from home.

Sean Hopwood:

I have this thing, this idea that I believe in well, everyone, I’ve always thought about remote work and that’s an idea I had a long time ago, but now I have this idea about mobile work, which is something where I believe that if a person wants to travel or someone is moving around all the time, I want to create the ability for that person to work as well. So with the advent of 5G technology and the ability for people to move around and have really fast internet connection and a lot of people are not having laptops anymore. Most of the people were just, you can work from your phone. So I’m trying to create several different platforms where people can actually work from their phones, as well as answer calls, customer service calls from their phone, while they’re on vacation or maybe while they’re waiting in line to pick up their kid from school.

Sean Hopwood:

So this is something that I see in the next couple of years, which is going to be, for me, I think it’s going to be something really good for mobile, for remote workers, not just remote, but also mobile.

Luis:

That makes all the sense. I mean, there are Google apps that you can use right now. I believe it’s from Google. That if I’m in Japan and I point to a street sign, it will translate it in the camera app. It’s like AR. The camera one show me the signal as it is. It will show me the signal translate into, in my case, into Portuguese. So that’s definitely something that makes sense to explore, that to explore more and more. Tell me a bit about the breadth of distribution of your team and how many countries do you have people?

Sean Hopwood:

I think, I ever count it, but I know it’s got to be over 20. It’s got over 20. I mean, we have people in the United States of course, we have people in Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, I can probably name them all. Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, Bosnia, Georgia, China, Japan. I mean, we have people all around the world. And so it’s very widely distributed. And this is another really neat idea that I had. And it’s just a practical idea. It’s nothing genius or anything, but if you want to work all around the world and all around the clock, just start hiring people in different countries. So in each time zone, you can have someone and those people… So you don’t have to worry about if I were only in United States, only in the United States, my employees would be just overworked and exhausted and trying to get everything done within eight hour period. They don’t have to do that, whenever their eight hour period is done. It just goes to the next person that’s maybe in the Philippines or Egypt.

Luis:

I have a good friend that was managing partner at a big lawyer firm in the States. And the turnover for this people was just enormous because they had all of his people were in the States, but they had clients all over the world, including Japan. And you know how it gets competitive from lawyers with gets put in the position where either they were either they would answered the call from their Japanese clients in the middle of the night, or they would probably lose the account. So it makes a lot of sense to have 24 hour coverage that’s actually distributed around the world.

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. We got an employee in Japan. We have an office in Japan. I mean, I don’t have to worry about, as our company has grown, it actually grows organically from those spots as well. So it helps you kind of like, you’re like planting seeds all around the world and those seeds grow into a whole network of work together. So yeah, I really like it. I think it’s a really good idea.

Luis:

Tell me a bit about your communication strategy because I know a little bit about localization, not too much, but because of my time and experience in the video game industry, and because like now not so much, but for a while, most of the world’s most popular video games were made in Japan. So localization was a big deal. And I know that if you’re not, well, let’s say that there can be a lot lost in translation. How does that notion affect the way you communicate with your employees? I assume that the lingua franca of the company is English. Maybe I’m wrong, you can correct me if that’s not the case. How does that inform, how does that knowledge of localization, some concepts, for example, some concepts for Japanese, for example, they don’t have a distinct translation, (speaks foreign language) is very related to work, but at the same time, there is no direct translation to English. I’m assuming that your experience gives you a unique perspective on how to manage communication on an international team? So, would you like to tell me a bit more about how you think about this?

Sean Hopwood:

For sure. And I actually really feel like I was born for this in a way, my whole life, I’ve been talking to people from all around the world, even when I was little, I had friends from Pakistan and Mexico and Italy. I mean, I lived in a small country town in Florida, with 8,000 people, I have constantly just, I grew up with, and I live with Laotian people, they taught me the Laotian language and I learned a little bit of Tai too. Because some of them know Tai. And then when I got to the school, I in college, I mean, I was constantly surrounded by people from all around the world. My best friends were Algerian and Syrians and Indian, just all around the world. And so for myself, I’ve always found a way to be like a chameleon and adapt myself to other people.

Sean Hopwood:

And that’s what localization is. You’re adapting, you’re being a chameleon. And when you come up with these words that are not translatable, we work our best and if anyone can do it, it’s us because I have hired people that have similar talents and even smarter than me and a lot of weights. And they are, I mean, when you have someone who is lived in Japan, was born in Japan and grew up in the United States. I mean, I have some amazing translators who know how to translate these things. And I was just speaking to a translator the other day. And there was this word in Chinese yuan fen, which he was talking about it and he says, it’s whenever everything starts coming together with someone.

Sean Hopwood:

And I’m like, “Well, that sounds like fate.” But it’s not a direct, fate is not a direct translation of that word, yuan fen. And so, yeah, there’s a lot of words you can’t translate. But I even wrote a poem about it that translation doesn’t really exist because there’s nothing that can be translated from one language to the other, exactly where the exact culture is implied. The exact history is implied. If you translate loneliness or into South Dodges or in Portuguese, it’s not the same word. So there’s a lot of cases where our translations don’t, you can never be 100% accurate, but with the cultural knowledge that we have and all the people from all around the world, we have the different races and the different diversity, the different ways of thinking we have, I think we do the best possible job we can do.

Luis:

Yeah. It’s a bit like, for example, when you’re looking at the window pane, and you can either look at what’s on the other side, or you can look at your reflection, but you can’t focus on the two things at the same time. And neither of those is completely true. There’s a superposition of things. I have noticed that, especially without the Ching, there are multiple English translations and it’s not like there’s one canonical English translation. You have to look at several and make up your own mind. Right?

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. What’s this word again, how’s it go?

Luis:

Text from Lao-Tzu the Tao Te Ching about the Tao. So that’s probably one of the most translated Chinese texts of different translations and each person that reads it in English or in Portuguese, Portuguese as their favorite one, but at the end of the day, and especially because it’s not current Chinese, it’s old. So there’s definitely no one correct translation. The best you can do is try to find that a superposition. But I’m interesting seeing because communication is so important, in fact, for remote work, most of the travel, I would say the more I manage remote teams, the more I believe that most of the problems just come from inadequate communication and inadequate communication, since most communication is written in remote teams, it’s usually boils down to choice of words. So how does this knowledge affect your management style let’s say and the way you decide to communicate? I assume, again, most of it is written with your team.

Sean Hopwood:

Well, yeah, and we do try to have meetings regularly. But we have rules, keep them short for certain meetings. There’s a rule under 15 minutes. And if we can’t get it done in 15 minutes, then we’re not communicating well. But it is very important to communicate. And I’ve learned, I made a lot of mistakes. As the president of the company, I’ve realized that my words have a lot of weight and I have to be very careful with what I say. If I say something like “This localization project hasn’t been done yet, why not?” It kind of coming across and words, you could sound like why not? But not the way I meant it, which is, “Hey, why hasn’t this been done yet?” This the kind.

Luis:

And someone from let’s say that Ukraine will understand that sentence in a very different tone than someone let’s say from Brazil.

Sean Hopwood:

Yes.

Luis:

Right.

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That’s a very good point. I didn’t even think about that. I really think, I don’t know if this is ever going to happen, but I really think that there should be a different tone in thoughts, different, like you can maybe lighten the color or you can make it bolder, or it can get bigger. I think there should be actually a tone font that someone creates, because with the amount of communication people are doing, I think that might get created pretty soon, or, I mean, I try to use emojis as much as possible.

Luis:

Same. That’s why the emoji was invented.

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. I try to use emojis as much as possible when I’m communicating, I’ll put a smiley face or up with like a wondering face, because it puts a little bit of a personality and people were evolved to look straight at the human face and to see the reactions of the human face. And we have a visceral reaction to other people’s eyes and their facial expressions. And you really can’t see that through remote. And so that’s really hard. So I think that, I try to have meetings as much as possible. But I think the efficiency that you get when working remotely far outweighs the small drawbacks you have when you can’t see someone’s facial expressions.

Luis:

So what’s the relationship between texts written language and the way you imagine, you manage your team because, I agree with you obviously want to have meetings whenever possible, because it allows for different empathy, but would you agree to me when you say that most of the work is done in the written form and what discipline do you try to impose on yourself and also recommend to your team when right?

Sean Hopwood:

Well, I try to have people be very clear and decisive. We implement new things, just a new idea that I implemented the other day is all decisions should be made in one day or less. If I’m writing something out, it should be very clear. It should be very decisive. If you’re going to tell me something, give me all the facts, give me all the information and allow me to make a decision upon what you just gave me. Don’t give it to me in pieces. And if you’re giving me an idea, make sure it’s one paragraph, instead of just like a little bit here, a little bit there. Because a lot of times when people write, they’ll write in choppy sentences or they’ll write in a stream of consciousness way, you kind of have to organize your thoughts when you’re writing things down and it helps. And we use a lot of tools that I really like, we used to use these Skype, but now we use Slack. I really like Slack. We use a lot of different tools to communicate.

Sean Hopwood:

We were thinking about Discord, but we don’t use that so much right now. We use Asana for our project management tools. There’s a lot of tools that keep coming out. And there’s even virtual break rooms that they’ve created now. And so we’re trying to use that because I do believe that you’re working with your employees, your colleagues a lot. So it’s eight hours a day, one third of your life. So we want to have a break room where people can relax and back up and talk about the things they liked such as their hobbies, swimming, or music or the sports they like to play.

Sean Hopwood:

And so we have a break room for our employees as well. And I’ve also implemented a lot of things that people didn’t really think are possible, such as we have regular vacations for our employees. We have sick leave, we have benefits such as we give a free member gym membership and some people, well, how would you get a gym membership because there’s a different gym in every country? So we just give them the stipend and they use that money for their gym membership. And you have to show us a copy of their membership contract with the gym. And then we do all these things is we want to promote, our company has gotten to the mature level where we just don’t want to have them working for us. We want to actually promote a healthy lifestyle for all of our employees. And we’re even working on a lot of other things right now. So yeah.

Luis:

That’s really interesting. I mean, how did you come to this conclusion? Because I see a lot of people that tend to be very extractive, specially now in the wake of COVID, people are still very concerned about, their chief concern with their employees let’s say before for the past year has been, “Are they getting stuff done? Are they getting stuff done? I’m not sure you’re getting stuff done. We need to get you back into the office as soon as possible.” It’s very funny before COVID, I heard some companies talk like that, talk about, “Okay, now let’s make work-life balance of priority. Let’s make this, that.” Now I literally hear zero people talking like that. Why is this conversation been?

Sean Hopwood:

Oh yeah. Well, for me it goes with my actual personality for myself, which is I have a very unique outlook on life. I don’t have a big value for personal things. I don’t have big value for money for myself. My whole value is in other people. This company for me is created to make a beautiful place for people to work, for us to create something beautiful. And a big challenge for me is to make a place where actually creates revenue while also giving people a safe place to work. When that is your goal in life and your goal is not greed, I think that it allows you to do more in life. And so my goal is to actually, I would rather instead of having more money for myself, I would rather create a health plan for my companies or give them more time off or these things and that.

Sean Hopwood:

And I think that it’s long sided, some people can be short-sighted and think, “Oh, I want revenue right now.” I want this company to be around for the long-term. I want people to say, “I’m proud to work at this place.” That’s much more valuable to me than getting a Ferrari or something like that. The things that I put value in are not the same things that a lot of other people put value in such as money and cars and houses. I care, my value is in seeing my employees smile or seeing them have a family or having them be able to put their kids into private school, stuff like that.

Luis:

Yeah. Look, at some point it becomes a virtual cycle. That the better you treat people, the better people you get and the more they apply themselves. So you get more revenue and you can apply the revenue to taking better care of people.

Sean Hopwood:

Exactly. Yeah. And they’re happy to work for me. And then it makes the company more stable. There’s less turnover, stuff like that.

Luis:

Exactly. So that makes perfect sense. Thank you for sharing. So tell me a bit about your management style. What does your usual day look like? How many direct reports do you have obviously, it’s a company with 100 plus people, so not everyone is going to report directly to you. What does the structure look like? How does it all feed to you on a daily basis?

Sean Hopwood:

Well, it’s gotten really organized. I’ve had to change a lot. I’ve had actually a lot of employees who really care about me in the company. Who’ve actually had interventions with me. I was a micromanager and they really helped me stop that. I had to stop being a micromanager. It was stressing people out. And I’ve had to learn to let go every single year, my company, and I’ve had to let go more and more. I used to do translations. I had to let go of that and assign it to other people, I used to be doing Spanish translations. Now I’m at level 15 years later where I have had to let go of speaking to certain supervisors and stuff. So what we have is I’m the CEO, we’re all a company operations manager. We have a human resource manager. So I speak to the top three or four plus. I have had a really great executive assistant that works with me and she speaks to all the departments and relays my message to people.

Sean Hopwood:

And we’ve found that this has been a lot more effective with the company. So basically, like I said, my words sometimes have a lot of weight when I speak directly to people. And I found that it just makes things worse. I’m just like scaring people. I’m stressing them out. I’ll speak to like project managers. I’m like, “Oh, can you please make sure that this client gets extra care because I know this person or whatever,” and then they’ll just mess it up because I stressed them out.

Sean Hopwood:

So now what I do is I have the manager, I speak to the manager and I say, “Please tell them this.” And then everything works out so much better. So basically I’ve learned to micromanage less. We have a thing where each person never manages more than 10 people at a time. And each person is in charge of 10 people. And then so we have one person that’s in charge of 10 managers. And so it all trickles down like that and it’s working really well. But we also have a system where each employee, no matter who you are, what time you started in the company, we created a very explicit document and explicit method to where this person can rise to the top. So if this person wants to become a manager or anything, then there’s a clear pathway for them to become higher within our company.

Sean Hopwood:

And also we do things like we pay for any classes they take, if they want to take courses on marketing or courses on localization, or they want to learn another language, we pay for that too. So we show our employees that we care about their continuing education. And that goes with our philosophy of continuing education. You always have to be learning at this company. Even if you’ve been here for 20, 30 years, if you’re a 60 years old, you should be learning something new. If you’re 80 years old, you should be learning something new. Always been learning something new, never stick where you’re at.

Luis:

And that’s good. That’s really good for them as well. Right. Someone said, I have no idea who it was the exact quote, but something to the point “You start dying once you stop learning.” It’s something like that. Something like that. You start dying when you stop growing. So just trying to get people to develop the idea of becoming lifelong learners, that’s probably one of the best things that anyone can do for their health, not even their career, just for their life and in general, the most miserable people that I know I was actually in med school, my formal training is very different from what I’m doing now. I used to be an oral surgeon, a dental surgeon. And I know people that just, the minute they graduate, the moment they graduated was the moment that they stopped learning. They’re like, “Okay, I’m done with college. I’m a doctor now, I’m done.” And those are some of the most miserable people I know.

Sean Hopwood:

Yes. For sure.

Luis:

Even though they have theoretically high paying jobs, right?

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. And that’s my philosophy. And I think that’s another thing my grandfather taught on, imparted on me. His name is Francis Day. The company is named after him and he was at 60, 65 years old. And he was participating in older college. I forgot the name of what it’s called, but basically there’s a free program in United States. If you’re a certain age, you can take courses in any college or all around the country for free. Yeah. And he did that with my grandmother and they would just travel around and learn things. And I just realized now that that’s why probably why I do that. I’m taking Chinese courses right now. And I always foster that learning. And if you go to football, it makes me think of football too.

Sean Hopwood:

I have friends that I’ve been playing with and we always say, “Well, once you stop, it’s really hard to start back up again.” You stop playing football and your lungs and your joints and everything starts locking up. And even it happens with people who retired from their jobs, you retired from your job and what are you going to do now? You got to always be doing something, always progressing, always looking forward to the next thing. And I think that keeps your mind and body ready for growth.

Luis:

Yeah, I absolutely agree. So take me through your day. What’s the usual work day in the life of Sean look like?

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah, oh, thanks. What I do is, first thing I do is I speak every morning is the HR department, because we’re kind of in a constant phase of growth, constant hiring. And I like to hire people at different stages of life, some older people, some younger people that have a really good mix. And so I always speak to the human resource department first, also because we’re always diversifying what we offer to clients, not just translation, but we do BPO services, business process outsourcing. We do subtitles. And so we need people for all this, and this is a very dynamic and growing industry. So we want to make sure that we’re always growing. So I always speak to HR. Then I speak to the operations manager.

Sean Hopwood:

I speak to my executive assistant and that’s the first thing in the morning that I do. And I’ve been trying to do a lot more podcasts lately, because I want to get better at my speaking. I want my thoughts to sound more organized. I want to be less fearful of public speaking because I have had that fear before where I feel like I’m kind of like going to pass out when I do public speaking. So I always do try to do a podcast once or twice a week. And then in the afternoon I start going over the detailed projects with the managers, specifically in our two largest departments, which are audio, visual translation and localization. We go over the larger projects that we’re getting, and then I talk to the sales department because we’re really trying to grow and get larger, larger clients.

Sean Hopwood:

So we do these things and then when 5:00 or 6:00 comes around, I go play football every single day. Well, I play six days a week. I take one day off, but and it really helps me relax. It really gets me grounded and I get to be around friends and I get to talk to them. And then after football ends, which is around 8:30, I actually go back to work and I’ll work till 12:00 or 1:00 in the morning, working with our development team which mostly based in India and Pakistan. So I work with-

Luis:

Thursday morning, you’re catching them in the morning?

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. So I try to catch everyone. I’m a little bit of a workaholic, but I speak to the development team. We talk about all of our new technology projects. Our machine translation projects, our AI projects we’re doing, all the apps we’re developing and stuff like that. Yeah. Maybe it sounds boring, but this is what I love.

Luis:

No, no, it sounds that, it shows that you’re very enthusiastic about it. It really shines through, it sounds interesting. So let me get a bit into the weeds. It’s obvious to me that your day is primarily meetings. So you already told me about the 15 minute rule, but how are they more or less structured? Do you have some sort of standup kind scrum going on? Do you go, you told me you use Asana. Do you go with the team through the tasks in Asana? What’s the structure usually look like, how do you keep the pulse on what’s happening on each team?

Sean Hopwood:

I’m not the greatest when it comes to scheduling meetings and being there, the thing is it’s come to the point where it’s just the same thing every day. I’m always meeting at the same time every day with the development team. I come in and let’s say around 11:30 or 12:00 midnight, it’s a meeting every single day. The managers know by now. So they give me a list of all the things that they’re going to work on today and all the things they accomplished yesterday. Then I go over that list. And if anything seems off, or it’s not on track, I’ll ask them about it. But now they actually meet with each other, even without me now. So it’s come to the point where I don’t even have to say much. I take my pulse, pulse of them. I say, if they seem like they’re on track. I don’t want to bother them. I don’t want to make them feel too much pressure.

Sean Hopwood:

And so I just say, “Okay, good job. Everything’s great.” Or if something’s really not on track, I’m like, “Hey, this was supposed to be done a month ago. I really want this to get done.” So I’ll talk to them about that. And then in my mornings, when I come in and I’ll speak to the operations manager, we’ll only meet maybe once every two weeks, actually, not even every day. And we’ll talk about the direction of the company and stuff like that. And we had a really productive meeting two weeks ago, actually, and we’ll have another one this week. So we just go into the deep details about what we want to do.

Sean Hopwood:

And the last meeting we had was very productive because I am part of on the importance of just making a decision, because we were talking earlier and they were like, “Well, yeah, in a couple of weeks we’re going to feel it out.” And I’m like, “Well, everything we do should just be made in one day, all decisions should be made in one day.” Like I said earlier, because I look at business as a revolving door. It’s like a constant flow or even like a circuit of energy. It’s a constant flow of energy and the wattage is just building up.

Sean Hopwood:

And if you keep that light turned off, there is no current, you have to turn the light on, let the current flow. So when I say, let the current flow, I mean, make decisions. The world loves decisions. The world doesn’t like you to just sit there and not do anything. That means your current is off, your light switches off. When you switch on, the current flows, the more money you make, the quicker your company grows. Everyone knows the business world does not love stagnation. Everyone says “We’re not moving, you’re going backwards.”

Luis:

I tell my team something similar. I say, it’s the queen of hearts rule, in Lewis Carroll’s novel. Alice in Wonderland, there’s something the Queen of Hearts say, that’s something like I’m paraphrasing, probably not getting the quote exactly right. But it’s like “In my kingdom, you need to run just to stay in the same place.”

Sean Hopwood:

Oh, that sounds beautiful.

Luis:

Yeah. The Queen of Hearts rule. That’s what I tell my teams. Then I realized at that time that makes me sound a very harsh boss. I don’t say that in a way that it’s either this or it’s off with your head, it’s just to impress on them, the importance of constant growth and constant evolving, right?

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah.

Luis:

Yeah.

Sean Hopwood:

I love that one. I’m writing that one down.

Luis:

Nice, please do, please do. I can’t take credit for it. It comes from Lewis Carroll, which is a great writer. So anyway, okay. So let’s talk a bit more about tools and physical stuff that lets you get your work done. And let me approach this in a bit of a oblique way. Let’s say that you had $100 to spend with each person working for you and you can just give them a custom gift. You need to buy in bulk and you can give them money or gift cards or any cash equivalent. You need to grab a tool or an experience or app or something to give to everyone in the company up to $100. What will we give them?

Sean Hopwood:

If I were going to give a tool to everyone in the company?

Luis:

Could be an experience as well, anything you’d care to give them, just you need to give the same thing to everyone.

Sean Hopwood:

Oh, we gave people a gift recently, but it wasn’t very significant thing. It was tea. We gave everyone.

Luis:

Why did you give them to you?

Sean Hopwood:

I don’t know. I think everyone likes tea. And so we gave everyone a box of tea. And so I don’t know if that… that’s really hard because everyone, like the whole industry of what we do is we localize for each person and give them what they like. But yeah, I guess it would be, we did it already. We gave everyone tea. I would do a gym membership, which we’ve done, a lot of people, not everyone likes to exercise, maybe some goggles so they could go swimming. I like to foster people to get outdoors. I like to foster, people’s willingness to be with nature. So I would maybe get them some hiking boots, something like that. If we’re talking about…

Luis:

Right. Everyone gets hiking boots.

Sean Hopwood:

Everyone gets some hiking boots and some goggles now get out there and get into nature and hug a tree.

Luis:

Nice. All right. So what about yourself? What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year?

Sean Hopwood:

Well, the most productive, I guess for me has been Slack. I love Slack, it allows me, it works perfectly on the phone. It works perfectly on the computer. It just perfectly synchronizes. You can send any size attachment, you can create meetings on there, integrates with Zoom. I mean, Slack is my favorite tool by far. I’m a big time texter, I’m a big time writer. I like to check things. It’s just perfect for me. Yeah. Slack is the best. There’s a couple of tools for me personally, my friend told me the other day, a really good tool for learning Chinese, which I’ve been using is Pleco, which is like a Chinese dictionary, but it also saves little phrases, the things that you’re wanting to learn. Yeah. It’s called P-L-E-C-O, Pleco.

Luis:

Is there one for Japanese? I’m trying Japanese.

Sean Hopwood:

Oh, I don’t know. I’ll find one…

Luis:

I’m trying to improve. I know a little bit, I know a little bit, but I’m trying to improve. I’d like to get to a point where I can actually grab a book and read it, which is not the case yet. I can mostly go to Japan and not get lost with my level of Japanese, but that’s it.

Sean Hopwood:

That’s lovely. I was supposed to go to a Japanese concert two years ago and I’m not a good planner, but I bought this ticket six months ahead of time, BABYMETAL. You ever heard of BABYMETAL?

Luis:

Yeah. I do, I do know them. You’re a fan, wow.

Sean Hopwood:

I bought the BABYMETALM Concert tickets and six months passed. And then I checked my calendar and it looks like this is the BABYMETAL Concert was three days ago. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I missed the BABYMETAL Concert.” I was so upset because this is what’s happening’s like, I just forgot. I forgot about it. And I’m really upset. I don’t know when they’re coming back. I’m going to check actually now. But I love it the…

Luis:

Probably not soon. Japan is still in kind of strict lockdown. I was supposed to go to the Olympics.

Sean Hopwood:

Oh, yeah. Now, will let you know.

Luis:

No, no, no. No, I was supposed to go to the Olympics. Well, in 2020, they skipped them. But now you can’t really go there, so. So, yeah, that’s the situation. So let’s talk a bit about the books. Are you a book gifter, do you give books?

Sean Hopwood:

I do not give books. I don’t do that. I’ve been given books. I realized a little bit, some people like books, they love books. They love to consume them. And I’m not a big time reader. I’m more of a writer. I read a lot of books when I was little and a little bit in college as well. And so I should probably read more, but I’m to the point where I like to write, I like to put my ideas on paper. I like to write stories. I like to write business ideas. I like to write blogs. So, I’m more of a writer.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, that’s not a bad thing. I mean, I love reading, but if I had to choose between reading and writing, I would definitely pick writing. I mean, it just thinks that, writing is amazing because writing is kind of an evolved way of thinking. You think you think good, but then you start writing and you realize that whatever happens in your head is just a mess and you need to write to put- .

Sean Hopwood:

Exactly. And then it makes so much more sense. And then I find out that some of these ideas that I have, have already thought of by people, thousands of years ago. Was it Sun Tzu? The guy that said think big when you’re small and think small when you’re big or something like that. And so it’s like, so pretend -.

Luis:

It sounds Chinese, it sounds Chinese wisdom.

Sean Hopwood:

And I always thought that, and then I read it. Oh, wow. This guy said it already. I do realize you can get a lot of amazing ideas from people, but it’s also good to foster your own ideas and becoming an original thinker. So I do both, but I…

Luis:

Are there, even though, like you said that you don’t read a lot, so much today, but is there any book or books or thinkers, I guess, it doesn’t have to be books could be thinkers that have influenced your approach to business and help you achieve what you have achieved?

Sean Hopwood:

Well, there’s a couple of people. I can’t think of their name right now, but I did read the book, Who Moved My Cheese, whichever everyone loves that. It really helps you learn how to adapt in the business world. And I read that a long time ago. It really quickly, of course, and it really-

Luis:

Quick read.

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. It’s quick. And it really helps you realize that you have to constantly be adapting to this world and have lateral thinking. You have to be constantly, just sub lateral thinking. Don’t look at the way that everyone else has done something and assume that that’s the way it has to be done. You can always find a new way. And so that’s something that I really liked. I can’t think of any other business readers a lot, but there’s a couple that I’ve… Yeah, I can’t think of any other business ones right now. I do a lot of writing. I watch, I read a lot on Bloomberg, that’s channels in the past has really tried to focus on business as much as possible without talking about a lot of other things. They just focus on business. And that’s why I always liked, I really liked-

Luis:

Yeah, I agree. It’s nice to have someone, someplace where you can turn to, just to understand, what’s happening, what’s happening on world and the world when it comes to business?

Sean Hopwood:

Exactly. Just not all the other –

Luis:

Right. Most other communication channels either, I assume you’re talking in the U.S. but just worldwide. There’s just so much noise these days. That gets really hard to pick up. When you just want to realize, I don’t know what’s out there so that I can plan my business path moving forward. There’s just so much noise. I agree with you Bloomberg is a good one.

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah, exactly. I like them one a lot.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So let’s talk a bit, let’s construct a bit of a more elaborate scenario for you. Let’s say that all of this we’re good to go, to have a nice dinner at the restaurant, right? And you’re the host of a big dinner, and in attendance will be the decision makers at the biggest tech companies from all around the world. Now there’s going to be a round table, about remote work and the future of work. And you have the, let’s say the CEO’s ear, because they’re all going to be there. And you, as the host, you get to make decisions about how the dinner is going to be set up. Now, the twist is that the dinner is going to happen at the Chinese restaurant. And because it’s a Chinese restaurant and you are the host, you get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookies. So what are these people reading once they opened their fortune cookies?

Sean Hopwood:

When they open their fortune cookies, they will read. I can think of a lot of things. Basically automation is… What should it be a fortune? I would say automation is key to success while harnessing the energy of humanity.

Luis:

Nice. That’s a really good one.

Sean Hopwood:

Automation is key and success while harnessing the energy of humanity.

Luis:

Well, valuable, I think you win at the fortune cookie game. Congratulations.

Sean Hopwood:

Yeah. So basically a lot of things can be automated, but for humans to continue to progress, we need to use automation. Like for me, I use automation everywhere in the house with like, my vacuum is automated, my sprinklers automate everything. We don’t need to be doing those things. We need to focus on what humans are best, which is innovation and creativity and things like that. And so I think we need to cut. We need to try to put humans to do what they’re doing best. And I think every business in this world would be successful if you automate all those mundane activities, just everything that a calculator used to do. Now, there’s a lot of things that calculators can do even more and more, let those things do what they can do and let humans do what they do best.

Sean Hopwood:

And now we’re going to have our minds are going to be open and free to do a lot more things. If we don’t fear automation, if we don’t fear technology, we don’t need to live in fear. We need to live in boldness and strength. And we need to realize that we need to use our minds to do more. And that’s what we’re here for. We’re not here to constantly do those mundane calculations. And I think that’s what business leaders need to understand.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s great. Good message. Good message. Okay. So look, Sean, it was an absolute pleasure having this conversation with you. Now is it’s the part of the show where you really let the listeners know where can they find you to continue this conversation with you and where can they learn more about your business, how your business can help them and all that’s happening, in Sean’s little corner of the world.

Sean Hopwood:

Well, my company is called Day Translations and the website is daytranslations.com. We have a lot of different things we do, a lot of subsidiaries, but if you’re interested in localization, translation or just learning about languages, we’re not just a translation company, we’re a company that loves, we’re just a very cosmopolitan and global company that helps people understand cultures. And that’s how I am as well. And so you can also contact me on my website, which is seanhopwood.com. And I actually don’t mind, I would love to be a mentor to someone, or I would like to run ideas past other people. I love to talk about progressive stuff. So if anyone wants to contact me @seanhopwood.com, if you want to know more about my businesses, daytranslations.com.

Luis:

That’s awesome, Sean. And it was a pleasure. It was a pleasure having you thank you for the opportunity to pick your brain, to have this nice conversation with you. I’m sure we’ll keep in touch. Thank you so much for doing this.

Sean Hopwood:

Thank you very much too, Luis.

Luis:

And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for listening to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading remote teams. I was your host Luis and my guest today was Sean Hopwood. The CEO of Day Translations. See you next week.

Luis:

And so we closed another episode of the DistantJob 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 that are a joy to have for me. And I hope they are 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 gets to have more listeners.

Luis:

Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast. 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 can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

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 [inaudible 00:47:14]. See you next week on the next episode, DistantJob Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Communication is the soul of every remote company. And having effective communication isn’t only about implementing the right tools or the latest technology; it’s also about building the best processes and strategies for your team.

During this podcast, Sean Hopwood shares his insights and main lessons about building and managing a remote company for more than 15 years. He shares why communication is a key aspect all remote leaders should carefully consider when managing their teams. It’s not about being a micromanager, but it’s about building the right processes that enable all teams to be on the same page and work towards the same goals. He also discusses how messages can be interpreted differently, and it’s important to keep this in mind when managing employees from different backgrounds.

 

Highlights:

  • The main communication challenges in remote teams
  • Why being a micromanager harms your company culture
  • How to build a better and healthier remote workplace
  • The importance of making fast decisions
  • Insights about what localization is
  • Tips for building better communication strategies in remote teams

 

Book Recommendations:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!