How to Leverage Your Remote Business With the Right Technology with Henry Kurkowski

Gabriela Molina

Henry Kurkowski is the author of Remote Work Technology: Keeping Your Small Business Thriving from Anywhere. He is also the CEO and co-founder of One WiFi, a cloud-managed customer engagement and digital marketing company, and eWireless, one of the oldest continuously running cloud-managed WiFi companies in the United States.

Remote business leader

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Luis Magalhaes:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. So my guest today is Henry Kurkowski. Henry is the author of Remote Work Technology: Keeping Your Small Business Thriving from Anywhere. And he’s also many other things. I’ll let him give the highlights of his bio. Otherwise, I’ll just babble for five minutes. But Henry, it’s a pleasure having you on the show. Welcome.

Henry Kurkowski:

Hey, for thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here talking with you. Well, I guess, yeah, I’ll start off with I started doing remote work early on, over 20 years ago. I was working in commercial financing in South Florida and I had a client that was buying up buildings all around South Florida to convert them into condos. And at that time, I was flying back and forth between Indianapolis and Fort Lauderdale.

Henry Kurkowski:

And this is a time when DSL was just coming to smaller cities. Prior to that, it was either a T1 line or dial-up, so this gives you an idea of how long ago this was. And smartphones were not yet invented. People had PDAs like the Palm Pilot and my main tools were email, an eFax account and Sony Erickson mobile phone, which I still keep. You can’t destroy that thing. It’s you drop it off a building and it still works. It’s amazing.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. Those are the best, right?

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And at that time, I came to really appreciate that. I didn’t need to be in any physical, tethered to any physical space to do my work. I can remotely speak with bankers, speak with equity investors, get contracts sent out through fax. Obviously now, it’s scanning, but I became hooked on that freedom.

Henry Kurkowski:

And because of that, the companies that I helped co-found, I designed with intention to be remote first decentralized. Our accountant was in Orlando. The person who managed our servers was out of New York. I worked out of here in Indianapolis and Key West quite a bit. But and this was also at a time when, WiFi was just really coming out. If you wanted WiFi on your laptop, you had to slap a card into the side of it. Phones didn’t have it yet, things like that at.

Henry Kurkowski:

And so, once we started working remotely, we extended that ability to our client base and we didn’t want to just be a regional company. We wanted to be a national and not have borders essentially. So, we developed our software as a service to remotely manage our clients anywhere they were. We would just ship out our equipment plug and play and manage these WiFi connections with digital engagement tools built in, so they can engage with their customers remotely and that comes with a lot of automation, which is a big part of remote access and remote working, remotely managed devices. And so, in the Cloud back then, before anything was called the Cloud, we were managing thousands of devices across the nation, which equated to millions of WiFi connections on a daily basis.

Henry Kurkowski:

And so, and from that, from that experience when COVID hit and the shutdowns happened, I was seeing a lot of things online in news about people having such issues with collaboration, isolation, burnout, and it became, a thing for me like, “God, they don’t have any experience.” Because most small businesses are not set up for disaster to go remote. So, a lot of these people were struggling.

Luis Magalhaes:

It was relevant recently, so I think-

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah. I mean, and that’s the thing., And I was thinking, it doesn’t take a disaster to force a company to suddenly go remote. You can have a fire, there could be an earthquake, hurricanes happen all the time, issues with the landlord. So, I was approached by a content editor at Wiley Publishing and spoken about my idea and we got the go ahead to make the book.

Henry Kurkowski:

And it’s designed in part to not just be like an emergency thing, like how to plan for going remote, but also to help people with, not just picking the right technology, using the technology well, which we saw was done poorly in the beginning of the pandemic with Zoom fatigue, things like that. And then also, creating the right company cultures that make remote really work. There’s that trust, the transparency that has to be there and clarity. So, and that’s where we are today.

Luis Magalhaes:

So, this is where I need to do the usual, my usual caveat when interviewing a book author is that I’ve read the book. I try to make an effort to read the books of all of my guests, though sometimes when it’s like a 700-page volume, I have to say that I do, read most of it. That’s not the case at all with your book. It’s quite chunky, but it’s also a very easy read. It flows very well, though you covered a lot of ground. And what I wanted to say is that this podcast conversation that’s going to last 30 to 45 minutes is by no means a replacement to going and buying and reading the book. That’s just not possible, right?

Luis Magalhaes:

So, obviously, we want to talk about the book. We also want to talk about the experiences that led you to the conclusions that you write about in the book and that led you to those strategies. But again, the book is called Remote Work Technology: Keeping Your Small Business Thriving from Anywhere. And definitely listening to this short conversation is by no means a substitute for actually reading it because there’s quite a lot of content there.

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah. And that’s the thing, I want to make it a very actionable book, the step by step and again, pulling on 20 years of experience working remotely myself. But then working with thousands of small businesses across the country, seeing. I like to learn from other people’s mistakes. I can’t live long enough to make all of them on my own. So, if I can bring my experience in to that and put them in the book and see things to avoid.

Henry Kurkowski:

But also the business leaders that I interviewed, I started interviewing people in September and October of 2021, yeah, just within six months of the shutdowns. And so I had these people telling me, “Hey, this is what I would have done differently if I know it was going to last this long. These are the things that we should have done from the get go.” And so, bringing their experience also into the book, also it helps the reader get to where they need to go a lot faster.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. And you are quite comprehensive in your approach. The book is neatly organized, but you speak about things at such different levels, such as how to organize your space in your house to minimize distractions with some advices such use separated from the rest of your room using a fold out screen or something like that. And then you go through the advice on the tools, Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, et cetera. And these are things that, obviously, I’ve read, very often, comparisons and strategies about using these tools and I’ve written some of them myself, but then, you go to very different levels. For example, I started reading about picking the best server solution for my company. Should it be hosted or should it local or Cloud, et cetera.

Luis Magalhaes:

So, it really felt that you had something to say for people regardless at what level of comfort they have with this technology and with this new way of working. What do you feel when you were dealing with your clients? What was the hint? Tell me about the story that made you decide that you actually needed to make it this comprehensive, that you needed to have something for the complete beginner that doesn’t know how to work a Zoom call, ranging for something more technically challenging, like security and hosting providers, et cetera.

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, and see and that’s the thing. It’s important to, people are very technophobic by nature unless you’re in IT, unless you’re in those things, so you need to communicate. I always say, “Communicate with people the way that they communicate with their family and friends.” And that’s plain speak. We work with property management groups all across the nation and the property managers are college-educated individuals, far and large, but we’ll call up and we’ll say, “Hey, you need to unplug the power cable from something.” And a lot of times they’ll unplug a CAT5 cable or a patch cable by a mistake because they get so nervous or they feel so intimidated.

Henry Kurkowski:

So, we speak, when we send out equipment or something like, that’s plug and play, we have just a five-step guide. We make it as simple as possible, because that you have to be accessible to people. And when people think of technology, they get scared. So, I try and speak in a manner which makes it really easy and use examples. Even when I help, like with my mother-in-law, with working the computer, how to search things on Google, you need to speak in a very plain manner that anybody can understand because that makes it accessible. Because otherwise, the intimidation is what holds a lot of people back is that internal fear of making a mistake and looking foolish.

Henry Kurkowski:

I want to embrace you and say, “Come here, let me show you how it’s done.” I want to invite people in and see how it’s done. So that’s why, I start with very simple things like even how calendars, calendar apps. How that kind automation that come with that brings you so much freedom, and speaking in that manner. And even like DocuSign and things like that, instead of sending things back and forth to people to sign using the automation of Cloud services to have it all done and automated for you and describe it in a manner that people can really understand.

Luis Magalhaes:

Got it. So, when you co-founded EWireless, that’s some time ago. Maybe you don’t find it interesting to talk about that, I don’t know. But because it wasn’t really a thing. Like 19 years ago, wireless was something that, I couldn’t imagine playing a video game wireless, for example. Now, I do it all the time. It was just something that wasn’t available. Was this born, how was this born? Was your push to develop EWireless and the offering related to your remote work experience? What was the thought process behind the founding of that company and how have you seen it affect the remote working?

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, it’s funny you say that because when we founded EWireless, WiFi was still relatively new. And I talk about this in the book. We had met with a national property management and development group, and they develop everything from malls to Class A office spaces. And we met with their Senior VP of Business Development and an IT person. And we went in there and we pitched them at their national headquarters and said, “Hey, listen, we’re going to bring in, we’d like to bring in WiFi to all your conference areas and also, the common areas in your buildings and help make it as a tenant amenity, so that your places will be rented more. You’ll have an edge, technological edge over your competition.”

Henry Kurkowski:

And after they heard our pitch, they kind of looked each other. They were very polite about it, but they said, “We just spent $5 million putting CAT5 in in all our conference areas, Polycom conference devices and televisions with VCRs. So, although WiFi seems like a very interesting technology, but we can’t see any real business applications for it.”

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. We have the VCRs, that’s going to be the future.

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah, we just have CAT5 cables, man. There’s plugs everywhere. You have to plug in.

Luis Magalhaes:

There you go.

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah. And I talked about it in the book to say like don’t get so married to any technology at any given time, especially now that there’s the evolution of office and business technology has come with such a rapid pace because the pandemic. But don’t get so married to anything where you’re stuck, because you don’t know what technology is going to come three, four years from now. When I think back to that conversation we had with them, they couldn’t see a business application for WiFi. Like my God, look, just for meeting planners alone, the boon that has been for that, and the accessibility of being able to go anywhere and work.

Henry Kurkowski:

At that time, Starbucks still didn’t have WiFi. When they did come out with it, it was a pay-for model. We always pushed the free model and using it as like a WiFi billboard help sell your customers on, “Hey, this is the special coming up tomorrow. Come back. Join our E-newsletter club,” things like that. So, using it as a tool, as a communications tool and a digital engagement tool was something that we pushed early on and used that as a way to connect with people no matter where they are. And that was also part of the book when talking with people with digital engagement.

Henry Kurkowski:

The managers don’t have to physically see people working. It’s not like a sweat shop environment where there’s the managers in the glass booths up above looking down on all the workers, things like that. We need to move away from that mindset because that’s how technology is being used poorly. Remote technology, that’s where you see these monitoring apps coming up. They want to be able to see work being done still and that is the exact opposite of what they need, because that just contributes to burnout and feelings of isolation that was wildly reported early on during the shutdowns. And we need to move away from that. We need to move more towards trust and flexibility. That’s, you know?

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. And even stress, right?

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah, exactly. It’s fueling the great resignation. They don’t want to be under the yoke of some master, who’s cracking a whip on them all the time, because at that point, there’s these older managerial styles where they want to see butts in seats between 9:00 and 5:00. And that is what is driving the great resignation, because we don’t need that anymore. There needs to be more trust and understanding of a flexible workforce. Because as long as the work is being done, you shouldn’t care when it’s getting done.

Henry Kurkowski:

And that’s what I saw in the book as I interviewed people, that’s the thing that they saw. They moved to a format of results-driven performance indicators, as opposed to how many hours are being worked on. Because when you go for that hour thing, all of a sudden it becomes a transactional relationship with the employee because you want X amount of work during X amount of hours. And then, besides being transactional at that point, it becomes adversarial at times because these people that want, they have to trick the monitors to go to use the bathroom because they want to see mouse clicks or they want to see the keyboard moving.

Henry Kurkowski:

And we need to move away from that and create a place where there’s trust and transparency. And that’s what I saw when I was interviewing everybody. It was a marriage of technology, trust and transparency. It created this beautiful life cycle within the office that kept these companies thriving in the midst of what was seen at that time as a crisis situation.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. That’s definitely a good point. So, a couple of points off that. The most salient point from a conversation. I’m still stuck down there with VCR, because I just realized that my younger sister probably doesn’t know what the VCR is and that bothers me a lot. But apart from that, right? Apart from that, I have a couple of comments.

Luis Magalhaes:

First is I don’t know if you feel this because you’ve been working for the past 20 years to solve this problem. But it still strikes me hard to believe how hard it is to get reliable wireless internet in public, public spaces. Now, I get a lot of, well, before COVID hit, I got a lot of questions about digital nominalism before it was very hard and inconvenient to travel again. And the number one thing that I also said, that I used to say to be people, to tell people was, “Look, digital nominalism is fine and everything and some people pull it off very well. But generally, if you want to have a career in remote, you probably want to start by being a full-time employee from your house where you can control the environment.”

Luis Magalhaes:

Because my experience is that no matter how well I prepare before I travel, I always get to the hotel or the Airbnb or whatever and the internet fails me, like easily eight times out of 10. So, is it just a matter that you need to reach more of the world that your business needs to reach more of the world? What’s the failing point that there?

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, it’s funny because one of the things when we first started the company is people want to make sure that people are not just camping there, taking up table space. And hey, that’s understandable. If you have a small cafe or you have a small coffee shop and you only have 10 seats, you don’t want somebody just taking them up all day because you need to turn tables, get more business in. So, we created as part of our business model, helping people do that.

Henry Kurkowski:

But as we see like Comcast. AT&T, they go into public spaces with their WiFi and they think, “Hey, we’re giving away free WiFi, but unless you’re a customer of Comcast or AT&T, the connection doesn’t work for you. So, what we’ve done is like when here in Indianapolis, we helped create programs, public and private partnerships with areas in our cultural districts. We had at one point brought WiFi to all the cultural districts and it would come to a landing page where it would help advertise that cultural district, what they have coming up, festivals, things like that, advertise the local restaurants.

Henry Kurkowski:

But if cities really want to help, and especially rural communities. I see a big push for this, for rural communities, creating public WiFi zones for people to work at, shared spaces, things like that in parks where people can go. But it’s a big boon because a lot of rural areas are dying out because there’s a lack of jobs, there’s a lack of futures for younger people to work and make a good living, so they flee to the cities and then these town shrink. Well, this is an excellent opportunity for the rural areas to create hubs of work, workspaces where WiFi is available, high-speed broadband. And then we won’t be at a place where, where we choose to work dictates where we choose to live.

Henry Kurkowski:

So, the more accessible broadband becomes to people is a selling point again because back when WiFi just started pushing, a lot of these smaller towns still didn’t have DSL. They were still on dial ups and businesses had to buy expensive T1s to bring out to these rural areas. It was a joke in the managed WiFi business that if you ever want a telecom or a cable provider to bring high-speed internet to a rural area, just put an advertisement up that you’re putting up a WiFi network for people and you want people to sign up because they make

Luis Magalhaes:

What brings me back talking about T1 or just reminds me of when I was starting with Torrance and Bitor.

Henry Kurkowski:

Yes.

Luis Magalhaes:

And you would want to go to find, the guys that were receiving on a T1, right?

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:

It wasn’t Bitor. It was P2P. It was like Napster. Yeah, that was that.

Henry Kurkowski:

Right, yes, yeah, yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, that was that. That you wanted the guys that were sitting with the T1. So, that brings me back, that terminology brings me back. But yeah, I mean, it seems like there’s two worlds out there. One world that’s super high tech, that’s completely ready for the future of work and then another world where you get to a hotel lobby and you want to sit down to do some work and it’s impossible. So, it still, it seems that we still have a lot to go.

Luis Magalhaes:

But I do want to move forward, again, talking about other things that are in the book. Like I said, you’re very comprehensive in laying out the options and the use case scenarios for many, many, many different remote work tools. I wanted to ask you about your criteria. If you could tell the listeners a bit about usually when you’re evaluating a tool for the purposes or of being used for remote work. And let’s say people who are interesting, companies who are interested in making the transition for full remote, a part remote, which is a lot of my listenership, how do you evaluate the tools? And I guess that it also depends a lot on the goals, so what kind of questions do you ask when you’re evaluating a tool?

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, first, what our needs, immediate needs? So, it depends on how big you’re getting invested in the technology because if picking the wrong technology costs money, because you end up, where you’re pulling it on say and you use it for 90 days and it becomes an exercise and frustration for everybody. And you finally realize, “Hey, this is the wrong technology for us.” Well, you’ve already trained all your people on it. It may have cost you money to get online, pull in a new server, training sessions, customization, things like that.

Henry Kurkowski:

So picking the wrong technology can be very expensive in cost of actual financial resources, but time, but also burnout. Because the more frustrating it is to use a technology that doesn’t meet your needs, the more apt you are to reach things of levels of burnout and stress over it. So, one, take a look at what your actual needs are. Stay away from hype, because you see all these companies start talking about this great technology that they’re using and it seems very sexy. Very, “Hey, this is the trends that maybe I should be looking at this.” But don’t go in it with trying to look cool or thinking, “Hey, this guy is using it, so it’s got to be good.”

Henry Kurkowski:

Find out what you need, but then also see what your growth is looking for in the next three years, five years. Where do you see yourself? Is this something that can expand if I bring on five new people, 10 new people, what’s it going to cost? Is it per license per person? How much is this going to cost me? And look at the real cost of what it brings on and that’s for larger apps that everyone’s going to use.

Henry Kurkowski:

And then also, how popular is it? Because I was working with a developer recently and instead of using a collaboration tool with their clients that I’m accustomed to and because [inaudible 00:25:26] developers all over the world. And so, there’s some main apps that everybody uses. This is the one that they developed on their own. To me, it was so kludgy and harder to use because it was counterintuitive to what I was accustomed to, that I just used email to communicate with them because it was just logging into their interface, things like that.

Henry Kurkowski:

So, see because if you want something that independent contractors may also be using or your clients may be using, so use something, that’s more ubiquitous, something that’s, you know? Don’t always go for this niche product. Remember who else is going to work on it with you. So, those are the main things. And of course, like I said, cost. What are your short-term and long-term costs?

Luis Magalhaes:

Just want to open up a parenthesis because this is a really important deal. I often see, right? I often see managers fall in love with apps and the reason they fall in love with the apps is because they actually don’t use them, right?

Henry Kurkowski:

Yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:

They fall in love with that because technically, they look great and on the paper, they have good reviews and et cetera, and et cetera. But for the people actually using them, it becomes a living hell. So, that’s actually important. Choose the app. In fact, I would even say that the people using the apps should be the people choosing the apps.

Henry Kurkowski:

Well-

Luis Magalhaes:

That’s what I try to do most of the times for my team. I’m like, “Team, I’m probably not going to be using this app as much as you, so you decide what app you want to use.”

Henry Kurkowski:

Right. And that’s where it comes to look at your actual needs and that means your actual needs, so actively solicit feedback from your team who’s going to be using this stuff. These are the features they need. These are the features they want. And these are dream features, if they come up in the future. So, actively solicit that feedback to see the actual needs, not just how much it costs or “Hey, my peer at this other company, this is what they’re using. They say it’s great.” Well, it may work great for them, but it may not work great for you. So, get that information and test it out. Make sure you go for it. A lot of companies, they may not offer you the testing period, ask for it because if they want to make a deal, they’ll figure out a way to make that happen.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. That makes absolute sense. I also want to talk about app switching. There’s a real cost when you get the team to, when you decide that, “Okay, this app isn’t really cutting it for our team or we feel we can get better job done than with a different app. What’s your litmus test? What is the point?

Luis Magalhaes:

I mean, I’m the kind of that I drive my cars into the ground before I buy a new car. It literally needs to be, that the wheels need to be falling off, that the roof is completely destroyed, that the engine is catching fire whenever I turn it on. That’s when I decide, “Okay, I need a new car.” It needs to get to that point. I tend to be a bit like that with apps.

Luis Magalhaes:

I tell my team, “Is it working?” It’s working. Okay. “Is not working? Is work not being done because of the app? Okay, let’s switch.” But I might be a little bit, too, my approach might be a little too extreme. I wanted to ask you, what do you usually advise to as the bar at which the team decides, “Okay, we need to look for a different alternative?”

Henry Kurkowski:

And that’s where that’s going to, that hopefully, any company is growing. So, they’re going to need to have software that works for them. And I get it. I’m a creature of habit, too. I like to stick with what I know. And because the other thing, because you want to moving to something new, there’s a learning curve and then it slows [crosstalk 00:29:19].

Luis Magalhaes:

It’s a huge cost. That’s my most, my biggest problem with it.

Henry Kurkowski:

Right. But something is that, having technology that it does not fully serve the needs of your team leads to isolation and burnout because it just becomes frustrating. So, you need to be open to adapt and change and get that. And that’s again, the thing that what happened with the shutdowns, there was such a need to like back in 2017, IBM, Aetna, all these organizations called everybody back from the office. They said no more remote work, because they said that we’re having collaboration issues. They were saying that there was not enough creative spark because we were all distributed.

Henry Kurkowski:

But with the shutdowns, we didn’t have the option to go back to the office. So, not only did managers styles had to evolve, but technology had to evolve very quickly. So, it pushed what would’ve been here about five years ahead faster into creating what were ideas and making them reality. So, when a business grows and they take on new clients, there’s going to be new challenges. So, we have to be open to adapting and creating new technologies or adding to the exacting suites, because that’s the nice thing with plugins. And so, all those things with so many, you can keep the same main software, but add certain plugins.

Henry Kurkowski:

So, make sure that you are constantly soliciting feedback from your people. After a project is done, “Hey, what could we have done to make this more efficient?” Things like that. Always ask for the solicitation, and then act on that feedback once you get it. It’s worthless to gain knowledge and insights from people, but then make the choice not to do anything with it.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. So, you mentioned that stage where people wanted to get back to the office and they couldn’t. And they claimed that the reason they wanted you was because the meetings weren’t great and they couldn’t brainstorm and there wasn’t creativity, et cetera. And you actually, I focused a lot of my questions on the tools because I’ve had guests that have talked very well about meetings, about culture, about this and that. But I want the listeners to know that you actually broached all of these subjects in the book. It’s not really about tools. You have something like two chapters about tools and then, you have a bunch of others, chapters about a lot of things. You have an entire chapter dedicated to meetings.

Luis Magalhaes:

And I wanted to ask you about the brainstorm dilemma. How do you feel that companies can better solve this situation where they feel that there’s this magic thing that happens when you get a lot of people in the room, around the table and then creativity and ideas happen. Spoiler alert. I’ll give my point of view. That has never worked for me. I’ve always had my best ideas when I’m having breakfast or when I’m taking a walk in the park or the beach, et cetera. And then I use meetings with other people just to stress test my ideas and to help them shape/reshape their ideas. But the actual creativity, I was never good at group creativity, which is not to say that some people probably are very good at group creativity.

Luis Magalhaes:

But how do you see this, in light of everything that you’ve written about how to make great meetings happen?

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, it’s interesting that you bring up how you don’t care for the group meetings. That was one of the things that was immediately discovered. People that managers thought were excellent highly-productive people, when they got into the remote work environment, they were actually and they changed how they gave productivity to a results-based thing. Those people that they thought were highly productive ended up just riding on the coattails of other people in the team. They were just very gregarious. They were very loud during meeting. They were always pitching ideas, things like that, but the actual work that they did, did not amount to very much.

Henry Kurkowski:

Whereas people who were more introverted that managers thought were less engaged with the company, less engaged with their job because they were quieter, when they were in remote, they actually spoke up because they were not feeling drowned out by the energy of the extroverts. They felt less intimidated. And when they looked at their productivity, they actually produced more work than the people who were the extroverts. So, they ended up being the rising stars of the team.

Henry Kurkowski:

And so, we have to take in and understand that there’s introverts and extroverts and there’s everybody in between and being in a big group meeting like that doesn’t work for everybody. As a matter of fact, it really only works for a very small group of people with certain personality types. With the freedom that comes with remote work, being in your own space, you have a calm about you. You don’t feel the pressure of everybody around you all the time speaking over you, speaking around you.

Henry Kurkowski:

But also, one of the main issues, and in the book I bring on an interview of a friend of mine, Mark Edgar Stevens, who is an international body language expert. As a matter of fact, he’s appeared on Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, and a number of shows as a body language expert and helps companies with strategic meetings and teaching people. And one of the things he discussed is that 50% of our communication is through body language. Well, you can’t take in-person meeting skills and assume that they will work on remote meetings. And that’s what some of the things that we have to change how we work in person to, and have another set of skills that are tweaked for remote working.

Henry Kurkowski:

So those are the things that I discussed in the book, but it’s important for us to just take that logically and think and like say you had to reprimand somebody. Well, it’s one thing to have that discussion in person, doing it over remote or like text, like that guy who fired all those people over a text. There’s a different etiquette for doing meetings when you’re remote and when you’re in person. Even if you’re not a speaker in the meeting, be there, be present, pay attention, because that’s part of… they can see you on the monitor, just like if you were in the room and you were texting while somebody was talking. I mean, it’s just rude. It’s –

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. And you can set expectations. I mean, when we started this call, we set expectations. You told me, “Hey, Luis, I might glance down because I have my notes in paper.” And I told you, “Hey, I have my notes on my second screen. I might look to the side.” That’s it. And now, when I look to the side, you know I’m not just being disrespectful. I’m actually caring for you, but I’m looking at something that will inform the conversation. So, that’s also an important part of the picture, just set your expectations.

Henry Kurkowski:

Right, and that’s why bring over, over and over again, like have an abundance of clarity on expectations. What you have for each other accountability, things like that. And when you have that all out there, that’s where the trust comes in. Because then everybody knows what they have to do, what is expected of them. And then you can create more transparency and flow from there.

Henry Kurkowski:

Because once everybody knows exactly and that’s why you use the term abundance of clarity on the expectations. Leave no room for that kind of interpretation. This way, everybody knows what to do when there’s no manager around or no peer to turn to and ask what to do, they should already know.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, absolutely. So, thank you for that. I want to be respectful of your time. Wow, time flies. But I want to move on if that’s okay to some rapid-fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers you can expand as much as you’d like, okay? So, for someone who wrote a book, this is my standard question that nonetheless, it feels like tailor-made for someone who wrote the book about remote technology and with several chapters on tools.

Luis Magalhaes:

But the question I make, the first question I make, I do to every guest is if you had 100 bucks or it doesn’t have to be 100 bucks, could be approximately, to buy something, the same thing for everyone in your team, everyone working for you, what would you buy? And you can’t cheat. You can’t give them money or, or gift cards or cash equivalents. You need to buy something in bulk. Now, obviously it could be a digital, virtual experience, whatever.

Henry Kurkowski:

I would buy everybody in uninterruptable power supply because that’s something I did talk about in the book. You talk about WiFi and having bad WiFi. One, if you have WiFi and you’re working from home and you have a power interruption, which in the winter time happens quite a bit. With the uninterruptable power supply, you plug in your modem, plug in your WiFi router into that, and you could have two, three hours more of work even if the power is completely out in your house.

Luis Magalhaes:

Wow. That’s very interesting. I’ve never considered that. In my non-technical background, I just assumed that if the power is out, it doesn’t matter if I have power or not because the internet goes out with the power. But I guess not.

Henry Kurkowski:

No, the signal is still because it’s coming either over the coax cable or over the telephone line, so the signal’s still there. It’s being generated, so as long as the modem has power that it can, yeah, it will do it. And I talk about all that in the book, too, is set up as emergency. People, they panic. They go run to the local coffee station. Like no, if you get a nice and for $100, you can get an uninterruptable power supply from Amazon or BestBuy or Office Depot. And it will keep running for about, you can get one to three or four hours. Give you internet and connection, so you don’t have to stop working.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. That’s fantastic. Great, great tip. So, what about for yourself? What have you bought in the last six months, six to 12 months that has really improved your relationship with remote work?

Henry Kurkowski:

A great camera and a great microphone. Those were two things that I bought. It’s a camera that also works as a scanning device, so you can scan documents and photos with it. But those two things really changed things, especially clarity, because if you can’t be seen or heard clearly that’s an issue with communication. So, those two things really work because the microphone also has a sound dampening built into it and I don’t have to have it right on top of me. I had worked with headphones and a mic, but that’s not comfortable for me. I like to be able to speak more freely and turn my head around as I move around. And this mic, it’s very similar to your microphone as matter of fact.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the same. It really is, I agree with you 100%. I use headphones if I need the privacy, because of my wife and something like that. But in general, if I can just not have anything on my head, I’d much rather do that. Just for us to include in the show notes and also for the listeners. Would you mind saying what cam did you choose?

Henry Kurkowski:

You know what? This is a IPEVO 4K Pro.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right. So, that’s the recommendation. So, tell me about, about books, if someone was starting remote work and you would give them a couple of books, 3, 4, 2, 3, 4, however money you’d like. Apart from your own, which you’re most certainly going to give them, what books would you give them?

Henry Kurkowski:

Oh, gosh. I would give, besides my own, Remote Work Revolution by Tsedal Neeley. She is a Harvard business professor. As a matter of fact, my nephew took a class with her and told me how awesome she is, so, I’m happy about that. And books like From Good to Great is also great because it’s not just about the remote work itself. It’s about leadership and how to be a good leader. And leadership is not about cracking the whip. It’s about empowering people to do work that they may not have been able to do if they didn’t have you to help inspire them or help them believe in themselves. So, that’s really, the things that it’s not. It’s about creating an environment where people feel that they’re doing purposeful work, that they feel comfortable and where they feel valued and they can trust you.

Luis Magalhaes:

I do love Good to Great because it’s a great book. Oldie, but goody and also, we’re checking out the sequel, Built to Last.

Henry Kurkowski:

Yes, yes.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. I would add that. Okay, so final question. So let’s say that, this may vary depending on where you are, folks and COVID restrictions and et cetera. But assuming that everything is perfectly legal and good in a time, in a future time nearby, you are hosting a dinner where in attendance are going to be the VPs, the hiring manager, the top brass of technology companies from all over the world. In this dinner, the round table will be a conversation about remote work and the future of work. And the twist is that it happens in a Chinese restaurant. So you, as the host, get to choose the message that comes inside the fortune cookie, what is that message?

Henry Kurkowski:

The message would be give yourself permission to trust people.

Luis Magalhaes:

Give yourself permission to trust people. That’s very good. Care to elaborate? We haven’t talked nearly enough about truth and trust in this conversation.

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, what I found when I was interviewing all the people, who had suddenly had to go to remote is that they went into a mode where they were trying to manage a crisis and part of human emotion is when we feel like we’re endangered, first thing to do is try and gather as much information as we can about what’s going on. And then, it’s kind of nose to the grindstone. And that’s what these people did. They kind of got everybody into this nose to the grindstone saying, “We got to work as hard as we can, until we can get back to normal.”

Henry Kurkowski:

Well, that created isolation, that created burnout. There was, and they were like, “Hey, why aren’t you working now?” There was a lack of trust. If we can get to a place where we trust each other, we create aligned goals where the goals of the company and the goals of the individual for their career are both voiced. And say, “Hey, listen. Let’s go on this journey together. Let’s align our goals so that I grow, you grow, we all grow together. But to do that, we have to trust each other. And trust that I’m going to act in a way that will keep what I say going with helping your goals happen and that you are going to work in a way that’s going to help the company goals happen.”

Henry Kurkowski:

When we can trust each other that way. And we give ourselves permission to trust other people. We can create an environment where everybody is doing purposeful work for things that they both want to see happen. And that becomes an environment that people want to be a part of and it becomes an environment where people want to stay and grow.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right. That I agree 100%. I think that’s a very nice place to finish. Now, I do want you to tell the listeners, where can they find more about you? Where can they continue the conversation with you, about you, find more about you, about your book, about your businesses?

Henry Kurkowski:

You can find out more about me in the book at the book’s website, theremoteworkbook.com. And it is available at every major retailer, Amazon, Target, Barnes & Nobles. If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, you can follow me at Henry Indy is my handle. It’s also my Instagram handle. And then Henry Kurkowski on LinkedIn as well. I have a website, henrykurkowski.com. And that also highlights some of the articles that I’ve been featured in or have written myself. I write a number of articles every couple of months on remote work or business in general. And those are the best places to find me.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right. That’s, we’ll include all of that as links in the Show Notes, so check it out. Thank you so much, Henry. It was a pleasure having you here as a guest.

Henry Kurkowski:

Hey, thank you so much for inviting me. I really had a great time. I enjoy your podcast. And like I said, you have an awesome eclectic group of guests. And that’s pretty neat to see.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun. Thank you for being one of them. So, and thank you for listening.

Henry Kurkowski:

Thank you so much.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. And thank you for listening, ladies and gentlemen to the DistantJob podcast. I was your host, Luis and my guest today was Henry Kurkowski, the author of Remote Work Technology: Keeping Your Small Business Thriving from Anywhere. See you next week.

Luis Magalhaes:

And so, we close 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 will 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.

Luis Magalhaes:

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 have more listeners.

Luis Magalhaes:

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 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 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 adios. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

During this episode, Henry shares how one of the main mistakes business makes, especially those that recently started working remotely or in a hybrid model, is purchasing different tech tools without analyzing their team’s needs. He also discusses the criteria that will help leaders choose the right technology.

Episode Highlights:

  • How to shift your business towards a remote working model
  • Choosing the right technology for your remote business
  • Building effective communication processes for remote teams
  • Insights about the great resignation
  • Why leaders should focus mostly on results-driven performance indicators
  • Criteria you need to consider when choosing the technology for your virtual business
  • How to make great meetings happen

Book Recommendation:

 

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