Sharon Koifman is the President of DistantJob, and believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to world’s top talent. That’s why he used over 10 years of experience in tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob. His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s clients to get high quality IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost – with no red tape and within two weeks.
Luis: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Luis and I’m your host for the Staff it Right podcast, a podcast from DistantJob, where we talk to managers of remote teams about how they manage their remote teams. About their tools and ethics to create remote teams that win.
Luis: Since this is DistantJobs maiden voyage in the podcasting world, I wanted to introduce you to Sharon Koifman, the president of DistantJob. He is my first interview and the next interviewees won’t necessarily be from DistantJob, though some will because there are some people in our team with some very nice insights to share, but this first step really is about how Sharon, having had his first big business break in the outsourcing industry, felt that something was missing and that it could be done better.
Sharon: And I just realized that the focus has to be not on this outsourcing mentality; that you can get so much better service when you have loyal, integrated people that really enjoy their job.
Luis: Regardless of it being true DistantJob or not, Sharon is bullish about how much big companies have to lose by refusing their employees to work remotely or not considering hiring remote employees.
Sharon: It’s a huge, huge mistake that they’re not benefiting from an amazing talent. It’s not just the talents that they’re losing is a problem. It is that the talent they already have will feel so much more motivated if they get that type of flexibility.
Luis: One of the questions that I asked Sharon is, why fix something that isn’t broken? And Sharon has some thoughts about that.
Sharon: You can say that your business is not broken, but I’m not buying it. There’s always something to fix. That’s what CEOs do, that’s what I do.
Luis: One of the things that always amazes me about Sharon is that no matter how much I talk with him about managing on my day-to-day, I still manage to learn something new in this podcast. Besides that, I had a lot of fun. So, I think you will have, too. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen I give you Sharon Koifman.
Luis: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first DistantJob podcast. I’m your host, Luis, and I’m here with Sharon Koifman, DistantJob’s very own president.
Sharon: Hello, hello.
Luis: Hello, Sharon. I will already have introduced you by the time people are hearing this, because I will do so on separate introduction of the podcast. Everyone already knows who you are, but truly the important question to ask you here now, before we go onto our main topic, which is discussing the myths about remote work that make people somewhat … I’m not going to say “fearful”, but not completely comfortable with adopting remote work.
Sharon: Fearful, I think it’s a reasonable word, actually.
Luis: Maybe, okay. Fair enough.
Luis: Before we go on to that, I really want to ask, what’s the story here? What’s your story? What got you to believe enough in remote work to bet on it by building your entire business around it?
Sharon: Before DistantJob existed, I owned a company which I grew fairly well to about 3,000 clients, and it was called Empire House. It was a web hosting company and on the side we did outsourcing projects for our clients. I had two offices in India; about 30 employees at the time, and we provided outsourcing solutions. Very quickly, I discovered a lot of challenges with the outsourcing model.
Sharon: Now, if you’re a real estate company and you need web design, that’s not such a bad thing, right? Then you actually need an outsourcing company because you don’t have the core skills in your company. But I found that I got technology companies that do have the core skills, they do have the technology knowledge in-house and they made a choice to do outsourcing simply because they’ve heard of the Indian industry; the cheap labor, the capacity to do things much cheaper. I very quickly learned that this is a real business sin, as I like to call it. You actually very quickly, people were outsourcing their culture, their processes, the way they were doing things. What made them successful. They literally give it and, “Here. Give it to the outsourcing company,” which was me at the time.
Sharon: I was sitting there, thinking, “I’m not more experienced. I’m not more knowledgeable on how to manage this project than the manager or the CTO of that company. They’re literally just giving it to me because of cheap labor.” Because I was focused somewhere else; I had a manager that took care of multiple projects. There was no real control over the employees; they were working different time zone and etc. One of two projects did not work very well. I find that to be a standard reality with the outsourcing industry.
Luis: You mean, one out of two projects, 50%?
Sharon: Yeah, 50%. You know, we got better and better at it. I was 25 years old when I started the company. We got better and better at it, but it was not a source of pride. It was a simple website with a good, but if it was really a company coming to do a big project, it lacked a lot of what needs to make a good app.
Sharon: I made a decision about seven, eight years ago when I sold the first company, to strictly focus on people. Just forget about taking on projects. Forget on taking on people’s work, on what they should be doing themselves, and just focus on finding people that work directly for the company. That’s where we are now.
Luis: Okay, but how did you do the jump? That mental jump. What led you to take that leap? You know, between outsourcing, being an outsourcing company which obviously you had remote employees, but saying, “You know what? Remote employees are for everyone, or at least are for everyone that I’m going to deal with. They can make this happen better than just hiring a company to do stuff for them.”
Sharon: I wish I could say that it was this quick switch on the idea. It was a transitional process. I was growing less and less happy that my first company, I don’t like providing a product that I’m not proud of and when I sold the company, I started doing consulting for companies and I slowly provided the offshore solution. The amazing, affordable labor across the world, but I noticed how to create better and better quality.
Sharon: Every businessman between companies usually tend to be a consultant until soul searching finds that next opportunity. I realized very quickly that it is all about people. I was doing consulting for a security company in Israel named [Aplicure 00:08:38] at the time and a few others.
Luis: Oh, I did not know that.
Sharon: Yeah, that was-
Luis: Did you do it remotely, or did you actually travel there?
Sharon: I did remotely. They were sending me to conferences. Usually, I’m very strong in conferences and I started working with remote people in more and more with all my consulting services and I just realized that the focus has to be not on this outsourcing mentality. That you can get so much better service when you have loyal, integrated people that really enjoy their job. It was a three to four year transition. It was not a conclusion that was made instantaneously.
Luis: Wow. You know, it’s kind of amazing that I’ve known you for two years now and I never had the notion that before opening your company you had really been the remote employee. You were actually living in Canada, right?
Luis: And working for a company in Israel.
Luis: I hadn’t realized that.
Sharon: It was always consulting-
Luis: And did you do a good job?
Sharon: I like to think I did a pretty good job, right? I leave it up to them to make the final decision, but I think I did quite a wonderful job, especially on the sales side of the company.
Luis: Okay, so there are a couple of things and you know this better. But there are some things that when people are considering … Not even considering. When people hear about remote, they say, “Well, that sounds nice. I read articles in Buzz Feed and on Huffington Post and stuff like that, about remote work. How it’s better for quality of life and how you get talent.” But really people say, “But it’s not for us.” I’ve heard this a lot and you’ve probably heard it 10 times more than I did.
Luis: There seems to be some points that they always come back to, you know? The one that really annoys me a bit the most, is the whole thing that, “Why should I fix something that’s not broken? My company is working fine. We’re profitable, I like the people who work for me, etc. Why should I start hiring remote employees when really, I have people that I like and that’s working fine having them in the office?”
Sharon: First of all, the concept of “don’t fix when it’s not broken”. I don’t believe that there’s any company out there that is not broken in at least one or two aspects. The rule of business is, when you don’t grow, you shrink. You always need to innovate and if you become the Toys R Us for Amazon, eventually somebody will capture and do things better than you. You have to innovate, you have to keep evolving.
Luis: I agree. You know those guys are trying to make a comeback?
Sharon: They are trying to make a comeback.
Luis: Yes, I saw the giraffe tweeting or something like that. I didn’t even know giraffes could tweet.
Sharon: The brand is too big and honestly I don’t understand why more competent, more modern individuals are not buying the brand and turning it into something more innovative. The brand is huge. It’s one of the biggest brands in the world. Maybe if they start hiring more remote employees it will be very beneficial for them.
Luis: That’s the business. Right there.
Sharon: Just back to the point, one of the things that is most broken in a company is that there’s not enough quality people. There’s not enough independent people. I’ve met so many excellent bosses running really big companies, but they work so hard that they work day and night because they simply cannot depend on their team. Because the team, not only that they don’t always have all of the qualification that they need. They also just not as independent.
Sharon: When you go to the world, you open yourself to a much bigger pool of talent, much bigger option of people. Usually people are excited to work remote, by the way. There’s research out there that shows that remote people are more independent, they’re more motivated, they’re more excited to do things right. Simply because they get the benefit of staying at home.
Sharon: You can say that your business is not broken, but I’m not buying it. There’s always something to fix. That’s what CEOs do, that’s what I do all day long. I run around and I try to find things to fix.
Luis: Fair enough.
Sharon: Better quality people, more Independent and more excited to work at more affordable rates. I put that aside because quality’s more important. It’s not about … We’re not an outsourcing company. It is about the quality people, but you also have the benefit of cost. How could you not take advantage of the situation?
Luis: I guess that’s part of it, and we’ll go into that when we talk about the other myths. Really, I think that people see it as a matter of balance. Of overhead, right? Okay. “I don’t think that we’re hurting, especially, and bringing remote people in will require that we change some of our procedures because obviously the people aren’t there.” I think that most people are afraid that the perceived gains don’t outweigh the inconvenience that change always causes because change is necessary, but not convenient. No one likes change.
Sharon: Yeah, nobody likes change. Again, we go back to Toys R Us. Nobody likes change, the world is changing. I like to think that we’re one of the pioneers in pushing remote management, focused remote management, but it’s unavoidable. This is the future. More and more we’re talking about it. You gotta go global to find the best and the smartest people. To compete, you need to find the best and smartest people. Again, I’m not talking about … There’s the side benefit of value. That you also find more affordable people, but the key is, you wanna find the best people in the world? You go global. You wanna solicit the best people, you tell them they get to work from home.
Sharon: I have a very close friend that’s consulting for some really big companies out there and gets this massive salary, and every time that he goes to a new company, the contracts usually last about two years, three years. He goes and he’s like, “Dude, please let me work from home. I’m gonna give you discount on the salary. I’m going to work extra. I like working at night. I’m a super-programmer. That’s what we do, we work at night. I don’t need to spend time traveling. I get to stay at home.”
Sharon: Change needs to happen because you miss the opportunity on people like that, which the more I talk to companies, the more I see that these people exist more and more.
Luis: The traveling point is a good point as well because just from a pure math standpoint, if you tell me, “Okay. I earn 2k per day,” but if you need to travel for three days to go from one place where you earn 2k, to the other place where you earn 2k on a consulting gig, it’s like, “Well, you’re earning 2k on day one. Then you’re traveling on day 2, 3, and 4. Then you’re earning 2k on day five. Assuming you have a weekend, you don’t earn 2k a day; you earn 4k a week.”
Sharon: I wish I would have the statistic here and I’ll try to have it for future, but there is a beautiful research showing how many hours do people spend traveling to work? What an incredible waste of time.
Luis: Yeah. Yes.
Sharon: Without giving the hours, because when you see the numbers you say, “Oh my God. It’s astronomical. People are wasting time and productivity,” and I’m talking the thousands and the tens of thousands of hours. But just seeing it in a small perspective, eight hours a day shift, most people drive-
PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:18:04]
Sharon: … eight hours a day shift. Most people drive anywhere from half an hour to an hour each direction to work.
Luis: It’s horrible.
Sharon: We’re talking about 20% of your productivity goes into travel. Holy moly, right. Again, we don’t talk about the side notes, environment damage, cost of gas, cost that accrues with it, but just the productivity is unbelievable, the loss of productivity.
Luis: We were talking previously about really the cost of people changing their ways, the way in which their company works to accommodate remote workers. This brings me specifically to one very, a comment that always comes, a comment that always comes when I mention remote, which is so why am I going to do when I have to call a meeting, and my team, four people are in the room. Then the other two aren’t in the room, we have to place them on a screen somewhere. People fear that there’s a disconnection there. What would you say to those people? Really, how do you convince them if it’s possible that having six people in the room or having four people in the room and two people on screens is something that you can overcome?
Sharon: First of all, the technology is there. The technology is really there, but I have to be honest. I do want to mention some of the disadvantages that comes with remote because it wouldn’t be a fair podcast if I was just bubbling about everything that is amazing. When I talk to my clients and when I talk to people that have experienced remote, one of the biggest weakness that they have is that remote person is not part of the clique when there’s a mixed team, right. They always feel like they’re getting the information a few days later. They always get-
Luis: Interesting. Yeah interesting that you mention that because actually the other thing that people always point out too besides the meeting situation of mixing remote with non-remote is also the company culture, so I guess those two are intertwined.
Sharon: That is a very fair point. Company’s culture is one of the biggest fears that people have with remote. It does correlate to exactly what I’m saying. You really need to depend on proper management. When it comes to remote, the managers are forced to be good managers. I actually believe that the technique to remote manage people is the same technique that involves managing local employees. Just with local employees, you have the luxury temporarily to be lazy, right. You do have that luxury. When working with remote employees, it forces you to be the manager that you should be, the manager that knows how to motivate, how to qualify, how to maintain that culture, how to, going back to the previous point, how to make sure that there is no clique, that everybody is communicating well together, that there is-
Luis: So how do you do that?
Sharon: Yeah. Well, first of all, communication. There’s nothing so outside the box here. You use the technologies to make sure that first of all, the remote employee needs to be available as if he’s a local employee. It’s all about, as I call it, the next cubicle experience. If a person is available nine to five, or at least available just like the local employees, and you have the technology, everybody in the team has technology for instant communication. Suddenly, you don’t necessarily have to lose it. Now a good manager-
Luis: Well, this, no, sorry to interrupt there, but the technology part is also a concern and super important because I was watching this idea. They were making fun, not of remote work per se, but they were making fun of Agile, and they were having it stand up, an Agile stand up where one of the guys was remote. The square master would just be asking a question. Then everyone paused and everyone was waiting for the remote that was really your stereotypical engine in a screen. It was like he tried to talk and it was like … Then after everyone waiting for one minute, he was answering to whatever they were talking before. That is a real nightmare scenario and I don’t think that in reality it is ever that bad, but-
Sharon: It’s not bad. It’s not true. It is not bad. You absolutely, absolutely before being a good remote manager, you have to invest in proper technology. You’re laughing, but I just had this experience with our customer service lady just yesterday that she’s brand new, right. The phone system is not up to par, and then you hear … “Sharon, how’s it going?” I said, “You know we’re …” I went to a technical person, “Fix it now.” Because the biggest enemy of feeling, bringing remote people closer is when technology doesn’t work. Yes, that means you need to spend 20 bucks extra a person to make sure that they get the best internet. It means that you need to spend 50 bucks a person. This is not real money, but you need to make sure that they have the bets headphones, high-quality internet. The technology is already there by Zoom, and Slack, and everything. It’s perfectly all right. You need to make sure that you have the voice RP system, which means that the system that the people can hit each other back and forth easily. Then it’s not an issue anymore, but you got to make sure that the internet is good.
Sharon: It’s a must.
Luis: Fair enough. Let’s say that we have the technology part sorted out. Then you’re working on culture. You say that you need to be the manager that you need to be. How do you make sure you’re actually the manager you need to be and not just a nagger?
Sharon: That’s a great question. The key component to be a successful manager is you have to review. You have to visit every day or every two days. You have to be consistent with the visiting. You have to evaluate. You have to train and you have to motivate.
Luis: Okay, so-
Sharon: I think in the future, we need to find an acronym for that. It’ll be great, but-
Luis: I was thinking about that. I was thinking about I was counting on my fingers, visit, evaluate, Visa.
Luis: It’s already taken. Can we patent that?
Sharon: That’s it.
Luis: [crosstalk 00:25:39].
Sharon: Even if I don’t have the right order, and I’m just thinking about it, but the key component, most managers they visit. They ask, “How’s it going?” But they don’t evaluate and they don’t motivate, right. This is a major two key components to be a good manager, remote or locally. You need to train. You need to fix. You need to improve. It can’t be in a manner of ball-busting. You need to motivate after, right. You need to force the employee, the contractor, the whoever you want to, whatever you want to call it, to interact back with you. They need to feel like they’re part of the team. If you manage to do that, if you empower your team to own their work, then you’re doing your job right. This is a local manager and a remote manager, but most weak managers, what they do? They walk around. They check what’s going on and they ball-bust. So they don’t train and they don’t motivate. Those are the two missing components that usually are missed in a really good manager.
Luis: Okay. Maybe I’ve had negative experience in the past, but I really have. I would like to spend you an extra bit on culture because sometimes I don’t really understand the culture, the culture concept. I mean, I remember being in a company with a very hands-on manager, a very hands-on boss. He was the president on the company. He talked to everyone every day. This was not remote, by the way. This was local. He was very into motivation. He would actually put people in the same room and play a motivational video, and have big meetings, where everyone would have the right to give their opinion about what was this and what was that in the company, and listen to everyone. The fact was that everyone was underpaid and overworked. Then he was amazed that I’m creating such an awesome culture. Why isn’t everyone happy? I’m like, dude, everyone is underpaid and overworked. I mean, sometimes when I think about my time on that company, I think, yeah, culture is nice. But is it really the most important thing?
Sharon: Well, no. Processes are, right. Culture is an extra. Culture defines whether people enjoy coming to work. You’re right. There’s other aspect to it. Money is important, but it’s not everything. It is not everything. People really do come to a company where they love to work. That’s where culture comes in. If you take model of some of the modern companies that are coming out lately, the huge companies like Google, like Microsoft, it is all about the culture. They’re trying to create an environment that is completely pleasurable to work at. They define their clients and usually part of culture is creativity, part of the culture is to think independently, and part of the culture is to have fun.
Luis: I may be delusional, but I don’t think that anyone in Google is underpaid or overworked.
Sharon: Overworked, for sure.
Luis: Didn’t they have that thing that you get two day, three days off a week or something like that?
Sharon: No, no, no. They don’t get two days off. They get two days of coming out with ideas.
Sharon: Right. And the-
Luis: Working on their own things, I guess.
Sharon: I don’t know if Google people are overworked. I think that they overwork themselves probably because the culture is so great that they actually enjoy the work, so they want to accomplish the task. They want to achieve. They want to look like superstars in their company so yeah.
Luis: That’s a fair point. That’s a fair point. When the work is actually meaningful, it makes sense.
Sharon: Look, Luis, as much as salaries and handwork seems like the most important thing, but in many companies, people work tons and they don’t necessarily get paid what they should, and they still love their work. That’s where culture comes in, but it’s very hard to create culture like that. It really is very challenging. Yes, at the end of the day, if you talk to my brother. My brother believes in paying well. Right, if you pay well, you get who you need, and there’s no need for more complex discussions out there. Pay well, treat people well, and you do just fine, but there’s many companies that are saying, “Let’s create an environment where people love doing what they’re doing.” If part of the culture is limiting them on hours, which is part of our culture. We really don’t want people to work more than eight hours. We’re trying to, according to market values, to pay fairly, but at the end of the day, we want people to really feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Luis: All right. I mean, that’s what we can talk about. That’s what we can talk about culture, but yeah, I mean, well, actually no. Just circling back because we did get a bit generalist over there. What would you answer to someone that comes to you worrying about how their culture will be affected if they got some remote people and suddenly the team is half remote, half local?
Sharon: I can only offer our company as an example. In our company, we have a fair amount of meetings, and every meeting, everybody jokes around, everybody talks. Our culture is quite nerdy, very social, yet we like to interact a lot about music, about nerdy stuff, Star Wars, Star Trek. We make a lot of jokes and have a lot of fun. Instead of the local place where people hang around the water cooler, as they like to say, we have our own water cooler. We sit here on Zoom, and we chat, and we make jokes, and our Slack we have a general channel, where we’re providing so much content, and interacting with each other, and give ideas. We take care of each other and we’re becoming real friends. This is the culture. This is what we do here. It comes with continuous interaction.
Sharon: The key component to create a culture in a remote environment, just like a local one, but here again, you need to do better, is making sure that we have continuous interaction. We also have beer, beer over Zoom. We have drinks over Zoom, where we are trying to have fun, even if it’s remote. Of course, we’re going-
Luis: I’ve never had beer over Zoom. Scotch maybe, not beer.
Sharon: Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. We have a drink. I apologize. I had a beer. You had a scotch. That’s right.
Luis: There you go.
Luis: Fair enough. Yeah, let’s be clear here.
Luis: There’s beer drinkers and then there’s the other people who drink respectable drinks.
Sharon: Yes, respectable drinks.
Luis: [crosstalk 00:33:37] yeah.
Sharon: I apologize. I apologize.
Sharon: For being such a simple man just drinking beer, but I also do enjoy the scotch once in a while. As you see, I’m getting defensive. It’s not good.
Sharon: But yes, you can, when you interact with people, when people see each other and connect, you create a culture like that. Just the way you would with the local culture.
Luis: The myth that I saved for last, I saved for last for a reason because I’ve actually it’s one thing when you get it from would-be clients. Would-be clients when we’re at a conference or something like that or when we talk to people through our website, but this is something that came up on my own personal life. I was talking to a friend of mine. He’s a very successful clinician, very successful surgeon, has a big practice, big clinic. He was having some trouble with marketing. He could do a lot better, especially when it comes to SEO and to social media, anything that’s digital. Real weakness on his marketing and he understands that. Well, maybe I’m biased, but I do think that you can do marketing remotely. That there might be a slight bias there, but it seems to be working.
Luis: It seems to be working, but I was talking to him like, “Well, why don’t you just get someone to work remotely, someone that’s really good at that because obviously the people that you’ve been finding aren’t all that great? And someone that’s really good, that’s affordable that can just work from their home.” He was like, “Well, if they’re working from home, they can’t really understand what we’re about. They can’t really understand what’s so great, what makes this practice stand out.” These are two slightly seperate things, but they’re both tied to the person not being there. Plus, I don’t think I could properly oversee them. I don’t think I could properly, he didn’t say the word control, but I know him. He’s my friend. He’s a bit of a control freak. I could see that those were the two things. Number one, she’s not here with us on our day-to-day. She doesn’t get what’s special about us. Those were his words. And then not his words, but I could see it, control issue. What would you say to that? Because I stumbled a bit about and explained, but I could see that he wasn’t convinced.
Sharon: It’s really-
PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:36:04]
Luis: Wasn’t convinced.
Sharon: It’s really hard to change somebody who’s really thinking old school. Is not able to change a little bit of his ways. I know many people like that, I know many business people. It’s part of our business marketing for our business challenge in general, to convince people to change their methods of control.
Sharon: But there really is no difference if you look at it. The time that it takes you, it’s not like the marketing person is gonna sit in the clinic all day. So, you can definitely, first of all, you can fly the remote person in to show the experience to interact and everything. But the day to day work is no different than going to the next cubicle.
Sharon: Going to the next cubicle takes about 30 seconds. Turning on message on Slap, turning on Zoom takes 20 seconds. And you get to check every day with a person just like you would do with a local person that you have to walk to their cubicle. But just, you gotta get these people out of their headset. That physical makes any different whatsoever. Again, a remote person, there’s many … there’s a lot of research shown that remote people are more independent. They’re more motivated. They love the work more. And again, you can get incredible value because the world is big. There’s countries with lower cost of living, which reflects on their work. But when you have somebody working North American or Western hours, with your office hours with you, it’s no difference. You walk to the cubicle, hey, how’s it going. You type in on your computer, hey, how’s it going? Or you click on Zoom. Hey, how’s it going?
Sharon: It’s the same pace, the same speed. There is no reason to delay. It’s just people not able to get out of their zone that they’re stuck at which is physical.
Luis: Do you think that at some point, it really is a matter of trust? That it’s like does a bear shit in the woods if no one is there to see it? Does an employee work if there’s no one, if he’s not in an office?
Sharon: Another statistic that I wish that I would have written in the interview, where it shows that the majority of employees waste their time. Local employees, Facebook, [inaudible 00:38:40].
Luis: I’ve never wasted my time.
Sharon: No [crosstalk 00:38:42]-
Luis: My previous employees.
Sharon: You know, the truth is that I run a company and I waste my time. I try … I put a blocker on my computer from Facebook. It’s funny because I don’t want to. But I enjoy going Facebook and seeing what’s out there, so I’m equally as guilty. You don’t really have control unless the person sits in the same … in the clinic while you’re friend fixing teeth and he’s looking at the marketing person’s computer. Maybe. And they’ll still find a way to procrastinate.
Sharon: The communication-
Luis: The marketing person needs cancel block Facebook, right?
Sharon: You can’t block Facebook [inaudible 00:39:24]. You don’t even know. So you don’t know what … you have no idea what he’s doing. At the end of the day, you have to go to him and ask, “How’s it going? What is it that you’re doing?” You have that real experience, but a manager need to communicate, need to ask. Because once you start having this environment where you give a project and you leave and you expect results in two weeks, that’s not management. That’s outsourcing. So, then again, there is really no different, this misconception that there’s difference in experience. There is none. Unless the person sits in the same room while he’s fixing his teeth, I can’t help [inaudible 00:40:03].
Luis: Because part of that really is, I also think that part of my friend’s problem now that I think back to him, I think that he didn’t know company culture. When he comes back to the people really need … the person really needs to be here to understand what we’re about, I think that’s culture he’s talking about.
Sharon: I know. He’s talking about processes. It’s very important to the [inaudible 00:40:27] to separate them. The culture is part processes, right, but processes is a bigger thing than that. There’s management processes and then there’s creating a company culture where people are on the same wavelength. Where people are trying to all think the same way, or the manager is trying to create a synchronous in the way people are thinking. That’s where the culture comes in. But before that, there’s processes. Like I said, you gotta visit, you gotta evaluate, you gotta train, and you gotta motivate. And then after that, what you need to do every day or every few days when you interact with your people.
Sharon: And the culture is a more of a … is a bigger thing. It’s creating that environment where people love coming to work. Right? And the boss has to be consistent on that culture. So, like I said, in this job, we create … we have somewhat of a nerdish, a social nerdish, a social geeky culture with a lot of … with a high energy and a little bit of … a lot of ethical approach to things. We care. We really wanna take care of each other, and when we … and people see that they’re being taken care of, they feel like they’re part of something bigger themselves.
Sharon: We also are trying to change the way people hire in general. So, it is about thinking about something bigger than yourself. Creating that culture, it gives people the motivation to come in and to say, “Hey, I like what I do. I like being a part of something.” And I think it’s one of the powers in our company that people come in, they say, “Beside the fact that I’m working from home, I really like working for this company. This company is really appealing to what I wanna be.”
Sharon: I think this is your motivation, Louis. I think that part of you, the original [inaudible 00:42:44] is like, “Sharon, I wanna work in this company because I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, and I’m having fun working here and everybody is taking care of everybody.” And I feel that this is one of your motivations also.
Luis: Yeah. Well, yeah. Well, I have some specific motivation because I’ve dealt a lot with people who were unable to work properly because they couldn’t leave their homes. They had some sort of physical disability. I’ve interacted with several people like that and it really just felt a waste. Not only that their talents were being wasted, because you can always find a replacement, as callous as that sounds. But, really, a man does not live by bread alone, right? You need to have significant work, meaningful work in your life. And some people, and for some reason, aren’t able to leave their homes are missing out on that. So that was part of my reason. That was part of my angle. And, obviously, the scalability in my previous work, I could help people one at a time. Here, I can possibly help several people in the NRO in a short period of time. So there were technical reasons.
Luis: But, to shift it back to you for a bit. And I was thinking about this while you were talking. There were a couple of high-profile companies, and not so high-profile, but still companies that abandoned remote work in the past couple of years. And I really wanted to ask about this. What did they get wrong? Or maybe making it more general, more broad, what are the things about remote work that managers and people leading companies usually get wrong?
Sharon: It goes back to the same point. It goes back to management processes. Now, here’s where the big companies that made those choices, they have a big problem. They are big companies starting to [crosstalk 00:44:46]
Luis: That’s a big problem. [crosstalk 00:44:46] I’d like to have a big company.
Sharon: No, [crosstalk 00:44:53], but they were really huge. When you have 10, 20, 30, a hundred thousand employees, that means there’s a lot of managers that you need to make sure that all of them are excellent managers. And you can’t do that with a massive company. So the strategy that many companies choose to take is instead of improving my team, let’s create a formula that is easy to manage. And it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake on one aspect because there’s a huge advantage to work with remote people. At the end of the day, I give an example. In the beginning, my buddy worked for a big company. And they would get 50 percent more productivity out of him if they’d let him work from home. But their bosses created this box for them that they can’t think outside that box. Which is horrible for a business, but it is a reality with big businesses.
Sharon: So when a big company makes a choice, we know that [inaudible 00:45:58] and IBM [crosstalk 00:46:00]
Luis: I’ve got a friend like that, actually. Not going to say his name because, you know, I didn’t ask him if I could. But this is a guy that’s worked in companies that are known worldwide. Within their industries, you say their name, they know oh, that company. He has works on very good positions on that kind of companies. And he has just quit his job because they used to allow him to do [inaudible 00:46:27] and now they don’t anymore.
Sharon: Yes. Absolutely.
Luis: But that was a massive value lost for them.
Sharon: I know exactly who you’re talking about. He’s an incredible … he’s a superstar, right? And they made a choice not to have him because there’s no remote. It’s a huge, huge mistake. They’re not benefiting for amazing talents. It’s not just the talents that they’re losing is a problem, it is the talent they already have will feel so much more motivated if they get that type of flexibility. And so much more productive. No traveling get to work. Different hours. It’s huge. And all you need to do is just think a little bit outside the box. It’s great. Become a little stricter with your management processes and you will get … you’re gonna get so much better out of people and so much better people.
Sharon: And it’s a shame. It’s a shame, but it’s changing. I see it more and more. I see serious companies saying, you know what, we just can’t … not everybody’s Google. Not everybody is Microsoft. They can say, “You want a job, you come here.” Right? Google can say that. Google is, you know, people say Google is the most amazing place to work at. I think they’re bullies. I think they’re detaching people from where they live. They’re detaching kids from their schools, their kindergarten. That’s not a positive thing. As much as they make it look like it’s a positive thing, it’s not, right? But even if it is, Google has that power. If you’re still a great big company without the power of Google, you’re not gonna get the best talent. [crosstalk 00:48:16]
Luis: I think at some point, it really depends on how much quality of life you are willing to sacrifice for some of that sweet Google money, which is not … is usually not an inconsiderable amount, but yeah. I think that, more and more-
Sharon: Google money. I like the way that sounds. Sweet Google money.
Luis: Also, at the same time-
Sharon: Sounds like a blues song.
Luis: I think that more and more people are falling on the side of well, yeah, I can get the money but when am I going to spend it? Where am I going to spend it if I spend like 80 percent of my day cooped inside my Google office?
Sharon: Luis, have you ever been to Silicon Valley? San Francisco is a beautiful city. But honestly, it’s an hour away drive, usually with traffic. San Jose, where the core Silicon Valley is, is so boring. It’s a horrible place to live. And the cost of living is astronomical. It’s huge, right? So even if they get big salaries, the fact that people are forced to go to that awful place, and I’m making a lot of enemies by saying that. Actually, maybe I should [crosstalk 00:49:25]
Luis: [crosstalk 00:49:25] like we’re going to get it out.
Sharon: You know. But it’s not a pleasure. It’s not a pleasure. And living, working where you want is so, so powerful. And you’re gonna get, again, you’re not just gonna get better people because you’re open to the world. Those people gonna work better. Especially at the high level.
Luis: So we’ve been at this for a while. I know you have-
Luis: You have places to go, people to see. I want to let you go. But here’s a bit of a curve ball. [crosstalk 00:50:06]
Sharon: Give it to me! Give it to me! I can take it!
Luis: [crosstalk 00:50:07] you like fortune cookies?
Sharon: Do I like fortune cookies? Yes. I have enjoyed them in the past, yes.
Luis: It’s interesting. So, if you were to write a fortune cookie that you know would be opened by 100 managers at top tech companies, what would you write on the fortune cookie? And do it in English, please. Not Chinese.
Sharon: I love it. I love it.
Sharon: You will talk to your people more.
Luis: Okay. That sounds fortune cookie-ish.
Sharon: I did this. I did this is the best that I can come up with. You will talk to people more.
Luis: Fair enough. Fair enough. Okay.
Luis: So, thank you, Sharon. It was a pleasure.
Sharon: A pleasure. Thank you, Luis. It was fun.
Luis: And that’s it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for listening to StaffITRight, the DistantJob podcast.
Luis: This first episode was with Sharon Koifman, the president of DistantJob. And, if you want to, if you need to staff it right, make sure to go by distantjob.com and get in touch with us. If you enjoyed the podcast, please consider leaving us a nice review and rating on iTunes or your podcast listening service of choice.
Luis: This was Luis with StaffITRight, the DistantJob podcast. Thank you very much. See you next week.
On this first episode, our guest is Sharon Koifman. We discuss many topics – from how to build culture on a remote environment, to the current state of Toys’R’Us.
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In this first episode, among other things, you will hear about:
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