A few weeks ago, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the guys from 37 Signals, put out Remote, their much anticipated book about - you guessed it -working remotely. I haven't yet read it, but I've been following their argument for quite a while, which in a nutshell advocates that businesses can - and should - tap into the remote workforce, hiring employees that work hundreds or thousands of miles away as well as allowing their "local" employees to work from home.
I cite the book here because the practice of hiring remote employees and subcontractors has been something that's been on my mind for quite a long time, and the release of Remote has simply vindicated my belief - which is that hiring remotely is an absolute game-changer that can transform a business dramatically for the better.
First, consider that we (BCS Interactive) are in a pretty tech-heavy industry. We require great Web designers, programmers, native app developers, SEO specialists and social media experts. This kind of talent is hard to consistently find on a local level. Sure, you'll get lucky occasionally and find the designer that just happens to live the next town over, but for the most part these folks aren't necessarily in your backyard.
They are however, found everywhere across the country. And we've had great experiences - and made many clients happy - working with amazingly talented people from all across the U.S. Developers from the midwest; designers from the Pacific northwest; social media from upstate New York; SEO talent from down south, and on and on. Each one of these folks has contributed great things to our work and has helped us become who we are.
I used to fear that our clients - both current and potential - would freak out upon learning that every single person that worked on their project wasn't 10 feet away. But you know what? That's never happened. And moreover, I learned that to clients, having everybody in the same room doesn't matter. What matters is the work, and whether or not you're delivering results. That's what clients - quality clients, those worth keeping - are looking for.
Not that this needs repeating, but technology has made remote work so ridiculously easy. Between Skype, GotoMeeting, texting, email, and frankly, cool products like 37Signal's own Basecamp - there's practically no project or business model that can't be executed remotely.
Still, we run into situations where out-of-state clients are reluctant to hear a pitch from us because they want someone local that they can turn to "in case there's a problem" - but this is becoming less and less frequent. And in truth, I've found that we can handle "problems" better remotely than most of those "on-site" local agencies ever could.
And as for productivity? Working remotely only helps. If you've hired the right type of people - those who are inherently passionate, with high-self esteem and a strong sense of quality - then the idea that they're working from home as an excuse to be lazy or goof-off is ludicrous. On the contrary, allowing them to work remotely will only give them more freedom to focus, think and create.
This is not to say that we're a "virtual" agency (not that there's anything wrong with that). We have an office - a nice one, I think - here in lovely downtown Madison, NJ. And personally, I need this. I need a place to go everyday to do my work; I like seeing my co-workers - those few people that make up the core BCS Interactive team - on a daily basis. But I don't need to have 20 full-time employees around me just to prove that we "have a company." And I take great pride in knowing that at a moment's notice, we can instantly reach out to some wonderful folks who really know what the heck they're doing, to move our projects along and create great work.
A while back, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer made headlines by effectively banning remote work at her company. And that may work just fine for Yahoo. A company has to do what it feels is best to move foward. As for us, we're going the remote route. And I feel it's going to take us far.