With so many people bringing their business online, I’ve received a lot of questions about how I run my team of 20+ employees virtually… 

This episode answers a few of those questions (+shares my biggest piece of advice for everyone!)

Quick NOTE – I’ve been running my team remotely for more than five years – so I’ve learned a lot! (Plus, I come from the generation of young people who’s making virtual work a possibility for all of us…) 

This episode pulls together my experience, plus what’s working for us during the global pandemic.

In this 20-minute deep dive, you’ll hear me talk about… 

  • Why I require my team show up to meetings on video
  • How I ensure each person actually completes their work for the day
  • And the exact software programs we use to stay organized

Listen in – and then join me inside Hirsh Marketing Insiders with any additional questions!

Key Points:
[3:10] I’ve got a team of 20+ people, and we all work remotely
[6:31] These are the software programs we use…
[9:24] Why I require that my team use video + show up for all scheduled meetings
[12:38] “How do you know your team is actually getting work done?”
[16:45] This is what builds connection + creates relationships
[18:36] Also, this is crucial…

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Emily Hirsh:

Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. How are you all doing? I have been getting questions and people requesting to just learn more about how I run my company online. Actually, I’ve had people say like, “You could teach people this as a product,” but focus, guys, is very important. Yes, I could, but that is not kind of what we serve and do, and I think it would be confusing for our audience.

I did however want to do a podcast episode on it, on tips, on running your business, running your team online because obviously right now a lot of people have been forced to take their company online. I think it’s super cool. I’ve watched schools, and therapists, and all these different companies be forced to figure out how to come online. It was almost like what maybe the society needed, like the push we needed towards online, and it’s going to change the world as we know it, I think forever. And I see so much opportunity for people to switch from spending money on an in-person office or facility or whatever and switch online and market themselves online. I mean, there’s so many benefits, and I feel so grateful that I am in that industry. My company and my business wasn’t really impacted. Even as things were crazy, we’re still showing up every day on our daily huddle and my team all can work. Many of them felt very grateful that they didn’t have to worry about having a job and not being able to go to it.

Also, the quarantine, we’re quarantined most… I mean, it’s been a little rough, but it’s not that big of a change in terms of like, I work from home every day so it’s not that big of a change. But I just see so much opportunity because when you come online, you can reach so many more people and it just opens the doors for so much. So I’m really excited to support companies even more and be that marketing agency that can support companies that decide to come online for good, and to change things forever, and reach people online with their products, or their content, or their services.

I wanted to today dive into just some of my own tips on running my team and my business online. I’ve got a team of 22 people all over the US and Canada. We require that people are in North America just for time zone reasons because we’re working with clients and most of our clients are in North America. We do have some that are over in Australia and the UK, but usually they’re in North America. So for time zone reasons, we need people to be working nine to five hours in their US or Canadian time zone.

My team is all in US and Canada, and we’re all remote. We don’t have any in-person office. I work from home every day. When I wasn’t in quarantine, I would go to a coffee shop sometimes, but this has been my life for the last five years, and it’s allowed me to be here for my kids. I normally have a nanny. Right now I do not. So literally recording this, it’s like, hope the newborn doesn’t wake up, but that is how I roll, and it’s allowed me to be home with my kids to have that flexibility. And really, it’s allowed me to create a business and be a mom. I definitely couldn’t have done this if I had to go to an office because of the way that I attachment parent with my kids and nurse my babies all day long. So it’s given me so much freedom, so much flexibility, and I’m super grateful for it.

So here are some of my tips on running my team online. Before I dive in, I do have to give a shout-out to Alex Charfen because I learned a lot of this from him. I’d say most of it. Well, aside from the softwares. But, most of what I’m telling you has been, at least the foundation of it, learned from Alex Charfen. So he’s an amazing resource for running your teams. And all of his systems incorporate really well into an online business, because it creates connection and culture with your team even though you’re not in person. I get comments a lot from my team that they actually feel more connected to us as a team than they have when working in-person in offices. So that’s super cool because it’s really hard to create that. Obviously, virtually you don’t have water cooler chat and people seeing each other. It’s just a different dynamic. But you can still create massive connection with your team when you’re virtual.

So first I’ll just start with some softwares that we use as a company. We’re very heavy in Asana. That is our project management software of choice. Everything goes in Asana. We’ve gotten very strict with that over the last, I’d say, six months. Everything goes in there. That way we can track it. We can track due dates. We can track if things weren’t done or were done, and we are very strict with that.

Now, I as the CEO kind of break the rules. I don’t know if this is good or not, but I don’t like Asana, and so I’m the only one who doesn’t go in there. But I do task things in there to keep it in there for my team, but I just don’t … I keep my email so slim with notifications and so I don’t have Asana notification so that makes it hard for me. But my entire team uses Asana. And if I have to task somebody to somebody, something to somebody, I do follow the process and go into our Asana and do it. So from everything from onboarding a new team member to offboarding a team member, to onboarding a client, to offboarding a client, to managing a client day to day to our marketing projects, to our monthly goals, it’s all in Asana. Very organized, very clear. My team mostly lives in Asana.

We use Slack as communication. It’s something that I also have closed out most of the day, because I find it can be distracting, but … And I actually recommend to my team they do the same thing. Close it down during focused work time. But in terms of communication, we use Slack a lot, and for a lot of quick questions, quick back and forth. We never use it for approval. Like if you have to get approval for copy or approval for something that you need management or somebody else to see or approve, it has to go in Asana. But if it’s back and forth quick questions, we can use Slack. We have different channels for hiring or our ads team in there, and that’s a great way for communication.

We also use Voxer, which is a voice messaging app. That’s my preferred way of communication, because it’s easier for me to voice message things. You can send voice clips and listen to voice clips instead of getting on a call. You can walkie-talkie back and forth to each other basically, and it’s super efficient. So I love Voxer. We use that. I think I use it a lot, especially with my direct reports, and then my team uses Slack more, is how it’s kind of laid out. But I really prefer the voice.

Those softwares, and then we don’t use a ton of softwares. That’s the main softwares and then Google Drive. Everything’s in Team Drive. I’m very anal about the organization of our Team Drive, because it’s really hard to keep what you would consider files and papers organized when you’re virtual. So everything’s organized in our Team Drive. We have very organized folders, and sub folders, and documents. We have different departments. We’ve got a marketing drive, ads team drive, resources. I live in Google Drive and Google Docs.

Then, we also use Zoom for all of our meetings. It’s a company requirement that you come to a meeting on video. So we actually talk about this when a new employee is onboarded, that they have to come to our daily huddle and to any team and company meetings with their video on. That’s a big way in how I create connection when I’m trying to get my team to connect. I’ll talk about some of the meetings we do, but one of the biggest ones is our daily huddle. This is definitely an Alex Charfen creation, and we follow his process for this.

But, we do a daily huddle. It lasts about 10, 15 minutes. It’s not anything like deep tactical of like, hey… My team is way too big to do that. It would literally take an hour if we were asking people specific questions or getting updates on things. It’s not that at all. It’s literally, we update on stats, so stats that are relevant to my company, so how many clients, our revenue for the month, clients that are pending and are ready to launch, how many active clients we have, basic stats so that the company’s all on the same page every day about where we’re at.

Then we have updates on out-of-office reminders like, “Hey, so-and-so’s going to be gone on Friday.” That’s usually said in our leadership updates. We leave that for a place… I mean, it’s a place where we can tell the whole team something. So if there’s a quick thing we need to share, it’s where I’ll often ask my ads team like, “Hey, what are you guys seeing about COVID marketing right now?” We’ll have a five-minute discussion on that, just free discussion on it because it’s the one chance that my whole team is there every day.

Then, the best part about it is we do shout-outs. We have a slide that you can shout anyone out. It’s just a great way to start the day and connect with the team. We do it at 11:00 Central Time but … So for Eastern, it’s like middle of the day. For California, it’s beginning of the day. So that’s the one weird thing. But it’s a great way to connect with the team. It allows me to shout team members out that didn’t even know I recognized them because, for example, my ads managers don’t report to me so they don’t know if I see things or hear things that are cool that they’re doing. So it allows me to bring those really specific shout-outs to the team, and then the team to shout each other out. It just feels really good. It really connects and bonds people and makes them feel appreciated. So we’ve been doing a daily huddle for the last almost two years, and it’s the best thing. Our team loves it. It’s a great way to bring the team together. Like I said, it’s 10 to 15 minutes every day. It’s super fast, but very, very effective.

And we require everybody to show up on video. You have to be there every day. If you are an employee, you have to be on the huddle every single day on time and you have to be on video, present with the team. That’s a requirement we have because otherwise it’s really hard to connect if you’re not on video. So with that, we use Zoom, and I highly recommend you use something like that and you require people on video, because it’s just a different level of connection when you can see them, like the closest you could get to being in person versus being just audio or over the phone with people. It’s just different.

So daily huddle. And then what other check-ins do we have? A lot of people ask me this. They say like, “How do you know your team is getting work done? How do you know they’re doing a good job? How do you know that they’re getting support?” And here’s like, the two ways that I know, and this is the two things that I want to bring up.

One, we have such clear expectations. So every person is responsible for results, basically. So our ads managers are responsible for our client’s results, and our client’s results can be measured in satisfaction or their actual ad results and the profit. So those things are heavily tracked. We send satisfaction surveys. We reach out and communicate with clients, if they’re satisfied. We have weekly reports. We know if any client is in negative ROI. So those things are tracked. So, no ad manager, which is a massive bulk, I have 9 ads managers out of my 22 employees, can not do their job because it would be obvious to us immediately. We’d be hearing from clients. We would have negative results. We’d see it every day. So it would be immediate that I would know that.

My internal team, so everybody else who’s not client facing, has exact responsibilities and results tied to their role every week. Every week we have what we call our weekly commitments, and those tie into our monthly goals that we set as a company. If your department or your tasks, it’s … I don’t want to say tasks because it’s not like I’m assigning all these tasks. It’s really important that my team creates their tasks based on an end result of a whole project being completed or us achieving a metric like increasing our podcast following. I’m not the one delegating all the tasks. I’m delegating end result projects that I want and then they are doing the tasks. But if we’re not making progress on those projects or progress on those goals, it’s very obvious if somebody’s not doing their job. There’s no way to get around that.

So I think one of the biggest fears is, “Well, if they’re not in an office, I can’t watch them work.” I’ve never felt that way because they’re just held accountable. It’s not possible for that to happen and the way it is, because we have massive systems connected to our people getting their work done. We’re measuring results, and we’re measuring progress. That will be crucial in an online team. And it might take you a little bit of time to get it all figured out and in place, but it’s critical.

The second way we know when we connect is doing check-in calls. So this is really important. Anybody with their direct report is checking in usually two times a week minimum, if they’ve been here for a long time. Two times a week they have a 30-minute check-in call with their manager. The person checking in with their manager runs the call. So if it’s an ads manager checking in with a senior strategist, the ads manager is running the call. The ads manager is coming to the call saying, “Here’s my updates. Here’s where I need help. Here’s where I have questions,” and the senior strategist is providing support and feedback. Same thing with me. My direct reports, they run the call, and I have two weekly check-ins, 30 minutes with them.

Now, if it’s a new team member in their first 90 days, they have more check-ins. They start with daily for the first two weeks. Then they go down to three times a week, and then they go to two times a week. These check-ins make all the difference. It leaves no room for confusion about their expectations in their role, about their tasks, about the projects, about anything, and it also creates that relationship with their manager. So it creates that direct feedback relationship where both can give feedback and builds that, but also keeps them highly accountable for their role. But not just accountable, also clear about what expectations are. Because I think a lot of times … Maybe it’s not even if you’re just virtual but in general. In companies, an employee might think they’re doing a good job. And unless they’re getting feedback from their manager about expectations and results and if they really are performing or what they could do better, they don’t know. So it’s so important that you build process around giving that feedback. So the check-ins are huge.

Then, the other thing we do is a monthly self-assessment. This is also an Alex Charfen, part of his system where the team member is going to their manager with a self-assessment and telling them basically how they think they’re doing, where they struggled in the last month, what their goals are for the next month, and it’s also space for the manager to give feedback to that person that they’re managing. Then, we also ask for that person to give feedback to their manager. So it’s just a great open conversation to be like, “Hey, it would’ve been really helpful if you did this differently for me in the last 30 days,” or, “It would’ve been great if … I felt really stuck here,” or, “I struggled with this,” or, “I’m having trouble with my work-life balance.” Whatever it is, it just opens the door for that communication because communication is everything.

All of those are on Zoom. Video is required. So our team ends up very connected because they’re on these video chats. They have each other. We have our daily huddle. And with these processes, I never have to worry about my team finishing their work. I literally never worry that, because I will know immediately if that’s ever happened.

So those are my tips to how to run your team online. There’s not like a massive secret, like you have to master all these tools and then you can do it. Yes, there’s some tech involved, obviously, and you’ll get it if you haven’t done that. But I think people’s bigger concerns is the online [space] I know can feel like it’s in this cloud. And how do I know if people are doing stuff? Where do I see their work being completed? I don’t have actual files. And it does take getting used to. I definitely grew up in … I’m young, and I grew up in the tech world, so it’s easy for me, but it’s possible. With the right process, and the right systems, and the right accountability, and connection you can create on your team, it’s absolutely possible to run a successful virtual team.

The last thing I’ll say that’s so crucial is, if you’re working from home, make sure to separate working with family time. I work in my office, and then at 4:00 I shut things down, and I go spend time with my family. Now, that looks a little different right now with a newborn, but that’s my normal schedule. I leave my phone, my computer, all of my office, and I go hang out with my family. And that is one of the hardest parts about doing this for me, is separating that, because I could bring my phone and I could keep working until 7:00. I’ve also minimized all apps on my phone. I don’t have email, I don’t have Facebook or Instagram, Slack. I only have Voxer. That’s the only way. So make sure to have those strict boundaries with how you separate your work and your family time.

Have a routine, like these are the hours I work. I get up. I plan my day. Keep it structured because you’ll be so much more successful and productive. And I think that’s probably one of the biggest struggles I’ve had and had to put a lot of routine and structure… And I’m constantly kind of coming back and improving, especially my unplugging and transitioning from work brain to mom brain, all the time.

So hopefully this was helpful for you guys. If you have any other specific questions about running your company virtually or online, feel free to send me a message on Instagram @EmilyHirsh or you can reply to the podcast email to our team, or comment, whatever. I’d love to support you, and I’m excited to see how this all plays out for our world. I will see you guys all on the next episode.