In a startup, we spend a lot of time debating over non important things and battling dogmas from the past. If you talk to entrepreneurs, you can find that we all share a set of common stories: the sales guy story, the payroll story and there is the OFFICE story :)
Establishing physical offices and implementing relocation policies are some of those well-established stigmas that we spend a lot of time debating upon. Because of tradition, we tend to place the advantages of co-location and daily in-person communication over what really matters in a startup: productivity, passion, talent.
Over the years, I’ve been extremely blunt on my opinion about this topic. From my standpoint, offices are a necessary element of a company that rewards presence over productivity. As entrepreneurs, we need to embrace the fact that we live in a global world with massive pools of global talent. We should not only embrace it but be thankful for the fact that we are in one of the few industries (technology) that can take advantage of this fact. Talent is not directly tied to a particular geography; it does not acknowledge a language, race or religion. Building the infrastructure in your company to effectively embrace global talent is one of the most productive things you can do in the early stages of a startup.
With both Tellago and Tellago Studios, we went over several iterations of this argument, until we decided to only establish physical offices after having proven metrics that it will benefit the productivity of the team. Companies that establish strict policies about hiring engineers in a specific location, asking them to relocate or requiring them to go to an office every day are, by definition, neglecting 90% of the available talent pool.
As a startup founder, you should obsess about the aspects that will make your company successful such as productivity, talent and passion. Finding and nurturing the best talent and providing the conditions on which it can flourish its a monumental task. At Tellago Studios and Tellago, I’ve been blessed with a fantastic team that has helped navigate those waters effectively. While building a globally distributed team you should obsess with providing your team with the ideal conditions to be more productive. Some people are more productive in an office environment while others do their best work when they can focus at home; some people prefer to start working early in the morning while others are more productive in late evenings. Although painful, those factors are irrelevant as long as they contribute positively to the bigger goal of building a great product and a killer company.
Despite the benefits of building a distribute team, you should be aware is a painful task. Having the flexibility of working from different geographic locations, not having to relocate or even go to an office is a great benefit to your employees but it puts a lot of pressure in the management team. As a startup CEO, it is your job to bridge the cultural differences and communication gaps in your team, establishing effective working procedures that driving people with different perspective of the world to execute towards a common goal. I spent more time talking to people that I would ever have to if the entire team was in the same location.
As a founder, my advice to you is to grow your team based on the best talent and passion and establish great conditions for your team to be happy and productive. Sometimes having physical offices will help you achieve that goal and sometimes will become an unnecessary distraction.
More about this in a future post….