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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #61
A special gift for you in celebration of EOH's first year
I was looking through my Entrepreneur Office Hours archives and realized I sent the first issue on October 28, 2021. That means I’ve been doing this for over a year. How crazy is that? I guess time flies when you’re… umm… constantly churning out startup advice articles. Or something like that.
Regardless, in order to celebrate Year #1, I’ve put together a little present for all of you: Entrepreneur Office Hours is adding video!
As subscribers to EOH, you get a free first look at my first EOH video lesson. (Technically, you’ll need to provide an email address, but, since you’re reading my email newsletter, presumably sharing your email shouldn’t be a big deal.) In return, you’ll have access to my online course: Will This Actually Work: How To Tell If Your Startup Idea… Sucks!
If I’m being honest, the course actually has nothing to do with the one year anniversary of EOH. The timing is just coincidental. Instead, I’ve been wanting to experiment with ways of turning some of my more popular lectures into online classes, so that’s what you’re getting. I’d love your feedback in order to know if it’s worth creating more, so take a watch, and let me know what you think.
Oh… and enjoy this anniversary issue of EOH. If you like it, you know what to do next…
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Office Hours Q&A
Curios to get your take. As companies debate whether or not to go back into the office post-COVID, what do you think about remote work? Especially for early/small startups. Good thing or bad thing?
I run a small startup (less than 10 people), and I feel like a startup as small as mine really benefits from face-to-face interactions. My co-founder disagrees, and we can’t decide what to do next, particularly in terms of whether or not it’d be OK to hire remotely.
Before moving into my current position teaching at Duke, I would say somewhere around 50% of my work experience has involved operating remotely with small teams.
It definitely has its benefits. The biggest one -- if you’re an operator -- is costs. Simply put, office space is expensive (even small office space), and it’s a lot cheaper to have your team working from home with the occasional coffee shop team meetup.
However, personally, I really hate remote work, and I think it’s a dangerous choice for small teams. But the reason I hate it probably isn’t what you think.
When most people debate the potential pros and cons of remote work, they focus on productivity. They want to know: “Are people getting more done remotely or in-person.” That’s the wrong question for small startup teams. Presumably/ideally, everyone on a small startup team is constantly busting their butts because… well… those are the kinds of people who join small startups. As a result, productivity itself isn’t the issue.
Instead, the problem with small, remote startup teams is actually a byproduct of how hard people are working. Specifically, my remote teams struggled with a sense of feeling like other people weren’t pulling their proverbial weight, even if they were.
For example, let’s say I’m constantly working 14 hour days and barely feel like I’m keeping up with all the things I have to do. Chances are my other team members are in the same position (#StartupLife). However, because we’re not working in the same physical space, I can’t see that my teammates are working 14 hour days. And, because they’ve also got tons to do and can’t keep up, they’re not getting things done I expect them to have done. As a result, I might start to feel like I’m the only one doing any work, and I might start getting resentful.
In my small, remote companies, this happened more than I care to admit. I often found myself having to intercede between squabbling teammates who felt like other people weren’t working hard enough.
And, let’s be honest, sometimes I was mad at other people because I personally felt like they weren’t working as hard as me (even though, in retrospect, I’m sure they were).
The solutions we tried were substandard at best. The one I was sure would work (but didn’t) was buying everyone iPad minis that could always be streaming Google Hangouts so we could see each other at our desks. That turned out to be creepy and annoying.
The solution we settled on was a clunky combination of Slack, Trello, and daily reporting tasks that mostly just felt like they created more work.
Anyway… the point is remote teams can function effectively, but I’m not convinced they’re great for very small, very early startups. Those kinds of new companies require so much time and effort to be successful that being physically with your team is often critical. If you can safely and responsibly operate in-person, I’d vote for that.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!