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Do You Really Need An Office?

Here are my thoughts on if having an office is even worth it in 2018!

Summary

In this episode of eCommerce Lifestyle, Anton ponders whether an office is really needed and how he is able to find better talent to fit his needs by expanding his search and going remote.

Some Highlights:

  • Anton starting Drop Ship Lifestyle in 2013 and relied on a remote-based business approach, but about three years ago he decide to open an office and try the traditional style.

  • He found it much harder to find the exact right fits for jobs. People would have the right experience, but it was hard to find the right fit.

  • It made it even harder as the search was narrowed down to such a smaller pool (Austin) than he was used to (the world).

  • As he opened up more positions to be remote-based, he noticed that setting expectations, KPIs and other goals gave a clear view of how people were performing.

  • These remote-based employees were actually getting up-to-speed quicker than ones trained in the office.

  • Starting when the office lease ends, Anton intends to go back to a remote-based model and have his team meet up once a quarter for a week to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Transcripts

    What's up, everybody? Anton Kraly here from ecommercelifestyle.com and welcome to another episode of the podcast, another early one as I drive into the office on a Tuesday morning. Yeah, it's funny that usually when I record this is at the time that I'm driving in or sometimes when I'm driving home. We've been based out here in Austin in Texas for, I'm terrible with time, but I want to say about two and a half years now. The reason it's strange that I'm recording this on the way to or from the office is because once again, I am debating and wrestling with the whole remote vs. in house type thing, right?

    Do you need an office, and specifically, do we need an office where we want the team to work, where we hire from, where we bring people to? Or should this whole thing just be remote, kind of like how I've done things for the majority of the past 12 years that I've been in business? To give you a little context or backstory, Drop Ship Lifestyle, which is what most people online know me from, that's my online training course and e-commerce basically software and live events and whatnot, I started that company in 2013. For the first maybe three years, it was nothing but me just posting videos and just making content that helps people with e-commerce.

    So, that, there was no need to ever think about building a team for or being in house or being remote because it was me and I could be wherever I wanted. Back since 2007 when I got into e-commerce, that had always been remote as well. Everybody I worked with, regardless of how many stores I was building, regardless of how many people on the phone I had and how many virtual assistants I had, keyword being virtual, same thing. It was always remote. But a couple years ago, maybe three years ago now, actually a few years ago, I was really thinking hard about where we were at with our businesses and what I saw as the next level.

    In my mind, to get to the next level, what we needed to do was relocate back to the States from, at that point, I was living in Vietnam. We actually had a small office out in Vietnam, but very, very informal. We literally rented out a coffee shop that had went out of business and the team would work from there. But then I thought, "You know what? We're going to come back to the States," chose Austin, Texas as the location. Then the goal is bring people in, get experts in all different fields, people that know more about specific things than I do, whether that be Google ads or Facebook ads or conversion optimization or selling and whatever it is and just try to get the best of the best, bring them to one place that we could work from, that we could grow from, and that we could reach that next level from.

    That place is our office, our headquarters out here in Austin. Now, the experience of growing this office and bringing people on has been not at all what I thought it would be. These are things that I'm not sure if I've ever talked about before on the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast, but things you might have heard me reference on my YouTube show that's called Drop Ship Weekly. Maybe you've, I don't know, heard me talk about them at events. Maybe we've even had a private conversation about it.

    But learned the hard way that just because someone has experience, and sometimes a lot of experience, with a different skillset doesn't mean it's going to translate into what we do, it doesn't mean it's going to work for our company, and doesn't mean that their experience is always doing things the right way or the ethical way or the things that, again, make sense for our businesses. Anton Kraly: So, what I thought or what I expected originally setting up our HQ was that, yeah, we bring in these people and not everybody would click, but I assumed most people would click pretty early on, and we would reach these goals with no problem at all, just breeze through it and business as usual because now I have this powerhouse behind me, right? Again, what happened is I brought people on. Some of them, I feel like we invested even too much time into training where they weren't just passionate about what it is we do and what it is we're trying to do. Some of them just didn't seem to really care enough.

    Some of them just saw it as, "Okay, I'm getting a paycheck and all is well." So, really no effort, no passion, nothing above and beyond. Some of them worked out great, right? So, we've had it all over the spectrum. But at the end of the day, what I thought would happen by being together, by being in house, by sourcing talent in Austin, Texas, which is, if you Google online, you'll see it's a big tech space. There's a lot of different startup companies here. There's a lot of talent here. But what I realized is it's not as easy as just having a cool company to work for with good benefits and you're going to have all these amazing people that stand out and come to you.

    So, that brings me to where we are now with people that have come within the company, some people, unfortunately, I've had to let go, and with what we've done to replace them to reach those goals that I was talking about earlier on in this episode. So, basically after posting so many different jobs and interviewing so many people, what ended up happening over these years is that we've ended up finding a lot of our talent a lot of our team from basically places that aren't Austin.

    Now, the way it works with a traditional big corporation is if they want to hire somebody to come and work in their office, in their headquarters and that person isn't from their state or their country, they pay to relocate them and their family and it's this whole big thing. But my thought process, again, was based on some of these experience I've had with bringing on "experts" is I don't want to invest money into that to have someone come onboard where six months later, we just realize it's not going to work. So, what we've been doing is setting people up remote, going back to what I've always done.

    What's been happening is the people that excel really are identifiable much, much faster than I would say even someone in the office. I think the main reason for that is because when someone is remote, if you have things in place like expectations that you talk about in advance, if you have KPIs, different key performance indicators that the people know they're supposed to hit, then it's very clear to see how they're performing in their role and how they're executing.

    What's really, again, a good thing about remote, now I'm making the case for exactly what I didn't want to do, is that the people that you can work with and that you could bring on the team, it really opens up your talent pool so much because again, when I'm posting jobs on ZipRecruiter and on LinkedIn and they're in Austin, I'm targeting a very small set of people that have the skills that I need, which are very high level skills, and that are in Austin either looking for another job right now because maybe they're not happy or whatever, or maybe they got laid off or fired, which normally isn't the best sign in the world when you're trying to bring on experts on your team if someone just let them go.

    So, now instead of that, we've been basically targeting the world. So, a lot of our new team that's come on is not just from Austin. Some of them are in different parts of the States. Some of them are from Texas, but two hours away. Some of them are from the other side of the world. Again, I don't want to say I hate to say it because I do think everything's a learning experience and needed to go through this to reinforce what I used to do, but a lot of the new team that we're bringing on is outperforming, again, "experts" that were getting paid premiums that just weren't showing up in the sense of doing what we needed to do to grow.

    So, I think where we're at now, and again, the point of this episode, if you learn anything from it, I always try to share a lesson, I think the main lesson is the grass is always greener and you don't have to be in house in an office. But where we're at now, I had a meeting with our team in house yesterday, which right now, we have, I think it's exactly 10 full-time staff. Out of the 10 full-time, we have between four and five of us in the office. Then we have, the rest are remote, some in the States, some overseas. Then we have another four that are part-time, one in the office and then three that are overseas.

    So, we have 14 people on the team total now. Again, the percentage of people in the office vs. distributed is just going more and more distributed and it's because we're getting better applications, we're getting better talent, and honestly, we're getting better results. The company is growing faster than when I tried to do it the traditional way. So, yeah. If you've had that in your head, should I get the office, should I go remote, just know that it's not just going to be a game changer. Just because you have an office and even if just because you're in a big city, it doesn't mean that things are just going to grow.

    For us, actually, what it led to was revenue did grow. But net margin stayed flat because we were investing so much in new people and training them, whereas now, we're still investing in new people and training them. Revenue is growing, but so is profit because people are getting up to speed faster and we're getting more done in less time. So, yeah. I think what we're going to do now, and again, what I'd spoke with the team about yesterday, is probably starting in the new year is we are going to, once our lease runs up, we're going to switch to where we have what's primarily a warehouse for my new e-commerce brand.

    That warehouse is going to be staffed by someone that's a warehouse manager. Then there's going to be a small office section of that warehouse. But as a team, for everybody that does our advertising, our marketing, our sales, our project management, our graphic design, our support, literally all those people, our business, we're going to be remote, we're going to be distributed, and we're going to do quarterly meetings once a quarter for one week where we work together in the office.

    So, if someone on our team that does content management, if they want to move from Austin to Belize, go for it. Just be back for the week a quarter where we're in the office, we review the previous quarter's goals and targets, set plans for the next quarter. Then our normal meetings now that we do on Mondays and Thursdays, instead of doing them in our conference room, we'll be doing them primarily via Zoom with screen shares and cameras so that we could still connect. We're still going to be talking. But yeah.

    I think we're going back to where we'll have an office, but I'm no longer being stubborn about it because I was being stubborn for a while with the hiring process. There's got to be these people in Austin. There's got to be some of the best. We got to find them. I know they're out there. It's just been so much time and effort trying to find them that now, I'm getting over my stubbornness and opening up our talent pool back to the world, I think. So, just wanted to share that because it's been a journey for sure. It's been something that was unexpected, but it's something that I'm excited about, I'm happy about, and I'm confident with moving forward.

    So, yeah. That's what I'm up to today, guys. Just wanted to share it. Let me know your thoughts on remote vs. in house working together in an office. As always, you could find this episode and all of the podcast episodes at ecommercelifestyle.com. Just go there and then click Episodes in the top menu. It'll take you to the full directory, and yeah, you can leave a comment, let me know what you think and what you prefer. So, let me know over there and I'll talk to you all soon in the next episode of eCommerce Lifestyle. Thank you, everybody.

  • Anton says:

    What do you think? Does anyone really need an office in 2018?

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