Slack: The New Corporate Headquarters?

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By Todd Garland

When you're building a business, you can have the greatest idea, the greatest plan, or even the greatest product out there. But without the right team, you won't be able to create a sustainable business. There's been a lot of debate over what "the right people" means, but not nearly enough debate about how to best surround yourself with them. Your team doesn't necessarily have to physically be around you. In fact, today's teams can collaborate from all around the globe. With software such as Slack, Dropbox, and even G Suite, hiring the best people is no longer limited to hiring from the geographical area near your office. In fact, in my experience, filtering candidates for geography can be detrimental to hiring the best people for the job. To give your business the best chance at thriving, hire for skill, not location. And then give your remote team the tools needed to effectively do their job.

In the early stages of a startup, team members wear many hats, so your main hiring priority might end up being work ethic. But as the business grows, individual roles solidify and it becomes much more important to have a team with talent as well as drive. 

Hiring the right people for a specific role can be difficult (lengthy processes are common) when you're limiting your search to those geographically close to your offices. By utilizing a remote workforce, your business opens up your hiring options to literally the entire world. Our company is "based" in Boston, but our workforce is spread out all over the world, and each member of the team is indispensable. Boston has great people, but if we kept our employment options limited to this area of the city (let alone the country or globe), we wouldn't have our current all-star team and might not be achieving the current level of success. Anyone in the world can see an online job posting, so a remote workforce enables you to pick much better applicants from a much larger pool.  

Working remotely also forces employees to foster new skills. In a study explained by Harvard Business Review, a Chinese travel website gave its call center employees the option to work from home for nine months. The employees who worked from home were not only "happier and less likely to quit, but also more productive." It makes sense that eliminating a commute makes people happier, especially since longer commutes are proven to be bad for your health, but increased productivity is a huge benefit to businesses. When people can work remotely, they feel more comfortable, which in turn makes them feel more attached to the work they're doing. The work becomes about completing a task instead of doing something in the office for "X" amount of hours.

To get the full benefits of a remote workforce, however, you have to provide your workers with the right infrastructure. If you have the most talented product team in the world but they can't all collaborate in one place, you're not going to get the best work from them. Fortunately, today there are more tools available for empowering remote workers, many of which companies use even when they're primarily office-based.

Slack is a great tool for community conversations and can serve as both a team forum or a private chat platform for quick and informal communications. Dedicate specific channels to serious communications and others to more informal discussions. Having a "random" channel is always good for team camaraderie. It's also important to have a tool for video conferencing. There are a number of software solutions for video conferencing, such as join.me, GoToMeeting, or Google Hangout. Create a central location for files that can be accessed by everyone, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. For teams that program and code, use GitHub or Assembla to centralize project management while reaping the benefits of agile development.

The fact is that skills are not geographically-dependent, and finding the right members for your team is something you have to do if you want your business to succeed. You don't have to devote thousands of dollars in relocations fees to attract the best talent, you just have to establish an environment that supports remote workers so you can hire based on skill, not location.

Todd Garland is the founder of online advertising company BuySellAds.