LKR Social Media is an online university for social media marketing. Founder Laura Roeder grew LKR Social Media from nothing to over a million dollars in revenue, and she did it with a 100% virtual team. By overcoming the challenges of remote work, she's turned her distributed team into a competitive advantage, empowering to focus 100% on building a great team regardless of location.
Conquering the distributed teams' communication challenges
Building a business from scratch is a huge challenge and doing it with a virtual team is even tougher. The interaction and information exchange that happens when people work in the same room often get taken for granted. It’s something that’s tricky to replicate when the team is straddled across different locations and timezones.
Laura has overcome the biggest day-to-day operational challenge of remote working--communication — by being deliberate and thoughtful about cultivating a tight-knit culture when you rarely talk face-to-face with your co-workers.
When a team works virtually, it loses the power of shared physical space. A co-located team might have an office area, a kitchen, a conference room, a lounge, and so on — all different kinds of physical spaces that catalyze varied kinds of employee communication and interaction, precisely the kind that's often taken for granted.
Laura found her solution in technology. Each tech tool she chose to have the company use became a different kind of technological conversation channel. At LKR Social Media, they use Yammer, Google Chat, FreeConferenceCall.com, Skype, a wiki, Google Docs, and iDoneThis. Yammer is for heads up information and watercooler postings, Skype is for face time, and FreeConferenceCall.com is to interface with clients and partners.
Over the course of running a virtual company, Laura discovered that a specific type of communication was extremely important, what she called a daily “What I did today" communication". The problem was that Laura would have to comb through other systems and ask each team member individually for the most basic recap of the team’s day. Otherwise, it wasn't easy to see at a glance what was getting done by the team in Seattle, New Jersey, San Diego, the Philippines, Los Angeles and New York City.
iDoneThis made her "What I did today" emails incredibly simple and painless for her and her team. Laura wouldn't have to ask her team to send her a daily recap, iDoneThis would take care of that with a daily evening email reminder. All her team had to do was reply. The next day, the whole team would get an email digest with everyone's accomplishments from yesterday.
Keeping customer service in the loop on what product is doing
iDoneThis may have made its greatest positive impact for Myreen, the team’s head of customer service. On many teams, customer service is detached from what's happening with the changes and updates happening to the product. That can make their customer service ineffective and out of date.
With iDoneThis, Myreen knows exactly what changes and updates are happening. She has one email and one place to look when she receives questions about updates to their services.
A "What I did today" email that people actually send
Before iDoneThis, when Laura asked for a daily "What I did today" email, she found that it was very difficult to get people to do it. With a lot going on, it’s easy to forget to send an email update.
Also, the updates her team sent weren’t aggregated in any one place but scattered in her already-messy inbox. In addition, working remotely, it’s often hard to know when your day is over. People put off writing their email update until the end of the day, but without knowing exactly when that will be, it’s often forgotten.
Laura’s team went from sparse email updates to a daily celebration of the team’s dones using iDoneThis. The team no longer had to remember to send the email — all they had to reply to iDoneThis’s email when it showed up in the inbox, and then they could add to that list with anything else later. It worked as an outside force, and it also made it easy to write down the message. The next morning, everyone’s dones show up in their inbox, collected in one easy place.
Although it's simple, Laura has found that her daily "What I did today" email has been absolutely vital for creating a company culture in which individual employees feel empowered with the autonomy to get stuff done. Do your own thing, and actively communicate it to the team.