How we Accidentally Became a Remote Team

We never meant to become a remote company.

In fact, when we started Continu, we intended to be a San Francisco based startup. In the early days of the business, that’s what made sense. Our customer base, investors, and the talent we needed were all in the Bay Area. We wanted to build our company there.

Other tech companies did it, so we figured we’d do it, too.

It wasn’t until we hired our first few team members that we realized just how difficult that was going to be. Two of our early employees were poached away by companies offering more pay and free lunches and other perks we as a young company couldn’t offer.

Hiring and retaining employees is extremely difficult in the Bay Area. San Francisco has the fifth-highest cost of living in the world, so employees need to be highly paid to afford even basic necessities. Well-funded competitors are always on the lookout for new talent, and they offer above-market rates and lots of perks. Startups just can’t compete.

If you’re able to recruit top talent in San Francisco, you have to be ready to defend your employees from aggressive headhunting. It’s expensive and very time-consuming.

So we thought we’d try an experiment.

We opened our hiring to people outside of the Bay Area. We brought on our first remote team members. And we realized that there are actually a lot of great reasons to run a worldwide team.

We’ve seen great advantages in:

  • Talent / education
  • Salary value
  • Diversity of thought
  • Cost of recruitment

And the potential disadvantages of being spread out all over the world are mitigated by the great tools we have at our disposal.

Let’s look at talent and education, for example. When you’re in the Bay Area, it’s easy to think that you have access to the most talented people in the world. And San Francisco does indeed attract a lot of great talent.

But there are a lot of other people out there whose skills are just as sharp. India has long been a source of tech employees, but the Philippines, Germany, Russia, Canada, Australia, Armenia, and many other countries are starting to develop reputations for high-value talent.

There are amazing schools outside of the Bay Area that are providing world-class education in the fields we hire for. Their graduates, despite not living in the tech capital of the world, are some of the most talented tech employees around. They’re passionate about what they do, and that’s one of our highest hiring priorities.

Because tech jobs aren’t as plentiful in many places outside of San Francisco, the applicants we get are highly driven—they’re hungry for a job in tech, and they’re seeking out opportunities that fit their skill sets. These are exactly the kinds of people we want to hire.

And it’s much easier to pay people when they don’t live in the Bay Area. Paying employees based on the cost of living in their location gives us much more value for our money. We get great talent and save money, while our employees are well-compensated based on where they live. Everyone’s happy.

Having people from a wide array of places around the globe also has benefits. We have a great diversity of thought on our team. Everyone brings a unique perspective, and we challenge each other on our ingrained thought processes. We’re all solving the same problem, but everyone’s experience with it is different, and that’s led to a much stronger team.

In his great article about building a diverse company, Jeff Haden points out that companies with diverse workforces are 45% more likely to report an annual growth in market share. Building a team with members all over the world is possibly the best way to add diversity.

Instead of being stuck in the San Francisco bubble (sorry, SF, but it’s true), we have a great diversity of perspectives that has helped us build a great team and a great product.

Of course, such a highly dispersed group needs to stay in communication to succeed. It’s one of the biggest difficulties of remote work: different time zones, schedules, work styles, and communication habits mean we need to leverage technology to stay in touch.

Fortunately, with remote work on the rise, there’s a huge number of great tools available for working with our remote team. We use Trello to organize our content calendar, Slack for daily chatting, Zoom for daily video calls and standups, Jira for development planning, and—of course—Continu for onboarding, continued learning, and central information storage.

We’re never out of communication, no matter where we are. It used to be that remote team members felt disconnected. But with all the tools we use to stay in touch, that’s not something we have to worry about—even when our team members are spread across several different countries.

And because remote work is so appealing to employees, we have a steady stream of applicants coming to us. It’s not uncommon for us to get more than 1,000 applications through our Careers page every month.

80% to 90% of of the US workforce would like to work remotely at least part-time. But only 7% of employers make remote work available to most of their employees.

By being one of the few that not only offers, but encourages, remote work, we get access to a huge talent pool with almost no effort on our part. And that makes our cost of recruitment very low.

Remote work is the future, and we want to be on the forefront of it.

As a fully remote team, we’re offering something that not many employers have, but that almost every employee wants. Combine that with cost savings, and you have a solid foundation for a company. It’s not often that you can say that as a tech startup.

Since going remote, we haven’t looked back. We now have employees in five different time zones, and we continue to hire people around the globe.

Even though it didn’t feel like it at the time, building a remote team is the best thing that could have happened to our company. It’s enabled to us bring on some of the smartest people we’ve ever met, even though they live on different continents. And their varied perspectives have helped us expand our own view on the world and solutions to the problem we set out to fix.

Remote work makes us a stronger, more effective team.

 

If you’re interested in working with us, be sure to check out our Careers page!

Scott Burgess
Scott is the Founder and CEO of Continu. He's passionate about building products that help people work better, together.