Remote Work At Jungle Scout
* As of February 2020
Jungle Scout Remote Company Q&A
Greg Mercer, Founder and CEO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We provide tools to help Amazon sellers launch, grow, and scale their businesses!
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
Before Jungle Scout, I was able to replace my income with my ecommerce business, and my wife and I actually left the U.S. to travel the world. Then we started Jungle Scout and since we were already living the lifestyle, the business was developed to have a distributed team. It’s been the start of our culture from the beginning.
How important is remote work to your business model?
It has been a key component from day one as a 100 percent remote company, and it’s something that is built into our company culture. It’s important because the whole team has the same opportunities. Some people prefer to stay in one location with their families and others hit the nomad trail, but we all make it work for us and as a result we’re a happy and productive team.`
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Being able to hire people from all walks of life and from all over the world definitely brings a worldly balance to the team and this is a huge benefit. For me, the biggest benefit is that giving people the autonomy to manage their work and life commitments makes for a happy, engaged, and fulfilled team.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
It is a lifestyle I am passionate about, and my wife and I have lived this lifestyle for about two years now. Just when I was building Jungle Scout was also when I decided to make this lifestyle decision for myself, and because of that it felt natural to build a remote team.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
There is a difference between the remote worker who is looking to drink Mai Tais in Ko Samui while working four hours/week on the beach and the person who is highly driven, looking to become a master at their skill set, and loves to see the company grow. We shy away from the worker looking to travel first, and if they have time, do some work. We want people who believe the old-school office is unproductive and want to leverage this new way of work to become more effective, happier, learn faster, and as a result, cause the company to thrive.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We always set up video interviews with candidates and take the time to speak with them “in person.” This seems to work just as well as in-person interviews, and if anything, it helps to enforce our remote culture. We rely on video calls as part of our daily and weekly communication, so we need to ensure this is something people are comfortable with at the interview stage.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We build quite a lot of content about our remote culture with videos, photography, and sharing our processes. It’s made clear on our jobs page that we are a remote company and boast all of the perks. On top of that, we often advertise open roles on websites such as Remote.co to attract an audience of professionals who are seeking a remote position. During the interview process we speak to candidates about whether they have worked remotely previously, or why they are looking to work remotely. The main thing we look for is candidates who can show us how and why they work well in an autonomous environment.
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
We only hire remote workers, so the process can be a little longer sometimes. We are OK with this as it means we ensure that we are making the right hiring decisions. We require everyone to submit an entry video, instead of a resume, and we hold one-on-one video interviews. Usually, we will set successful candidates some fun tasks (whilst paying for their time) or give them a trial period.
Do you organize remote team retreats?
Yes we sure do! Jungle Camps twice yearly. It is a great way to meet, work, and grow together. It is also a time when we really get to know each other and let our hair down too.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
We have a hub of team members based in Vancouver who work together frequently. Outside of that, the rest comes naturally. Outside of our Jungle Camp retreats, many of the team members travel and end up spending time in the same country during parts of the year. People take the opportunity to meet up and work together whenever this happens. It’s not required, but we’re a close-knit team that enjoys spending time together so we take the opportunity where possible.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Open and honest communication at all times, with frequent video calls.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
Unlimited paid vacation. Many team members travel and work on the go, mixing the two. But we wholeheartedly encourage and support all team members to take real time off and get some downtime, too.
What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?
My biggest fear was probably that everyone was just going to goof off and not get any work done with little oversight. This has been far from true. We’re a very performance-based company, not an hours-at-the-keyboard-based company, and I think this has helped. At the end of the day, I could care less how many hours you’re working if you’re producing high-quality work equivalent to full-time work. Looking back, the funniest part is I used to goof off 35 hours/week when I worked at the desk next to my boss at my corporate job. That probably wouldn’t of happened if he would have judged me based on my performance.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
It was a decision I made early on and decided to roll with it. I was already living the lifestyle when I started Jungle Scout so it just naturally worked out that way.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
Of course. I would argue that having a team that feels fulfilled in their work and personal life provides the best company culture. It also naturally removes some of the negative things that you sometimes see in the corporate world, like office politics. People just really enjoy working together and spending time with each other. I believe if you have a strong hiring process then your team will naturally gel to form a very healthy company culture.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Ensure that developing a strong remote culture is at the heart of everything you do and lead by example. Always be encouraging and open when it comes to communication and never stop pushing to make improvements to your remote workflow. Most of all, for fully remote teams, it’s so important to have a really well-thought-out hiring process, and ensure that you are hiring the smartest, self-motivated employees who are a good cultural fit.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We rely on tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Trello to communicate and plan our daily work commitments. I’m not saying we are perfect and have everything figured out—we’re always looking for ways to improve our communications and workflow—but the key to our success is building strong communication using the available tools.
How does your team address different time zone challenges?
This is likely the largest challenge we face as a remote company. I don’t like making people stay up late or get up super early to attend meetings, however, as the team gets fairly large with team members literally all around the world, it’s almost impossible not to. We’ve decided that the company “operates” on the North/South America time zones so if you decide to live elsewhere in the world, you have to be the one staying up late or getting up early. That being said, we try to accommodate everyone the best possible. A nifty free tool we found for collaborating between lots of time zones is worldtimebuddy.com. That makes it a lot easier to find a time that should work for everyone.
What are the biggest benefits of being a remote worker?
The continued personal growth, alongside professional growth. You get to live an amazing life – whatever that means to you.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
In the beginning I used to work a lot. Too much—past the point of being productive. Now I a maintain a good schedule. I always try to wake up before 7 a.m. Then I do a workout, eat breakfast, and head to a coworking space in whatever city I am in. I usually work from about 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. with a lunch break thrown in there. I also made the rule (OK, maybe more like a loose guideline) that I don’t work after dinner—I try and make a point to separate the evenings from work. Having good habits like this come in handy, and sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan, but for the most part it keeps a strong work-life balance.
What tips do you have to disconnect when working remotely?
Develop good habits and remember that it’s OK to switch off sometimes. Also if you’re stuck on something or you have worked too many hours, it’s unlikely that you are being productive. You have the opportunity to go and do something else, clear your mind, and then try again. I think those are things that should apply to anyone in their work, remote or not.
What is your favorite business book?
Easy pick. Rework by Jason Fried.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
Just to get going! I used to have all these excuses of why I could not start and now I know if I can do it, you can too!