Speak Remote Company Q&A
Tom Moor, Co-Founder - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Speak is a team communication tool. We pride ourselves on being the simplest and fastest way to get an audio and video connection with your colleagues by integrating into your desktop and making them just a click away.
We are particularly focused on remote teams and how we can recreate the social and collaborative benefits of the office in a digital domain. We’ve also designed Speak to work in harmony with your team chat software such as Hipchat or Slack.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
I switched to working remotely at my last company as we were unable to secure American visas before they ran out for the year! We ended up travelling around because of this and it naturally happened.
How important is remote work to your business model?
For us, working remotely has literally made the difference between the company dying and surviving. If we were all to be based in San Francisco, which is quite typical for companies funded here, then our burn rate would have been almost double and we would actually have run out of money already!
As it stands we’ve been able to keep iterating on our product for much longer than typical, giving us an extra chance at becoming profitable.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We chose to be location agnostic from the company founding. This meant that we could hire the right people – no matter where they live. Even being based in the tech epicenter there are still many more fantastic people all around the world! As mentioned above, this also has the added benefit of being very capital efficient and for those that we hire the flexibility of being able to work from their home or whilst traveling is hugely appreciated.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
There are two traits that we specifically look for – the ability to be self-motivated and driven. Those that have side projects or have previously worked freelance often fall into this category. We also look for great communication skills!
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We usually have questions that we ask over email first in order to filter the list down to a smaller group. Whomever is in charge of hiring for that role will then jump onto a video call with everyone in the smaller group and have a get to know you kind of dialog. Our team tends to keep this quite light hearted, even for the engineering roles.
If we decide to offer a position then some period of trial is always a part of that, between 1 and 3 months depending on the role. This is a time when either party can walk away without any hard feelings.
Do you use third party testing or evaluation services when hiring remote workers?
We don’t use these, nope.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
We don’t actively measure anything like work output. Everyone is quite honest about their flow and usually it’s quite clear from the amount of product that is being built whether we’re working fast or slow.
What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?
All of our IT infrastructure is cloud based. At this point we are totally happy with anyone on the team accessing their work email, for example, on their own phone. Of course, with us being remote all of us carry a work laptop around.
What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?
My biggest fear is of course hiring someone that ends up being very unproductive, which really isn’t that big of a fear at all. We’ve never had this be the case.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
Our policy isn’t formally written down but everyone knows that as long as they get the assigned work completed and have a degree of time crossover everything else is up for grabs. For example, our English engineer is about to spend the summer working in Barcelona – why not?!
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
I think company culture could be defined as the way that people think and act within your company, the way they treat each other and how work gets done. I don’t think that being remote in any way changes this – it just means that communication is done in a different way.
Perhaps we have our laughs in team chat, or we have video calls instead of walking to a conference room, and we screen share instead of looking over someone’s shoulder.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
One piece of advice I find myself repeating, because it’s so important, is that if your company has even one person remote then the entire team needs to change their processes as if everyone is remote.
At a simple level this really means moving all communications to being digital and making a conscious effort to being more communicative than might strictly seem necessary!
For this reason, if your company is new and has never worked in the same office this can actually be a great advantage as you can design the way you work around being location agnostic from day one.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
Of course we place huge value on audio and video communication at Speak. I think that a lot of remote teams aren’t embracing this to the extent that they should, instead relying on things like text chat and email.
Video and audio are not only faster, but also provide an emotional context that is quickly lost when you aren’t sitting next to each other in the same room. It’s important to see the real faces of the people you work with!
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
I like that you describe it as integration rather than balance, that’s definitely the case when you’re working from home or going to the gym to break up your work day. As a company co-founder, I feel a very personal need to get as much work done as physically possible and have some pretty weird working hours!
I generally have one full day off per week and the key is to make sure you get away from the laptop by going out and exploring California or riding around the city on the bike!
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
I don’t have a quote but I think it’s important to always keep providing value. Everything our app does is simply to try and make other people’s lives easier. Do introductions, favors, meet people and be genuinely interested in them – It all comes back around in the end!
Where is the best or worst place you’ve worked remotely?
I actually did the cliche thing and worked from a beach in Hong Kong. This may have been simultaneously the best place and also the worst as our website needed emergency maintenance and I really just wanted to be enjoying the sun 😉