If you’re considering starting a business, it might have crossed your mind to do so remotely. After all, remote companies don’t need office space or equipment so they save lots of initial money during those low-budget first few months (or years). And they don’t need to rely on local talent, since they can hire the most talented people regardless of location.
But to launch a remote company successfully, there are some important ideas to consider and actions to take. At Remote.co, we’ve interviewed over 100 remote company leaders to get their insights on what it takes to launch a remote company.
According to the people who’ve successfully founded remote companies, consider these four ideas as you launch a remote company:
First and foremost, figure out your “why.”
Launching a remote company does alleviate some of the headaches associated with a brick-and-mortar company, but it also comes with its own challenges.
That’s why it’s critical to understand your reasoning behind starting your company as a remote company. What is it about being remote that attracts you? What do you hope working remotely will do for your company? How does remote work fit with your business goals and strategies?
Here are some of the “whys” from fellow remote company founders:
- Getting the best talent wherever they landed. Belief that people work their best when working autonomously. We are big believers in Daniel Pink’s work that champions autonomy, mastery and purpose. We believe the remote environment reinforces all of these principles. – Articulate, Inc.
- We value the freedom and flexibility that comes with remote work, as well as the ability to work with talented professionals regardless of geographical boundaries. – Hubstaff
- We did so because our two founders were in different cities and already working together well without being in the same place. – Lullabot
- We bootstrapped the company and really didn’t have the budget at the time for an office. Now that we could afford it, we still don’t simply because it works well for us working remotely. – TeamGantt
- When we launched our nonprofit 14 years ago, it was more cost effective than any other option. – ThirdPath Institute
- Read dozens more answers from remote company leaders!
Educate yourself on the tax implications of a remote company and hiring remote workers.
Whether hiring from inside your own state or country or hiring foreign workers for your remote team, there are lots of tax considerations to learn.
The FlexJobs blog recently wrote about the tax implications of hiring remote workers and gave this example: if you’re in the United States, and your employee lives in another state, you may be subject to taxes from both states.
Most remote companies will say that taxes and employment laws are some of the most time-consuming and complicated aspects of running a remote company. There are some legislative initiatives being considered that might help reduce some of the confusion in the United States, and 1 Million for Work Flexibility is a great source for the latest policy updates regarding both flexible and remote work.
Ultimately, you’ll want to consult a trusted tax advisor and do as much research as possible to learn about your responsibilities as a remote company.
Decide on communication methods up front.
Most remote companies start out relatively small, unless people are moving from a traditional office to a remote environment. And communication is the foundation of any well-functioning remote company.
Having a small team is a great time to test out communication protocols and decide on communication norms. At this stage, it’s much easier to trial-and-error different communication tools to find the ones that work best for your team.
Some teams find themselves naturally gravitating toward one style of communication or another, like instant messages, emails, regular meetings, or video chats. Is your team already doing this? Or, if you’re a business of one at the moment, what are the top communication methods you prefer using?
Here are the communication methods favored by some remote companies:
- Our creed includes the statement, “I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.” – Automattic
- We use Slack for individual and group instant messaging: this is invaluable for all those quick conversations that you’d usually have in an office by leaning over to the next desk. It’s also a great way to share files and images. Also, having voice calls on Google voice or Skype is so helpful if you need to talk about something a bit more complex or to have a longer discussion. – Beutler Ink
- We have a regular conference call schedule to coordinate our work and share updates. We do a weekly all-staff conference call, and the project teams have weekly calls, too. We manage our project work via a project management tool and documents on Google Drive, and we have an incredibly transparent culture–so people can see each other’s work. – Jackson River
- We avoid long email chains, particularly if they start including conversations that go on in parallel or have input from multiple sources. These are a pain to read and things often get lost in the details. We strongly prefer Skype (especially Skype calls) to email. We avoid scheduling volleys. Going back and forth via email on something as simple as planning a meeting is extremely inefficient. – Toptal
- Check out the most popular communication tools used by remote teams for IM, project management, team collaboration, phone and video calls, and screensharing.
Build and define your remote company culture.
A remote company’s culture is vital to its success. And there is something different about a remote company culture compared to a traditional company culture.
Maybe it’s because remote work is so integrated into remote workers’ lives that the blurring of work and personal life boundaries necessitate a different kind of culture. Or perhaps without a physical office, it just takes more of a proactive, ongoing effort to build and maintain a solid culture.
One thing we hear over and over from remote company leaders is that building a remote company culture takes time, lots of it, and is an ongoing prospect. You’ll never be “done” creating the culture, and you’ll probably focus on it more so than a traditional company might.
Here are some of the ways the remote companies we’ve interviewed build and define their cultures:
- It’s important to help everyone feel engaged, and we do this in a variety of ways. For example, we have a virtual walking club and a virtual book club. – Fire Engine RED
- Like every other aspect of leading a remote team, it requires an intention and sense of mindfulness. The true culture of a company is woven into the fabric of the business model, the structure and organization, and the leadership. – FlexJobs
- The key to any healthy culture is having everyone focused on the same shared goals. I believe that the reason Aha! has grown so quickly is due to the fact that our entire team has a shared sense of purpose and understands that we are changing how companies innovate. – Aha!
- Building a remote culture takes proactive effort to facilitate and encourage communication and build trust. Internally, we have run many initiatives around fitness, health, sustainability, and lifelong learning. These initiatives are fun, engaging, and help rally our teammates around our mission. – AnswerConnect
Hire the best people for a remote work environment.
When we asked remote team leaders for the advice they would give to a team or person considering launching a remote company, many (many!) of the responses had to do with hiring the right people for a remote company.
- Be sure you’re willing to put in the time and effort to hire people who are a fit for the remote culture. Are they independent, self-starting, entrepreneurial, and disciplined? Are they good at, and do they enjoy, using technology to stay engaged with their teammates? – Fire Engine RED
- Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Hiring the right people is crucial for a high-performance, remote team. – Aha!
- It is vitally important that the right people are hired to work in such an environment. Many people value being with colleagues and an office atmosphere. While working from home can sound immediately appealing to most, it is important to put emphasis on the challenges of working within a globally dispersed team and the need for a particular mindset to be successful. – Canonical
- Hiring is key for a remote workforce. In addition to all the skills required for specific job positions, there are other things that can identify potential employees as being able to be successful in a remote environment. Examples: previous experience working remotely, owning their own business, being able to demonstrate mature decision making, good communicator, etc. – Chargify
The Bottom Line: How to Launch Your Remote Company
When it comes to deciding to launch a remote company, I think the folks at Authentic Form & Function summed up all the dos and don’ts quite well:
“Know why you want to go remote, and make sure there are defined rules and a general structure in place. In our experience, the nebulous nature of remote working is enough of an unknown in and of itself, so the best path forward for a growing team is to ensure everyone’s on the same page.”
Start with the end in mind, connect remote work to your business goals and objectives, seek advice on tax and employment regulations related to remote work, focus on communication and culture building, and hire the right people who are suited for remote work, and you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful remote company.