Can A Startup Have A Remote Team?

Since July, the four Girls With Ideas team members have been in the same place at the same time for a grand total of 5 days.

Some might see that and ask ‘how can that possible work well?’ In fact, when we first began the accelerator there was a lot of concern expressed at the fact that we had a geographically distributed team and that our two remote team members would not be dropping everything to come to the accelerator.

A lot of the common wisdom around start-ups is that if you aren’t willing to go all-in you might as well not bother. We see that differently. As four women in different phases of our lives, with different resources available to us as individuals, that mentality simply wasn’t going to work. Instead of accepting the common wisdom, we reframed the problem and thought about it this way: given both the constraints and opportunities we each have, how can we make this work?

Our constraints were this: Two of our team members are not yet able to be full-time with Girls With Ideas. They live in Chicago and Detroit and the busiest times in their full-time jobs happened to intersect with the accelerator.

Our opportunities were this: By virtue of their work do have flexibility to work remotely, so they are here when they can be. Two of us are both based in the Iowa City area and in a place where they could commit full-time to Girls With Ideas.

Every morning our team meets via video conference to do a daily standup. We take 15 minutes to go over our goals and tasks for the day. It helps us get on the same page and communicate. 

Every morning our team meets via video conference to do a daily standup. We take 15 minutes to go over our goals and tasks for the day. It helps us get on the same page and communicate. 

How we made it work: Insanely honest communication, ultimate trust, self-awareness and respect for the time and contributions we each make.

We are united in our vision for impacting girls by contributing solution to the gender leadership gap, and we are united in our goals to get all four of us full-time.

We communicate clearly and transparently about what time we are able to give and accept the ebbs and flows that are inherent in both entrepreneurship and life and we work with them.

We are self-aware and trust each other to do right by the business. That means that when the constraints of our personal lives prevent us from engaging whole-heartedly with the business, we don’t hold up progress. We communicate our needs; what we can contribute, we make plans and we execute on them.

We honor the contributions we each make. While two of our team members may not be as available right now… but back in January and February they were full-throttle in getting curriculum written and launching the Kickstarter that got us here. Our newest team member, Abbie didn’t even know the team in January, but she is here now, every day at the accelerator and has jumped in to keep it moving forward. And through it all Allison, our CEO has set the tone to make this dynamic work.

We’ve heard startup life equated to running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Instead, we see it as running a perpetual relay. We each have our time to carry the baton that gets us further to our goal. We contribute our unique talents and strengths, we communicate to keep the transitions seamless and we support and trust each other to keep moving the in the right direction.

We care about our vision and mission, not the glory. And for us there is nothing more gratifying than getting to work on something you care about with people you love and respect, and whom you trust to keep carrying that baton forward.