- Learn the different tools that can help you improve and scale your remote business
- Know the importance of communication and process design in a remote business
- Find out all the details you need to know about Running Remote:the largest conference for remote teams
- Register for the upcoming Running Remote Conference: Meet the Experts, Grow your Team, Explore Bali. Learn from a great lineup of remote company leaders and innovators!
Liam McIvor Martin is the co-founder of two SaaS company, Time Doctor, and Staff.com. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote – a carefully curated to teach you next-level, actionable strategies and tactics you can utilize the very next day to build & scale your distributed team. They are also conducting the world’s first remote-friendly VC panel.
In this episode, Liam highlights how building his two businesses and co-organizing a conference stemmed from his passion for remote working. He will reveal the latest tools and tips to help optimize and scale your remote business.
Check out these episode highlights:
- 00:56 – Liam talks about his two SaaS business: Timedoctor and Staff.com
- 02:18 – Details about the upcoming Running Remote conference
- 05:25 – Liam’s target attendees for the Running Remote Conference: high caliber international attendees from a variety of industries
- 06:49 – Liam’s passion to educate and help business scale remotely
- 08:17 – His key learning in managing his companies Time Doctor and Staff.com, why communication among remote staff is so important
- 12:33 – Protocol for engaging contractors/remote staff to improve the documentation system process– change the process inside the process document, compensate them through a bonus system, use Gitlab to build your process
- 16:38 – Liam talks about ‘co-worker coffee’ feature inside their Slack group, where remote and random co-workers/team members can have 15-minute chats with each other about work and life
- 17:47 – The pool of speakers, top remote work leaders and topics to be discussed in the upcoming Running Remote conference
- 22:12 – Important tips from Liam when going to Indonesia for the event. Heads up on what to expect.
Tweetable Takeaways from this Episode:“Having reliable communication is absolutely important.” -@vtamethodman Click To Tweet “If you believe a process should be improved, then you have to change the process inside of that process document.” -@vtamethodman Click To Tweet
(Note, this was transcribed using a transcription software and may not reflect the exact words used in the podcast)
Tom Poland: Hello everyone. A very warm welcome to another edition, a special edition in fact of Marketing the Invisible.
My name is Tom Poland beaming out to as always from on the sand next to waves, a Little Castaways Beach in Queensland, Australia. Joined today by Liam Martin.
Liam, a very… what is it? Good evening or just about good evening in New York is that right?
Liam Martin : Good afternoon slash Good evening.
Tom Poland: Yes. All right. Drifting into Twilight. The Twilight Zone and this is the twilight zone because Liam is not as you see on the screen Rob Rawson, he is Liam Martin.
Liam Martin : It is our podcast account, that’s our explanation,.
Tom Poland: I can confirm its authenticity. Yes.
So folks the reason it’s a special edition is we’re not doing our seven minute countdown timer because I want to have much more of an in-depth conversation with Liam on this.
So Liam, why don’t we kick off by just me asking you to introduce yourself. Because you’re really wearing two hats I think for this, right?
Liam Martin : Sure. Yeah I know. You’re absolutely right. So Liam Martin on planet Earth. More specifically Canada right now. So I do travel quite a bit and I’m the co-founder, with my co-founder Rob Rawson who just happens to be using this particular account, of two SaaS businesses. TimeDoctor.Com and Staff.Com which are both tools to be able to empower remote workers to be more productive and also to be able to facilitate labor remotely.
And then one of my passion projects which we recently started in the last year or two has been running remote which is now become the largest conference on building in scaling remote teams. And we run that out of Bali, Indonesia every single year. It’s a really fun conference. There’s about 500 people from all over planet Earth that come in and basically learn how do you build and scale a remote team and bring it to the point where remote companies are actually the norm as opposed to this weird thing that maybe only tech startup guys do over the valley.
Tom Poland: Yeah, terrific. And the reason why we’re having this conversation is that I registered to attend Running Remote about this year which kicks off June 29. Is that right? Correct. Yes. June 29 in Bali. So what’s the website for that? Let’s give everyone that straight off the bat.
Liam Martin : Runningremote.com. That’s some alliteration going on there. We actually found that one for free on GoDaddy which was fantastic. It’s one of those things that we would actually had about three or four other names for the conference. And then once I saw that one I thought,that’s the one. What are we’re doing? We’re running remote. That’s what we want to call it.
Tom Poland: All right. And I’m really excited about attending because it’s you know you and I were talking before and I kind of got mentioned I got a bit jaundiced about going to sales and marketing conferences because you know half the folks there pitching something and bullshit artists and about 40 percent of them are very, very excited about what they have to share. But the actually just launched it and haven’t proven it yet. And the other two has a sense of the real deal.
Liam Martin : It’s very difficult when you go to these types of conferences. So as an example if anyone pitched anything at our conference they would not be returning. As an example because for us it’s about you’re not just giving your money. More importantly you’re providing your time to this type of an environment. And for me anyone that attends this type of a conference ,really any conference just if you boil it down to it you have got fantastic speakers that are kind of like a lightning rod for the conversations around the tent of the attendees. So you also have to have fantastic attendees to be able to make sure that there’s a really good conversation happening. It’s basically just that they’re just a lightning pole to kind of start those conversations happening. And if you have slick sales guys that are not operators that are just going to sell their wares up on stage. It’s really not going to produce what our goal is which is to continue to facilitate the expansion of remote work.
We’re not interested necessarily, there’s no necessary necessarily large monetary exit out of this conference. Whereas if you go to a marketing conference it’s how much money can I possibly get out of you know be able to make these things work whereas for us we’re really just interested in trying to figure out the actual story of how we started the conference was, ee have no idea how to go from a hundred employees to 500. So how do you do that?
We started looking there was almost nothing for remote companies on that particular subject. So we said, “Well let’s build a conference about figuring out exactly that.”
Tom Poland: Right. Well, I thought we start the interview officially.
Liam Martin : Yeah, sure.
Tom Poland: I’m going to start running through some of the questions. Folks, if you’re listening to this you’re probably familiar with the audience, the format 7 question in 7 minutes.
We’re going to deviate from that, we’re going to run a maximum 23 minutes and we will wander our ways through the questions and have valuable diversions no doubt.
So Liam, tell me who your ideal client is for this, you mentioned before that it’s not really the digital nomad who is there so I made the travel blog writer. It’s more for people who have such established businesses. Bit more about that. Who’s the ideal target for the conference?
Liam Martin: So first of all I don’t want to discount digital nomads. I would probably consider myself a digital nomad. I spent about six months traveling per year. But I do have a permanent address. They’re great people. But there are 20 conferences for them already. We had attended a few of those conferences and we weren’t getting what we wanted which was how do you build and scale a remote team. As opposed to how do you travel hack or where’s the best hostels to stay at, or how do you negotiate an Airbnb or these types subjects or how do you do Amazon FBA.
I do not have to know Amazon FBA. I have a business right now that I’m running. What I would like to do is figure out how can I make sure that the onboarding for my employees is as smooth as humanly possible. Or how can I build the sales team effectively remotely and what metrics should I be measuring.
These are the things that I’m really interested in. And they weren’t anywhere else. So we just said let’s build that particular subject matter into the conference.
Tom Poland: So glad you did. Thank you for that. So you’ve actually described your ideal client but you’ve also described the problem that you solve in that. How do you scale, how do you go boom, and how do you have all those contractor selection systems, onboarding systems, performance management systems business developments in place, when you don’t have the team huddle happening in the boardroom. You know every Monday morning.
Liam Martin: And I imagine how do you how do you go boom, how do you scale and still have a lifestyle, right? Without working a 25 hours a day.
I mean and that’s another thing as well which is when you think about remote companies you think about people that maybe don’t necessarily work hard. You hear we’re very much co-associated with the 4-hour workweek with Tim Ferriss-your life and that is that can be true. You could work four hours a week at the business it just won’t be as successful as you want it to be.
Liam Martin: There’s plenty of people that can do that and can have successful businesses. But what if you want to really scale it. What if you want to get to like Marcie, who runs customer support at Shopify. She went from zero to three thousand remote support reps in three years. I want to hear her story about how she went got to that scale and didn’t go insane.
Tom Poland: And didn’t go insane.
Liam Martin: What systems did she need to deploy, what people did she deploy, to be able to make that happen. That’s what I’m really interested in learning.
Tom Poland: Yeah fascinating. And so let’s talk about what will be some of the key takeaways out of the conference. And then I want to find out a little bit about your top tips for going boom.
Liam Martin: So sure.
Tom Poland: Could we do that in reverse order perhaps.? Let’s just talk about some of your top tips. Well, what are some of the key learnings that you’ve had at Time Doctor and Staff.com.
Liam Martin: I’m in a bit of a unique situation because we are one of our biggest customer avatars are remote companies. So we serve remote companies a lot.
Tom Poland: So not only are we running our own remote company but I also talk to clients who are building remote businesses and they have. So there are a lot of things that seem to pop up as generalized trends. The first one is communication. So, having a reliable communication is absolutely important.
Liam Martin: It’s probably one of the most important things that you can do inside a remote team. Because inside of what he called our own premise team which are brick and mortar office, building companies, you have a lot of conversations that will occur just sort of like at the water cooler as people kind of move around inside of the office and you’ll get an understanding of how effectively an employee is working. When it’s remote. You don’t have that. So the formalized communication times are really important. And this is something that was a problem for me because I primarily only worked remotely. So I didn’t understand how that non formal kind of recording works. Instead I was always doing it in this formalized way.
So that’s number one. The number two thing that’s the most important for most remote companies as they scale is process design. So building and operationalizing processes you can start with stuff like putting your processes into Google Docs, if you want to use a tool Trainual which is fantastic. It allows you to basically take your process documentation and put it into almost like a project management system that you can assign particular processes to employees.
Liam Martin: And the reason why you need process documentation is because in an unpremised company when you are sitting right next to Tom and Tom does something wrong you can say hey Tom no. This is how you do it the correct way. But when Tom is in Australia, as an example and you’re located in Canada it’s very difficult to see that happening with Tom. So what you need to do is create process documentation, digitize it, and then give Tom the procedures very clear, very in-depth, showing him over exactly what they need to do to be able to be successful in that particular position.
And people are fearful about that. They think it’s going to take a lot of extra time to be able to do. But in reality it doesn’t actually. Once you recognize the long term advantages to building those types of systems, you’ll be smelled the first two months and then you’ll accelerate way past what you thought you could have done at the very beginning of that process.
Tom Poland: Thank you. So how do you spell trainual?
Liam Martin: T – r- a -i- n- u- a- l .com
Tom Poland: Thank you. And there’s also ProcessStreet.
Liam Martin: Yes, Process Street another great one. I would say any of those two tools are great. If you don’t want to spend the money. Google Docs is also great and free.
Literally just putting together some Google Docs. Yeah. Put it together in a folder saying here’s how did you outbound lead generation.
Tom Poland: Yep.
Liam Martin: And then you just go through all those documents and you put them up in the cloud and anyone can go.
Tom Poland: Yeah. The idea is as you said very simple very free and not too shabby in terms of effectiveness. And you know the big plus is obviously is when you when you document the system, it’s going to be very, very imperfect but the opportunity to run whatever process it is whether it’s a leadgen process or staff development process alongside the system and continually improve it.
Which brings me to my question how do you empower contractors to see potential improvements in the system, and either nominate those improvements or change the system. What protocols do you have in place for for engaging the contractors and empowering them to make improvements?
Liam Martin: We pay them. So it’s very easy. So what we do is in setup all over process documentation, if you believe a process should be improved then you have to change the process inside of that process document.
So initially, we actually had built all of our processes on GitLab. And GitLab is basically a place to be able to put code on the Internet. It’s like I get is that is code repository. OK. And you can actually Google GitLab handbook. You will find GitLab who is a remote team and spoke last year their CTO spoke last year. They have a 30 to 100 page process document. That’s open source. Everything you possibly need to know about GitLab is in that document. And I know when I first saw it I was reading it till 3:00 in the morning.
I’m a bit of a nerd at that kind of stuff but it is the absolute perfect starting point for anyone that has not engaged in process design yet because you can basically see all their processes. They are encouraging.
So instead of that system you can create edits and you can fork off different versions of the process document. So if everyone agrees that a new version is the correct version, then they get paid.
And that’s the way it works literally hand out little bonuses to everybody. So you want to be part of the process? And everyone thinks that it’s the right process to rewrite, I’ll give you $50. And it allows us to create a very organic system that just adopts by the absolute expert on that subject.
Tom Poland : Perfect.
Liam Martin: As an example, our lead generation guy is probably the better person to write that process, than you who maybe hasn’t done lead generation generation in six months. So you want that person to make a profits not you. That’s what we do.
For example, I was just promoting my operations manager the general manager. Sounds very grandiose but it’s a small business but still still the nature of the role is definitely shifting from Ops to General manager. And being an operations manager if you wanted to have every i dotted, and every t crossed in every system before she recruited someone.
Tom Poland: So I said the hell with that. Build that as you recruit them. So in the selection process explain you’re gonna be building the systems together. So it is actually getting done whereas I fear that if we’d tried to have a perfect system before we recruited then we’ve obviously got to have the rudiments in place. But I feel that we’ve have taken several months to get there.
So just just for me just for listeners Gitlab, G-I-T L-A-B and the Google searching for that plus what phrase?
Liam Martin: Handbook.
Tom Poland: Handbook. Thank you.
Liam Martin: Yeah. So the actual URL is about.gitlab.com/handbook. Oh perfect. Thank you. All their operational procedures. Thank you.
Tom Poland: That’s quite a treasure chest zone. I’m sure. And forking off is something I’m used to because I’m regularly told to fork off. So I’ve got one down. OK. So there’s some absolutely incredibly valuable takeaways from your years of running remote businesses and very interesting that you have done. Because I’m almost the opposite. I’ve been running remote for the last 10 years.
Tom Poland: And before that you mentioned you know the watercooler conversations. We used to have a thing called ‘management by wandering around’ and there was a real thing it was an actual management strategy or technique, where you simply wandered around, shoot the breeze, have a cup of coffee with someone and it was extraordinary.
The questions that would pop up, the comment say when you are outside of a formal meeting, it was just remarkable. Or so trying to replace that would be interesting. But let’s get back.
Liam Martin: We actually have a tool of co-worker coffee that we implement and it’s an add on inside of slack. And what it allows you to do is it randomly connects to people from the company every single week for coffee which is a 15 minute chat. And we do that once a week. And it’s an interesting way for me to even meet people that I’ve never spoken to because they’re a manager, I’m a manager of their manager, and I can chat with them about anything. But usually we end up talking maybe five minutes about work, just 10 minutes about their lives.It is great.
Tom Poland: So where do people get this Google co-worker for coffee?
Liam Martin: We built it ourselves. So unfortunately you can’t get it. We might turn it into something in the future.
Tom Poland: Oh I see. Please do.
If you could do that by this Friday that would be great because I want it. I’ll buy it because we have a client community inside Slack and one workspace and then we have our remote workers in another workspace.
Liam Martin: Yeah. It’s a very simplistic script. I think we may just export it and give it away to everybody for free.
Tom Poland: Oh, Marry me. Thank you. So let’s go now to running remote. We’ve got 10 minutes left.
My wife would tell you I’m talking about this every day running running it’s coming up for the next five weeks running away for weeks I’m running and I’m looking forward to it because pretty what you sort of the parameters you laid down it’s not a pitch fest.
It’s really hands on operators sharing their experience without a marketing motive. I want to sell you a program or a package so we get to get the real oil plus you so astutely summed it up when you talked about the speakers the lightning rod. But a lot of the value happens from the interaction and being an introvert. I find it difficult but I do recognize that where the bulk of the value actually is is and connections and ideas from other attendees. But let’s talk about the big stars, the lightning rods if you like who’s going to be speaking at the conference? And what are some of the key takeaways likely to be?
Liam Martin: Sure. So the first talk that we have I think is an interesting one. It’s a recent conversation that’s come up inside of the Remote Work community which is the debate between asynchronous and synchronous communication.
So Nick Francis who runs Helped Scout successful support company, and Amir who runs Doist, and he has two products todoist which is a task management app and Twist which is a version I would kind of consider at instant messaging. But unlike slack, it’s a asynchronous model of communicating. So these messages don’t come to you immediately. They come to you after you’ve done your hard work throughout the day. So they’re going to be debating that particular issue. Which I think is very interesting. And we have Andrew Warner, who’s actually going to be facilitating a lot of our conversations. He’s the founder Mixergy. He’s done like 3000 interviews for entrepreneurs. So he said let’s get him in because he’s the absolute best person to really understand how to very quickly interview someone and get that right information out of them.
Tom Poland: Gotcha.
Liam Martin: We have Mariano who’s the CEO of Mural one of the largest whiteboard collaboration tools on the market right now particularly for design.
We have Andreas Klinger. He is the head of remote at Angelist and he was the CTO of Product Hunt. And he’s actually going to be showing you how to go from 0 to 20 developers on Product Hunt. Because Product Hunt, not many people know is a completely remote company.
So Andreas was the CTO, and he built a product that I mean was kind of at Reddit’s levels for a significant amount of time. And he’s going to show you how he took a very small amount of developers and built a product that just completely scaled.
Marcie who is the director of support from Shopify that I spoke about before she built a team of three thousand or reps in three years which I think is the largest remote support team I’ve ever encountered. And a bunch of other people.
Tim actually has a really interesting talk. He’s going to be talking about how he went from nothing to 20 million. ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) with Hot Jar which is a kind of analytics tool and that product., I mean it’s completely remote. And he actually has said,”no” to a lot of venture capital because he doesn’t need the money because he’s recognized that the role model is so much more efficient than the company on premise model. He’s been able to get past the point where he really needs capital.
Bunch of other people as well. I mean there’s I think there are 20 speakers, 24 speakers that are coming, so a bunch of people but it’s all about as you said before, really tactical. We’re not necessarily… we are getting a couple of “big names”. But we’re also getting people that are real operators and that’s the thing that we wanted was the people that are actually doing it versus the people that are maybe the best speakers in the world.
Tom Poland: Yeah. Yeah.
Liam Martin: We want the information.
Tom Poland: Yep, yep, yep, perfect. All right. So what’s the one question I should have asked you but I didn’t?
Liam Martin: How did I like Egypt. I don’t know. I went to Egypt recently and I really liked it. That’s the first thing that came to mind.
Tom Poland: That’s OK. That’s OK. Well you know on your way to Bali ending up in the middle.
Liam Martin: Yeah. What do you want to ask? You know what? If you’re thinking about coming there is ‘adaptation to Indonesia’ that you have to really understand. Getting a SIM card is very difficult in Indonesia. It takes like a day and a half for your SIM card gets activated. Yeah. So you need to kind of plan that out and make sure that you are you registering your SIM card. They collect your passport information and then it takes about a day, day and a half, before it gets activated. So that’s really important. How are they navigate in a developing country. That was probably one of the biggest things that our attendees were not as understanding of which is why there’s no Uber, you know, there’s things there are infrastructure issues with a third world country developing country that you have to recognize. But overall I mean Bali is one of the most beautiful places on planet Earth. I would probably call it the top five most beautiful places on the planet Earth.
Tom Poland : So fantastic.
Liam Martin: You got to get it passed a little bit of that bureaucracy issue, less infrastructure, less bureaucracy, more beauty.
Tom Poland: Well I just so admire the fact that folks from North America are planning a conference close to Australia. I appreciate that because.
Liam Martin: Oh yeah.
Tom Poland: Yeah. And the fact that you’ve got 500 or so attendees likely to be there is testament to the power, the magnetism of the idea, of the idea and also my co-founder Rob, I’m in Canada, and Rob is in Australia.
Liam Martin: So we’re on polar opposite sides of the planet. And we run a business without any problem whatsoever. Our feeling is we should be able to set up a conference anywhere on planet Earth if it’s for real remote operators. Because if you’re remote, we’re still going to be working when we’re there. Yeah. Nothing’s going to stop. We’re going to keep going. We just are going to be doing it in Bali.
Tom Poland : Yeah. Perfect. All right. Liam thanks so much for your time. We going to get this interview out. Folks, I just want to say that I don’t get any affiliate commissions, there’s no kickbacks or bonuses that I get for promoting Running Remote. I’m promoting it and happy to promote it because it’s going to be, I think it’s going to be freaking awesome. So Liam thanks so much for your time.
Liam Martin : Thanks for having me.
Tom Poland: Thanks for checking out our Marketing the Invisible podcast if you like what we’re doing here. Please do I choose to subscribe, rate us and leave us a review. It’s very much appreciated. And if you want to generate five fresh leads in just five hours then check out www.fivehourchallenge.com.