5 Years of Lessons on Germ-Free Remote Work

March 13, 2020
min to read
Francis Pedraza

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  • Hello bullet points

Hi! My name is Francis and I'm the CEO of Invisible. We build, run and automate custom business processes for companies like yours. (See what we can do on our résumé.) As you may have heard, the world is ending. I trust you're in a bunker-grade scenic cabin in the woods, stockpiling ammunition and beans... And you're wondering: how on earth am I going to run my company without an office?! What do I do when I can't tap people on the shoulder, rally the troops, and give a big speech on our new company direction?! Well you're in luck. Because I've been living in this miserable predicament for nearly five freaking years. At one point, I was running the company from my grandparents' ranch in the middle of nowhere, bored-as-f&%k, taking up archery and inventing MMA swordfighting as hobbies -- a hundred miles from the nearest bar. So this is my once-in-a-lifetime chance to be an expert. Because I'm really not an expert in anything. Except remote work. And given the zooming price of Zoom stock, in three months, being an expert in remote work will be like being an expert in breathing. Oh wait. That's a thing.

Ok, okay. Bottom line, bottom line. Here are my 3 principles for running a remote company.

-- 1. Build An Incentives-Transparency-Metrics Flywheel.
-- 2. Build Systems For Everything.

-- 3. Build Rituals More Advanced Than That Thing You Do With Palo Santo Sticks.

Breaking each down x3, in serial.

Principle #1. Build An Incentives-Transparency-Metrics Flywheel.

-- 1. People respond to incentives. We've tied our cash compensation to our monthly net income. For every $10K/m of burn reduction, everyone gets a 1% raise! Guess what's happening? Burn's going down! Funny how that happens.

-- 2. Transparency is The Light. This may be the most cult-y thing about our admittedly very, creepily, eerily, freakishly cult-y startup. It's like... we're nudists... except, with metrics. Dashboards, dashboards, everywhere -- adding new queries every week! We have a religious belief that the more transparency we bring to everything, the better everything gets. It's literally like watching The Advance of Truth in the world. Here. That's the link to my CEO Dashboard -- gulp. Even pay is fully transparent. Get the picture? I do CEO Question Time on Zoom at least once a month, and it is like Prime Minister's Question Time in the UK -- I get pilloried from the stocks! And have you seen the Glassbox section of our blog? We publish Reports and even company Strategy on Medium. We're the most public private company ever.

-- 3. Manage against metrics. Kinda conventional wisdom, like incentives, but what's insightful is the network-effect that occurs when you have aligned incentives, plus radical transparency, plus managing against incentives. Holding people accountable to metrics reduces the overall management burden and moves us closer to a Results Only Work Environment. Some of our partners take advantage of this by becoming globe-trotting digital nomads.

Principle #2. Build Systems For Everything.

-- 1. OKRs. I won't steal John Doer's thunder. But management tools like this allow you to hold people accountable to objectives, even non-metric objectives, so you can be meritocratic and results oriented.

-- 2. AGILE. It's not a marathon, it's a sprint! Get it?! Heh. No, but seriously, sprint-culture creates accountability. Even outside of engineering which has full-blown JIRA points systems, the whole company has adopted AGILE -- you might call it, "a way of being"...

-- 3. SSOTs. Single Sources of Truth. We try to have as few as possible. Our biggest one is Metabase. We build all our dashboards in Metabase which sits on top of our Data Warehouse. Every month this becomes a bigger asset for us. It's like the HUD for the entire company and just about everything gets piped into it. When someone shows me a dashboard on a new app, the first thing I ask is... "When is this being added to Metabase?!" Gives us a Single Source of Truth for most data.

Principle #3. Build Rituals More Advanced Than That Thing You Do With Palo Santo Sticks.

-- 1. From "Conversations" to "War-Rooms." I know our San Francisco brethren may prefer to call them "Peace Rooms," but when there's a crisis, we have the ability to sound a virtual alarm and get all the parties we need in a Zoom room to solve an issue. There is an RP (Responsible Party) that is the senior person in charge of the crisis, that captains the War-Room to resolve the immediate crisis, then do a post-mortem to begin to solve the root cause. That RP has something like Emergency Powers to get things done. But on normal non-crisis weeks, we have scheduled company-wide Zoom meetings like "Agent AMA", "Partner Conversations", "Party Time," and "Demos."
-- 2. We Celebrate Christmas Every Week. My inbox is absolutely littered with emails that contain the subject lines "DEPLOYMENT" and "WIN." Deployment emails are like launch emails. Every time we deploy a new feature or system or upgrade the company-machine in some way, we send one. And Win emails (also referred to as Bushido emails after our Samurai heroes) celebrate business performance milestones. You'd be amazed at how this helps with inbox fatigue. And it is the only authorized place for those animated f-ing gifs with cats and explosions in them that millennials are obsessive-compulsive about including. Oh wait, I am a millennial. Which is why, we have the #random channel in Slack. It's like a quarantine area for gif-virus. Which is like coronavirus, except, you lose your mind.

-- 3. The Zombie Apocalypse & Company Dance Parties. Neither of which are what you think. Every day I send an email to the entire company that says "Make the company sound like this today." And it includes a link to music on Spotify or Youtube that someone at the company is obsessed with. I also send a daily email with an excerpt from a book by a dead person that says "Let the dead speak." Have you ever heard of The Lindy Effect? It states that the longer something has been around, the longer it is likely to stay around. Which is yet another reason why I am not at all anxious about coronavirus, but I am very eager to finish reading Carl Jung's Red Book.  

Ta-da! Have a germ-free-and-hysteria-free day! Keep creating things and solving problems. Keep calm and carry on.

Hayley Darden Marketing Invisible Technologies
Francis Pedraza
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