Embracing the Virtual Workspace.
It’s another exciting week in Podcast Land with Cass and Adan, as they have managed to hold onto the podcast yet again this week! Seriously, how many CEOs do you know that hand over their mic to their team like this? (That’s why Lisa is a legend!)
This week, they’re bringing their A-Game as they discuss how you can successfully lead an A-Team online and remain virtual with your business. As this is already something they are currently doing, there is no one better to address the pros and cons of digital business.
COVID-19 might have been the driving force behind the “work-from-home” situation for a lot of companies, but the real question now is, “Do you even want to go back to an office?”
It’s a big decision, but if this is something you are struggling with as a business owner or as an employee, this is the episode that can help you decide what you want your future to look like!
What’s in This Episode
- Pros & cons to working virtually
- Online options to bridge communication between clients and coworkers
- How to lead a team effectively while remaining virtual
- Effective communication tips when communicating through text formats.
- The importance of company culture
- Popular Project Management Software that LLG recommends
What To Do Next
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Where to Find Cass and Adan
CLICK HERE TO OPEN THE FULL TRANSCRIPT
Lisa Larter (00:01):
Welcome to, She Talks Business. If you’re an entrepreneur, business owner or aspiring mogul, chances are you want to learn more about marketing and mastering and monetizing your business. She Talks Business is where you’ll learn all of that and more. My name is Lisa Larter and I’m an entrepreneur, high school dropout, wiener dog enthusiast and your host. Let’s get started.
Cass Bald (00:24):
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of She Talks Business. You are listening to Episode 48, and Adan and I are back again this week, talking about leading an A-team online. Now, this is the fifth episode that we have recorded, which is pretty spectacular in my opinion. But we are also really happy to let you know that Lisa will be coming back for Episode 50, which is a huge accomplishment. 50 episodes of a podcast is a really great feat I would say.
It’s super exciting. I’m so proud of Lisa to have 50 episodes under her belt. I’m super proud of this podcast. And you know, when she started the podcast, I just started working for her, so it’s really cool. I feel like my start date is aligned with the podcast.
Cass Bald (01:16):
I love that. And I think Lisa has something really special planned for Episode 50 as well. So, stay tuned. A couple of weeks from now, you will be hearing from, I just about called her the legend herself, and I kind of love that. You’ll be hearing from the legend herself, Lisa for Episode 50.
Adan Kovinich (01:35):
Should we jump in?
Cass Bald (01:36):
Yeah, let’s do it.
Adan Kovinich (01:37):
Okay. Working from home and being so far apart, Cass, I only met you once at Christmas time because we live in the same area. But what’s it like working from home, and what do you think is the benefit of it for business owners?
Cass Bald (01:54):
The first thing that I want to say about what it’s like to work from home is that it gives you a lot of freedom, but at the same time, it can be a challenge because it is very isolating at times. And I do love that working from home gives me the flexibility to work very specific hours of my choosing, and I can manipulate my day and the times that I’m at my desk based on what I have going on in my life, but not showing up in an office space, and rarely seeing other people is really hard. And especially at a time like this, we’ve been in a global pandemic for a few years now, and it can be really hard on your mental health. And so, when you work eight hours a day at home alone, it can be difficult.
Adan Kovinich (02:59):
Yeah. I agree with you. I think that something I see often is people say that when they work from home, that sometimes they’re less productive than they would be in an office. I am the complete opposite to that. And I think most people that choose to work from home also feel this way. I get 10 times more done at home because I’m in my office and in my space. If I don’t want to talk to anybody, I don’t have to. If I need to put my head down, nobody’s going to stop by my office, knock on the door, “Hey, can I grab you for a minute?”
Adan Kovinich (03:30):
Now, my rule at work is that everyone can just call me if they need to chat, because I’m easy to switch between what I’m doing, but it doesn’t happen very often. And so, I think that I get way more done being at home than I would ever if I was in an office. I think that’s a huge benefit, but it’s hiring the right people to be work-from-home people that like to be at home and work and have a dedicated office space where they don’t hang out in their office space afterwards just to separate the two. And I think that the pandemic, some businesses saw a decline in the work being done and then some saw an uptake. I think if you’re considering working from home, consider what your team is like first, and see whether that’s something they’re able to handle.
Cass Bald (04:22):
I love that you brought up hiring the right people and what the makeup of your team is because, working from home, I think one of the great benefits of having a remote company is that the amount of talent that you can reach is far wider than if you were stuck in a particular city. We, on our team, because we are fully remote, and we actually have been for a lot longer than the pandemic, but we have members from across North America. We have team members in various provinces, and we have some team members that are in the U.S. as well. And it just really opens up our applicant pool, and I think that’s a really cool thing.
Adan Kovinich (05:11):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, we have somebody all the way on the east coast of Canada and then all the way on the west coast. So we’re really touching everybody. And when I’m doing hiring, and I’m looking at the applicants, I don’t actually even look at where they’re from. We have openings… When we put an opening out, we do on in all the major cities, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, all over. Name the large city, and we put an applicant out there. And when I get into an interview, I’m always first checking, “Which city are they from?”
Cass Bald (05:43):
Now, I’ve also been hearing some conversation among business owners about whether or not post-pandemic, if that even is a thing, whether or not they’re going to go back to in-office work. A lot of business owners have closed up their offices, and have realized that you can run a successful company online, and end up saving on a lot of overhead costs. And so, there’s been a lot of conversation about whether or not companies will transition back to in-office work at some point, or whether they’re going to continue on remotely. Do you think that’s going to happen? Do you foresee a lot of people going back into offices, or what’s your stance on that?
Adan Kovinich (06:29):
Well, let’s think of it this way. Okay. Let’s say a lease for a small office, okay, in a regular city, I guess. And this is an estimate, right? I don’t typically look at leasings for offices. But let’s say that they spend $4,000 to $10,000 a month, having all of those people in the office. That was pre-pandemic, right? Post pandemic, I bet that it’s three times that price to get a rental unit. So let’s say they realized, “You know what? We’ll move out of our office for the time being because we’re not going to pay this lease where no one can be in the office.” And then now they have to re-sign a new lease but now they’re paying four times as much. At what point do you say, “Okay, the costs of us going back into the office is so large. It doesn’t make sense anymore when now everyone’s comfortable at home.”
Adan Kovinich (07:22):
Everyone’s figured it out too. I’m sure that the people at the beginning, before they worked in an at-home office would say, “Oh, I’m not productive at home.” But people that have been doing it for two years, they know how to do it now, and they do it well. And it’s just like transition, you don’t need to be in an office anymore, and people are really realizing that. So I think the saving just on the leases because they’ll have three times it’s worth being at home. What do you think?
Cass Bald (07:49):
That’s definitely my viewpoint as well. I foresee a lot more virtual companies popping up and office spaces becoming obsolete because I know you were just talking about the rent, but it’s not only that, it’s also equipment and technology and electricity, and so many other things that go into it. It’s not even just about the physical space. So, although, there are some costs associated with running a virtual team, you have to use different programs and softwares in order to effectively run a team, but it’s far less than the cost of having a physical office space.
Adan Kovinich (08:38):
Let’s have a little bit of fun. Tell me the worst thing about working from home. And I love that I call this a little bit of fun.
Cass Bald (08:44):
Okay. It might be my proximity to the refrigerator. That was 100% a joke. I hope it lands. But I definitely snack all day long, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. But no, truthfully, I think the worst thing about working from home is the amount of distractions, personally. And in an office space, there obviously are some distractions as well, but sometimes when I’m at home, it’s easy for me to look around my space and see something that I need to do. And if I am not hard on myself, and holding myself accountable to not get up from my desk and move around, then I will. And I know some other people feel that way too, that when you’re at home, there is freedom to get distracted in a sense. I think the only other thing that I really struggle with, and I did mention this already but it’s just how isolating it can be.
Adan Kovinich (09:45):
And I think those are good points. I mean, for me, the big negative for working from home, which I’ve never actually worked in an office space before other than I worked in a telecommunications company forever, and I worked in a store. So, I’ve only ever worked from home, both in my previous marketing role and this one. So I can’t say that I know what it’s like to work in an office, but my big thing is not being able to turn it off and go away. It’s very easy for me to have dinner and walk back into my office. Where in an office, you can leave, and then come back the next day. But for me, it’s like, “Okay, I get up in the morning. I go in my office, and I have a hard time leaving my office.” And then once I do leave my office, I have a hard time not going back into the office.
Cass Bald (10:41):
It’s almost like we have opposite issues. I find it hard not to get distracted and leave my office, and you have a hard time leaving your office. But I feel like the point that you’re trying to make is it’s a lot harder to have a work-life balance when you work from home. Because your computer, your work can follow you everywhere, essentially. It’s very easy to, after dinner, go back and answer a few more emails. It’s very easy to forget to take a real lunch break. I do that every day. I don’t know the last time that I took a real lunch break. I usually go, grab whatever I’m going to eat, bring it to my desk, and I’m usually continuing to work while I’m eating. And so, I definitely can relate to the struggle of finding a balance between work and life, and creating that separation, and creating that boundary.
Adan Kovinich (11:35):
Yeah. I think it’s what do we do about it, right? So how do we ensure that the team members feel like they can get up and walk away, and have a 30-minute lunch or an hour lunch. And it comes down to affecting your mental health at the end of the day. And something Lisa said to me recently was, it’s about having a routine in the morning and a routine in the afternoon that you stick to, to keep that work-life balance for you.
Cass Bald (12:07):
I think that’s a perfect segue into some of the tools that we use for our team, and some of the other tools that maybe we don’t use, but I would definitely recommend because when it comes to running a team virtually, you rely heavily on technology and different strategies to bring people together. And there’s certain things that we do on our team that really make a difference in terms of feeling connected to our coworkers and feeling connected as a team just for productivity and moving the ball from one end of the field to the other to reach our goal.
Cass Bald (12:49):
First, I think the most important and widespread tool that we can talk about is Zoom because it’s everywhere. It is everything. Since the pandemic, I think there isn’t a person that doesn’t know Zoom and isn’t aware of it. But let’s just chat about some of the really great ways that we use it on our team.
Adan Kovinich (13:17):
Yeah. I think we use Zoom when we have client meetings and it’s great to be able to record and have the transcript and have the meeting and be able to send it to the client so that they can watch it throughout the month. We don’t use it to talk to each other, but it’s a great way to connect with clients. And even when I’m trying to connect with a client that isn’t part of our roster, of our regular Done For You clients, it’s nice to just send a Zoom link. Even when, you know, last week, one of our clients said to me, “Hey, can I talk to you for five minutes?” I was like, “Yeah. Here you go. Here’s the Zoom link. And we can meet.” Especially because some of our clients are in the U.S., and I really don’t want to spend 50 cents a minute. I know that sounds prehistoric, that we’re still paying for long-distance calls, but yeah, I think it’s just such an easy way. And everyone knows how to use it. It doesn’t matter if you’re 80 or if you’re 10, you know how to use Zoom.
Cass Bald (14:16):
We don’t just use it to have your standard phone call, but we’ve used it for webinars and for training. We’ve used it… We’re using it right now to record this podcast episode. We use it in large groups. We use it for one-on-one coaching calls. It’s really a very versatile application and it can be implemented in so many different ways. And I really love that. And then for the day-to-day functioning of our team, we actually use Skype. And Adan, I know you have some strong feelings about Skype and programs that you would like to actually transition us to. But Skype is really great because you can organize various group chats and even pin certain chats to the top of your list, essentially. And that way you can communicate with whoever on the team, really quickly, it gives you notifications, and it’s just a really great way to organize your communication.
Adan Kovinich (15:20):
Another great thing about Skype is it’s free. So if you’re a startup or you’re moving to online, and you’re trying to figure out which tool’s going to be best for your team… You’re thinking about Slack, but you don’t want to the $10 a person because maybe you have a team of 20 and it’s a lot of money when you think about it when you have a team of 20. Skype’s a great alternative to that because it’s free. If you don’t have Microsoft Teams and your emails aren’t set up with Microsoft. Let’s say they’re set up with Google Business. Skype’s a great alternative. But what I’d love our team to be using is Slack. In my previous role, we used Slack. There was about 150 of us on it, and it was really nice to be able to have the different chats for our different clients and have it for our team and have it for the big group altogether.
Adan Kovinich (16:12):
And within our teams, we had a graphic designer, marketer, social media manager, UI/UX, and a web developer. So, it was nice. The web developer had their own chat, and the marketers had their own chat. So we were able to connect with people within our field. There was just multiple chats that worked really well. And at the same time, we had it connected to our Google Calendar. So our calendar events would come up. If we wanted to talk about an email, we could send the email into Slack, and everyone can see it. So it’s a really great way to connect with your team and integrate your other tools into the software.
Cass Bald (16:55):
I think my favorite tool that we actually use at the Lisa Larter Group is Asana. And Asana is a fairly popular project management software. And what I love about it is that it keeps everything and everyone organized. It has all of our processes, every reference that we ever need to go back to, it has all of our client information, and it is the sole reason that we are as efficient and as effective as a team as we are.
Adan Kovinich (17:28):
I just want to call out Cassy on this, because she keeps Asana so nice and be beautiful and makes sure that, if something needs to be fixed or changed, she’s on someone to be able to fix it and change it for us. And I remember my interview, she was like, “Yeah, we use Asana. It’s like my Bible. I run through it all the time. It’s the only thing that keeps me organized. I have it open every day.” And I remember thinking, “That’ll never happen. I will never use a project management tool. It’s not in me. I can barely keep a journal without forgetting it exists.” Asana works for me, which is surprising, rarely tools work for me, and Asana works for me so well that it’s such a great tool. Everyone can use it. Even somebody who really struggles with being able to keep a journal, keep things organized, keep their timelines organized. It’ll help them keep them organized. So I think it’s a really great tool, especially when you’re leading an A-team.
Cass Bald (18:29):
What Asana does is it ensures that nothing ever gets lost or missed. And of course, there are going to be the occasional mishap where a task might get deleted, but truthfully Asana is a place where you can house every single minute detail of a project or a task that needs it done. And instead of it living up in your brain or living on a notebook that’s on your desk where things can easily be forgotten or missed, Asana is something that the entire team has access to and can follow up on, and it allows us to work more collaboratively.
Adan Kovinich (19:07):
We can even have our clients on Asana and task them to be able to review things. So not only is it good for our team, but it’s good for our clients too because they can watch where our project’s at, what’s the timeline of the project, how are things going, things like that. So Asana works for everybody.
Cass Bald (19:25):
If you haven’t worked with Asana before, and you are looking for a new way to effectively run your team, it’s definitely a tool that I would recommend.
Adan Kovinich (19:32):
Part of leading an online team is also still having one-on-one meetings with them and still connecting with them, giving feedback, and sometimes having those meetings of concern. Those things still have to happen. And I think it’s great to have them in person, but I also love that we have them online, especially with a meeting of concern or a feedback meeting, those are really great to be able to have, because when you’re done, you can end the call, and the person on both ends can take a second to breathe on their own and not have to like walk back into an office of 20 people and then feel overwhelmed. What do you think about meetings and one-on-ones virtually?
Cass Bald (20:19):
Well, I think we’ve talked a lot about how isolating working from home can feel, but having meetings and not just… Serious work meetings are productive, but I think just meeting virtually over Skype or Zoom or whatever channel it may be, is a great way to combat that loneliness. And it also leads to a really positive company culture.
Adan Kovinich (20:45):
Another thing about meetings that’s really great is that you could have a work buddy still. So, for example, if you need to work with somebody on something, you can work in silence together. And if somebody needs something, they can just unmute and say, “Hey, I don’t know how to do this,” or, “I need a little bit of help.” And it’s super helpful in training when a team member is learning something, it’s easy for them to call you back 10 times while they’re figuring it out. But it’s also really nice to be able to have that one-on-one time with them where you can work, and they can work, and work through whatever task they’re trying to accomplish.
Adan Kovinich (21:26):
But if I put this into a perspective when we’re working in an office, that person would maybe come and sit in my office. It’s a little bit more distracting when I’m in an office and somebody’s sitting with me in the same space versus just being on a call, both of us on mute while the other person’s working through their task, and just popping up and saying, “Hey, can I get a little bit of help?”
Cass Bald (21:50):
Not only do I love the coworking sessions and the capability of just sitting on a video chat on mute, and doing your own work just so that you feel like you’re not so alone, and then you do have somebody to bounce ideas off of occasionally. What we also started doing recently is hosting office hours. And it’s the same idea, but I open up my Zoom or my Skype, and I go on video, and then anybody on my team who wants to pop in and either ask me questions, or they just want to sit and work with me in silence, I am available. And I time block that in my calendar so that it is once a week for an hour. And it’s usually on my lunch hour, and I’m just there and available so that anybody can step into my office if they need to.
Adan Kovinich (22:44):
I love that we’re doing the office hours now because it kind of sets a time when if something’s not pressing, it can wait until the office hour. And if it is pressing, they can come to me at any time. But the office hour is a really nice addition, and it keeps our time safe as well.
Cass Bald (23:00):
I mentioned company culture a moment ago, but I want to dive a little bit deeper into the importance of it, especially for a virtual team, because it’s a little bit more difficult to promote a happy, upbeat, positive company culture when you are not in a physical office space. And so, of course, the things that we’ve already mentioned, the use of technology and meetings and things like that definitely lead to it. But there is so much more that goes into it when you don’t work in person with people every day.
Adan Kovinich (23:37):
Yeah. I mean, it comes down to, some days I don’t talk to anybody or see anybody. I send the odd message. But there are some days I see nobody. And I think the best way to create company culture is by having successful collaboration. And one thing that I really pushed for in our team is everyone having subteams where they’d be able to connect with each other. And these people on your team are people you work with every day on different projects or every other day. Because sometimes, you can go weeks without talking to a certain team member. Now, when you’re in the sub-team, it may still be like that, but at least you have this core group, almost like you’re creating these friendships at work, which is so important. You make your best friends at work. You spend more time with them than you do your family. So having that successful collaboration is key.
Adan Kovinich (24:34):
And I think a really great example of that is Adrian’s team. They’re so successfully collaborating that you are seeing their clients just growing with their KPIs, and they’re able to do it because they have enough team members on their subteam. But they are doing such a great job collaborating, and I really am grateful that they’ve taken this subteam, and made it fun for each other, and really created a subculture within our team. And it’s showing.
Cass Bald (25:07):
You’re not lying. When you say they’ve made it fun, because I hear about some of the things that go on in their subteam group chat, and I’m a little jealous. And they really are having so much fun and it shows in their work, being happy and enjoying the job that you do, and getting along with the people you work with makes a huge difference in what you produce. People who are unhappy, people who are feeling burnt out, people who are feeling overworked, and people who are just feeling unfulfilled are not going to produce star-quality work. We’re talking about leading an A-team. We’re not just talking about leading any team virtually. No, we’re talking about how to lead a team that is stellar, that is absolutely amazing. And I can see it in action that when your team is happy and fulfilled, they produce high-quality work.
Adan Kovinich (26:11):
Yeah. And it’s hard to do in a virtual team, right? It’s really hard because when you’re at work, you have water cooler talk, all of those things. We don’t have that at work. We don’t have a water cooler to stop by. It’s really special that we’re able to do that. And I think because we’re able to, I know it’s possible for any other company to do it too. So, as we’ve ended off every episode, and I’m only realizing this right now, we always go back through and pick our one or two top tips that we would give a business owner. I feel like it’s our signature now. We’ve done it every episode so I am going to throw it out. If you were speaking to a business owner, and you only had two things that you could tell them about leading an A-team online, what would those two things be?
Cass Bald (27:05):
Okay. The first point that I want to reiterate is the importance of getting creative about how you come together, even though you are technically apart. There are so many creative ways that you can do this and creating a fun environment for your team is what is going to keep them happy and make them want to work hard for you.
Cass Bald (27:26):
The second thing that I want to say, and we haven’t actually touched on this yet, but I feel that it is extremely, extremely important, is that as a leader of a team online, when you are communicating through messages and email, you have to be hyper-aware of the tone that you are using because you don’t get the same body language that you do when you are speaking to an employee in person. You really have to be conscious of the words that you use, and how they can come off from the reader’s perspective, because an email can sound harsh or flat or one-note, depending on, if you’re a very direct communicator. And something that I tend to do, even though it’s not always the most professional thing is, I will include a smiley face in an email. I will use the exclamation points, and I will do what I can to ensure that whoever is on the receiving end of my communication perceives the correct tone that I want them to.
Adan Kovinich (28:38):
Those are two really great points, and I’m not sure how I’m going to top that, or even hit the same mark. I’m going to make my best attempt at this. Cass, you’re extremely well-spoken, and those were both really great points.
Adan Kovinich (28:54):
I think my first one is going to be business owners that are currently working from home and may have grown over the pandemic and are now debating on going into an office. So my tip for that business owner is, you need to think about your team and how well they’re doing online. I think you need to talk to them and find out, is that even something that they want. And find out whether or not, is it worth it, especially with the price of things increasing so much. Not even just the lease, but you think about an office chair or a desk that you’d have to purchase for the office, or I like to think we would have in my mind when I think about Lisa Larter Group in the office is beanbag chairs.
Adan Kovinich (29:41):
I think that you have to think of each of those different costs. If you’re currently work-from-home, and you have been for most of the life of your business, really think about those different things. If you are someone who was in an office at one time, and now has been at home, you need to talk to your team and find out if that’s what they want. And I know I made that point with the beginning, but this is really important. If your team is really upset about going back to the office, don’t go back. If only one person or two people want to go back, don’t go back. Because you’re hurting the team immediately. When they are really upset about having to go into an office, they’ll go and find somewhere where they can work from home. So think about that as well, because people have fallen in love with the idea of working from home. And I’ve seen it where I see people go back into the office, and they want to leave immediately because of it.
Adan Kovinich (30:37):
And it could be that, before you left, the company culture wasn’t where they wanted it, and it’s gotten a lot better now that you’re virtually because everyone’s trying harder and it could just be that, you know, people love the idea of having their office at home. And then one last quick tip is that if you are a business owner and you’re working from home, walk away from your desk at the end of the day, set work hours for yourself and walk away. I need to take my own advice, but I think that is so important to maintaining your mental health in the workplace. Even if your workplace is down the hall from the kitchen.
Cass Bald (31:13):
And on that note, I’m actually going to close us off with a reminder that you can expect Lisa back for Episode 50 for something really special. And until then you’ll have Adan and I for one last episode. It has been an absolute blast doing these team takeovers. And we appreciate you listening with us each week. So, until next time.
Lisa Larter (31:40):
Thank you for joining me for this episode of She Talks Business. If you enjoyed the show, you know the drill, leave us a review, tell someone about it and join the conversation on social media. Thanks for listening and until next time remember, done is always better than perfect.