June 19, 2022

Building a Team: Tips From a Remote Web Design Agency

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What’s good? You know the vibe, it’s John D Saunders here and today I’m talking about building and developing a remote at your web design agency. Let’s do this.

Building a team is hard. Building a remote team is next level. So I just want to go over a few tips and tricks that can help you in building up your team.

We’ve been up and running for about seven years, we’ve always been a remote agency. In the beginning, it wasn’t by choice. It is literally because I didn’t have money for an office.

But what ultimately happened was becoming a remote agency made us really agile and allowed us to hire really great people from locally and offshore. And I’ve always felt that great talent doesn’t have a zip code and you can find talent anywhere in the world that is high quality and can provide value to you and your team. So with that said, a few tips.

4.7 million people work remotely half the time–it is just pretty awesome. And 16% of companies globally are completely remote. So let’s go ahead and jump in, I’m gonna provide you with some tips.

1. Develop Systems - SOPs

SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures are step-by-step instructions compiled by a company to help workers carry out complex routine operations. This is to achieve efficiency, quality output, put uniformity of performance. So even if you’re a one person show, you wanna start documenting your process, writing down, step by step, the things you do in your business.

I’ve actually done a video on this, creating your knowledge base, setting up SOPs that you can check out in the upper right hand corner. For now, I’m just gonna jump straight into this.

So here’s a look at our knowledge base. As you can see, it’s built in Notion, we have all of our internal team trainings here, so any team member can go in here and access these trainings to see how we’re acclimated. So if we onboard a new team member, they’ll check out Slack Training, they’ll check out Asana Training, and they’ll understand how we develop the process at the agency, and how that works internally.

So if you go to an individual training–I’ll click Slack Training, for example–it’ll have the last date it was updated, it’ll have a training video, and then it’ll have step-by-step directions. These are the main components: the last date it was updated, video, and directions are key for team members to get exactly what they’re looking for. Again: link for the video training, mention of any required documents, then of course, a step-by-step breakdown, and then you’re straight into it.

So if you’re thinking about growing a team–whether it’s remote or in person–you want to start really standardizing the things in your business, so that way you can delegate these items to those individuals. I’m telling you all, it’s crucial to help you grow. Now you don’t have to have everything pinpointed and done but you do want to have a blueprint that they’re gonna be able to work from.

2. The Key Essential Job Roles

Let’s talk a little bit about fulfilling the roles in your team. For me, when I started I was doing a lot of web dev, a lot of html, a lot of css. So for me, it was all about, “Okay, how can I fulfill this first role so I can really get moving with my agency?”

So really look at the main roles you want to fulfill, and I’ve broken these into three.

  1. Do you need help with day-to-day, project delegation and email correspondence? You probably need to hire a Project Manager or Virtual Assistant.
  2. If you need content, graphics, PDFs, let’s say brand guidelines, visual assets, then you probably want a graphic or digital designer. Sometimes you can have someone that has both skills, meaning they can do graphic design and wireframe–even though it’s rare–you can definitely fulfill that in the order that’s needed.
  3. My first hire was a website developer, someone that can do the website development and integrate custom break-ins. What you wanna think about is the main platforms you wanna focus on–whether that’s Wordpress, Webflow, Shopify–you wanna find someone that’s adept and great at those platforms, and work them from there. If you really want to vet them out and test them, look at their websites, check out the content, maybe run their websites through Google Lighthouse to see how they perform, and that will give you enough information to make an informed decision on working and collaborating with them.

3. Schedule Weekly Calls (Team)

Next thing you want to do is you want to schedule weekly calls. We do weekly calls with our leadership team on Mondays at 11:30. That’s a great time because we have team members that are on the West Coast and we have team members that are offshore, so we have a nice window in the morning to be able to chat, chop it up, and talk about our projects.

I always like to keep it brief, working with a remote agency and remote team members. I’m not one to micromanage, so we basically go through all the projects, we have an agenda–meaning we do an intro, we review the projects, and then we answer any questions. Then our account executive takes notes and executes after that meeting.

This makes it easy for us because we all have our skills and we have things that we need to work on, and then we have the entire week to finish out projects that are needed to be completed.

4. Schedule Monthly Calls (1-on-1)

Next thing you want to do is schedule monthly calls, or one-on-ones. Some people have this weekly, some people have this a few days a week, but I try to keep it brief as possible.

So we do this once a month at least, and what we do is I’ll go in and I’ll ask team members, “Hey, what are your goals, what are you looking to accomplish?” And that can be in the agency, as well as outside of it. I’m one to try and grow and develop team members, a lot of times what’ll happen is a team member will stay with you a few years, they’ll grow exponentially, they’ll do really well, and they might end up leaving or they might end up increasing their role at the agency.

Ultimately, you want to invest in your folks–trust me, it’ll pay off in the long run. Then ask for any help, “What are some things that you need? Are there any specific things that I can help with?” Just try to be an open book as a leader.

Third, just recap that meeting, keep it cool, brief, and fun.

5. Skill Development

Next thing we like to do is skill development. So if you’re developing your remote team, you want to be able to provide them with resources to help them develop their skills even more.

Our visual design lead now, he actually just started out as a designer. Now, he’s doing wireframes, and he’s the visual design lead.

thefutur

So his role has increased because he’s been able to acquire more skills, one reason being is he’s been taking the courses at thefutur, which is a business and design education platform.

That guy that you see is Chris Doe, basically my spirit animal when it comes to this type of thing, he’s just a great leader and really great at providing value to the business and design community. This teaches business, creative skills, so check out thefutur when you all can.

Coursera

Of course, we have an agency subscription to Coursera, so team members can learn Google UX design, they have courses from IBM and other college institutions, just a really great platform for folks to learn so our team members have access to this as well, to be able to hone their skills.

6. Provide Offline Tools

Next, you want to provide offline tools, and be able to say, “Hey, you need a new webcam. What about your laptop? Is there anything that I can help with?” As you scale your agency, you’ll be able to provide your team members with resources that can start as small as, “Hey, here’s some books that I’d like you to read.” Or you could say, “Hey, I’ll help you get a new laptop,” whatever you can do to help empower them and help them feel that they’re part of the team is going to be helpful, and it’s also going to help their productivity in regards to getting the work done.

7. Make It Easy to Share Updates

Next, make it easy to share updates. So we run the agency through Asana–I’ve actually done another video on how we manage projects as well, you can check out here, check out that video when you can, that shows you how we organize projects. But you want to keep everything transparent and have documentation for all the projects you’re working on.

So anytime a team member goes into web dev in Asana, they can see the projects that we’re working on, as you can see here, they could see where we are in the lifetime of that project and they can also go in and leave comments and notes here. They can go to the bottom, and as you can see, Kate’s updated this, she’s updated the Notion page for the client, and the update has been sent.

So we’re able to see at a bird’s eye view, okay, this project is in the sitemap phase, so I can move this card around pretty easily, and then I can go to the comments to see the basic notes of what’s been going on with this. So this really helps us document and it helps me because all I have to do is jump in here and I can see where projects are in the timeline.

8. Do Not Micromanage!

Lastly, and I’m going to make this the biggest point: please, please, please do not micromanage your team members. Now, working with remote folks, a lot of them are self-starters, they’re self-sufficient, and they get the job done. They don’t need to be micromanaged, they’re working remote, and they work in a remote environment because they don’t want to be micromanaged.

So one of the biggest things you wanna think about is trying to give your team members as much freedom as possible. Now, as you’re creating systems, as you’re having consistent communication, and they’re updating Asana, there’s not much else you really need to know that they’re doing their work.

It’s not like an office where someone’s sitting over your shoulder, breathing down your neck, asking, “Okay, where’s this, what’s going on with this?” Remote team members need that freedom, so please do not do this. A few quick tips about this is just keep documentation in Asana, ask them to leave daily or weekly updates and just keep it consistent, fun, and lighthearted.

Conclusion

Thank you all for checking out the video. As always, Like, Comment, Subscribe, and I will see you all next week.

A web designer on laptop waving at computer

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