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Building and Maintaining Your Team Remotely Lessons learned from building a team and developing culture remotely, where everyone still feels engaged and valued.

By Joy Chen Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As many of us approach the one-year mark of remote work, and Victor and I celebrate nearly six months since launching our skincare company, Pure Culture Beauty, I am reflecting on how we've built our business and developed a strong team dynamic. While vaccine development and distribution have provided some relief and hope that we'll be able to reunite with our colleagues and friends in the near future, it's still unclear when that will be; so, knowing how to build and maintain a team remotely will continue to be important – especially since many companies have seen the value in remote work and have announced permanent remote work arrangements.

Related: The Complete Toolkit for Leading Remote Workers

As many of us continue working remotely – launching businesses, navigating remote work, and reconsidering team culture and dynamics – I'm sharing the lessons I've learned from building our team and developing our culture remotely, where everyone still feels engaged and valued.

Related: 3 Smart Tips for Successfully Managing Remote Teams

Never underestimate the power of your network

Your relationships are extremely important, especially when building a business. When launching Pure Culture, Victor and I really relied on our network for support. We emailed, called, and sent messages via LinkedIn to our friends to invite them to try out our products. The value and strength of our networks became clearer than ever before, and I would encourage everyone to assess the strength of their networks, even if they're not launching a new business.

Don't be afraid to turn to your network for help if you need it. Even if you don't think of your friends, colleagues, and peers as making up your "network," they do – and they can provide necessary support to help get your idea off the ground, fill a hole in your business, or connect you with a potential business partner or investor. Even if the only connection you have with someone is your alma mater (but they graduated in a different year, or studied a different subject), that's still an important connection. Don't be afraid to use it! Understand that those you've met or shared experiences with, no matter how tangential, can be those who are likely or willing to lend a hand if and when they can.

Find new ways to connect

The pandemic had already started when we began building our business. Not only did we need to identify talent remotely, but we also needed to hire, onboard, and ultimately build our team remotely as well. This required sourcing consultants virtually to fill various roles on our team. What has been extremely important – and a lesson I would encourage each and every business leader who is building a team remotely to embrace – is to treat each member of the team like they're permanent. While it may feel like they're temporary since you're working apart, treating them like disparate members of the team will result in a disjointed team dynamic – ultimately impacting business growth and development.

For these reasons, it's important to find ways to continually connect. Early on, we had an idea for happy hour. Ahead of the scheduled date and time, I shipped each team member the same wine so that it could further solidify this shared time and feel as though we were in the same room together. When we launched the brand, we hosted a team call and all celebrated virtually together. Identifying important moments to connect as a company, as well as smaller moments to engage, will continue to build positive team dynamics as well as connections to one another and the brand.

Don't take things too personally

Working in a remote "office" is a new concept for many of us. The line between work and life has been blended, and with that has come uncertainty about what it means to be a team, the appropriate cadence to check in with your team members, and how to know if someone is overworked or overwhelmed. At the office, you would know if someone was having a bad day based on their body language or even by the fact that you had witnessed an interaction gone wrong. The remote office has eliminated this ability and made the concept of kindness that much more important.

Nowadays, when you can't sit with someone or see them in-person, it's harder to know how best to be there for them. And, our limited interactions makes it easy to slip into the mindset that someone's tone might be personal. However, it's important to remember that we all have a lot going on and someone's tone or body language isn't necessarily a reflection of us. Depersonalizing your interactions and remembering to be kind will go a long way.

2020 was a tough year for many businesses, but it's important to approach 2021 with a new mindset in order to recognize the opportunities we all have to grow and strengthen our businesses in the year ahead. By evaluating your network, reconnecting with employees, and understanding that your team members can still have a bad day in the remote office, your business and your team will be best positioned for success in the long-term remote environment.

Related: 7 Mistakes Leaders Make When Managing a Remote Team

Joy Chen

Co-founder and CEO of Pure Culture Beauty

Joy is the co-founder and CEO of Pure Culture Beauty, which she developed in partnership with Victor Casale (former Chief Chemist at MAC Cosmetics and founder of CoverFX) to innovate the skincare industry and deliver a suite of products that meet consumers’ unique skin needs. Formerly, she was the Chairman and CEO of H2O+ Beauty and the CEO and Executive Board Director of Yes To. She has a strong record of driving sales and profit growth by scaling businesses, transforming retail and marketing landscapes to online and digital, and building innovative brands. She remains an active board member for nonprofit organizations and startup businesses. Joy received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University.

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