5 Successful Remote Businesses That Paved the Way for Modern Startups Can you replicate the models of these businesses and go fully remote?
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Remote work is becoming more popular, in the short term because of the global health crisis, but in the long term because of increasing acceptance of the value of remote work. Operating remotely, companies can save money, access a bigger talent pool and look more attractive in the eyes of job seekers. But that also comes with drawbacks, including a less cohesive brand culture and more challenging communication.
To anxious entrepreneurs and traditional team leaders, operating fully remotely is a scary thought. But there are plenty of examples of companies that have thrived using a purely remote model. What is it that led them to success? And can you replicate their approach for your own business?
Related: 4 Tips for Managing Communication Among Remote, Multilingual Teams
Let's take a look at some of the most prominent examples of successful businesses that have operated fully remotely (or close to it):
One of the most commonly cited names in the world of fully remote businesses is Automattic, better known as the parent company of Wordpress — the most popular blog and website creation tool in the world. Wordpress, which is now used by 30 percent of all websites, was created with a completely virtual workspace. So what made it so successful? Part of the answer lies with its communication philosophy. Most companies that go fully remote simply turn meetings into video conferences and rely more heavily on email and instant chat, but Automattic takes things a step further. It has completely re-optimized its communication systems with many different channels, including a social media-like shared blog for public communication. Additionally, Automattic keeps employees connected and talking to each other with shared activities, like coloring, chair yoga, book clubs, virtual dog parks and even an open mic night.
InVision is a product design and prototyping app used by more than three million designers, but what's really impressive is that the company operates with a distributed team across 25 countries. Part of what's made the company successful is its robust investment in its employees. InVision offers employees a comprehensive medical insurance package, along with gym memberships that both keep employees healthy and give them a platform to socialize. Additionally, employees can enjoy a generous salary, substantial equipment allowances and a roomy budget for travel and conferences.
Buffer is a company that creates tools that make social media much easier to manage. It's also been fully remote from the very beginning. So what's the secret to its success? If there's one factor to consider more than the others, it's the business's flexibility. Employees have the option to work wherever they want, whether it's from a local café or from their own home. Additionally, employees can exercise autonomy over their own projects and their own hours, allowing them to work in the ways that allow them to reap their full potential.
Related: 5 Tips for Aligning Your Remote Team's Goals
Zapier makes automation software, enabling companies to automate their workflows and combine the functionality of several apps simultaneously. It's also been operating fully remotely since its launch nearly 10 years ago. One of its best qualities is its effective use of tools. Most modern remote teams already understand the need for certain tools to enable communication and collaboration across vast distances, and the power that automation can have in reducing the burden of small, menial tasks. Your choice in tools, and how you use them, plays a major role in determining your success. Zapier figured that out early and either purchased or created the best possible combination of tools for its team to use.
Best known as the creator of the Firefox browser, Mozilla is a development company with an impressive talent pool and an ongoing commitment to creating great products. It's kind of cheating to put it on this list, since its workforce isn't fully remote, but more than half its workforce has been remote for much of its history. As with many of the companies on this list, there are many factors responsible for its success, but one of the most notable is its emphasis on the brand's core values, among them being transparency. Mozilla coordinates and unifies its teams by setting strict company policies and encouraging all its employees to live and thrive in the same brand culture.
Learning from the best
Obviously, there are other factors for success we didn't discuss here. Many of these businesses are tech companies, making them better poised to operate remotely than, say, a fitness center. They also have strong business models that could have made them a success regardless of whether or not they had a remote workforce.
But looking beyond these additional factors, there are many lessons an aspiring entrepreneur can learn. When you give your employees more flexibility, the tools they need to communicate effectively and unify them under the same banner, you enable them to do their best work, even when they're working outside of the conventional office. Take lessons from these remote work leaders, and consider applying them to your own business.
Related: 7 Mistakes Leaders Make When Managing a Remote Team