Tips For Maintaining Culture Across Locations

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  • October 14, 2016
  • Starr Million Baker

What Do You Mean The CEO Doesn’t Work Here?

*Originally published on Forbes.com

Companies of all sizes are embracing remote working policies at a rapid pace. Advantages abound, both to employers – lower capital costs, happier employees, and more access to top talent across markets – and workers – flexible schedules means less time in traffic and more quality time with family and friends.

While we relish in the advantages, there are still challenges to be addressed, particularly from a management perspective. How do you maintain company culture when you aren’t physically engaging with one another? How do managers mentor new people long distance, when they don’t have those quick moments of plopping down in front of someone’s desk for a chat? And what about leading by example – is that even possible anymore?

In 2004, my business partner and I founded a communications agency because we loved what we did and thought we could do it better on our own. We started it in Austin because that’s where we lived, and because man, do we love that town. Staying in one place worked well for us for a long time, but expansion is a natural part of growth. In 2015, Denver became the spoke to our Austin hub. We decided to take that whole “work from wherever” thing to the extreme – and we even have a CEO (me) who doesn’t work at headquarters.

There are a few things we do to make this work that any company can adapt to their own cultures.

First, we strongly believe that a big part of maintaining company culture across locations is agreeing to maintain company culture across locations. As simplistic as that sounds, it means not letting an “us vs. them” mentality seep into your thoughts or actions. It means building teams around people’s expertise and not their location. And it means being inclusive of everyone in all that you do, especially communication. We call it our 1BHF approach – one big happy family.

That 1BHF doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of work from all parties, but particularly those workers who are not at headquarters every day. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing. Everyone has to work hard to combat this; it’s a fact of life that remote workers or folks in satellite offices just have to work harder to be seen, heard and included. And that’s okay because there are a plethora of tools that can help.

Our arsenal of communication tools to keep our teams in touch is large. We have GoToMeeting for multi-person, multimedia meetings. Room is a great video option when you just want to grab a minute with someone “face to face.” We use Slack for chatting and Asana for managing projects, Box and Google GOOGL +0.50% for filing and working, and of course email and text are regular ways we stay in touch too. And the phone! Try as people might to avoid it, the phone is still the quickest and most effective way to stay in touch. I make sure I have every one of our team member’s mobile numbers stored in my phone for quick access; all remote CEOs should do the same.

Finally, while technology is exceptional and a “we’re all in this together” mindset is imperative, physical time together is still a requirement. For us, that means we get together as a true 1BHF at least twice a year, employees are encouraged to work a day or two out of our other offices as they travel for business or pleasure, and this traveling CEO can be found at headquarters four or more days a month.

With the right attitude, effort, tools, and some face time now and again, a company with multiple locations can still maintain a singular culture.

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