Momentum Podcast: 617
The Virtual (R)evolution
by Alex Charfen
Over the past several weeks the globe has conducted the largest work from home experiment in history. Hundreds of millions of people went from working in offices, to working out of their kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. And in at least one case, a woman took her computer into the bathroom with her on a zoom call and made national news.
The workplace has permanently changed and it's never going to go back to what we used to think was normal. Millions of companies just realized they don't need the infrastructure, or more importantly the overhead they have been spending on massive offices. Many of them have also realized their employees are more productive even though they are working at home. There are some companies that are going through challenges, but just as many or more are feeling all of the advantages of having a remote workforce.
Working virtually, remotely, and from home is going to be a permanent part of every type of business moving forward. Businesses who don't have a work from home component will be seen as having a disadvantage. In the future, a metric the companies will measure is how much of the workforce can work from home.
With the right elements in place, working remotely can be far more productive than in person. With a virtual workforce, companies can spend less and grow faster. If you find you and your team working virtually, having the right process, structure and routine changes everything.
Full Audio Transcript
This is the Momentum Podcast.
Over the past several weeks, humanity has participated in this massive global experiment to take work from the office to the home. The workplace has been permanently changed and will not go back to the way things were before the market changed. Working virtually remotely or from home is going to be a permanent part of every type of business moving forward. Businesses who don't have at work from home component will be seen as having a disadvantage. In this episode of The Momentum Podcast, Alex is going to talk about what it takes to take your team virtual, to have the right processes, structures, and routines in place to make sure your business can stay in momentum while the rest of the world is in crisis.
I'm Alex Charfen and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be.
So a few days ago in our Facebook community, which is called Charfen Community Grow Your Business In Any Market, even this one. I'd love for you to join. I posted a post and said if anyone had any questions about this crisis ... Or not this crisis, just if anybody had any questions in general that I'd love to answer them, and I got a question, "How will remote work change or evolve and will we go back to the old normal soon?"
I love this question because here's what's happened. Over the past few weeks, we have conducted the largest work from home social experiment in the history of the world. We had hundreds of millions of people go from working in offices, working together, working in proximity to now working out of their living rooms, their dining rooms, their bedrooms and in one case we had a ... There's a very well-known story of a woman carrying a notebook or she was on the phone on a Zoom call and went into the bathroom. So we've had this tectonic shift and it's really interesting because businesses that for years have said they can't have a remote work policy where there's for some reason it just won't work for them or they don't have the right process in place or whatever it is. Now they've been forced to test working virtually, and here's what I believe has happened in the past several weeks. We've had millions of businesses realize that they can get a lot done without spending the overhead that they're spending, and it's been very difficult for some companies, but for a lot of companies they're realizing that they're not spending on infrastructure, they're not spending on overhead and their team is actually more productive remotely for a number of reasons that I'll discuss than they were in-person.
So there is going to be a revolution and an evolution when it comes to virtual work and when it comes to running a business in general, and we've already seen the beginnings of this. Before this huge accelerator of having this crisis in the world hit, we already saw a lot of virtual work and a lot of companies starting to hire people remotely, hiring people to work out of their homes and name companies like Apple has people working out of their homes. Google has people working out of homes before this all happened, now they both have their entire workforce is working out of their homes. So we're going to see a shift in all of the major companies out there that have started to do this.
Now I want to talk about some of the shifts, then I want to share with you why this is such a massive advantage for you if you're an entrepreneur, and then some of the things you should have in place to be able to work virtually effectively, to be able to work virtually in a way that that makes sense and to get the most out of your team working virtually. So first let me just share with you some of the predictions that I have. So number one, work that needs to be done in-person or places where you have to work in-person, like here's what's going to happen. There's going to be a lot of companies that evolve around this like crazy. They see it as an advantage. They see all the benefits that I'm going to share in a little bit. They understand just how much easier it is to grow having a virtual workforce and they're going to take advantage of this. Then there's going to be companies like there always is, whenever anything evolves or changes or become something new that fight this. They're going to fight it tooth and nail. They're going to say that we need to get everybody back in the office. Everybody needs to be in the same place.
In some businesses you have to have that, but right now when I say we've conducted the biggest work from home experiment ever, I have clients that are in manufacturing, that are in laboratory testing, one that's in laboratory testing, one that's doing teledentistry. So there is all kinds of stuff that is being done from home that we never would have suspected, so I think one of the new evolutions is going to be in the future, if a company doesn't have work from home options or doesn't have virtual work options, it's going to be seen as a disadvantage. I even think that eventually investors will use this as a metric as to ... Like how they judge Wall Street companies and how they look at organizations, how they evaluate them. They're going to ask how much of their workforce is virtual, because that's actually going to be a big, huge, massive benefit. Again, I'm going to tell you why in just a minute.
So now another reason or another evolution, this is a big one. This change is going to change the entire workplace and one of the things that companies are going to need moving forward is virtual leadership. Now, here's what I mean by that. There are a lot of people who are good at leadership in-person who can be leaders one-on-one like this, but people who have the commitment to process, structure and routine, and to the type of process and structure and routine it takes to be a good virtual leader, where you show up in the same way, where your team knows what to expect, they know how they're going to hear from you, when they're going to hear from you. They know what you're using for perspective as to whether they're successful. So virtual leadership, this type of a leader is going to be a commodity. People are going to want as many as they can.
This type of leader is going to have a massive advantage. If you can lead virtually, if you can lead virtual teams as an entrepreneur, you're going to be at a huge advantage to the people right now who can't. You're running by them because they are all trying and if you're able to and they can't, you're going to win. You're also going to see people who, not just entrepreneurs, but people who within companies can lead virtually. The more leaders you have who have that commitment to process, structure and routine, every person on my team has this, so here's what I know. I know if we're competing against another company that does close to what we do, there's no one who does exactly, we're in a blue ocean, but who does close to what we do. I know that if they're working in-person and they have to, that we have more discipline, structure, process, routine, we're going to win, we're going to grow faster.
So another big shift in evolution in this big change that I see is that virtual companies are going to outpace companies that all work in-person when they go head to head. So let's just say for example, there is two competitive types of companies, two companies that are similar in size and one of them decides that they're going to go hybrid virtual and in-person or virtual, and the other one decides they're only going to stay in-person. I believe that for the reasons I'm going to share with you, virtual companies are going to outpace the in-person only companies by a considerable amount.
I've just watched this in our coaching programs. I've watched this in the companies I've scaled. I've watched this in the friends that I have that have scaled businesses. Virtual companies have just insane advantages. So again, right now, millions of companies are discovering, forced discovering for the first time. So I think this, when someone asks like how is this going to evolve or change, it's going to be way faster than it ever was. We're going to evolve years or decades in the next months and ongoing months and maybe up to a year, but in the next months and year.
So the next evolution is that companies are going to see this massive and again, massive set of benefits. No no no, sorry. The next evolution is that remote work specialized services are going to explode. So if you're an entrepreneur and you want to know some businesses that are about to absolutely explode, it's going to be service companies that specialize in supporting remote workforces. So when I say service companies like tech support, right now we work with a bunch of different organizations that have had to go remote overnight. A lot of them are struggling with tech support. They had a workforce that was in-person, easy to support. You could walk up and fix it at the desk. Now they're literally working out of a bedroom, off of a notebook, off of maybe their own home computer. So how do you support all of them? There's going to be an explosion in HR and legal, so this whole world of remote work and HR and legal and how do you make it work and how does it work and what can you do? What can't you do? So there's going to be an explosion in giving people advice around this.
Hardware. So for years, we have seen furniture manufacturers and hardware for offices, made for offices. We've seen lights made for offices, we've seen desk furniture. You are going to see an explosion in home office, in home technology and specialized for the home user technology, hardware. The entire way that we work is going to shift and change and it's going to continue to accelerate.
Here's why. Let me share just some of the benefits with you of working remotely, because I've run businesses in-person and I've run businesses remote. The first company that I ever ran in my twenties, we were responsible for over a quarter billion dollars in sales. We were a multimillion dollar organization ourselves. I had about 50 people. I had 15 offices in the U.S. and Latin America. I worked virtually where all my offices were in-person. So it was kind of a hybrid company, but I was in one place, and then the business that Cadey and I grew, one of the businesses that we grew, we had a huge team, mostly in-person, about a hundred people, over 80 of them in-person. Then currently we run our business remotely and we've done both in different iterations and with different partners. Here are the benefits that I see. So first, working remotely for me has this massive overwhelming benefit that I can hire talent anywhere. When we were here in Austin, and we had our whole office here in Austin, and this is not to say anything about the Austin market, but we were competing sometimes with the same few companies over and over again for the same candidates, and so we were in direct local bidding wars over and over for the same positions. It was excruciating and so virtual is like this incredible opportunity to hire talent anywhere.
I have incredibly talented human beings all over the world on my team and they are amazing, and another benefit of that is that diversity matters. Like having different thoughts on your team, different perspectives, different understandings of the world. It will actually make you a more intelligent entrepreneur. It also makes your product more robust, it makes your solutions more clear. When you put stuff out, it actually is better because different perspectives are looking at it and giving you feedback. So if you're virtual and you can work internationally, there's an even bigger benefit there.
Now let's just look at the benefits of just virtually. Like for us, one of the benefits as a small business is we cover the globe, even as a small company. So we have a designer that's overseas, so when we need to communicate with a company that's overseas, she does the communication so she's on their time zone and then checks in with us the next day. Being virtual as a small business has a ton of advantages. Now let's look for large companies. One of the biggest challenges in business in general in any organization period, and this is every company I've ever worked with at a global scale. I've worked with Fortune 500, Fortune 100, global multinationals and every one of them, real estate is a massive issue. Whether it's lease rate real estate or purchase real estate, whether it's headquarters or regional offices, real estate is a constant headache. Every major company out there has real estate that they're sitting on without using. They have real estate that is sitting vacant that they're trying to sublease. They have real estate that they have leased but they haven't started using yet. Moving people in and out from place to place, warehousing human beings, having them move around is a massive, huge cost for organizations, and as they start to realize how much they're offloading in terms of infrastructure expense.
Now in a small business, this can be like double digit margin percentages. In large organizations it can have that same effect or a similar effect, not double digit. In smaller organizations, the infrastructure is so expensive that if you can get rid of all of it, you can actually save double digit percentages and that all goes to profitability. In larger organizations, depending on what their facilities costs are, they can realize massive, massive savings, and one of the biggest advantages of having a virtual workforce, and now here's the key is that companies can switch from going virtual and in-person, that they have management systems, leadership systems, communication structures in place so that everyone on the team still understands what's going on.
One of the biggest advantages of being able to have that flexibility is that if you have the flexibility of going from in-person to virtual and back and forth, well first, depending on how long this current situation lasts, that is a massive advantage if you have to go from in-person to virtual and back again, which is some of the predictions that are coming out right now is that that's a very high likelihood. In just general, if you can, instead of having to hire people into an office, hire a virtual workforce, as things ramp up, you can scale your people without scaling the respective real estate and technological infrastructure. It's much lighter weight, much easier, much faster. I know. We've done it both ways, and even when Cadey and I had our company here in Austin that got up to about a hundred people, it wasn't huge, but every time we hired someone, sometimes it was tough just to get the desk and the computer and all the stuff that you need to get into the right place when the person comes in.
I mean early when we were first starting, we literally had people working on milk cartons. We couldn't get chairs delivered fast enough cause we were growing so fast. Had we done it virtually, it would have been a lot easier and so those are the reasons why you're going to see more and more companies putting more and more time going into virtual. Now here's how you win in going virtual, is you have to have process, structure and routine that allows you to be just as effective with your team members virtually as you were in-person. This means that rather than having anything driven by personality or having a person check in on someone or having someone be in-person, everything now has to shift to process, structure or routine that is replacing that in-person check-in.
So the way that you win fast is to get the right systems in place so that every person in the company knows how they succeed. Every person in the company knows exactly what their responsibilities are so they know what they're aiming at, they know what their outcomes are, and they know how to succeed. They know exactly what their responsibilities are, what they're doing and what the people around them are doing. You should have tools in your business where they can see this. They know the job descriptions of everybody around them. They know theirs, they know the org chart, they understand what's going on and then you should have systems where they know clearly and visibly and when they want to go check with perspective what is going on, what is the scoreboard that shows whether you're winning or losing.
Virtually all of those three things are crucially important and if you have them in place, you will often find that your team's capable of getting more done in a virtual situation than getting done in-person. There's a lot less interruptions. People are a lot more focused. A lot of people actually feel more comfortable in their homes. This is not everyone, there's always exceptions, but because we're all in this situation right now, it makes sense to test it and do it as well as you possibly can. So when you have the right process, structure and routine, and it's not just making sure ... A big part of it is making sure your team knows clear outcomes. They know exactly what they're doing, what the people around them are doing and then what are you keeping track? What is the score? We call those OTAs, outcomes, transparency, which is the scoreboards, and accountability, which is they know what they're doing, which allows people to make contribution.
So when you have those three things in the business and you have a structure through which you communicate them, the team knows when they're going to hear from you. On a virtual team this is so important because you can't just walk out and make announcements, and if you try on a virtual team, you end up with a lot of communication that goes all over the place. So the way to make it so that it's infinitely more successful is create a structure and a process and a routine so that you have a calendar. Your team knows when they're going to hear from you. They know why they're going to hear from you. They know what they're going to hear from you, and then they can start to anticipate what's going to happen next and this allows them to win.
Working virtually is a unfair advantage. It's not easy for everyone, but when you have the right process, structure and routine in place, it gets far easier and it can become an unfair advantage and we help tons of companies do this. We've been helping companies transition from in-person to virtual for years and we also help companies with the process, structure and routine to manage people in a way and to work with people in a way where everyone is equally as effective whether you're in-person or not.
Here's the reality. If you have to be in-person for your management structure and your leadership structure to work, then you probably don't have enough of a management or leadership structure. If you can transition to virtual and you're not losing a lot of productivity and people still know what's going on, then the right structure, process and routine is in place. If it's something that you are interested in and you want to ... Whether you're working virtually or in-person, or if you're in a new hybrid situation and you want to be able to grow your business faster, manage your people so they're just as productive virtually as they are in-person and maybe even more, reach out to us. Just make a comment below that says you're interested in connecting and let me help you understand how to put the right process, structure and routine in place so that this move to virtual isn't a challenge as much as a new opportunity that you can absolutely take advantage of.
Thanks for listening. Look forward to seeing you soon. Do me a favor. If you know anybody who should hear this, that you think it might help them, tag them, and also if you could share this, I would really appreciate it.