Managing remotely is very different from managing locally – DANA KAYE is the founder of Kaye Publicity and she has plenty of experience in managing a completely remote team. She shares her experiences with management and, of course, provides plenty of helpful tips. She’s also the creator of Branding Outside the Box which helps people find their personal brand. She’s created a productivity toolkit that you can download right now: www.brandingoutsidethebox.com/productivitytoolkit
Her tips for working productively:
- Eliminate time wasters. And eliminate excuses.
- Try to make progress in small chunks. Doing something is better than nothing. Just start.
- Use the small pockets in your day (standing in line, waiting for a meeting to start, etc). Be intentional with what you do.
- Overworking is a constant struggle. Set up boundaries for yourself.
- As a remote manager, take the time to care. Be mindful. For example, pay attention to tone of voice. Check in regularly. Give people the support they need.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Great and we are live so welcome everybody to this remote interview, my name is Lisette and I am interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely and today on the line I have Dana Kaye you are the founder of Kaye publicity with an entirely remote boutique PR team, you are also the creator of Branding outside the box. So I am not going to give that away before I get into the interview. But very exciting and you have got a whole bunch of productivity tips to share but let us start with question number one which is, what does your virtual office look like, what do you need to get your work done?
Dana Kaye: So I’m very fortunate in that I have an office space in my house. It is tiny but it works and so I have a separate office I can close the door, so if someone is in my, if someone is at home they know I am working and I have a number of system that I use to stay connected, we have an internet phone service, we use G-chat to communicate with our team members, we use Asana to stay, to stay on top of all our projects and what this allows me to do is while I have a home office, and I am there probably eighty percent of the time, it also allows me to work from anywhere. One of the reasons we decided to go virtual is that as publicists we are constantly at meetings and we are constantly going to the TV stations with clients or meeting with potential clients and because we were “out of the office”, we it was a little bit difficult because the clients felt like oh they are never around, they are not available and was is because we didn’t have the systems in place. So now if I have a meeting down in the city at ten am and I drop my son of at school at seven thirty I can power up my laptop, sign into our internet phone service, if someone calls the office they were going to get me whether I am at my laptop or in my actual office. So that has proven to be a game changer. I know the clients feel like we are now way accessible, they do not feel like again we’re never around, they are constantly getting the answering machine. We have a UPS pack so packages and things get delivered, I do not have to be in the actual office to sign for packages and it’s really been a benefit for that ability to work everywhere be more available and have our systems and tools be able to be carried around with us rather than be isolated.
Lisette: Now was it tough to get your clients to get used to this style of working or were they just like thank God I did not want to travel, what was the response?
Dana Kaye: Well the benefit is that our clients are all over, so we only have about I’d say twenty percent of our clientele and based on Chicago only twenty percent of our clientele are in Chicago. So they are out of town anyway, so only meetings and things that were done would only be done if they were in town for some reason otherwise it would be done over the telephone or over Zoom and the I guess the only difference would be if people, there are certain things that if we were going to do an interview like via Skype or something and the client wanted us there like how do you do that but fortunately we work very closely with our clients. We are very close sometimes to a fault so there are plenty of moments where they come to my house and we set up the computer and they stand in my tinny office together and yeah it is never a there is never a moment where I am like ‘oh they can’t come to my house,’ they all come to my home and that is totally fine. I think what we as service providers get nervous about is that we get so nervous about being judged by the clients and the thing is that clients actually do not care they just want the work done, they just want to be served and if you are serving them better as a remote employee or in a virtual office setting then they are not going to care whether you got your work done in your office or whether you got your work done on a beach in Florida they are just so concerned with you getting the work done and serving them well. It is only when you are not really serving your clients that then they start to dissect ‘oh like maybe she is gone all the time or maybe she is not available,’ and that is why if you are delivering quality work consistently, none of them are going to care where that work occurred.
Lisette: Right it sort of becomes, it becomes an excuse for them to dive into something like ‘oh it must be that remote working or oh it must be something,’ yeah indeed it gives them like ammunition if something is not going right whereas it is impressive if everything is going right and you are right they do not really care they just want the work done.
Dana Kaye: Yeah and the same goes for employers and employees, I know that if I find myself like getting concerned with some of our contractors or an employee that is not getting their work done and I start like looking oh how much time did they spend yesterday or did they log in yesterday and I start getting concerned that is a trust issue that has to do with a relationship between me and the employees it is not an actual problem with the circumstance that they are remote. Like if I trust our team right now it is really solid thank goodness. Finally our team is solid, as anyone who has a team knows like hiring and firing, searching for talent is really time consuming but our team is really solid and I know that they are getting their work done, they are perusing quality work, they are doing it on time and I do not really care if they are doing it at two in the morning or like at six in the morning or whatever works well for them because they are, are getting it done and they are getting it done on time. If they start missing deadlines or they are turning in poor quality work and I can’t find them to talk about it that is when it starts becoming a problem. I do not think it has ever oh I do not know what they are doing because honestly if I can’t get them at if I want to G-Chart with them someone at one o’clock and they are not there I assume they are on a call they are doing something, they could be grocery shopping they could be going out for a run, I really do not mind as long as at some point I am able to connect with them.
Lisette: Right, their response and I get back to in a reasonable amount of time.
Dana Kaye: Correct.
Lisette: So why did you set you your company to be entirely remote?
Dana Kaye: We had an office for I want to say five years although I maybe batching the timeline. For five years and then in two thousand and sixteen when we started building out our team I noticed I was having trouble finding enough talent in Chicago, I was trying to build out a team and I was interviewing a lot of local people and I just wasn’t finding the right person and I thought you know maybe if I expanded my search to other places then I may find the right person and or even better person. And I was in contact with another PR company owner Jenny Detrick who owns Omen Detrick and she creates spin socks which is a great website and her company I believe she has forty employees entirely virtual, all of them are and I had asked her about that and she said if you are going to go virtual everyone has to do it, you can’t have one remote employee and then everyone else in the office it creates a poor dynamic, it is really difficult to gel as a team you just all have to all do it. And then additionally as I mentioned you know we were out of the office a lot, we were having concerns with like who is going to be in the office in case someone calls because the other publicists have a media appearance with the clients and I had a meeting somewhere else. There was always other factors that were happening and so it seemed like okay if we are all going to go virtual we will have a better pull of talents to choose from we will be able to be more accessible, we will have all the systems in place, we won’t be stressed out about maintaining this physical space and I think we can work better. So I decided in mid-2016 and we officially closed the office at the end of 2016, so we have been entirely virtual for about a year and a half now and I am loving every minute of it honestly. I think it is so great to be able to work in a different way. My son wakes up at about in a good day he wakes up at about six thirty, so I am able to wake up and my wife likes to work out first thing in the morning before we were arguing like ‘are you going to go for a run or are you going to work like what’s, who is home with the kid,’ and so I am able to start work at 5:30 and work until he gets up and then do the whole you know brushing teeth get him to school making breakfast and all that and then when I drop him at off school I am able to do my work out afterwards before you know I couldn’t really start my day because I didn’t have all my systems, I didn’t have my stuff you know if I wanted to I usually we are a book publicity company, there is a lot of book mailing do I usually do my mailings at five thirty in the morning and I wasn’t able to do those things before so I would have to drop him off and go straight to work and not have the time now I can take those little packets during the day to go work out, to go run an errand you know occasionally if there is something going on in his school that I want to go do I can go do that and not I feel like ‘oh God they are going to think that my team is going to feel like I am not present,’ because they do not know if I am going for an hour it does not make me less present.
Dana Kaye: Because I am working.
Lisette: Right. Is there anything you miss about the office?
Dana Kaye: We had really great office. I really for any of our clients who like came in were like ‘oh this is such a cool space,’ it was in this in nineteen like nineteen twenties building that was above, it was on a busy street the main street on our neighborhood, it was like had like pillars and lots of character. So I liked the space it was a really big space and I also miss not having as much stuff in my house because again we do book PR, they are currently as of the last inventory there are six hundred and twenty five books in my garage that go in and out. So we had to make some adjustments, we used to rent one of our garages we took it back and now all the books so those are little things that I miss but honestly like I like my home office, it has a good vibe too so I would say that is the only part I miss it is just like I liked working in that office right.
Lisette: Right a nice space.
Dana Kaye: Yeah.
Lisette: It is a…
Dana Kaye: But you can make that at home.
Lisette: For sure I totally understand so with work like fusion and do you have trouble with like integrating life and work and keeping it separate now that it sort of fusses together like it does?
Dana Kaye: I didn’t, the people around me did. So I am very good at compartmentalizing, at having set clear boundaries, again any service industry where you are working with clients you have to be good at setting boundaries. And so I am very good at setting boundaries, my clients, I am very good at setting them for myself. The problem lies in the people in our life. So for example the home office, this home office used to be our office for our personal stuff and I made a very clear line and a stand that there is no personal stuff in this space so that I do not have to go into my office if I am looking for a file or if I am looking for a I do not know something like photo or old photo or something so like nothing personal can be in this office so I did a lot of work to clear it all up, that was an adjustment for my wife who has a lot of stuff and wanted to have it out of her sight, we had to find other places for things. Also my son is home from school on Monday’s my mother takes care of him every Monday, that is their special day, so them being home and having that adjustment of yes I am home but I am not really here I think took some adjustments for them you know he would knock on the door sometimes and say ‘hello,’ she would ask me where is this where is that, not a big deal but I do have a little sign posted on the door if I am on a call or recording a podcast or doing something so they do not come in. I think that was an adjustment also for me I was micro managing because if I hear you know nap time, I hear it is being a fiasco or I hear a temper tantrum happening and I am like ‘oh she is doing this,’ and I should I need to separate if I was at work I would have no idea what they are doing so I keep that separate. But for the most part no I think that establishing really clear boundaries of where you are working and when you are not having a space, I know a lot of people do not have a luxury of having a separate office but even having a desk where in that desk there is nothing but work when you sit you do not sit at that desk for anything but work, you have a separate computer I think that was a big thing too, it was like I do have my laptop when I am gone but like not just working off on my laptop everywhere. So having a separate, a dedicated work space if even when most of your stuff is done remote, done elsewhere so you have that dedicated space if you work not to let that bleed into your personal life and vice versa.
Lisette: Right it is interesting when we fuse our life we still have to, we have to separate it in a different way in order to just minimize the distractions, yeah. So what does your team, what does your team struggle with when you first went remote?
Dana kaye: I, look we got a lot of very positive people so I do not think… it’s hard for me to speak of that but I think if I ask them ‘is everything okay?’ no one would say ‘I am struggling with something,’ oh it is great. And I actually do not think we struggled much. The only two people who was me and my other full time employee we were the only ones in Chicago at that point, our interns were gone, and the assistants were all contracts so they were not tin the office full time anyway and so I do not think it was that big of a struggle because one was already remote and then there was just me and Julia my publicity manager and so when we started hiring on everyone was elsewhere anyway and so I do not think it was so big of challenge. I would say speaking from the outside, the biggest challenge part for Julia is she works a lot and I think that is a constant struggle as you know she instead of before where she would get to work at eight and then leave at around five, now she is getting a little bit earlier and working a bit latter because she it’s right there and there is no commute. And so I’m constantly finding ways to like, like maybe ask her out for a drink at four thirty and make her stop. She is a really dedicated team member who you know who is very good at her job and I think that the biggest struggle is making sure that she has the support that she needs. And also just I think for me I am I think I have grown as a manager through this process I think that being there for people but not being micro managing you know being making sure they are supported but not, that they are doing better things are being taken away from them. I think that managing a remote team, a lot of same principles exist as an impersonal team and because you are not seeing them all the time, physically seeing them you just have to be a lot more mindful about what are their struggles, are they okay it is easy to just get wrapped up in our own work and not pay attention. And so I take a lot of time looking at you know how many hours they are working, what like the tones of their email or the tone of the calls that we have, if it sounds like we have three calls where she sounds stressed this may be a problem or I see that there are these four days that she worked ten hours a day or any of our team members. I have worked with a lot okay let us see if there is a problem, so be s little more mindful, a little bit tuned in because you do not see them on a regular, kind of regular basis.
Lisette: And then you just call them or do a video conference and then just do a one on one and check in with them.
Dana Kaye: Yes so we have a daily huddle every morning at eight thirty, I and Julia hop on a call. Fifteen minute call, it is short and sweet, what you are working on today, what is going on well, what is not going so well. Those are the three questions and we both answer them. We have, I have a weekly call with another publicist and a client who is a bigger client so we manage their team their publicity team, so we have a weekly call with them. I have one off calls with our digital marketing person another publicist as, an ad as needed phase. And then we are going to start instituting big team meetings as of until now I haven’t really I have kind of been the person and then everyone spreads out for me and I am kind of interfacing managing everybody and I think that is a disturbance I do not think that is the right thing to do. So actually next week we have our first big team meeting with all of our contractors to talk about they will introduce themselves and what they do and then do something similar or where we are like what are what is our big project for the month what are we struggling with can anyone here help what is really going well can anyone amplify or learn from that success and having those regular meetings to really build the culture of our company that has been really important to me it is creating our company culture that is aligned with my values and I think if we as entrepreneurs and service providers can take some more time to think about what our values are like what we really want to do in our world and what we want or company, who we want to serve how we want to serve them that will trickle down to our team members, our employees, our contractors but we have to really have a clear vision of that and communicate that to them.
Lisette: Right and that sort of seems to me like the role of the leader is to have that clear vision and t be able to disseminate it because otherwise it is like hurting cats you know you have got people going in all kinds of well-meaning direction but…
Dana Kaye: Yeah exactly right.
Dana Kaye: You have to focus [crosstalk] it doesn’t seem like oh yeah that sounds good. Okay but before we run out of time, I have got to ask you about productivity because there are some questions where we are first communicating about the interview that really picks my interest and I thought how the audience that listens to this podcast would is great. So one, one of the things was why mental road blocks are often responsible for not being productive? What is about the mental blocks?
Lisette: So we so much of what we think about is like a feeling and not based on fact so we feel like we are overwhelmed we feel like we do not have as much time when in fact we do not really know if we have enough time. So one of the things that talk about is the like if we see in our schedule like okay it is nine o’clock and we have a meeting at nine thirty I can’t possibly finish this project in thirty minutes, so we just goof off of Facebook we waste twenty minutes of time rather than actually trying and I find that if you try to make progress on a project rather than like just saying ‘whatever I will do it later,’ where I can only do it if I can do it and like in one sitting and you are going to waste a lot of time. So what I challenge everyone is do not think ‘oh I do not have time to complete this so I am not going to do it.’ Do what you can to start something do what you can to like make progress and also challenge yourself. I am a very competitive person, so I will challenge myself to get it all done. Like I will challenge myself okay twenty minutes write a blog post let us see if I can do it and see how far I can get before my call or that meeting. If I or for that matter if I have other things on my list that I can do in twenty minutes just doing those but really eliminating all those time wasters or eliminating that idea I don’t have time to do this or I can never finish this or I am going to have a call in ten minutes I might as well not do anything but being really productive and doing something in that moment taking advantage. I think that is something that most of us do not do. I also believe in like setting ourselves up for success rather than failure, so I am into fitness ad there is a lot of hurdles to fitness there is lots of hurdles to fitness there are you know you have to maybe you need a gym membership, maybe you need running shoes, maybe you forgot your clothes, maybe you do not have childcare like there is so many hurdles to working out and moving your body, so how can you eliminate those hurdles and one of the things that I do it sounds dorky but like I have an all-time like a gym bag a packed gym bag in my car. So I have a swim suit, I swim a lot so I have a swim suit have got cap googles extra pair running shoes in my car at all times, so if a meeting got cancelled like I used to get so irritated when a meeting would get cancelled at the last minute but then I was like oh you know what I have a swim suit and ‘oh look Chicago Park District free laps right down the street let us just go there,’ and not be so precious like with everything like ‘oh in order to work out I need this workout class and this time,’ you know if I swim for fifteen minutes or if I take like one mile run which is you know I have done marathons and long distance that it seems so silly it is better than nothing like it is better than what am I going to do just sit and scroll Instagram while I wait for the next meeting like that is a waste of time. So I think setting yourself up for success, like setting the room so if you know you need to accomplish a big task first thing in the morning leave your computer on and set up that task so that when you wake up you can just jump onto it and eliminate the excuses. Always bring your laptop so if you are caught at a meeting or you know you are picking up your kids from school and you are in this line right and you like do not have time to do anything than sit there, have your laptop and you can get some writing, write a blog post, write an email, write something and really just make the use of every stolen moment. I do a lot of reading while standing in checkout lines, like I have a Kindle and have it on my phone and so if I have ten minutes I will always have a book with me to read. So I think like really just setting yourself up for success and not being precious with where you work, how you work and how good it is because doing something is better than nothing making like some progress is better than making no progress. So if I want to learn podcast interviews you know sending you an email, one email saying ‘I listened to your podcast I want you be on,’ it but even if I do not have time to send twenty emails it is better than nothing so I think those are the mental road blocks that people need to overcome that if you do something, make some progress you are going to be further ahead than where you were before.
Lisette: Yeah and also eliminating those distractions you are right like using the moments and not Facebooking or Instagraming it is so unbelievably addicting. I struggle with it myself and I know others do too but it is like really. Yeah.
Dana Kayne: I think that…
Lisette: Will be late for breakfast and working on that blog post somehow.
Dana Kayne: Of course and well I think that it is really difficult for people in our online space where social media is such an integral tool to connect with our to connect with our followers, to establish our brand it is we use it we need it we can’t just like delete it and not use it that would be short sighted. What we can do is make sure we are being really strategic and really what’s the word, doing it with intention like we are I am opening up the Instagram app I am not just doing the scrolling I am searching a hashtag looking at people in my industry, looking at people who I may want to follow, who maybe would want to follow me, I am liking and commenting organically and then I turn that off. I am not just scrolling to see what you know my friends from High school are posting photos of their tacos or they are you know the food other like food and lifestyle porn that like we get stuck into I think that if you having some sort of intention with everything you do is really, it is really important and think that the distractions become excuses in some ways like we can’t eliminate all the distractions you know. Clients call and we have to deal with it or you know internet we have like we had storms here and like the internet was going in and out like you have to deal with that but I think that if you are just saying, ‘okay what can I do to make progress of my business what can I do right now to serve my clients?’ That is going to make a bigger impact and maybe that is going to make a bigger impact and maybe that is looking at Instagram and commenting on peoples post because you are working on growing your firm. But maybe it is also like reviewing a client status to make sure that they are on the right track or looking at their tweeter feed just to make sure they are not doing anything silly, so I think like if you are, if you just have good intentions behind everything you do you will learn that it doesn’t become distraction and it becomes actually something you are using to forward your, forward your business and throughout your career. I know we are running out of time I just there is, I was in a program with a man named Tad Herman who’s program is called the ninety day here and one of his exercises that I found supremely enlightening was the entrepreneur score card where he, we already keep track of our time because as publicists you know it has to factor in budgets that in billing so I will use a time keeping app but what he said was you add all our values to everything that you do. So like running errands, filling, scrolling Facebook that is a ten dollar activity and you know doing marketing copy, planning sales funnels you know serving your clients that is a hundred dollar activity. Doing prep work for a big deal, or big speaking that is a thousand dollar activity. So if you keep track of your time look at what activities you are doing and you can have like you know a day where you only do the ten dollar things but if you are doing that every day and you’re never doing those a hundred dollar, thousand dollar activities total up what you are making each day and you have a goal or a revenue goal towards the end of each year you need to be doing those higher values activities in your business and that to me was supper enlightening because it helped put the value on everything that they were doing and say okay could I be outsourcing it or should I just be deleting this and not be doing it. So thinking about in your work like what is your value of the activities that you are doing in scrolling Facebook I am telling you is not a thousand dollar activity.
Lisette: Right and it would probably be takes money, it probably takes minus [Crosstalk] that is shockingly addiction. Okay I can’t end his interview without saying something about personal branding because this is something this is your expertise. What is the biggest mistake people make in terms of developing their personal brand?
Dana Kaye: I think well first of all understanding what personal brand is and why it is important that is why actually when I created the platform branding outside the box it was because so many people think a personal branding is like your color pallet and your logos and all the assets around it and had nothing to do with values, mission and talking points any of that stuff. So your personal brand at its core is who you are what you do and what makes you unique. And it seems usually simple but it talked a lot of focus grouping and work-shopping and testing to really get that message down and how to convey that. So I think people make the mistake of make the mistake of A not focusing on a personal brand and I ask them hey what do you do they give me their job title that is not a descriptive, saying ‘I am a nutritionist,’ okay I work with I know a lot of nutritionists I do not know what that means saying ‘I am a nutritionist who helps athletes to cut out sugar.’ I know exactly what you do it resonates, I know who you work with I know what takes you unique and it is going to stick. And as an athlete it resonates with me because we eat a lot of sugar. And so…
Lisette: That is why we run right I mean…
Dana Kaye: That’s why we run, we run for cupcakes I mean it’s really someone says I help like athletes eliminate alcohol and I am like but after a marathon you drink a beer like that is what you do.
Lisette: Yeah that is why you do it.
Dana Kaye: That is why you do it so lactic acid there is lots of science but I think that if you really get to the heart of what you do and that is what I help and brand outside the box that is why I help people do is understand the value of getting really clear on who they are and what they do who they serve, what makes you unique, what they are passionate about and so that they can create a tag line, a brand summary and other messaging that goes on their website, in their social platforms, in their promotional material and even as a publicity tool while they are getting media coverage and if they are being asked on podcasts or TV shows or guest posts like what are the things you talk about. Like a great example like I talked about being a parent but that is not really the core of my brand because it fits in my brand. So I am not going to go on parenting websites to talk about owning a business and being a mum that is not really what I do. I talk about networking, I talk about personal branding I talk about productivity because I believe that those are the three thing you need to really excel your career, become a successful entrepreneur or a leader. I also work with people in corporate who are kind of plateaued or they are trying to get to that sea sweet level and they are getting pass up for promotions so it has a lot to do with your personal branding in the workplace, it has to do with your network and if you are in that middle position in corporate you are probably really busy so the productivity content helps work more efficiently and make time for those networking coffees and those happy hours and those e-sources or skilled sets that you need to build. And so I am very clear I want my talking points where I am very clear on who I serve and therefore I can more easily communicate that to people so that is ultimately what a personal brand is, it is the ability to convey who you are what you do without really saying much like if you look at my Instagram grin you will know exactly what I do just by looking at it I do not have to tell you anything if you talk, if you meet me at a cocktail party I will tell you I work with driven entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders to become more memorable that is what I do. And that sticks a lot if I say I am a brand coach falls on deaf ears the word coach is such a turn off to a lot of people, no one knows what brand is they think like it is again logo’s and all that stuff so it does not work. So it is something to be really clear on to workshop to get feedback on pulling your audience knowing if you know who you serve asking them like what do you struggle with how do I help you and I would say call it Trojan horsing it. Like I help people with their personal brands but no one knows what a personal brand is or why they need it so I am not going to tell you I will help you with your personal brand, I am going to say I will help you become more memorable which is a personal brand.
Lisette: Right and it ultimately that is what people are wanting. So it seems to me if you are looking, if you are in the audience listening to this right now and you are looking to develop your personal brand, I would say go get an expert to help you because clearly they know what they are talking about just like you already know what you are doing so which brings us to the very last question which is if people want to contact you what is the best way to get in touch where are you on the internet.
Dana Kaye: My home base is brandingoutsidethebox.com and that is where you can find blog post, newsletters, podcast and if you want to work with me one on one or do a group program or do an e-course all that is there and you can follow me on social media and if you want more of the productivity like tips and tricks I have a free toolkit that you can download on brandingoutsidethebox.com/productivity tool kit.
Lisette: All one word?
Dana Kaye: Correct.
Lisette: Great I will put that in the show notes too for those people who want to, to check that out. I really.
Dana Kaye: Thank you Lisette.
Lisette: Yeah thank you. I highly suggest that clearly you know what they are talking about, I have tones of notes here as you can see. Great tips for the listeners thank you so much for your time today.
Dana Kaye: Aw, thank you so much for having me this was great.
Lisette: Alright everybody until next time be powerful.