TIM BURGESS is the Director at Shield GEO, a company that helps others manage and employ their international employees. Tim’s colleagues work in 9 different countries across all time zones. In this interview, he shares how they manage time zone issues, how they maintain their company values, how they promote team building, and the tips they use for hiring great remote workers.
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His tips for working remotely:
- Communication is key. Pay extra attention to how you treat people and share your ideas across the team as it starts to grow.
- No one can see what’s in your head. Don’t assume that if you give the message once, it’s going to get through. Be deliberate with your words. Explain everything and engage everyone.
- The biggest obstacle with time zones is not getting quick answers. Try to overcommunicate. Always make sure you give that extra bit of detail so you don’t have to wait a day.
- Being able to work remotely is huge and workers don’t take it lightly. Managers often fear that if you can’t see an employee working, nothing will get done. When people are given the freedom to create a flexible schedule, have more time with their family and focus on other goals, they pay you back with loyalty and engagement.
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Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Great, and we’re live. So welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And today on the line, I have Tim Burgess. I think I pronounced that I didn’t ask how to pronounce it. Is it Burgess?
Tim Burgess: Yes, yeah that’s correct.
Lisette: Okay. And Tim, you’re the director of Shield Geo Services Limited. You’re in Sydney, Australia. So it is nine o’clock at night for you. Now it’s 1 pm in the afternoon for me here in the Netherlands. And shield Geo. It says on your website, you employ hundreds of remote international workers in over sixty countries for a number of different companies, some very famous one Shopify is amongst the list. And we’re going to talk about that but I want to ask first, what does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
Tim Burgess: So interestingly, I, I often work actually out of an office space, but in the company where [Inaudible 00:59]. So that means we’re set up for remote for me to work, I just need a laptop. And that’s it. I like to have a second screen, I like to have a keyboard and a mouse [Inaudible 01:12] work from a desk. But literally everything is through the web. But on a day to day basis, I work with a group of four to six people in a, we workspace in Sydney. And then we’re interacting with twenty-five colleagues who are [Inaudible 01:33] in a, I think seven or eight other countries around the world.
Lisette: Okay, wow. And so why this we workspace.
Tim Burgess: To be honest, it’s because I personally, really struggled with productivity when I work from home. So I found that working from home, I get distracted. I’m not as focused. I like having the cues of having other people working around me. And, and so I started working in a co-working space maybe six years ago when my second daughter was born. And I really loved it. And also because I live in the suburbs of Sydney, where there’s not a lot of stuff to do, you know, you go out for coffee or lunch during the middle of the day, I can’t go to the gym, where I live? So it’s better to actually go into the city where all that stuff is.
Lisette: Ah, smart. So you started working in a co-working space and then as you got more employees, you got an office over you guys all a company already. When you started.
Tim Burgess: I started off just me and then the first couple of people we hired were co-located except for the other founders. So Duncan was always traveling around. So in a sense, we were, we were always distributed in that he and I were in different countries. But then we built a little team around me and that was like, the initial core, and then everyone else subsequently we hired has been remote.
Lisette: And how many people are in the company now?
Tim Burgess: I think we just got to like 31-32.
Lisette: Okay, so 31-32 people, okay, great and all over the world. So…
Tim Burgess: Yeah, yeah, I think we’re counting the other day. I think it’s like nine countries now.
Lisette: Dang. Okay, so we’re going to talk about that and being in Australia, I know that you suffer from time zone issues also from the previous conversation. So I want to definitely talk about time zones. But first, tell us a little bit about Shield Geo Services. Also, a very interesting company actually, as I started diving in, but why don’t you go ahead and describe what you do?
Tim Burgess: Sure. So we’re what they call an employer of record service that companies use us to employ and payroll their international workers, where they are unable or unwilling to do it themselves directly. So most commonly, easiest if I explained it in a situation. So common sense scenario will have is an American company who want to start selling their product in, in Asia. And they’ll hire a, they want to start selling stuff in Japan, they’ll hire a Japanese person to be that local sales rep. And then let’s say we don’t want to incorporate a new company in Japan just for this one person. So they can use us and we employ and payroll them to bring them onto our books. We handle all of the compliance and administration. And so effectively, they get an employee who’s treated as a local employee should be treated. They don’t have to deal with any of the paperwork associated with that.
Lisette: So that must mean that you guys know the immigration and job laws in many, many different countries.
Tim Burgess: Well, what I like to say that we know how to ask a question because it’s so complicated, you know, you think about employment tax, payroll, and immigration, we don’t do a lot of immigration because throw those things together in like sixty countries, that’s a lot of regulations that change often, like every year or every election. So our strength, I think, is that we know what questions to ask. And we know how to sort of dig in and find that information. As opposed to, like, would I carry all the answers around me now?
Lisette: Yeah, I can’t even imagine like, you’d have to be a computer to do that. Right?
Tim Burgess: Well, that’s one of the things we joke about internally is how much useless like, really weird information we’re counting right? Like I know a whole lot about how to calculate pro-rata payroll in like, a whole lot of different countries. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help me much to my day today. But every now and then it’s handy at work
Lisette: Yeah, I mean, I know every Depeche Mode lyric ever written, but I can’t remember. Yeah, very basic stuff. So it’s strange. It’s strange what we carry around in our heads.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, I’m hoping at some stage it starts to leak out. But you never know maybe like eighty five I’ll still be able to go. In Italy, it’s thirty days, but then you don’t count. You got seven nights, but nothing anyway.
Lisette: So, in this kind of service, I can imagine that as remote working gets more and more common, that this you’re kind of service must be either getting a lot more popular or a lot less popular as people are working from anywhere, which one, I’m assuming it’s getting more popular because people are going more places.
Tim Burgess: Ah, so it’s interesting actually when we set the business up, we thought a lot of what we’re going to deal with was international assignments and global mobility. So people moving from one place to the other and it really surprised us that, that the market hasn’t been that I think it’s less now than twenty percent of what we do eighty percent of what we do is companies hiring local people. And so I think when you think about technology and how much easier it is to, to communicate and have secure work environments through the browser, think about how much smaller the world is the common sense of how people relate and interact. I think the fear factor or the, or the limitation, stopping companies from hiring local people has dramatically decreased.
Lisette: That’s interesting.
Tim Burgess: Yeah. So, so actually, I think this, but the market is, I mean, as I’m sure you’re aware, remote workers hasn’t even scratched the surface in terms of where it’s going to get to, I think in terms of companies in place internationally in particular, I think, you know, we’re not even at the beginning in terms of where that’s going to go.
Lisette: You think it’s going to be like, we’re just starting the wave of people employing people internationally.
Tim Burgess: I think so the single biggest thing is our single biggest problem in our business is awareness. Companies just don’t know that the service exists. And I think the single biggest thing holding companies Well, one of the there’s two things I think that hold companies back from going remote. One is that it just freaks them out. How do I know what people are doing? You know, how am I going to communicate with them? You know, these things that once you start you think it just so trivial? But at the beginning, they seem like really big barriers. And then the other aspect is the, is the logistics of it. And so, you know, there’s a bunch of solutions we are one of them. But I think as a witnessing that grows, that more and more companies will get into it, particularly in areas where it’s, it’s tough to find, find good people.
Lisette: Right, which is sort of any major city. Like, yes, there’s a lot of people there. And yes, there are also more, there’s more work. There’s always more work. So, yeah. And then also, I think there’s a lot of people who don’t want to live in that kind of city environment that to be so packed in. So…
Tim Burgess: Yeah, yeah, and absolutely. Absolutely. And I think also, like, you know, there’s that saying that talent is just as equally distributed, but opportunity is not. I think it’s a little bit of a simplification, but the fact is, that there are huge pools of talent outside of the place where people most commonly look you know, outside of the US outside of the bay area outside of outside of European and, and there are people there who are desperate to get a good chance desperate to show what they can do and working out in a good environment. So I think more and more companies will take advantage of that.
Lisette: Yeah, I love it. So you’re saying so once people get over the being scared of going remote once companies get over the like, Oh my god, I don’t know if we can do it. How do we know? And are they going to just be lazy? Then the fear becomes the logistics. So now over time, I guess is what is maybe if to summarize what you’re saying over time. People are getting less and less scared of going remote because it’s becoming more common. It’s becoming more necessary. And now people are also moving now towards okay, how do we do the logistics? Like okay, we know we need to hire people somewhere else. How do we do it?
Tim Burgess: Yeah, I think so. I think one of the great things about the remote community and actually you’re a big part of this is how supportive and welcoming it is, you know, if you compare it to some of the other initiatives around, around better works, you know, flexibility, diversity, equality, you know, I would put remote workers as a big driver and the workplace flexibility which is a which is a bigger issue altogether but the fact is that there’s a lot of companies out there who are sharing how they do it they sharing what worked and what didn’t work and that’s been so helpful for us. As we’ve grown, you know, looking at companies like Buffer, Basecamp and Sappier GitHub and seeing how they do it. Why they why they’re doing things a certain way. It really helps along the along the way.
Lisette: Yeah, why reinvent the wheel right, why there’s a whole bunch of people experimenting out there like why start without any knowledge, like it’s good to check out what they’re doing and learn Yeah, like anything? Yeah, like anything?
Tim Burgess: Yeah, yeah.
Lisette: I love it. I think the community is also very supportive because it’s, it’s driven around the topics of freedom, flexibility, diversity inclusion. And so I think, you know, there’s all kinds of motivators like companies wanted, there’s a clear win, win companies want to save money, and people want freedom, so, you know, if you can magically make it work, it’s not easy, and we’re going to dive into that, then yeah, then people get the best of both worlds, right? Like, we all get more freedom and companies get a stronger, more connected workforce. So that seems like it could be a big win, win, but it can’t be all roses all the time. So let’s dive into what are some of the challenges that you guys have faced? And what are some of the things that you’ve tried? What’s hard? What’s hard about working with Shield Geo?
Tim Burgess: So I mean, time zones, communication is, I think you hear that from everybody. Communication is the hardest part. And for us, some of the things we’ve really struggled with is how do we try and get people to assume best intentions? How do we get people to build trust and relationships when they’re working asynchronously, increasingly, I think we’re starting to see culture as a bit of a filter there. You know, that when we when we’ve got people interacting in different regions, or particularly across different cultures, it just takes a little more effort and thought to, to bond and build good relationships. And that’s been a real so learning from us because it particularly when you start a company at the beginning. You know, two founders, we’ve known each other for so long, trust this high communication, not a problem. And then when we hired a lot of it was initially co-located. So that’s the issue right, from a communication standpoint, it isn’t easy. And as we started to add people in the problems sort of build up a little bit and you don’t always notice, you know, you don’t notice how, how the communication can start to deteriorate or maybe it’s not always visible to you. And so what we’ve found particularly is, we’ve gone to sort of 15-20-25 people, is we’ve had to start paying more and more attention to that, how, how are we treating each other? Do we have the same level of sort of, of trust and, and sharing across the group as it starts to grow?
Lisette: How do you do that? What are some of the things that you’ve done for that?
Tim Burgess: Well, there’s a whole bunch of little things that we’ve done. So we have a lot of active social channels on Slack you know so we’re trying to share jokes and you know we use know your team software application which has been really helpful at sends out questionnaires three times a week gathers everybody’s inputs into a little like newsletter thing and then and then shares it through and that’s been really great in terms of getting to see the other side of people like Monday is like a question about what are you doing this week like a work Christian Wednesday’s a company culture sort of question. So the question this week was about what’s going out tomorrow is feedback for the, from the retreat. And then Friday is like a fun question. So I remember like one of the most popular ones was, how do you like your eggs? And then there was this big divide in the company like some people will like so team egg and then other people were like, I don’t even like eggs that much. And so that was really fun to have that.
Lisette: Who would have thought?
Tim Burgess: Yeah. So there’s a lot of sort of conscious, I think, if there was one takeaway, it’s you have to be very conscious of communication in a remote event, you can’t just expect that you’re going to, it’s going to be great and expect that you’re just going to be able to scale and everybody ready and it’s just automatically going to have a great relationship. You have to introduce them to everybody, you have to explain to them how it works. And then we have to keep prompting people in terms of how we think it should be and how we can sort of move towards it.
Lisette: Okay. And so some of the ways you’ve done it so far, which is asynchronous communication, so using Slack channels and questionnaires I’m assuming that like if you’re trying to notice thing’s on the team, that maybe you have also some sort of feedback mechanism in place or, or appreciation that we’re retrospective. Yeah, some sort of thing that you do.
Tim Burgess: Ah, that’s a good question. And we probably should, but we’re not big on metrics, particularly on tracking. So what, what we’ve done is when we’ve identified specific issues, so where we’ve, like identified all these two people aren’t communicating as well as perhaps they could. Then we like we, you know, we try and deal with that, let’s, let’s work out what we can do with that. And, then we’re also trying to say, Okay, well, that’s it’s not just a one-stop that’s happened because there’s reasons why that’s happened. There’s some sort of systematic breakdown. So what can we do overall to try to address it and so what we tend to, well, what we’re trying at the moment is sort of a combination of a big, big bang thing. So one example is we wanted to talk about trust. And so we did a big, like big presentation about trust and got people to do a little exercise. And then we’re trying to do some subtle measures. Like we’re triggering trust conversations in everybody’s one on ones this month. So we’re sort of like you’re trying to introduce the theory and then we’re also trying middle measures to push it along in practice.
Lisette: Oh, I really like it. I mean, it’s a, it’s an interesting experiment. How, how is it gone so far?
Tim Burgess: It’s early days, right? So I’m always suspicious really to hear people talk about things that I think is amazing. But actually, they’ve literally just started it but what I’ve found particularly, I don’t know if it’s unique to our company or a unit remotely, but you can’t assume that if you give the message once that it’s going to get through, and no one can see what’s inside your head. So you have to have to explain everything. This is what we want to do. This is why we want to do it. This is what we thought of, this is what we dismissed. And this is why we decided to go this particular way. So people can go on that little journey. And then you have to, like engage them all. So do you agree, do you disagree? And then even then, we still need to nudge them to change their behavior. Coz, if that’s what we’re trying to do, right. And so that’s, I guess what I’m talking about is we’ve had we’re so stumbled across this where we’ve identified little, little things that we can do to sort of bond people together. We put in donut-like a pairing in Slack. And that was great because it started to get people who hadn’t communicated before to talk to each other.
Lisette: That’s a great app.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, it’s really good. Right? But in itself, it doesn’t fix the problem. Right? It’s just one little measure that that, you know, that helps you move more towards that, if that makes sense.
Lisette: Right, right. Alright. So there’s no one thing that you’ve done that’s like that was it, we implemented donut and everything was great. It’s more that you need to get people talking to each other and paying attention to each other. And there are a number of different little things you’ve put into place to make those interactions happen. Like, I’m sure there’s a bunch of things that you stopped doing also, that you’ve experimented with. And yeah, and I think one thing that people really appreciate no matter what is the effort that’s been put into things when a company is actually really trying and putting effort into making communication happen, people notice that And I think respond really well to that. So if it’s a genuine effort from the company, then usually it’s a genuine response from its employees usually.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, I’d like to think so otherwise will be a little depressing. But yeah, I would like to think so actually. So there is one other example is I think you and I talked about this before, but we implemented water cooler chats. And so if we think about our company, effectively, we’re in three regions, you know, acting like a multinational even though we’re a tiny company that we’ve got the Americas, we’ve got a mere like Europe, Middle East Africa, and then we’ve got a pack to Asia Pacific. And so a pack is, is where I’m at. And so I, we came up with the idea that in a pack if you’re working remotely, you have to join a daily Zoom call, I think it’s at about 1:30 Sydney time. It goes for like fifteen minutes. And everybody just gets on there. And it’s literally what happens to you today. And then you pass the, you pass the mic to the next person. And that’s been great in terms of getting that team communicating. In the Americas, they do it once a week on Fridays, and they and they drink, drink alcohol. So different, different dynamic, but that’s what’s working for them, and then me at the moment, but I do anything like this. And so that’s it’s been interesting watching that that’s happened over the last maybe six months or so. And I think that’s, that’s an example of something we’ve tried. You know, I tried to roll it out everywhere and Europe, we’re just like now. We’re not up for it.
Tim Burgess: I love it. It’s also a great example, though of how you just let each region be its own region and be its own culture have its own thing. And we can change it in time. But like the fact that there’s Friday drinking in the Americas, and there’s a daily stand up in a pack, and mayor it doesn’t have anything, and yet you’re the same company have access to the same resources that says it’s the same culture. I think that it points out a little bit that it’s nice that there is, you know, there’s a regional difference, and that’s okay. And each region has its own culture. So I mean, because a lot of times we start to think about remote teams, I think in the way of, you know, it’s one company and we’re a global company, and it’s but actually the regions are different and this sort of highlights and celebrates that in some ways.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, yeah. It’s that’s such a good point Lisette it’s really. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. But because even though they were in different countries, you know, like, if you think about the Americas, for us, that’s us, Mexico, Argentina.
Lisette: Right, totally different cultures.
Tim Burgess: Exactly. But they, as the team are like, as it as a brand, and even within that they’re doing, they’re in different work change that is in the same time zone. And yet they’re bonding over this sort of shared ritual.
Lisette: Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things that I always say to people: you can’t control, you have to experiment, and there is no way to know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. And there’s no there. So, the idea is, you know, I wish there was a silver bullet because I would be rich, you know, like I would, I would have taken that silver bullet and ran with it. But there is no silver bullet. And I think that this example highlights that perfectly, which is yeah, you have the same company, same thing. And these three different cultures have sort of emerged and they’ll probably be ever-changing, you know, at some point and Amaya is going to get really jealous of the drinking parties in the Americas and they’re going to establish their own, you know, like game night or something you never know.
Tim Burgess: I’m surprised because actually I thought Amaya would be would be the drinkie ones, but…
Tim Burgess: But so far.
Lisette: Wine or cheese or something it makes sense, but okay. Yeah, It’s just so okay. So one of the things that I want to there’s two things that I definitely want to talk about. And the first one, I think that would make the most sense to go to his time zones because you guys are working across a number of different time zones and what’s painful for you, specifically, and you know, I know the world’s fall far apart and what are some of the things excuse me some of the things you’ve tried to do for managing time zones?
Tim Burgess: Well, so if anyone was watching this they would see, the moment you said time zones, I started rubbing my forehead.
Lisette: It’s true, it’s really hard
Tim Burgess: To just get like, a straight away, it’s, it’s such a pain. So, look, the fact is, it’s not all bad with time zones. So you have got to, like you have got to take the good with the bad what it’s driven us more towards asynchronous work, which I personally really, really enjoy. Like, I love the fact that we don’t have a busy, busy work culture where people are paying you all the time to interrupt your work. And so when I talked about how time zones can work to your advantage in Australia, a lot of our clients are in Europe in the US, by the time I come online in the morning, then they’re done for the day. Certainly like East Coast, Pacific Time. So east coast and central at dawn Pacific Time is still working. But so I wake up in the morning, I look at my inbox and it doesn’t really change. And so that’s actually quite nice. You know, you have quite a calm, kind of like when I traveled to Europe. And there, that stuff’s coming in all the time. I find it really difficult to deal with because it’s a different working environment.
Tim Burgess: Now but having said that because of this, the biggest risk for us is, if we ever have a miscommunication if something’s not clear, or if you ask two questions and should have asked three, we lose a day, every single time we lose a day, because they’re going to get your message after you’ve left work for the day, and you’re not going to see their reply until you start again tomorrow. And so something that we always have to go back to, it’s easy to fall off the wagon with this that we always go back to trying to over-communicate, make sure that you give that extra bit of detail. If you’re asking a question, think about what the follow-up questions might be. And that’s not just internally that’s how we deal with our partners, how we deal with our clients, as well. And that’s a lesson that we’ve learned the hard way. And then I think I think the other big learning for us around time zones is everybody in the company is going to have times physically the size, right? You can have times when you’re working totally by yourself. That means there’s no one else online. No one in your team online might not be anyone else in the company online. And if you don’t know how to do something, you stuck until someone comes online or until tomorrow. And so particularly when we’re training, we try to move very slowly. And the message we’re always telling people is we’re not training you to get your up to speed as quickly as we can. We’re training you for that moment. The moment when you’re by yourself, and you don’t have anyone else around you that at that moment you feel confident that you know what you’re doing.
Lisette: Right. At least know where to look or where to start or how to how to think about a situation like that. Yeah, because there’s certainly mental things that you can do yourself to that I’m sure you know if people just knew about that, like, oh, when you’re stuck in a situation, you know, there’s like mental things that you can do to prepare yourself for that. So it’s also, yeah, there’s always, you can always do something, something. So yeah, it’s a, it’s an interesting mindset, I think for a lot of remote workers because many of us work alone. And all of a sudden, you get to a problem and you’re like, I have no idea what to do with this. Now, what do you do? You know, so it’s a, it’s a pretty common scenario. Nice to have somebody in your company that, that that can recognize that.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, I think it’s, it’s interesting. It’s one of the things I think people talk about enough is that even within remote, there’s so many different flavors. You know, and if you think about like, if you’re a remote, US only company, so you hiring remote folks, but they’re all in the US. Or if you’re a remote US East Coast company, then the way that you work and the dynamic that you have is probably going to be different. And that’s fine. You know, like, it means that there can be a style of work to suit every, every, every person. And you know, there’s an infinite variety of people.
Tim Burgess: So it’s been interesting for us I think finding the style that works for us and then adapting that to the physical limitations time zone being the biggest one that we just we can’t solve for that.
Lisette: Right. Yeah, you there is no great time zone answer. We cannot squeeze the world together physically more. It’s a, it’s a physics problem. At some point. It’s not a mindset problem or any other deludes. Not a technology problem anymore. It’s a, it’s simply a physics problem. And it’s not solvable. So, I mean, you know, it’s like gravity. You know, what, what are you going to do? So, we’re nearing the end of the time and but I have so many questions, but we’re going to I just have to stick to it. A couple more and one is I want to ask you about your company retreat. And I know about this because we talked about this earlier and you took the work together anywhere workshop, which is nice. So for people listening like we’ve spoken the numerous times. But you had said that you your company, most people had not met before in person, everybody’s a remote worker, did I get that right. And then you decided to have a company retreat. And so I would like to know like, what glad tell people where was your retreat? Why did you decide to do it? And then of course, you know, I’m going to ask, like, what was the difference? And was it worth it? And…
Tim Burgess: Okay, sure. So, um, it’s funny because when I started the workshop, I think I think the retreats that happened to the middle, the middle of winter,
Lisette: Yeah you had we had spoken before your company went on the retreat, and I was telling you, it’s going to be awesome. But let’s, let’s hear it. Let’s, uh, let’s start from the beginning. So you decided to take your company on a retreat
Tim Burgess: Well, look, you’re right, you’re right. So just to give away the
Lisette: Oh the punch line, okay.
Tim Burgess: So it was funny, actually, everybody I spoke to beforehand. My conversation with you was really inspirational. I had a great conversation with [Inaudible 32:14], who runs balsamic. And that was starting sort of January this year. And he really at the time, I was talking to him about, you know, we’ve got these communication things we’re trying to reliabilities like other retreats kind of stuff. And I don’t know that the retreat was like a, like a silver bullet that solved, solved all the problems, but it was such a fun and, and sort of joyous experience. Getting all these people together. I think we were there for well, sorry, let me set the scene too. We did it in Thailand [Inaudible 32:52]. And we said to people that you can come earlier or later, but we’re just covering the period that everybody’s there. So everyone had to fly in on the Sunday. And then people started to leave on Thursday. Unfortunately, there were five people who couldn’t make it. Mostly because of family commitments because we have a lot of working parents. And it’s, yeah, you can’t, can’t leave kids. So we had it at a resort was close to an airport that was really helpful because it was very easy to get to it to and fro. And what we tried to do was we spent the mornings doing sort of company stuff. And then the afternoons were meant to be like, catching up on work because we’re a service business we can’t turn off our clients for a week. And then in the evening, we were trying to do activities together. And actually, some of us I didn’t participate because I was running a lot of the workshop. So I was quite drained in the afternoons, but one of the things that people enjoyed the most was actually working together. Which was so weird because like everybody works by themselves in their homes, for the most part, and yet they were all in this, like, one of our, one of the people at least had a, like a suit. And so I think at one point you had like twelve people in there are people like perched on the bar and all over the over the couch. And it was like a party. But they were working. Yeah, and like I was getting these, like, people were like, Oh, you got to come up here room for 440 you know, we are everybody’s here. We’re having a great time. And, and even afterwards, like, for a lot of people that was actually the highlight.
Lisette: That is super interesting. So actually, people just enjoyed hanging out and working together. Like in a group…
Tim Burgess: [Inaudible 34:53]
Lisette: No, it’s great. I think it’s I think it’s awesome and it shows. I mean, there are so many managers out there who are really afraid to let people work remotely because they’re afraid that people are going to be lazy. And here you are in Thailand. For many people, this is like an exotic location that they’ve never been to before. And the thing they enjoyed most was hanging out with their colleagues and working. So I don’t know, I think it just goes to show that the mindset is actually different. The fear that a lot of people have is relatively unfounded because the mindset of most people is let’s do our jobs well, like that’s…
Tim Burgess: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s like, I think in I think in your book you talked about it’s like it’s a myth. And it’s, it’s, it’s one of those things that once you realize it just doesn’t make any sense before but for most people, I think particularly for some of the people we’ve been lucky enough to have joined us. Being able to work remotely, is a huge thing for them. If you’re thinking about like a working parent who has to commute all the time barely gets to see their family, you know, they’re stressed. For them to be able to spend more time with their family to control their hours. And to have flexibility around it. You want to take time out in the middle of the day to go to the doctor, you want to go to your child’s music rehearsal, you know, you can really reschedule your activities around that is massive. And one of the ways that they pay that back is, is loyalty and engagement. So I like I think if you, if you can get into a situation like my big thing, is flexible work of which you remote work as a subset. And I think if you offer people that flexibility where they can start to achieve some of the goals that they have in life, some of the things that they want to do in order to in order to make their life more meaningful or you or happy or whatever, that people really, really appreciate that.
Lisette: Yeah. And they will do what it takes to keep that scenario available to them. So, yeah, so managers who are worried about your people being lazy, they will not be lazy. They will do whatever it takes to keep the freedom, whatever type of freedom it is for themselves, right. It’s the freedom to commute the freedom to train for triathlon, the freedom to I don’t know. Yeah, go to your kid’s rehearsal music rehearsals, I can imagine that’s pretty cute.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, yeah true, but actually, so that’s, that’s this is something that we haven’t always got, right. And so one of the things that we’ve really had to work on over time, and it’s really been a trial and error process is, how do we start, what sort of people do we need and what are the characteristics that they need in order to be able to be successful in that environment. And once we’ve started to get better at that, I think it’s made a big difference in terms of numbers. We’ve had some like some questions that haven’t worked out. And that’s happening less and less as we’re as we’re getting better at it.
Lisette: Okay, but I, you know, I hear that from companies that hire people in person as well, that it’s just really hard to hire people. I mean, it’s no matter everybody’s on their best behavior. In the beginning, we don’t, you know, some people are doing things because they need it, not because they want it and, you know, there’s all kinds of things that you just can’t know, in the very beginning. I mean, it’s like dating, right? You know, you go with somebody like ten times sometimes before you’re like, huh, no, it’s not for me. But so it takes a while. But, um, one of the things I before we go and I’m like, we’re totally over time, but I got to ask, you’re saying that you You’ve been tracking, tracking or hiring for characteristics that people need. What are some of the characteristics that people need?
Tim Burgess: Uh, well, so we’ve got two things that we try and balance and one is our company values. And so that’s growth, being human doing the right thing and ownership. And so in the first interview, we had like a bad news interview, where we asked some questions to everybody and we’re listening for certain things. There’s certain things we want to hear and certain warning signs that we’re looking out for to see whether people are aligned on those sort of basic principles, and then there’s also characteristics. So we feel that in order to work remotely, you need to be well organized because we don’t want to micromanage I don’t think that works well in the remote environments that may certainly we don’t want to do that. Which means we need people who can manage themselves. They need to be able to prioritize, they need to be able to get up in the morning and know what they need to do. I’ve spoken to people who also believe a lot in people to structure their day. So I’ve made up my mind about that one. But one of the other characteristics we look for is empathy. So that’s if we think someone comes across as not empathetic, we’re not going to hire them. And written communication is probably in fact, our first filter. So you don’t even make it to the interview stage if you don’t have great written communication, because in an asynchronous environment, we just can’t survive without it.
Lisette: Really good point to bring up is that I think a lot of people during the interview process will say like, ah, yeah, it’s not so good. But maybe we can make it work but with written communication, you’re right. Remote teams are doing tons of asynchronous communication. If you can’t write, if you can’t communicate what you need to what’s going on, then it’s going to make things hard for everybody.
Tim Burgess: Yeah, and so that’s true. So we’re looking for people who default to like, they’re going to give you three sentences instead of five words, they’re going to give you two paragraphs instead of two sentences, just because it helps to give the context and if they find it easy to communicate that way, then they’re going to find that easy being in our environment.
Lisette: Right, super interesting. So people who are well organized and can prioritize their time well, people with empathy, and great written communication skills. So and I love that you do a values exercise to really make sure that people are aligned with the values of your company. So a lot, I’m sure there are many other hiring tips, but we’ve run out of time. So there’s only one last question, which is if people want to learn more about you, where is the best place to find you.
Tim Burgess: So, me, Personally, I’m pretty active on Twitter at Planet Burgess just Planet and my surname B-U-R-G-E-S-S is my Twitter handle, and company shieldgeo.com you can read about what we do there. And we publish a lot of articles on there about our team and remote work and increasingly, people, people who we come across so, so that can be a good way to find out what we’re up to.
Lisette: Great. And I will also publish those in the show notes for people. So it’ll be really easy to just click on the show notes and find you and the company. Tim, thank you so much for your time today. I know it’s late, like really late and you still have other meetings tonight. So I really appreciate you, you getting on and telling your story and your journey. So thanks so much.
Tim Burgess: No problem has been an absolute pleasure.
Lisette: Alright, until next time, everybody, be powerful.