If you haven’t launched your startup because you don’t have an office, stop waiting: You don’t need one. Just keep these tips in mind.
Six years ago, we decided that each founder of our startup would work from their house or apartment. The idea was to avoid committing ourselves to the expense of an office rental.
Everything started as an economic decision, but today, when we can afford to rent an excellent workplace, we still choose to work from home. The work and life quality is simply better. Even while making our enterprise scalable, we continue to implement our philosophy of successfully working remotely.
Back in 2008, we were the only startup with no office. Today, many startups adopt this new working style.
To improve as an enterprise, we studied how to implement this methodology with 26 startups that also work without an office. Here are the three main pillars we learned. (Click here to tweet this list.)
Email and teleconferences aren’t adequate
Working with no physical office makes constant communication essential. But we had to define how we communicate when we don’t physically see each other every day.
Email (Gmail) and teleconferences (Skype) definitely weren’t it. We used these during our first years of work and we were wrong without doubt.
Email wasn’t developed as a tool to manage and optimize team work. And certainly not to be used as a to-do list. Skype ended up being our worst enemy because it turned into the meaningless face-to-face meetings like we used to have with our boss. They were a total waste of time.
During the third year of our startup, we decided to change to Basecamp and we now use Trello. These are tools created with the aim of helping remote teams work efficiently. What’s most important is that it allows us to control “where” each one of us and our colleagues are working in real time (without having to bother them via email).
In this way, we reduced email interaction to almost zero and eliminated teleconferences. Our startup policy is to not have group meetings anymore. Everything is communicated through text.
For programmers like us, who need between four and five straight hours of work to reach our maximum potential, the distraction or interruption of a meeting results in losing those working hours.
Task division is the key to success
The second pillar, based on our own experience and what we learned from other entrepreneurs, is to define what each member of the project must do from the first day. This is another place where we made mistakes.
Going to a workplace and personally seeing each other allows us to be in constant contact to define what everyone will do and avoid having several people work on the same task, which wastes time.
Everyone frequently works from a different place. The lack of assignment of tasks and responsibilities is the main cause of failure. And as a startup, we don’t have bosses or project managers to tell us what and when to do something.
As entrepreneurs, we don’t know how to begin, since that’s the aim of the new project: trying new things, innovating and being able to find a repeatable and long-term scalable business model.
Regardless, we need to define responsibilities. For example: one of the founders is in charge of programming, one handles designing, one takes legal and/or accounting tasks, and the other manages client support. Now we’re able to assign specific tasks as they arise (e.g., database backups, billing and control).
This item may seem obvious and even simple. It seemed like that to us at first too, but over time it became the backbone of our startup progress. Having somebody responsible for each area (e.g., technical area, administration area) is the only way to successfully move forward every day.
Our office is our clients’
We define our office as our clients’ office. This means that when we work as a startup, we’re sitting next to our potential client in their office and learning from them: what they need, how they interact with our tool and what pieces of advice or criticism they have.
Not having an office we must show up at every day doesn’t mean we should stay locked up at home. This can lead us to a disconnection with the outside world, where our startup will develop and interact with to grow.
Emiliano Canova is a programmer and teacher at the University of Córdoba and co-founder of SOAP, a new online mechanism for education, specialized on mobile technology and devices with wireless interaction.