Shortly after opening Groundwork! in December I got a phone call from Scott Dubois, president and co-founder of Pidalia. Scott was enthusiastic about bringing his team meetings into our space, and we’ve been hosting them twice a week ever since.
Pidalia is a digital agency led by Scott and Justin Brodeur, CEO and co-founder. While they maintain weekly meetings for a core team at Groundwork, Pidalia mostly works remotely. Every time I see them, I am impressed by how happy and productive they seem to be. These guys clearly love their work!
In this interview, the Pidalia team shares some secrets to success working remotely. As remote work becomes a reality for more and more of us, the tips and tools they share here are invaluable. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
What’s your business?
We’re a digital agency. We build software and create campaigns that raise business metrics for our clients.
What are the core values and principles that drive your business?
We believe in design thinking, quality, transparency, and honesty. We believe in doing the right thing for our employees and our clients. In fact, we abide by the rules that we won’t overwork our employees if they don’t underwork us. A healthy respect for their time and talents goes a long way in maintaining a productive workforce. Our people are the ones that drive our business as their work generates repeat clients and advocates.
How would you describe your team’s culture?
We promote an open, fun, and forward thinking culture. Our mantra is, “let the best idea win”. We enjoy a lot of healthy debate in the course of finding out which idea is best. The cool part is that it’s a group effort and allows every individual on the team a say in the direction.
What is the biggest challenge you face working as a team?
Our work is neat, because it affords us the ability to do it anywhere in the world.
We work virtually, with the exception of two weekly meetings that we hold at Groundwork. For us, the biggest challenge is that we lose some of the serendipitous moments that occur when someone ambles over to someone else on the team and talks about a project that’s stumping them. It’s something we’re cognizant of and try to combat with tools like Hipchat, and scheduling events where we can get the team together for a meal or to go bowling.
What is your typical meeting and communication rhythm like?
We hate meetings, but they’re a necessary part of business.
Our meetings change depending on the participants. We hold four weekly meetings: partners only, business development, all hands, and engineering. Monday is the day that we do partners, bd, and all hands meetings. Coincidentally, it’s probably the most time that we spend at Groundwork each week.
The partners meeting is pretty loose as we’re discussing where we are as a business and what we need to do to reach our goals. That meeting starts with numbers and ends with higher level thinking and dreaming.
The business development meeting is a bit more regimented. We’re discussing existing clients, opportunities, and leads so that we can focus our efforts in converting business and also plan our resources.
The all hands meeting brings everyone in the shop together. We use Solve360 for project management, so we run through each project in the shop and gauge where the project is and what’s needed to complete it. This meeting is really fun, because we’re gathering feedback from all corners of the business to allocate resources and solve problems on the fly.
We like to keep the meetings fast. So we’ve been known to try different things like holding an entire meeting where everyone stands (people tend not to be so long-winded).
Besides keeping it fast, the rhythm changes. It can be call and response, free form jazz, or the all out rap.
What digital tools make teamwork easier for you?
We’re geeks who are really passionate about our tools. Since we’re a digital agency we spend a lot of time on our computers and phones. We believe that people should have the best tools so we outfit everyone in the shop with a new Apple Macbook Pro or Air and a new iPhone. We swap out the technology every few months to keep it fresh.
We rely on Google Apps for email, documents, talk, and calendaring. The shared calendars are badass because our BD team can schedule meeting around the co-founders’ calendars without even having to bother asking them for a time. We also dig Google Apps because it tightly integrates with Solve 360, our CRM and Project Management software.
We use Solve to as both relationship manager, sales profiling tool, and project management hub. We love it because it gives us a centralized place to manage projects and people.
Hipchat is a great tool for group collaboration via chat. We have rooms dedicated to clients, projects, and our team. In each room we can chat in real-time about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones or work towards resolving a creative or engineering challenge. Since we’re mostly virtual, we use this as a sort of digital whiteboard where we pepper the chat stream with images, snippets of code, and the best emojis this side of Palo Alto.
People sleep on it, but texting makes our lives easier. If we need an immediate response this is the last step before a phone call.
We use git for managing our software version control. It’s a neat tool and affords engineering the ability to easily collaborate virtually and push code into production.
We pitch and demo to clients often. While we love flying and are geeks about earning airline miles and status, it’s just easier and less time consuming to virtually meet with clients in other parts of the country. GoToMeeting is our goto tool for pitching, demoing, and conference calling. We dig being able to swap screen sharing abilities amongst meeting participants. We find it helpful not just for meetings with clients, but also use it for virtual engineering meetings when the weather is suspect.
How does your team recognize and celebrate success?
We’re big on celebrating success, and recognizing the failures that got us there. Recognition comes in many forms, from a verbal shoutout to an experiential or monetary award. The celebrations don’t last long though. We’re in such a rapidly changing business that we take a moment to celebrate and move on to the next one.
How do you benefit from using a coworking space?
Groundwork affords us the ability to have our team meet face-to-face, which is big for us. It also gives our team members a place to go if they’re sick of their home office, and need a change of pace. As an added bonus we’ve met some pretty cool people doing interesting things in our very own backyard.
Do you have any words of advice for people working with a remote team?
Trust in your people. Give them great tools. Let them have a voice. Reward them. Maintain a boundary between their personal time and business time.
What inspires you?
People: trailblazers, entrepreneurs, radical thinkers.