Ask your team how they are doing, and establish the sort of culture and relationships where they feel comfortable answering candidly. If you don’t think you’re getting a candid answer, ask their direct manager or another close colleague.
VP of Revenue at Axle. Axle is a payments automation and financing platform for the freight and logistics industry. I lead the Sales and Marketing teams to drive new customer acquisition and revenue growth.
Tell us about your team!
How big is it?
My team is 25 people across sales and marketing - with 15 more to hire in the next several months!
Where are your teammates located?
Axle was started as a remote-first company in 2019. We are spread across the United States, with a handful of international employees. There is a large cluster in the midwest, a good handful of us in the northeast, and several out west. We just hired a sales rep from southwest Florida, and another from upstate NY. I even have a ‘digital nomad’ Sales Manager who roams the country and works from her RV! Every quarter, we all spend a week together somewhere in the US - in December, we met in San Diego.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
We are collectively responsible for driving revenue growth for Axle. We do this with both inbound and outbound sales, driven by brand, content, event, and performance marketing; and also by old-fashioned prospecting and cold outreach. Our customers are small- and medium-sized businesses in freight and transportation, and so our team loves to engage with these real, everyday people who are at the heart of our economy.
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
Clearly defined roles and responsibilities - This is true in any organization, but especially so when we are all working remotely. People need to fully understand their role, what is expected of them, and have some kind of defined and measurable output or deliverable.
Communication - Really, ‘over’-communicating, and by various channels. When remote, it can be harder for leadership to know when a message is hitting home and sinking in. To be sure the team is understanding, deliver the same message multiple times and in multiple ways. For example, send a company-wide email or Slack, then refer back to it during the all-hands meeting, and finally, ask managers to reiterate the point with their teams.
The right tools - Ten years ago, almost none of the tools existed that make remote work successful today. Office 365 and Google Docs first allowed for asynchronous group editing of documents, which was a huge leap forward. Then Slack came along and was a game-changer versus email. We rarely use email at Axle, which is amazing. Since Covid, even more tools for remote collaboration have emerged - my personal favorite is Miro, which is a must-have for any remote team.
Face time… but not too much - It’s important to see colleagues and talk face-to-face on a regular basis. But the concept of ‘Zoom fatigue’ is real. Spending hours in meetings, feeling like you need to maintain eye contact with the screen or risk appearing disengaged, is exhausting. Create opportunities to see each other on camera, and also recognize when it just isn’t necessary and have an audio-only meeting.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections. Strong connections are built with Hailey.
How do you make sure your team is happy and engaged in their work?
Ask them. There is no secret hack here. Ask them how they are doing, and establish the sort of culture and relationships where they feel comfortable answering candidly. If you don’t think you’re getting a candid answer, ask their direct manager or another close colleague.
When remote, it can be harder for leadership to know when a message is hitting home and sinking in. To be sure the team is understanding, deliver the same message multiple times and in multiple ways.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
Replicating the energy of a sales floor while remote. When I was at Constant Contact, you could feel and hear the energy of the sales floor even when you weren’t on it. Reps would be pacing the floor on their wireless headsets, emphatically communicating our best product features, and when someone hit their goal, the gong would be rung and everyone would cheer. This is nearly impossible to replicate remotely, but to get halfway there, I like to see constant banter by the sales team over Slack, and frequent competitions with rewards and recognition.
My Remote Manager Toolbox
Every quarter, the full company meets somewhere in the United States for a week-long in-person ‘retreat’. This is equal parts work and play, and we make sure there is plenty of time in the agenda for both. Last quarter we were in San Diego, and next month we are going to Atlanta.
We have bi-weekly happy hours with the full company, and our favorite game is online pictionary, which is absolutely hilarious.
“What was your most embarrassing moment?”
Products & Tools
At Axle, we use HiThrive for ‘micro’ rewards and recognition. And Donut for helping people meet and get to know each other.
Resources for remote leaders
REMOTE: Office Not Required, by the founders of 37 Signals and Basecamp, is an excellent book by the guys who pioneered what it meant to be a remote-first company.
Make your company a great place to work
"Adding Hailey has been by far the lowest effort, highest impact thing we’ve done to bring our globally scattered team together!" - Mary Grace Reich