Cesar Romero - U30X

Under30Experiences (U30X) curates unique travel experiences in exotic locations specifically for young adults.

It's not surprising that a company that sends its employees on trips around the world would embrace remote work, but it makes even more sense for U30X given their focus on the millenial generation. (Remote work is an option that 68% of millenial college grads seek from jobs.)

Cesar Romero, an Experience Instigator, talks to Pajamas about how U30X is building a distributed company to deliver group trips all over the globe.

Tell me about Under30Experiences and what do you do there.

Under30Experiences is a travel company making traveling more accessible to young adults and helping them create meaningful relationships. It’s a community first, then a business.

My role with Under30Experiences is two fold. When I’m running trips, I’m the trip leader; when I’m behind the desk, I take the role of community manager.

How many people are at the company now and how spread out are you?

The two founders, Matt and Jared; Matt is currently in Costa Rica and Jared in Austin, TX. Our resident photographer and videographer, Courtney (currently in Ireland running a trip). Our other trip leader, Eric (currently in Ireland running a trip with Courtney). We have a virtual assistant Ria from the Phillipines. And I'm currently in Costa Rica for the next four months.

Has Under30Experiences been remote from day one? What made you decide to start building a remote team?

Yes we have been remote from day one and it was part of the vision when the company was founded.

Flexibility and work-life balance are extremely important to us and we wanted to have a global team capable of leveraging the power of today’s technology and execute from anywhere.

How do you keep everyone feeling connected?

This is something that we haven’t really mastered internally and we are constantly coming up with new ways to stay and feel connected.

It’s definitely a challenge when the whole team is spread out and 50% of the staff is out there running trips in remote parts of the world.

The internal communication channels right now are a combination of email, Slack, Skype.

For the community, we use Facebook Groups and meetups in different cities across the U.S. organized by members from the community.

What are the biggest challenges you face working remotely and how do you overcome them?

Definitely communication, face-to-face interaction, and creating that feeling of “connection.” We overcome this by constantly communicating via email, Skype, Slack, video, voice recordings, etc.

We are working on incorporating yearly team retreats because we have seen what it does in creating a stronger and more cohesive team.

What is the biggest benefit that a distributed team has afforded your company?

Flexibility and work-life balance.

You can work from anywhere as long as you get things done and get results.

Is there anything you think you miss by not working in an office every day?

Not really.

If I don’t feel like socializing, I can work from home. If I feel like getting out of the house, I can go to a coffee shop and work from there.

What do you think is the most important thing a distributed team can do to ensure successful collaboration?

Communicate everyday evaluating what worked, didn’t work, and what can be improved for the next day.

It’s a simple exercise but works wonders!

How do you make sure everyone at the company is in a good place, both mentally and operationally? What indicators do you look at to measure this?

We only have one indicator: Happiness.

If you are not happy and not having fun with what you are doing, it’s going to affect your performance in every aspect of your life. We definitely don’t want that happening.

We encourage everyone at the company to always be open about this and share what’s working and not working for them.

What sort of culture does your company have? Is it harder to build cohesive culture when you're so spread out?

We have a culture of putting people first; putting the community first.

The internal culture is very laid back where we encourage everyone to bring their true selves. We all genuinely like each other and it’s something that we are very proud of. How many people can say that they get along with their co-workers, bosses, etc?

There’s a challenge in building a cohesive culture when you are spread out, but with constant communication you can definitely mitigate this.

We have all been on trips together and this really helps because the shared memories of these trips help us out in carrying that feeling of camaraderie over until the next time we meet in person.

Describe your personal work environment.

On most days I work from home and I love it!

WiFi, comfortable chair and table, instant access to a full kitchen, paintings on the wall, and precious quietness. You can’t beat that!

Except when it’s too quiet or it’s such a beautiful day outside that I just can’t help but to get out and go to a coffee shop and work from there.

How do you manage work/life balance when working from your home?

The first hour is a “power hour:” brush teeth, shower, breakfast, reading, journaling, take the trash out, bulletproof coffee, exercise.

The last hour before going to bed is also a “power hour” where the most important thing is to think about the most important task that needs to get done tomorrow.

The mornings are usually for marketing and sales strategy and the afternoons are a mix of emails and engagement with the community.

How do you keep distractions to a minimum? How do you personally measure efficiency?

Distractions are always there but the one thing that really helps me is figuring out the night before what needs to be done first thing in the morning... after my power hour of course. :)

If I get that one thing done by the end of the day, then it was a productive day.

What are some of the tools you couldn't live without as a remote company?

Very simple but it works.

What advice would you give to a company heading down the remote working path?

Create a vision for your company and the type of culture you want to create.

Evangelize your team on this vision and keep a constant flow of communication.

Josh Catone
Josh has been the Content & Community Manager at feedly, the Executive Director of Editorial Projects at Mashable, the Lead Writer at ReadWrite, and the Lead Blogger at SitePoint.