When Marianna Boguslavsky launched her digital agency in Dubai, she suddendly found herself supporting clients in two places -- in Cape Town where she'd previously operated, and now also in the UAE. It was natural, then for her to hire team members in both places and allow them to work remotely.
That was also a good fit for Boguslavsky, who lives a "digital nomad" lifestyle, living and working on the road from across the globe. Last year she spent time in the UAE, South Africa, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Pajamas talked to Boguslavsky about what it's like to build and run a company from the road.
What does your company do and what do you do there?
I run a niche digital strategy agency (http://www.boguslavskyandco.com), working primarily with SMEs and startups, and focus on helping them grow their brand presence and achieve their business goals through digital marketing.
How many people are on your team and how spread out are you?
There are five of us -- I'm the MD and digital strategist, and I'm based between Dubai & Cape Town currently. The rest of my team are also based between either UAE or South Africa and includes a developer, designer, social media manager and PPC specialist.
Why did you decide to start working remotely rather than in an office?
I had initially run my digital marketing agency from Cape Town so I was already working with incredible talent over there -- once I launched 'Boguslavsky & Co' in Dubai, it made sense, financially, to run a lean business, working with talented people back in South Africa so I could offer my clients high quality services for a fraction of the costs that other agencies charge in the UAE.
How do you keep everyone feeling connected?
I've used Slack in the past, along with Google Docs, and, of course, Skype. There actually isn't that much overlap between the team members on projects -- it's more about us having a streamlined working process where everyone is aware of their own responsibilities and deadlines.
What are the biggest challenges you face working remotely and how do you overcome them?
The [lack of] face to face interaction -- really makes a difference to feeling like part of a real, cohesive, united team. I was recently in a city where my social media manager is based and we ended up having a business meeting over champagne and cheesecake, which was just so lovely.
The most important aspect of working remotely as a team is being able to trust your team and depend on them.
You're not just remote, but also what people might call a "digital nomad" -- working from numerous locations while traveling. What unique challenges does that lifestyle present?
It's challenging when you come to the point of wanting to settle down, have your own home, never hop on another flight again, etc., etc. -- I feel weird when asked for my address because I don't actually have one! We're in the process of changing this but I will definitely miss the digital nomad life.
With team members spread out and clients also in multiple places, how do you manage communication between team and clients? Do you ever wish you just had an office where you could get everyone in the same room at the same time?
YES. ALL THE TIME. But then I remember how much I always despised any kind of office politics and how I treasure living a different kind of life, and I'm actually quite happy with how I've structured my business.
So that's interesting. I've heard that a lot, actually, about remote teams leaving office politics behind. What do you think causes that to happen? Why do people seem to play fewer political games just because there aren't any physical walls around them?
I think office politics disappear when working remotely because the nature of office politics has to do with certain physical cues and dynamics of people interacting face to face; when not seeing each other daily and interacting mostly on email only most negative interactions almost dissipate in a way. People tend to focus more on work and less on political games because, 1) no one is observing them the way this usually happens in a physical office, and 2) the nature of remote work is almost solely on productivity, so no one wants to waste or spend time on anything beyond that, really.
What do you look for in an ideal remote employee? Are there any qualities that make someone more successful at working remotely?
Oh yes. Trust and reliability. More important to me than a specific skills set or knowledge/experience.
Describe your personal work environment.
I prefer to work from coffee shops -- the buzz around me, strangely enough, makes me focus and work more productively than anywhere else, even my own home office.
What are some of the tools you couldn't live without as a remote company?
What advice would you give to a company heading down the remote working path?
The most important aspect of working remotely as a team is being able to trust your team and depend on them -- without that, you will not succeed.