3 Ideas Your Business Should Steal From Effective Remote Teams


Remote teams are the way of the future, with more and more companies going this route to ensure they can retain the best talent and become more operationally efficient. It also doesn’t hurt that companies are making this move at a time when traffic worsens in most metropolitan areas and office space, particularly on the east and west coasts, grows pricier by the quarter.

But don’t be deceived!

The real reason even Fortune 500 companies are willing to make this leap is it makes good business sense, which is a well-documented fact buttressed by research from a number of respected sources, among them MIT’s Sloan School of Business and the computer network juggernaut Cisco Systems.

In a 2009 survey of some 2,000 employees, Cisco found that more than two-thirds of the employees reported higher productivity when working remote, and fully three-quarters of the workers said the timeliness of their work improved.

Is anyone really surprised?

Colocated teams spend hours each day in meetings. There are a veritable smorgasbord of interruptions and distractions and result in a huge drag to the bottom line – owing to the added costs of office and meeting space, additional layers of management and commuting costs (many executives have travel expenses covered as part of their overall compensation package).

I’m on the record as someone who hates offices. The meetings, the interruptions and the petty office politics add up to big time zaps, but those are no longer my biggest problems with offices.

The over-reliance on tools, over in-person communication, is the real culprit eating away at colocated teams.

When Melissa Fach wrote about her favorite communication tool, FlowDock, for working with the AuthorityLabs team (she heads social media for the platform) it was not by accident that she stressed the tool is used for “stay[ing] in touch,” and not used as a substitute for overall communication. The AuthoritiesLab team actually does talk during the day, holding at least one Google Hangout every day at the same time.

This sort of interaction, where tools support real, meaningful interaction, marries the best of colocated teams (e.g., meaningful in-person communication) with the best of remote teams (e.g., efficient real-time collaboration).



From what I’ve seen, this approach breeds efficiency, but even more important, it fosters a cohesive work environment that’s tough to beat. Folks are able to do the work they love, and in turn they come to appreciate the company and their teammates even more.

I’m surprised more companies aren’t using such an approach. Instead, what I see are colocated teams so burnt out from meetings and office politics that they rely only upon tools to communicate. Their work, and the work they do for clients, suffers.

Don’t allow your colocated team to become a disillusioned, disconnected bunch. Steal ideas from remote teams to drive efficiency, foster collaboration and promote a team-building culture.

  • Don’t replace people with platforms. Tools are meant to make it easier for team members to share ideas; they should not be used in place of genuine interaction. At too many colocated workplaces, computer screens are littered with Gchat and other messaging software, which is ridiculous when you consider the inefficiency it promotes, not to mention how much easier it is communicate in person. In reality, something more nefarious at work here: workers are choosing to communicate in-person only with those co-workers they have to talk to; otherwise, it’s platforms over people. Make it clear to your team that tools are not a substitute for in-person communication. Drive home the point by asking that collocated team members have at least one quick, in-person talk each day with those parties they are working on projects with. (This could be a manager-to-manager interaction.)
  • Hold standing meetings, and keep rigid time schedules. Nothing you or anyone at your company has to share is so important that, every single day, you need to meet for hours and hours. A smarter approach is to (a) set a specific, defined agenda for each meeting, (b) email the agenda to each them member (c) make them aware that only what’s entailed in the agenda will be covered during the meeting and (d) make 90% of your meetings standing-only gatherings, which places added emphasis on efficiency. From there, set a rigid time limit that’s strictly enforced.

The Mack Web Team’s Standup meetings are as effective as they are efficient.


  • Pick up the phone. The office phone is now largely a dinosaur in many offices, used only for calls from pesky vendors and salespeople. Have your managers instruct staff to, at least once per day, reach out to a telecommuting worker or a staff member who’s working at another office for a brief, impromptu chat about something he or she is working on. This ensures team members are familiar with what others in similar roles throughout the company are working on and, most important, promotes the sharing of ideas. What’s more, it can create a open door for ideation, which is vital when team members are a wit’s end on a project and need a fresh set of eyes.

Having all team members working remote is a Pollyannaish notion. However, collocated teams can stand to benefit greatly by adopting some tactics being used by remote teams. If not else, all companies must come to realize that tools are no substitute for genuine interaction.

Care to share some ideas your colocated team has borrowed from remote workplaces?

Why Flowdock Is My Favorite Communication Tool

AuthorityLabs uses Flowdock for communication and it has become a tool I really enjoy using on a daily basis. It is so easy to use and it is a great way to stay in touch with everyone throughout the company. I am going to break down the parts of this tool that I love and show you how it works. Perhaps it will come in handy for your company.

The “Main” Area

We have a “main” area where everyone can speak to one another at the same time and/or keep each other up-to-date. I like this because I can easily see what is going on, even if I am not a part of the conversation. Anytime you manage social accounts you need to know what is happening at all times and this tool keeps me informed.

Let’s look at some examples of how the tool works. In this first image you can see how multiple conversations are handled. Clearly Steve went to lunch and notified everyone. Chase was talking about the carousel (see the purple icon next to his name?) Well, that is a different conversation than Brian’s; he has a gray icon.


So, I can see multiple conversations and am able to reply to each conversation specifically by clicking on the icon next to someone’s name. Here is how it looks with an individual conversation:

Flowdock conversation

When you click on a specific conversation the “main” screen with multiple conversations disappears and just the conversation you chose appears. As you can see above there is an “X” which allows you to turn that convo off and just go back to “main”.

So to review, I can go to the main area and see all public conversations and reply to each of them individually…and I know when people go to lunch!

Tagging Folks

In the image above you can see that I used “@Brian and @Chase.” By using the @ symbol these specific people get a notification that someone is talking to them. You can also see that Chase did not reply in the message above, so I tagged him again and…

chase flowdock

Individual Conversations / 1-to-1s

There are times when I need to communicate with Brian, Chase or another team member and the rest of the crew doesn’t really need to be bothered with the discussion. All I have to do is click on someone’s name and I am in a private area and can have a 1-to-1 conversation.

Flow private

Flows or Rooms

You can create different Flows (I call them rooms) for different teams. We have a marketing “Flow” where everyone on the marketing team can brainstorm, look at data and share information. There are other flows for different team members.  This option allows everyone to interact with their teams in a clean format and an easy-to-use interface.

These conversations are archived so you can always go back and find a file or an idea you discussed, but haven’t executed yet (been there).


Customized & Informative Sidebar

In the the “main” area Flowdock has a sidebar that shows the entire team everything that is happening socially. These social search results include what is happening on Twitter and we push Trello, Github, Papertrail, rss, and some custom internal data into that sidebar as well. Everyone can see what is happening all the time.


Most Importantly, Bonding

The folks at AuthorityLabs are spread across the U.S., however when you watch them talking day-to-day they are as close as any family I have seen. I think that the work environment Chase has created enhances this closeness, but I also believe that Flowdock helps the closeness continue. Flowdock allows fast and easy conversation where people can interact, show their personalities and support one another. Everyday I am clearly entertained by the humor of the team and the “main” area is where it all happens.


 Why This Chat Software?

Well, this is the best I have used. The UX is great, the features are outstanding, file sharing is easy and the mobile app comes in handy, everyday. You can also integrate many project management tools and the pop-up notifications are helpful because I have a lot going on all the time. With this tool I can be gone for an entire day and come in and easily catch up. I have never had a glitch or a problem arise; it is solid and runs well all the time.

So basically, I love Flowdock and I recommend it for companies that need teams to be able to communicate across offices or even states. If you have any questions please comment below.

How To Use Google Plus Like A Marketing Pro

Google Plus. The very name evokes comments about “Google’s failed attempt at social media,” how the platform is “barren as the Sahara desert” and jokes, including “Only Google employees are using it.” Don’t fall for any of these ruses. Though Google Plus might not ring out as the social media platform of choice for the masses, it’s actually the most valuable platform for your business.

While Twitter is now largely overrun with marketers, and Facebook and Instagram slug it out as the platforms of choice for the narcissists, Google Plus is a data-rich vehicle teeming with information that can instantly help your business by allowing you to easily spy on competitors, join communities to uncover the language they’re using to find your products/services and discern what content types likely have the most value for your needs.

These are but a few of the uses that highlights Google Plus as the super platform for your business. The infographic below contains far more in-depth information of how you can immediately start using Google Plus like a pro, leaving the competition in the dirt in the process. Scroll to the bottom of the page for additional Google Plus resources.

(Click on infographic to expand)  Infographic PlusYourBusiness.com

Additional Resources:

Google Carousel Results Appear to Be Expanding

Love them or hate them, it appears that Google’s carousel results are starting to show up in more places. We’re seeing them show up more consistently on searches they weren’t on before.

Los Angeles Hiking

Some of the results are pretty horrible though. Most of these are not National Parks…or even parks at all for that matter.

Arizona National Parks

We’re keeping an eye on the results and if we see frequency increase some more, we’ll look into expanding our SERP reporting for those packs.

7 Small Things That Can Add Big Value To Your Daily Work Life


Let’s face it, chasing Google all day is exhausting. There’s blogs to write, keywords to track, web pages to design and edit, employees to manage, meetings to run, emails to check, social media platforms to manage and—well, you get the point. If you’re like most people, you find yourself wishing there was more time to do the little things that really mattered.

Well, now you can.

We surveyed our team to uncover a handful of quick and easy tips they use to add value, meaning to what can be an otherwise hectic work day.

Here’s 7 things that require less than five minutes each but can have a significant impact while bringing cheer to your day and/or someone else’s.

1). Be Nice

The next time you’re in line at your local Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, ask the person behind you what they are having, then buy it for them. They’ll thank you and likely ask your name. They’re also likely to ask what you do. Don’t put on your sales hat. Simply tell them, have a brief chat and walk away. Almost certainly they will look you up in LinkedIn or via a Google search query. The bonhomie could resonate when/if they ever need your services.

2). Send an Email

Before email was the bane of our existence, it was new, fun and exciting. Let’s go back in time: At least twice a week send a former co-worker or acquaintance a “catching-up” email. Maybe it’s to share a joke, an image of the two of you singing karaoke at the holiday party or to remind them of something funny that happened during your time together.

3). Send a Thank You Note

Everyone hates snail mail, but it does have it’s uses. Buy a box of blank thank you notes and some postage stamps. Then, at least once a week send a hand-written thank you note to someone who’s helped you or your business in a meaningful way. It could be the trainer at the gym, the accounts payable person at a vendor or a staff member in your office.

4). Phone a Friend

Busy work lives often mean we don’t connect often enough with family and friends. Fix that problem today by committing to, once a week at least, taking five minutes out of your day to reach out a close friend or family member you don’t do a good enough job of connecting with.

5). Answer a Question

While you’re checking Twitter, type a hashtag commonly used for your vertical into the search field and look for any questions you might be able to answer. The personal touch could go a long way.

6). Stand, for Something

You’ve heard all the talk about sitting all day is killing desk jockeys, and how everyone needs a standing desk. That’s a whole lot of hooey. What’s really ideal is to change your posture frequently. Every 20 to 30 minutes, stand up and take a short walk; reposition yourself in your chair, keeping your chest up and your head back with chin tucked; or do one of several stretches at your desk. You’ll feel better and move better as well.

7). Open Up

When time is a valued commodity, office conversations grow curt and infrequent. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. At least once a day, take a walk around the office and talk to someone new. Don’t worry if you’ll have anything in common or that they’ll be long-winded. Because you initiated the conversation, you can more easily cut it off.

So try this: Engage in conversation for a three to four minutes, then when you’re ready for it to end, politely say, “I’m glad we had the chance to talk/catch up, let’s do it again soon,” then shake hands and walk away.

Final Thoughts

Work doesn’t have to be synonymous with drudgery. You can make each day worthwhile, for yourself and others, and do so without much of a time commitment.

What are some simple tips you apply to add meaning, value to your day?

The 3 Questions You Must Ask Before Outsourcing Content


You have a digital marketing firm handling search, social and analytics, and you’re happy with the work they’re doing so far. The design agency you hired is producing fabulous creative for the website and ancillary materials. And, the conversion-rate optimiization outfit the CMO reluctantly gave you budget for is working out nicely, helping you put insight to analysis, an area that had been woefully missing in painting the holistic picture you desire.

But what about content? Should outsourcing content be next on the list?

The answer is “it depends.”

It depends on…

  • The outfit you choose to handle the task
  • Who’ll actually be writing the content
  • Your willingness to ensure the content meets your needs
  • The goals of the content (e.g. quality? quantity? both?)
  • The bandwidth of your staff to create content

Proceed Cautiously When Outsourcing Content, The Lifeblood Of Your Business

The “who-should-we-trust-to-handle-our-content” question comes up often. Unfortunately there is no easy answer.

  • Go in one direction, and you loose an element of control
  • Go in another direction, and you saddle your staff with additional responsibility they might be ill-equipped to handle

In the ideal situation, your company should produce its own content. That should be the long-term goal.

Those words come from someone who gets paid to write and provide content strategy, but who also sees far too often that the quality of content being added to most websites ranks somewhere between a “C-minus” and a “F.”

Those words are not meant as a knock against agencies providing content. Those words are born of having spent hundreds of days looking at millions of words of copy on thousands of websites, many of which had entrusted agencies to create the content posted online. It’s not that agencies can’t produce quality content; it’s that outsourcing content is a big deal, one that requires proper safeguards be established to get the information you need.

So how do you ensure the content being created for your site makes the grade when you must outsource it?

By asking any agency following three questions:

Do you have a team of content writers on staff? Contrary to popular belief, many (likely most) digital marketing agencies don’t have a team of writers on staff to handle your content needs. They’re outsourcing the work to freelancers and, most often, “content mills,” who can work fast and are cheap. Problem is, fast and cheap aren’t often synonymous with quality. Your website could be left holding the bag for thin content, which Google, as we know, frowns upon.

How do you protect yourself? Ask your agency contact who’ll be producing the content, what experience they have in your vertical and what quality control measures are in place. If you sense any apprehension at these questions, run. Also, make the agency aware that you’ll be keeping a close eye on the content being added to the site; any decline in quality will be met with an immediate phone call. Better yet, apprise them that you’ll have someone evaluating content on a week-to-week basis, and you’ll have a member of your staff go over that report with your agency contact via Skype or Google Hangout bi-weekly.

How are you planning to measure the performance of the content, and at what intervals will it be measured? Everyone is hooked on the shareability of content—content worthy of being shared. But what you really care about is content that gets shared and that’s worthy of being linked to. No, not all content created for your website will be link-worthy, but some of it absolutely should be. Don’t fall for the “social signals is the new links” B.S., which many agencies are selling. “We’ll make sure the social sharing buttons are prominently placed on every blog, so you get social signals/links when folks share it.” Really?

How do you protect yourself? Ask about the overall strategy for producing content; their keyword strategy; how they plan to cater to semantic search queries; the process for outlining a plan to create linkable content. Every piece of content created for your website should be a part of a larger content plan. For example, blogs should highlight your main products and services, with links to one from the former to the latter, in addition to links to related FAQs. What’s more, those blogs should be linked to similar blogs, providing a trail for readers to follow, whereby they gain more comfort with the brand as they easily access information related to their needs.

Some of these blogs should be meatier, long-form pieces worthy of links, too.

Also, there should be benchmarks in place to measure your content against on a month-to-month basis. Ask how often content campaigns will be measured for effectiveness. Anything longer than 90 days is unacceptable.

What’s the objective with regard to the content you produce for our business? Peruse enough websites, and you start to wonder “What’s the purpose here?” or, worse, “Was there ever any purpose here?” Your business cannot afford to fall into either camp. To many agencies your content needs are far down on the list of priorities, owing to SEO being their main offering. And when you ask “What’s your goal for our content?” you’ll likely hear “To help your business get found by the search engines.” If you hear this, sprint, don’t walk or jog, away. That is a goal, but not the goal. The goal of any content created for your website must be to help drive conversions.

How do you protect yourself?  Make your contact aware that the work they do for your company does not exist in a silo. It has an important role just like finance, HR, sales and all of the other departments. Just like those other departments, there are objectives the content is expected to meet, and when those goals are not met, you’ll expect answers. Additionally, be very wary of any agency that handles your content but does not take the time to really get to know your business inside and out. They should commit to a twice-yearly visit, whereby they meet and interact with your staff, and ask questions about problems you face, who your main competitors are, what they can do better to nudge you toward your goals, etc.

As you can see, outsourcing content is not a task to be taken lightly. Any agency or individual assisting with these efforts should be looked at as a partner helping move your business forward. That’s a level of responsibility all parties must comprehend.

What are your thoughts on going outside the company for content? Any experiences you care to share?