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Why We ROWE: A Model for a Remote Marketing Team

By March 24, 2015 May 13th, 2019 No Comments

Did you know that good, well-trained inbound marketers are hard to find? In fact, I can’t find a single college that offers inbound marketing as a requirement in a business or marketing B.A. program.

Two years ago, I asked a friend of mine how she attracts top-quality talent to her marketing agency. She told me that her 12 team members all work remotely, that it works really well for them, and that I should read “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson.

ROWE – but not like a boat

In their time at Best Buy in the late ’90s, Cali and Jody realized that what truly motivated the Best Buy corporate staff was freedom to pursue results. After all, they’d been hired to accomplish a job. But the traditional office setting was stifling productivity and instead fostering complacency and encouraging people to do the minimum to get by.. That’s when the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) management philosophy was born.

Imagine a place where people work when and where they want, feel completely empowered and supported, and consistently produce awesome results. That’s a Results-Only Work Environment.

By definition, a Results-Only Work Environment™ or ROWE™ is a place where everyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want—as long as the work gets done. It is a pure, cultural shift that results in total freedom for team members to own their time. The business focuses on results, not “presenteeism,” and for a remote marketing team, that’s pure joy!

One of the main benefits of working in a ROWE is the freedom and flexibility that it provides. People are able to complete work in their own time, as long as they meet their deadlines. This means that they can take breaks and attend appointments without having to take time off — this can be particularly useful for working parents, and it can help to avoid a stressful commute.

The benefit to agencies is that it unlocks the hidden potential in your team members. Everyone on the team starts to act like an owner, and you start to have a team of leaders. Another benefit is that productivity increases since team members are incentivized to be as efficient as possible.

ROWE-ing changes where we can hire

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, finding experienced inbound marketers, or even those who are trained but don’t yet have a wealth of experience, is challenging. Wouldn’t it be great to not be limited to your own geography to hire people? People on our teams work wherever they are and whenever they want.

We now have the pleasure of working with some highly skilled inbound marketers across the US and in the Canary Islands. One of our agency owners lives in England. We can find the right people for the right position without worrying about geography, relocations, managing a remote team (more on that shortly), or expensive commuting. In fact, we ALL work remotely.

ROWE-ing changes how we hire

Of course, that means we’ve had to change how we hire. Now we look for self-starters who can manage their own time, want to grow professionally, and who want to make a positive contribution by helping our clients become more successful.

And we’ve had to define and promote our culture as an organization. If you’re a self-starter who enjoys marketing and fits our culture, we can train you in the skills you need. But sadly, we can’t train you to fit our culture; you either do, or you don’t.

Since a ROWE focuses on the result and outcomes, it becomes easier to see how productive our team is. And this focus on outcomes is basic to the practice of inbound marketing, so it makes perfect sense to extend that focus on delivering results to how we manage our team.

ROWE-ing changes how we manage our team

Managing a team of self-starters is very different from managing a team of office workers. Since team members have the freedom to work their own hours as long as they meet their deadlines, we need to take extra care to ensure that there is a lot of communication.

Like any organization, we want to manage capacity — but if people aren’t working a 40-hour week, “capacity” starts to mean something different. We’re vigilant about deadlines and we’re also vigilant about potential burn-out. Basically, this all comes down to good communication and good project management so that we have a handle on the flow of work going through our agency and understand what’s happening in the lives of our team members.

We have a regular rhythm of meetings and a lot of ad hoc communication around specific projects and campaigns. All of our communication is made possible by a variety of internet tools like Google Chat, Skype, Slack and Grasshopper. To empower our staff in using these tools effectively, we give new team members a good headset with a boom mic, and make sure that all their hardware is tuned up. We also provide extensive training both internally (how to use various software applications, best practices, sharing informative blog posts, etc) and externally (CSS and HTML coding, inbound marketing intensives, and various certifications).

And then we start training them to include what’s happening in their lives right alongside what’s happening on your project or campaign; whose kids are sick, who took an awesome trip, who had a weekend of complete R&R, and who is happy about something they accomplished.

The focus is always on results and goals. This means that team members are clear about what they need to achieve, and how this contributes to the organization’s objectives as a whole. We’ve found that this level of specificity and the freedom that comes with a ROWE empowers each person on our team to do their best and to make the agency a success. What more could a business owner ask for?

Jody Thompson was asked recently, “What about the idea that communication happens more easily and spontaneously when people are in the same room?”

She said, “Here’s all I have to say: Skype, instant messaging, texting, Google Hangouts, Facebook. The whole idea of the water-cooler conversation is very, very outdated. Today, the water cooler is virtual. We’re Skyping, we’re IM-ing, we’re texting, we’re moving ideas around as fast as the speed of light. When you tell someone the only way they can be spontaneous is in the office, you look like a fool, especially to the next generation. Tell someone that’s 22 years old that they have to come into an office to be spontaneous. Come on.”

Want to know more? I’m happy to jump on a Google Hangout with you and talk about our experience creating and managing a remote team. Just contact me and let me know what you’d like to talk about.

 

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Larry Levenson

Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.