Remote Workers Working Remotely in a Remote Office – Part II

In my first post about working remotely, it focused on what should be happening at the mother ship to ensure the remote worker successfully started in their new position.

But “remote” is a bidirectional communication. The home office needs to communicate and connect to the remote office, but the remote office/worker needs to communicate and feel connected to the home office.

Too many times when a company hires a remote worker, I see an unexpressed conflict. The company hires a remote sales resource under the auspices of growing the company but what they really want is a mercenary. The employee takes the job under the auspices the company wants to grow and that the company will provide support to that end. The company wants someone to go into the territory–independent of company culture and without any supporting company-based background–and begin producing sales. They want the sales rep to “crush the competition” “steal sales away” “bust into the territory” and other pugilistic possibilities. They want for someone to establish a name for the company in that new territory as quickly as possible.

Now I can hear your collective brains buzzing, “What’s wrong with that?” And for both the newly hired and the newly hiring, there is nothing wrong as of yet, except the gap between what’s discussed before hiring and what happens after hiring is like looking into a reflection pool. Not the reflection part so much, but what’s lurking underneath. How deep is that water under the surface? I may see the reflection of the company on top, but is it supported? Is this freshly minted corporate mercenary presenting the best foot forward for what the customer needs–and what the customer expects? How should the remote worker communicate to the mother ship what they are doing? And, if they are doing it correctly and to expected corporate standard.

This goes back to the previous post, but by instilling culture and expectations the company looks to see that message spread from the rep to the customer. And just like parenting, after initial hand holding by the mother ship and then giving progressively more autonomy, the company transfers its corporate image and beliefs, and the remote worker has a better chance of reflecting that image in their local market.

So I said the remote worker should be communicating to the corporate office, but what should they be communicating? Here’s where it gets a little complicated for me to explain, and not sound like I’m completely tap dancing, but the remote worker needs a neutral resource to which they communicate their activity, their efforts and their plan–in short, a mentor. Not their manager, but someone at HQ who knows the systems, understands what the worker is trying to do (in this case, sales) and give them perspective and guidance. This allows a conduit for the remote worker to HQ, as well as a way for corporate culture to be shone back upon our remote newbie. And, we don’t have to use the same mentor all the time and paring only one-to-one, but use more than one mentor and expose our remote guy (or gal) to others in the organization as well.

I’ll probably write about mentors in sales operations at a later date, but there is a reason people need mentors: they don’t come into a position knowing everything. I’ve heard it stated that for experienced hires, companies hire someone with 60% – 80% of the desired skill set expecting to train for the remaining needed skills. That means the new hire is still lacking 20% – 40% of the knowledge needed. So this begs the question, how are you treating your remote employees? Or if you are remote, how are you being treated? Now, reverse the ask on those two questions. Open communication between the remote employee and the company HQ will only make things better. And that, in the end, will bring more sales, and ultimately enable better Sales Operations.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

Remote Workers Working Remotely in Remote Offices – Part I

Siberia. So Cold. Brrrrr… At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

When I was growing up, I would always hear the threat that if someone in Russia (technically then the U.S.S.R.) did something wrong they would be shipped off to Siberia.

I never quite understood why. When I asked my father, he would say because it was so cold and remote. And like the kid that I was (admit it, that we all were), I didn’t really think about what that meant–until I had to do a little research on it and found out what “cold” and “remote” really were and where Siberia really was.

When someone was sent to Siberia, it was to do two things: Punish them and remove them. The former Soviet Union didn’t dilly dally here, if you were considered a dissident, you were unceremoniously shipped off to the frozen wasteland via a train on a trip which could take up to nine days to get to the destination. Nine days. That certainly was remote. And during winters, the temperature would hover around -35F. Ouch.

So, when one looks at working remotely for a company, is the company punishing the individual? or do they really want them to perform?

As businesses grow, typically they want to expand into territories and grow their footprint. Placing local bodies there is really important, because local resources know local buyers. Kind of like the dictum, “Promote from within the company”* my corollary would be “Hire from within the territory”. As businesses expand they should place people in the territory that are from the territory. It simply gives a leg up to that worker and to that business.

But since every business has a culture, and has people which create that culture, it is really important not to unintentionally ostracize those individuals who can’t participate in the HQ culture. Especially those who work solo and/or remotely. If you want to ensure they are in sync with your company goals and doings, you need to make sure the employee is somehow fed enough culture to feel a little more warm and snuggly.

One of the best ways is to have your remote employee(s) come to the corporate headquarters once or twice a year. Also highly recommended is to have people other than the immediate supervisor come visit them at least once a year. While this may seem expensive, if it increases sales and productivity, then the cost will be offset. In the same vein, if you choose to save the cash, make sure to calculate the cost of onboarding and ramping a new employee.

In my last job working for a Value Added Reseller, initially the company had an all-hands summer meeting and an all-hands winter meeting. While I was working remotely, my management would come down once a year to our satellite office and work from there a couple of days, and I always had a parade of engineers coming through for various projects, even though most of my projects were handled by my local engineer.

Then, the vibe changed and there was no longer a summer meeting. While I wasn’t a fan of spending time going over a pages of company data, the afterhours portion of the meeting connected me to the other sales people in the company, as well as the inside sales people I spent so many hours on the phone with correcting processes, and allowed me to interact with the back office staff whom I spoke to on the phone but rarely face-to-face. It allowed me to see people interact with others, hear snippets of gossip, and feel like I was a contributing cog of the machine. And then, with no corporate meeting, I wasn’t. As new people were brought in for the various back office and inside roles, I had to create new relationships based upon nothing but what I needed.  It took at least twice as long to get into a groove and develop rapport, and even then I found myself going back to those I had worked with originally since I trusted them. And trust with my new people could have similarly achieved with a couple of beers onsite.

Why does this matter? Because people don’t just work for a paycheck. Productivity goes up when people feel they are part of a team or cause. And when people work remotely, they are in their own special bubble. In someways they are insulated from office politics and the day-to-day shuffle which can distract from their job, but they also are blind to corporate decisions, discussions and determinations. They have no say and aren’t asked for one–because no one knows them.

And, like Cheers, in the end what they really want is a place where everybody knows their name.

*We will be covering the topic of Promote from Within in a different post.

Any better ideas for remote workers? I’m always interested in learning.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

PS The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.