Selling Physical Products with a 100% Remote Team

Fred Perrota has a team of nine remote employees that help him run Tortuga, a backpack brand that’s beloved by travelers and digital nomads. Today he’s weighing in on how he finds solid remote employees and how his entire business runs like a well-oiled machine. He also shares some of the biggest lessons he’s learned as he runs his physical product business with a completely remote staff.

You’ll learn:

  • What to look for when you’re hiring remote employees
  • Creating better systems and processes with a worldwide team
  • How to troubleshoot tasks that traditionally require an in-house team

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(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Fred Perrotta of Tortuga.com)

Andrew: Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, guys. It’s Andrew here. And welcome to The eCommerceFuel Podcast. Thanks so much for joining me on the episode today. And today is a topic near and dear to my heart. It’s kind of the second or third episodes in our series commemorating the kicking off of the eCommerceFuel jobs boards, so talking about hiring, management, teams.

And we’re talking about remote work today. For me, I’m a little bit of a vagabond. I love not being tied down, and so the idea of being able to build a remote team, our whole team is remote, is something that I think is really important. But you get into physical products, like it’s a little trickier, which is why I’m excited to have Fred Perrotta on the program today, from tortuga.com.

Andrew: Fred runs a completely remote team. He’s the co-founder of the company, and they have about 10-ish people all around the world. And they sell physical products, not just physical products that you, you know, you buy, but physical that they have to touch and design, and iterate on, yet they’re able to do this remotely.

And so I wanted to find out how they do that, what some of the problems are, and how they’ve been able to overcome those to run a physical products business while still being completely remote, which I think is a pretty cool thing to do.

Fred actually left Google and started the business, or co-founded it in 2009. And they make carry-on bags for adventure and for travel. Very popular, they’ve have actually been named the best carry-on bag by the Wire Cutter, and they now have about 10-ish people on their team worldwide, all of them working remotely.

Thanks To Our Sponsors!

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All right, let’s go ahead and get into today’s episode on remote work.

Screening For Solid Remote Applicants

Fred, you rode in one of your many posts on remote work, and I quote, “In reviewing applicants and interviewing, we look for signals that someone can be productive outside of an office.” When you’re hiring a team, a distributor team, it seems that would be one of the most critical things to look for. It seems like it’d also be one of the most difficult things to screen for.

What attributes are you looking for to try to be able to tease that out, and what’s your success rate with finding self-starters versus people that just can’t work in a remote environment.

Fred: Yeah, that one can be tricky because, you know, the ideal experience is someone who’s worked remotely before, especially a full time kind of gig like that. But there are many other remote companies that’s still a small minority.

So, remote working experience would be great if we can find it, but even other comparable things like someone has worked as a freelancer before, which means they’ve probably, even if they went to a client’s office occasionally, they’re still probably working from home, albeit more self-directed, any kind of a side gig, working on the side, or even if it’s not work, something where they’ve shown that they had to take the initiative.

So, some kind of like organizing, volunteering things, or, you know, starting some kind of organizational group in college. Anything where they had to like provide that initial spark and energy to make something happen can still be a good sign, even if they haven’t had a remote job in the past.

And we’ve had a pretty good hit rate on that front. Anyone that hasn’t worked out, I don’t think it’s really been because of the challenges of working remotely. So, people adapt to it at different speeds.

You know, some people jump right in and, you know, they feel like they hit the ground running, they’re super productive, whatever, and some people, even if they’ve eventually been great, you know, you kind of start and you feel like you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, or maybe the communication feels like a challenge. You know, there are still challenges.

Even if someone has some relevant experience, and even if they end up being great, there’s still some initial hurdle that they have to get over.

How To Get Good at Remote Training

Andrew: One thing you talk about is that remote companies are generally really bad at training, and as such, employees need to be able to make an impact from day one. I hadn’t heard about this. I thought it was interesting, but I definitely could see your point given it’s so much easier to train when you can have, you know, real-time feedback in person versus trying to do everything over, you know, Skype or screen castings, like that.

Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Fred: Yeah, there’s kinda, this idea sort of crystallized for me out of a conversation with the CEO of another remote company last year, a company much bigger than ours. So, that made me feel like, “Oh, it’s not just me, or us, that’s not great at that.”

Yeah, you know, it’s really hard to do that kind of initial training when it’s remote, right? If you think about a typical office environment, you know, somebody’s just starting, there’s either, if it’s a bigger company, there’s probably an existing learning and development team, or track, or, you know, all the stuff that’s kind of worked out right?

So, someone starts and the first couple of weeks is just training that’s already built out and organized, and all that stuff.

But, you know, remote or not, ideally, that would be you kind of have someone sitting next to you, even if that’s not all day, maybe a half of your day, a quarter of your day, as you get up and running, even post-training where, you know, you’re shadowing someone, or they’re looking over your shoulder or whatever, to kind of gets in-sync, which that is just much harder to do remotely.

I guess you could leave a video conference on all day, but that’s a little awkward and invasive, yeah. You know, that’s easy to forget that it’s on, and, you know, next thing you’re picking your nose or whatever.

So, yeah, you just miss out on that like looking over the shoulder part of it. So, we do try to…and I think this a little bit of a weakness of the most remote companies, especially because most are fairly small, right? So, you know, if we were huge and had a three-person learning and development team, then, you know, maybe they could build some training and they’ll be much more effective.

But, you know, for us, we’re kind of trying to hire people, I always think about it as like people on the kind of upswing of their career, with like an upward trajectory.

Whatever role that we’re hiring them for, I want them to at least have some baseline of experience and expertise in at least some of that role, even if, you know, maybe that’s 60% of it and 40% of it is new to them, rather than if you have someone coming in with like, you know, maybe a situation that you might have at a bigger company, or could look at a company where, you know, you’re just hiring new college grads and you just want smart kids as they’re graduating and you’ll teach them everything they need to know.

That’s just not a position that we’re in to be able to do that.

So, we need someone who already has at least some experience in that role versus, you know, I used to work at Google and they would just, every summer, hire a bunch of fresh college grads and, you know, they’ll kind of brainwash you in everything you need to know. But we are not at the point. We need people who already at least kind of know how to do the job.

Balancing Autonomy and Productivity

Andrew: Talk about some of the expectations or rules you do set for employees. You know, if you’re remote kind of by default, like you’ve talked about, you’re hiring people who are self-starters that already can make an impact. You do tend to give them a lot more freedom and measure off of the impact versus just, you know, bought in seat time, to use the phrase.

But you’ve got to have some kind of expectations, and maybe the ones I’m thinking about are availability for real time communication, different maybe habits or ways they interact with the team. What are the expectations you do set for your team that, you know, by default has a lot of autonomy and freedom?

Fred: You know, we try to outline that. We have this like little handbook slate that we use internally, so we try to outline a lot of that stuff for people, especially if they’re new so they understand like okay, how available do I need to be? Where should I be, you know, responding? How fast do I need to respond? That sort of thing.

We try to focus on asynchronous communication, the reason being I don’t want people to be sitting around waiting for Slack notifications all day, or feel like they need to have Slack and email open at all times and instantly respond. Responding to that stuff, maybe we can have a productive conversation, but that’s not, you know, the real work that we’re doing. So, I do try to go out of my way to kind of outline that for people.

So, if they’re new they know, “Hey, I’m suggesting that you turn off these notifications,” or, “You know, if you’re working on something where you need to be really focused, it’s totally fine to turn off Slack, or not respond to emails for half the day, or whatever.” That stuff is all totally fine.

Maybe give us a heads-up if, you know, it’s gonna be a long time that you’re away, because no one’s waiting on you. But in general, we try to focus on asynchronous communication.

Even though we’re remote most of our team is in North America and therefore, on North American hours, so that tends to help because most people have at least part of their day overlapping with anyone that they need to talk to.

So, that kind of availability hasn’t been as much of an issue, though I could see if we were more evenly distributed around the world, you know, we may need some more rules or norms or something there to account for that.

Tools of the Trade

Andrew: Do you guys have any expectations about, you know, ways in which let’s say, you know, if you’re gonna store files, everything has to be on the company Google Drive or the Dropbox folder, or, you know, scheduling appointments, things like that? Or is most of that kind of left up to people being able to do it the way that works best for them?

Fred: The sort of storage stuff like that, yeah, we do use Google Docs and Dropbox. You know, we have some other tools of organization that we use, Asana for project management, for example. So, some of that stuff is pretty regular.

Internally we do, you know, if it’s calls or something like that, and scheduling, it’s mostly a Slack message and then a Slack call. If it’s external, I guess we let people be a little bit more flexible, you know, whether it’s like Skype or something like that, for just a one-off call, or, you know, we have a Zoom account, which I’ve been using for interviewing lately because then it’s just here’s the link, send it everybody, and one place to kind of gather.

And, you know, it lets me not use Skype, which is also a nice perk.

Andrew: As we’re recording on Skype, apologies for that.

Fred: No offence, for your crisis. Just saying for me, I try to avoid it.

Tracking Employees

Andrew: Do use software like Hubstaff at all, to track your team’s time and work, where, you know, you can kind of, even if you’re not looking at it every day, to just kind of get a sense of, you know, what they’re doing and when? Or do you truly just not worry about that, and just kind of really focus on the results versus the process?

Fred: We don’t use that for any salaried employees. We do occasionally work with contractors who are working hourly. Or I guess in the past when we’ve hired support reps, we call them concierges. When we’ve hired people in support, they’ve often started out kind of hourly and part time, you know, worked up from there.

So, in those cases we do need time tracking, so we’ve used, we used T-Sheets in the past because they integrate with Gusto, our payroll provider.

And I’ve also used another one called Toggl, T-O-G-G-L, no E at the end. And that’s just basically the same kind of functionality, I mean, they’re all pretty similar. But have used some of those for either extra people, or people who are newer to the team and still on hourly, kind of part-time role.

In-Person Outings Are Crucial

Andrew: Talk about getting together in person. I mean, it’s building cohesion with the team and rapport and trust. You can do it online, but it happens just exponentially faster in person. How important are in-person teams for you guys, and how often you do them? And if, you know, maybe give me a sense of what those look like when you do do them.

Fred: Yeah, we try to get together once or twice a year, depends a little bit on budget, but try to do it as much as we can. Again, we’ve tried a few different formats for our retreats, though I think the format matters much less than just having everyone together, like the in-person time is what really matters, and, you know, whether we’re doing some important work sessions, or we’re just doing a team activity, or going out to dinner, or whatever. I think that time together is what really matters.

And then we’ve experimented a little bit with the format, so we generally have…we’ll generally do it over a weekend, because that’s when, you know, our concierge team is not responding to emails anyway, so I don’t want them to feel like, “Oh, you have to respond emails and do your job, but also we have work sessions all day, so, somehow do both of those.”

So, we’ve done them over the weekend. And typically, you know, we’ll pick a destination, we’ll rent out a big Airbnb there for the team to share, which is nice because then everyone kind of like has some shared spaces, but also some, you know, personal space. So, kind of a nice balance, rather than a hotel where you have no shared spaces.

So, we’ll get together. Usually, people arrive on Thursday or Friday, we’ll have some kind of activity and dinner on Friday. And then Saturday is kind of our company-wide session, so I’ll give a State-of-the-Union talk kind of at the beginning, everyone will update the rest of the team with what they’re working on.

And then the rest of the sessions are kind of by demand, or what we think is really useful for the team. So, we almost always do kind of a product design focused one, because everyone on the team is, you know, cares about the product and uses our bags and stuff, so everyone has an opinion.

And, you know, it’s nice to keep everyone involved rather than just, “Hey, we’ve made a product. Here you go, go sell it,” and hand it off to the people who are involved in the product side. So, that’s one we always emphasize.

And then we’ve done all kinds of different sessions, whether it’s about, you know, we’ve done fun ones like how to take good photos, and edit photos and things like that. You know, we’ve done ones where we’ve talked a lot about the personas for a new product or a new collection, where, you know, we’re kind of doing more educating of the team about who this customer is and what they want, and why this product is good for them. That’s our Saturday, then we’ll have dinner and things like that.

And then Sunday, we’ve done a lot of different formats in the second day that’s similar to the first one. We’ve done team level meetings like, you know, marketing as a meeting, concierge team, etc., the snacks retreat, which we’re in the middle of planning right now.

I wanna try a new format, which I’ve done it at other events, which is like an un-conference, and it’s basically like rather than planning out the Sunday sessions ahead of time, we’ll maybe talk some time on Saturday and kind of say, “Hey, what are people interested in hearing about from the rest of the team?

What are people interested in teaching the rest of the team?” We’ll throw a bunch of ideas out there, kind of vote on the popular ones and then put those on the schedule for the next day. And that’s a little bit more ad hoc, and these sessions can be kind of conversational rather than, you know, one person presenting and everyone else, you know, hopefully, participating. But it’s a little bit more of a group discussion rather than one person kind of leading it.

So, we’ve tried a lot of different things, but like I said, I think the most important thing is that we’re all sharing some physical space and hanging out together, which is where the real long term benefits come from.

Problems With Physical Products and a Remote Team

Andrew: I wanna move a little bit more into actual talking about the physical products that you sell. You’re an ecommerce business, you’re selling backpacks, you’re a remote team, and you’ve talked about some of the work on your prototyping, for example, being difficult being remote because your product designer is remote, doesn’t have an office work from, doesn’t have a space, a company-provided space to actually be able to hack on the stuff with and go back and forth.

Can you talk about some of the problems that you run into as a remote team dealing with physical products, and how you’ve either solved them or mitigated those issues?

Fred: Yeah, it’s hard. There’s a reason most of the remote companies are software businesses, turns out. Yeah, it’s definitely a challenge. Even something as simple as like, you know, we have all these fabric swatches from different vendors, and, you know, it’s nice to be able to reference those, but sometimes I have one book, sometimes Patrick, our designer, you know, maybe we have the same one, maybe he has it, but I don’t. And it can be hard just to like be looking at the same thing at the same time, you know?

So, that’s been probably the biggest challenge, aside from the general ones around being a remote team, communicating and stuff like that, is working on physical products where in most cases even if there’s two of us on a call and we’re talking about something, we probably don’t both have the exact same product and sample in front of us to be talked about.

And even if we do, then I’m still like holding it up to my computer camera trying to point at, “No, this strap here. See this one, that’s what I’m talking about,” rather than, you know, if you’re sitting next to each other, it’s very easy to say, you know, “Look at this thing. What if we moved it over here?”

Yeah, it’s definitely a challenge. We’ve done our best to mitigate it, but, you know, we’re still trying to get better. And I’m certainly open to ideas, and we’re working on it. But yeah, we’ve done a lot of like shipping samples around. Like, I look at something, touch stuff for a few days, ship it to Patrick. We do try to batch a little bit, you know, products that are kind of in process.

So, we’ve got a retreat coming up, so we’ve a bunch of maybe half a dozen things that are somewhere between first sample, like very rough draft, and pretty much done. So, we’ll bring all that stuff to the retreat so that all of us who work on the product can see it all together, talk about the stuff in person, the rest of the team can check it out then learn about it ahead of time, offer their input.

So, yeah, being able to do that in person is usually beneficial. And then, same thing even with our factory in China. You know, it’s one thing to get the products mostly right. It’s usually those last 10%, 15% that can be done much better in person. You know, you send notes with like, wherever you take some pictures and draw some arrows, move this over here, make this smaller, take this off. Some of the little details.

Or just, you know, you write out like several paragraphs in an email and they still don’t get it, whereas if you’re in person, you could just point at it and it takes two seconds, and it’s very clear.

So, there are certainly some challenges, but we’re trying to mitigate it with kind of planning and batching the stuff, which means we have to be way ahead of our production schedules. You know, physical products take some time to manufacture.

We have to ship them from Asia so, you know, there’s a lot of timeline there, but we also need to build in some extra time so that, you know, we can kind of schedule some in-person time to review the stuff, offer some notes, go back and forth with the factory, and then actually make it.

So, you know, even if production is like two months and maybe a month for shipping, you have to add in several more months ahead of that for all the sampling and reviewing to get it there. So, yeah, it’s been a challenge. It will be probably an even bigger challenge as our design team grows, hopefully, one day. But we’re doing what we can, and if anyone has any better ideas, I am certainly open to suggestions.

Product Design Challenges with a Remote Team

Andrew: So, that sounds like a lot of the issues are especially with the product development. Granted, I’m guessing you have a much higher volume on the, you know, the order fulfillment side with the finished products returns, things like that. I’m guessing you probably have a 3PL set up for all of that. So, is that correct? And is that part of the physical logistics actually easier than the product development side?

Fred: Yeah, we do use the 3PL, and yeah, that’s typically easier for us. You know, I don’t think anyone has 100% perfect relationship with their 3PL, but yeah, mostly that has been pretty good, especially when we, you know, can find the right partner and provider, which we have not always done, but feel much better about our current partner.

And yeah, that side is typically much easier and goes a little bit better for us than the product design, which can be a little slow and difficult, given the remote set up.

3PL Shortcomings & Fixes

Andrew: You mentioned you kind of got a new 3PL that you’re much happier with, what were some of the mistakes or issues in the past that you weren’t able to get right, or, you know, the shortcomings of your previous 3PL that someone who’s run a remote e-commerce company might benefit from here? What did you guys change that you didn’t get right the first time?

Fred: Yeah, our previous…Well, no. We started out with Amazon FBA when we really first started, but eventually moved away from them because they’re kind of optimized for selling on Amazon, which was a small part of what we were doing. And they weren’t just great for our direct sales channels, especially…I don’t think they even accepted returns of direct sales and, you know, it’s just kind of not optimized for that.

So, we moved to another provider, which was the worst sender we’ve ever worked with, not just for 3PLs but for anything. Make sure that your 3PLs have SLAs and will stick to those agreements, because we had two straight holiday seasons where stuff was going out late, like super, super late, and, you know, it was just like…it just felt like everything was imploding for, you know, a month or so, straight.

Somehow, we stuck with them for a second holiday season, it was slightly better. It was still disastrous, but less disastrous, I guess. I don’t know if that was really an improvement, but yeah, finally we were able to move 3PLs when we did kind of a reboot of the company in 2016.

That’s when we redesigned some products, we redesigned the website, did a bunch of changes like that. The team was growing. And, yeah, looked around, quoted with a bunch and ended up with a 3PL called Michela, which ironically, means backpack, in Spanish. And that is not why I chose them, but hopefully, that’s like a happy accident or something.

But yeah, we were referred there by friends and eventually started working with them. They were started by ex-Amazon FBA people, so, you know, they kind of get it and are pretty tech forward, so they’ve been a good partner for us. I always look for 3PLs that integrate with, you know, the tech we’re using, so Shopify in our case, and some other tools, because, you know, I want all that stuff to be seamless.

And a lot of the warehouse being a 3PL industry can still be pretty old school and, you know, based off of whatever, sending a CSV or something every day, and, you know, I just never wanted that to be how we’re integrated because it’s just like begging for problems. I want that side of the business to be, you know, as automated as possible, and then when some blotches crop up, we’ll deal with them.

But for the most part, I want that just, you know, if someone goes on the website, they can place an order, it gets on the 3PL, and they ship it out. Like, no one should be involved on our side in that process, ideally.

Handling Tax Implications for a Worldwide Team

Andrew: You had talked about your team, and when I was looking on the team page, you got nine people, and it looked like they were across seven different countries, at least where they’re from. Maybe they’re based in North America, or they are based on, they spend their time there, based on what you said.

But I can see, potentially, a huge nightmare of an issue from an HR and a taxation standpoint if you’re remote, you’re hiring people around the globe, especially throwing your payroll versus contractors.

Can you give me a sense like how do you have, from a legal structure, you know, your business entity? Where is it set up? Payroll, you know, how many places you have nexus? How many places you pay tax? Can you give us a sense into that, and if it’s as complicated as I think, or more better or worse?

Fred: Yeah, it’s pretty complicated. Even though the majority of our team actually is in the U.S., and U.S. citizens, but even so, it’s pretty rough. So, we’ve got nexus in a handful of states, depending on if we have employees there, if we have a warehouse there. Also, there’s a company that we use for repairs, which cause us to have a nexus in another state.

So, that stuff was a nightmare kind of figuring out and learning. We actually talked to a company that helps companies with sales taxes, like a consulting company, and early on, it was like, “This seems crazy like we have to, you know, file with all these states. And like, do we have to do all this manually? This seems insane.” And they’re like, “Yep, that’s just how it’s done.”

So, I went online, did some googling, and of course, that is not actually how it has to be done. There’s some software out there, we use Tax Star, but there’s a couple of other tools that can connect your to Shopify store, you tell them where you have nexus and, you know, they collect all that, they pay it out. You just have to register and put in your information.

So, this company is kind of leading us astray so that they could, you know, make money off of all this manual filing, which I don’t wanna do anything manually, if possible.

So, yeah, we were able to kind of learn a lesson there, and work around them. But it’s rough, because it adds nexus for us in several more states, having our teams spread out. Because we have people outside of the country, they’re basically considered contractors.

So, you know, we use Gusto for payroll, but we can’t use that for anyone outside the states, it’s all inside. So, anyone outside of the states is basically considered a contractor.

We pay them through usually TransferWise, because it’s a bit cheaper than PayPal, but, you know, any benefits and stuff like that, we have to kind of sort out manually. And then I have to send them their paychecks manually rather than it just being part of our bigger payroll, so it’s a nightmare. Despite seven of our team members are in the States, but just having anyone outside of it is not ideal.

But, you know, it’s kind of part of how we’ve designed the company, so we figured out systems around it, and, you know, maybe one day we’ll still be in business and some of this stuff will be fixed. But I’m not optimistic that it’s gonna be anytime soon.

Determining Where to Incorporate Your Business

Andrew: Are you incorporated in California, or are you kind of based at Oakland? Or are you incorporated in a different state and then just pay yourself as an employee? How does that look?

Fred: We pay ourselves as employees, my co-founder, Jeremy and I, but we are incorporated in California. When we started, we were both here, but in different, both here in California and in different cities. So yeah, we incorporated here not really knowing any different or better, maybe we would make a different decision now.

But I think most of our taxes are kind of determined by where we individually live, because businesses setup is a pass through, so if we had incorporated elsewhere but still live in California, it doesn’t really help us too much.

Building Better Systems

Andrew: Right, makes sense. One of the core values for Tortuga is build and improve systems, which speaks to me as a total systems geek. How do you build those and keep those updated? So, I mean we can use this for, you know, an anecdotal example. Let’s say, when somebody adds a new product to your website, what’s kind of your, the library, or the software, or the, you know, the kind of process you have in place for storing all of your systems?

Fred: Yeah, this is one of those things that I have to be like, or I feel like I have to be extra crazy about, and always encouraging people like, you know, “We’re talking about change for process? Cool, make sure that’s documented. Make sure you update that.” I’m kind of the one always beating the drum there.

But yeah, we use a combination of Google Docs, and that’s for kinda more written out SOPs, especially if that’s like longer and there are some screenshots and links. Our concierge team tends to use Google Docs for that sort of thing because, you know, even just explaining something basic like processing a return, you know, that can end up being a few pages long by the time you have screenshots and kind of overly detail everything.

The other system that we use is Asana, which process mostly for project management. I also use it as kind of my ‘To-Do’ list, but it’s meant to be a place where everyone can see where this project is, who’s working on it, what the deadlines are, etc.

So for what you just mentioned in terms of like adding a product to the site, something like that would be on Asana, and we’d be able to see that might be a subtask or part of a bigger project around a product launch or something like that.

The idea is everyone can see, okay, this is at, let’s say at the top the list. You know, this person is gonna create a dummy version of that product in Shopify. And then on this date we’re gonna have photography, so this person is gonna upload that. And then we’re gonna have copy done by this date.

And you can see who’s doing what and by what date, so if you’re waiting on something, you can kind of see, “Oh, she’ll have that for me on Tuesday,” and if someone is waiting on you, you know what your deadlines are, and, you know, you can attach all the documents, you can link to Google Docs and have everything you need in there.

So, we’ve been pretty good about using Asana for that and then, you know, creating a template so that we can copy and paste for each product launch in that example, and then, you know, just continually refining them. So, if we want a product and we see, okay, this part of the process got really messy, like no one knew who was doing what, or this happened late and that was a problem, so next time we could see, okay, instead of one week for that, we need to build in 10 days.

Or, you know, any other changes that we might see, we’ll tweak that template so that next time when we copy it for a new product launch, hopefully it will go a bit smoother.

You know, over time we’re trying to get all of us, including myself, you know, I have to kind of set the example on some of these, so I’ll try to get everyone, including myself, to be really diligent about creating the stuff in Asana, sticking to the plans there, and then, you know, making sure we look back and tweak it, right? Because the template is super helpful, but if we don’t keep improving it then, you know, the process won’t get any better.

If it goes really smoothly, then great, we can reuse it. But, you know, when we find an issue where usually it’s part of the process that maybe needs more time, like we’ve just set too aggressive of timelines, then we can kind of tweak it for the next launch.

Launching Job Boards

Andrew: And you and I actually have both, we connected kinda recently after a while on a common project, both launching job boards. You launched vcommercejobs.com recently. If you talk just quickly about that, real briefly about what that is and what people can find if they head over there?

Fred: Yeah, this is kind of a little side project I’ve worked on intermittently over the last couple of months, but I kind of realized that the remote job boards didn’t really have that as an option. They’re very focused on programming, support, marketing, design I’d say. And then I couldn’t really find good, sort of operational like supply chain logistics, that sort of thing, focused job boards.

Of course, that’s like a really important job, or in bigger companies, several jobs. I saw that as kind of an opportunity. These are roles that can certainly be done remotely, there’s probably gonna be more and more of these roles as direct-to-consumer companies are kind of blowing up right now.

So, basically created this kind of MVP of a job board using jobboard.io, which is, you know, sort of a WordPress for job boards if you will. Yeah, kind of put it up there and of course, added our openings which are available even from day one. As soon as we got the stuff out there with the rate and markup, you’re gonna get listed in the Google job widget that they have.

You know, so if you search for, you know, whether it’s like company name plus jobs, or like specific types of jobs and locations, things like that. We started getting traffic from that little Google widget pretty much immediately. You know, no links, super new domain, all that stuff. So, I found that interesting that there is some opportunity there.

The Lightning Round!

Andrew: Very cool. Fred, we’d love to do a quick lightning round with you here before we wrap up. So on these, just feel free to give me just like short, quick, bullet, you know, one, two word answers, one sentence answers. But if you’re up for diving in, I love it even.

Fred: Yeah, let’s do it.

Andrew: All right, perfect. Fred, so if you had to identify the number one thing you’re trying to optimize for right now in your life, what would that be?

Fred: Focus. Focus. Focus, that’s work and life.

Andrew: Nice. Who’s someone you strongly disagree with?

Fred: The VCs that are over-capitalizing some of these new retail startups.

Andrew: How much money is enough? So, for you, what would be your number? And this is money in the bank, where not that you never would work, not work again, but you’d say, you know, if I didn’t earn another dollar, I’d be okay with that because I’d be set on this.

Fred: I’m gonna say probably if I could get to two or three million, I suppose you could live off that 4% pretty easily even in California, hopefully. So, yeah, I’ll say a couple of millions, optimistically.

Andrew: Nice. Who is your favorite remote company?

Fred: I have to choose two, I’m sorry. I have to choose Basecamp and Buffer.

Andrew: Basecamp and Buffer? Nice. Favorite place you’ve traveled to in the last five years?

Fred: I’ve been loving Lisbon, recently. Was there twice in the last couple of years. Great city.

Andrew: Cool. Most overrated travel destination?

Fred: Niagara Falls. The falls are amazing, but the city itself might be the worst place I’ve ever been.

Andrew: I look forward to your letters, Niagara Falls listeners. Your favorite remote working or team building book, blog, or resource. Or the best resource or blog on building a remote team out there.

Fred: Probably Basecamp’s blog “Signal v. Noise.”

Andrew: And finally, what was the first CD you ever owned?

Fred: Well, first of all, I had tapes before CDs, so maybe that dates me. But I’m pretty sure it was either MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice. So, you know, they’re both bad. So, I’ll just call myself out for being old, having some interesting taste.

Andrew: I love it. So many fond memories when I ask this question back into the 90s music. It’s great. Fred, this has been fun. It’s called “The Fear of Approach to Building Your Remote Team,” and you’ve done such a good job with it.

So, just a couple of things. We’ll link up to all of Fred’s remote job posts on his own blog, his own personal blog. So, he’s got a lot of them. If you’re interested in checking those out, you can check out the show notes.

Tortuga.com, if you’re looking for an award-winning travel backpack that is just designed to travel really nicely with you. So, it’s won awards from Wirecutter, like image at the top and others. You can check them out there.

And Fred, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much, for taking the time to come talk shop with me. I appreciate it.

Fred: Yeah, anytime. I love talking about remote work, so this was fun. Thank you.

Andrew: That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode, but if you enjoyed what you heard and are interested in getting plugged into a dynamic community of experienced store owners, check us out at ecommercefuel.com.

eCommerceFuel is the private vetted community for eCommerce entrepreneurs. And what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that is a member to make sure that they’re a great fit, that they can add value to a broader community. Everyone that joins has to be doing at least a quarter of a million dollars in sales via their store, and our average member does over seven figures in sales annually.

So, if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

And also I have to thank our two sponsors that make this show possible. Liquid Web, if you are on WooCommerce or you’re thinking about getting on to WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have host your store, particularly with their managed WooCommerce hosting. It’s highly elastic and scalable.

It’s got built-in tools to performance test your store so you can be confident it’s gonna work well. And it’s built from the ground up for WooCommerce. You can learn more about their offering at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And finally, Klaviyo for email marketing. They make email segmentation easy and powerful. They integrate with just about every card out there, and help you build incredibly automated powerful segments that make you money on autopilot. You can check them out and get started for free at klaviyo.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven eCommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

What Was Mentioned

Flickr: Salman El Farisi

Andrew Youderian
Post by Andrew Youderian
Andrew is the founder of eCommerceFuel and has been building eCommerce businesses ever since gleefully leaving the corporate world in 2008.  Join him and 1,000+ vetted 7- and 8-figure store owners inside the eCommerceFuel Community.

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