Creating a Culture of Collaboration: Q&A with Jason Fried

By Dawn Reiss, April 4, 2014

How do you handle working with people in multiple time zones?

That’s tough. Let’s say you are working with someone in Dubai. That might be a full 12 hours apart, and then it’s very difficult. Everything slows down, because if you ask a question, it takes 12 hours for them to get back to you. So it’s good to have at least three to four hours of overlap at some point during the day where everyone is up together. You can get quick, easier responses. Then during the time you’re not up together, no one is bothering you, so you have time to actually do work for hours on end. You get more done. When you are with each other eight hours a day, it’s very easy to interrupt each other all day long, and you don’t get much work done.

How do you manage common issues?

How would you manage it if everyone is around? I don’t think it’s any different. Someone has to take the lead on discussing it. Just do what you have to do. People often think there are different methods of dealing with problems if they are local or if they are remote, but it’s the same. You’ve got a problem; you have to figure out what happened.

What kind of tools do you use?

We use Basecamp, Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx and GoToMeeting. You’re talking about less than 100 bucks a month total for all these tools, and you can get so close to being in person. You can see their faces, see their desks, hear their voices and talk in real time. And you have phone and airplanes. If you really need to fly someone in, you can.

How do you manage Google Hangouts?

We try to keep them to eight people or less, because at a certain point, it becomes a little chaotic. It’s good to delegate one person as the leader or moderator. As the moderator, you can ask, ‘Does anyone else have a question?’ and they can raise their hands. Or you can do a free-for-all if you’ve been working together a while, because everyone knows when to jump in and when not to. But if it’s a new group, it’s good to have a moderator and some basic etiquette guidelines.

What are some of the advantages of hiring remote workers?

You have access to the best people in the world in a time where it’s hard to find good people, because they are in super high demand. If you are only setting your sights on people who live in a 10- or 20-mile radius of your physical office, it’s so hard. They exist, but you are competing with everyone else in your local area. If you can expand that radius, you have a much better opportunity for a bigger talent pool. You can find people you’d normally never find.

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