Remote Leaders: How the founders of MeetFox empower their team[wtr-time]
We recently caught up with Tali Mandelzweig and Susi Klepsch, Co-Founders of MeetFox, a SaaS solution that creates a seamless experience for consultants to manage their client meetings. The MeetFox team consists of 6 different nationalities living across 3 countries.
In this interview, we learned about their transition into remote work, why they decided to be fully-remote as a company and how they communicate as a team.
Quick facts about Tali and Susi
- They’ve been remote for almost 2 years now
- Tali loves to joke around and tease others
- Susi is a die-hard karaoke fan and a terrible singer
- They are founders of a remote company with 6 employees
What’s in your team’s tech stack?
[Susi] Slack, Trello, Google Drive, Intercom. We try to work transparently to ensure that everyone knows what the others are up to. Those tools also help us gather the information required – even when half of our team sleeps, while the other half works.
What are some of the challenges that your team faces as a result of being remote?
[Tali] Being based in different time zones can be quite challenging – you have to learn how to be patient and sometimes wait for a few hours to get a response. You also have to get used to being in video calls a large part of your day, which can be tiring at times, but you get used to it.
As communication channels are so different when working remotely, we struggled in finding the right balance between communicating sufficiently (also about non-work stuff), while staying focused and not being distracted by hundreds of Slack messages every day.
Aligning our goals from a distance has also been a challenge, especially in the beginning, when our start-up was still very chaotic and no established processes were set. Even though misunderstandings and miscommunications happen as a result of not being in the same room, I believe that implementing clear processes and structures has helped us a lot.
What are the most important factors when it comes to effectively managing your team?
[Susi] For me, communicating effectively and in an extremely structured manner is the most important factor in managing remotely. We have clear rules of what topics are communicated when and through which channel. For example, daily challenges are discussed in the daily standups once a day via video, specific tasks are discussed in Trello, strategic decisions are only discussed in management meetings once a week. Also, setting weekly KPIs and making sure that all of our expectations are communicated transparently help us manage the team from a distance.
What strategies are you implementing to empower the team at MeetFox?
[Tali] Every day we do a 15 minute stand up to talk about our day together, weekly goals, etc. Also, once a week we have a management meeting to align OKR’s. These routines help with getting all team members on board and making sure that nobody’s ideas or opinions are left out.
How do you build and sustain MeetFox’s culture?
[Susi] We want the team to feel comfortable, share their opinions and be transparent. Team building and bonding are, of course, difficult from a distance, but that is just the nature of remote teams. Ideally, we want to plan retreats every few months, so we can all meet, strategize and work in the same place for a few days, but so far, we haven’t had the chance to realize that vision.
What’s your biggest challenge as a remote worker?
[Susi] Communication can always be improved.
What’s the biggest advantage you experience as a remote worker?
[Tali] Flexibility. I travel a lot between our offices, and between visiting my family and friends, who live across the globe. In addition, I realized that working while backpacking is also an option, which fuels my love for travel.
I’ve gone on two separate one-month backpacking trips since we started with MeetFox. As our processes are already implemented for remote working, it has been a lot easier to work while traveling and still focus on growing the business.
Where do you actually work?
[Tali and Susi] We work at our office, at home, in coffee shops or at co-working spaces. Unfortunately, but understandably, many coffee shops do not appreciate people who take up a desk and WIFI all day. That is why coworking start-ups, such as Kettlespace, turned restaurants into working areas during the day, which really helps digital nomads like ourselves.
How do you start your workday?
[Tali] I check our support channels for anything urgent that happened the night before and then plan my day.
[Susi] As Tali usually starts work before me, I do not have to worry about urgent support tickets as much and can jump right into planning my day. We always have a virtual daily standup with the entire team at the beginning of the day, which helps us prioritize our tasks and ensure that everybody is aligned.
What was your reason for working remotely in the first place?
[Tali] Flexibility is key for me especially as my husband travels a lot for work.
[Susi] I traveled through Asia for a while and met many digital nomads on my trips. I always admired their lifestyle and liked the idea of not being bound to one place in this world. Even though I have currently settled down, I do like the idea that I could move to any other place in the world and still do what I love.
Why did you decide to go down the remote route for your company?
[Tali] As we have 2 different offices, and as our team is international, it just made sense to us to allow people to work where they are most comfortable. Of course, we know that remote working isn’t for everyone, which is why we have specifically hired people who are able to work independently and know how to structure their own days.
[Susi] Our tool is all about remote working. That is why we have made the decision very early in our startup journey to not just preach, but practice what we preach and promote this new way of working. Even though we do have an office in Vienna, where we meet once in a while and enjoy working side-by-side, the flexibility of working remotely is a big plus. As our team consists of 6 different nationalities living in 3 different countries, being able to work from anywhere while continuing to grow our business and staying connecting with our team.
How did you handle the transition from being on-site to remote?
[Tali] It was easy for me. I made sure to set up my ‘office’ to my liking and was very strict with myself.
[Susi] Initially, I struggled a lot with finding a proper routine and I still sometimes fall into patterns of working too much and not making time for myself. Especially when working at home and not having the need to get ready to go to the office, I tend to jump right into work the minute I wake up. As a result, I have had way too many days where I only had time to shower or get out of my PJs, and ending up working till the wee hours of the night. Being on your own schedule can be quite a challenge for a workaholic like me.
Would you ever go back to working on-site?
[Tali] Not full time. Ideally, I would like to sit in the same room for 3 days every month to align goals and socialize with the team, and the rest of the month working flexibly from wherever I am.
[Susi] Same here.
What’s one piece of advice can you give to someone who is about to go fully remote?
[Tali] Set expectations for your team beforehand and build trust.
Learn more from remote leaders like Tali and Susi:
- Remote Leaders: Why GitLab’s Head of Remote “unchained from a life of commuting”
- Remote Leaders: Dana Doswell of Sidepart on why habit building is the key to remote work
- Remote Leaders: Marcus Wermuth of Buffer on overcommunication and isolation