Our CEO on Why Remote Work is the Best Thing Ever

remote work
Hey does anyone have a really long extension cord?

In January of 2017, Robly switched from a company where everybody went into the office every day in Manhattan to a fully remote organization.

Since it’s been about a year since we made this transition, we asked our CEO, Adam Robinson, to share his reflections and perspective on the pros and cons of remote work.

Whether you’re a CEO who is thinking of trying to go remote or an already fully-remote organization, we love digging into this topic. Read on for Robinson’s take, and by all means share your own thoughts, concerns, and ideas on remote work in the comments!

Remote Work is the Best Thing Ever.

Well, the positives outweigh the negatives in my opinion. I want to qualify this by saying that our company is at a bit of a crossroads. We had a growth strategy that was finite, involved a team of 40, most of whom were outbound cold callers.

We’re now a team of under 25, fully remote, with one inbound sales professional. We’re an entirely different organization.

The Most Important Benefit: Employee Satisfaction is Dramatically Higher

This isn’t scientific, but with a small team like ours, you can get a pretty good feel for how happy people are. More than half of our employees have literally said “thank you” to me for giving them the opportunity to live the life they currently lead.

One of our employees bought an RV and is touring the country with her husband. Another has been traveling all around the world while working on our customer support team.

I personally gave up my apartment in Manhattan, along with our office and all my possessions except for a suitcase and a guitar. Since then, I’ve worked from seven countries and 25 cities.

I still find the notion that you can continue to develop professionally, have a project that you are excited about and is PAYING you, AND travel the world at the same time to be one of the most amazing gifts ubiquitous connectivity has given the world.

That notion was completely unheard of for my parent’s generation.

As the Boss, Remote Means You Get Way More Done Per Hour of Work

 During the last iteration of our company, I doubled as “the guy in charge” and the office manager. I have very close personal relationships with many of our employees, and I genuinely care about what’s going on in their lives.

My office door was always open, and people would pop in to chat whenever they had a break. Sometimes about work, sometimes just to talk. I loved this part of having an office, and it fostered deeper personal relationships. But, it came at the cost of always being interrupted, and as the Basecamp guys say, interruption is the nemesis of productivity.

My co-founder James Murphy always quotes his late father-in-law who said, “As the boss, you never get a day off. People are always watching what you do and analyzing every interaction you have with them.” If you’re not one who particularly loves that responsibility (and I’m not), the remote life frees you from this burden.

We Plow Office Overhead Into Dope Work Retreats

We’ve taken employees to Mexico, Antigua, and as I write this, our core team is in Nosara, Costa Rica for 2 weeks.

We’re taking private surf lessons every morning, have a chef that cooks us lunch and dinner in a beautiful villa, and go to sleep exhausted at 8:30 pm. Then we’re up at 6:00 am the next day, ready to do it all over again.

The fact that this can be a part of work life a couple times a year and it’s completely within the realm of acceptable activity is something I am so grateful for. I’m not sure who I have to thank for being able to spend time like this with our team, but whoever it is, thank you! [Ed note: Probably you should send yourself some flowers, Adam!]

Culture & Connection Take a Huge Hit Between Retreats

We used to have office happy hour every Friday. No más. I grabbed a drink with someone at least one a week. Not anymore. The flip side to being the boss and having all eyes on you is that you can lead by example and inspire people to do things with the depth and rigor that you would do them yourself. None of that is an option anymore.

It’s hard to say exactly how our culture has changed, but it has. Luckily, all our employees are self-motivated, self-managing individuals who are excellent at their jobs. As such, I haven’t noticed any slippage in the work product that we create as a team.

No matter how many Slack rooms you have or BlueJeans meetings that happen, it’s impossible to substitute for authentic, good-old-fashioned human contact and the way it brings people together.

Outbound Sales Would Be Impossible 

Having run a call center, I believe it would be impossible to have productive remote outbound cold callers. There was so much to the energy of our call center that promoted healthy competition and positive vibes that I believe it lead to more closed deals. I’ve never done it, but I find it impossible to believe that a cold caller could sit at home and be as productive as a colleague in the office that he’s trying to out-sell.

The Smartest Guys in the World Believe Spontaneous Encounters Generate the Best Ideas

Google and Pixar seem to think that people randomly bumping into each other gives them some of their best ideas, and they’ve designed their office space with that in mind.

I’m not going to say they’re wrong. What I can say is that if that’s part of your business model, you’re not getting that by being remote. I would go out on a limb and say that there are far greater differences between Robly and Google or Pixar, so having an office for this one thing that helps the super geniuses take over the world isn’t something we deem worthwhile.

That’s my take on the remote life. I love it and hope I never give it up. For now, I’m totally comfortable sacrificing wealth for freedom, flexibility, and time, but at the same time, I acknowledge that I don’t have a check for $100mm or whatever staring me in the face if I just go into the office for a few years.

I hope this has been a worthwhile post, and would love to know how other people at my spot and others in remote organizations feel about remote work. Let me know!

-Adam Robinson, CEO







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17 Replies to “Our CEO on Why Remote Work is the Best Thing Ever”

  1. Adam – loved the insight! And you and your team have been AWESOME from the beginning – I was there in the early days and still totally love the product you continue to create. KUDDOS on all your accomplishments and the ability to FREE your team to create!

  2. Adam: As one of your first Robly clients, I have to say that I had no idea that your company had gone remote. The few issues we had were handled smoothy. Anne is fabulous as you know. I would have never known you were remote. That is a true testament to the quality of your team.
    I am very happy for you that your strategy is working out,
    You have a great product we are proud to use.
    Best regards,

  3. I had no idea you all had gone remote for a year! The fact that I didn’t know, is a testament to your all’s ability to make the transition seamless for us. I saw this article in the email you all send out, and it piqued my interest. Thanks for taking the time in the midst of your busy schedule to reflect and let us know from a CEO’s perspective how remote work has been for you all in the last year and what the positives and negatives were. I really enjoyed reading it. Congratulations on your all’s transition to remote work, and thanks for all you do!

    1. Thanks, John! We’re so grateful for the ability to be remote, and for the positive feedback from customers like yourself. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  4. Love idea of working remotely and love using Robly! We use your services to connect with the customers who buy our farm-fresh flowers. Let us know when you are stateside and I would be happy to send those well-deserved flowers to you!

    1. Aw shucks, you’re too kind! The hilarious part about being remote full time is we don’t even have an office to send flowers to. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe we should send you a list of all of our moms’ addresses?! 😉

  5. Longtime Robly customer here and no, I didn’t sense a change–had no idea you’d gone remote. We did it too, back in 2009. And share the pros and cons you’ve found.

    1. Awesome – it’s been fun seeing people react to this post! Thanks for sharing – we hope to never go back to an office if we can help it!

  6. I also didn’t realize that your whole office is remote! As a customer who also runs a remote business (albeit with a staff of 2-3), I fully appreciate the advantages and disadvantages.

    And please tell Anne in her RV to check out our website, boondockerswelcome.com, since she’s a huge part of our target demographic – I’m constantly amazed at the number of young people who are deciding to live their lives on the road and experience the world while still holding a job. Technology makes it possible, so why not, right?

    1. Hey Anna, Anne here! I’ve actually seen this site, it’s awesome! I hope we are able to take advantage of it at some point, boondocking is harder for us because we have such a massive 5th wheel – boondocking anywhere for more than a couple days would be tricky but we’re definitely hoping to give it a go in the near future!

      1. So glad you’ve already heard of us, the word is getting out! Definitely check us out for anytime you’re in an area for just a night or two, lots of our hosts have country properties with plenty of space and even offer electric hookups so you can run your AC if needed. 🙂

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