These business leaders seamlessly manage remote global teams
In the early months of the Covid pandemic, Shaunak Amin, CEO and co-founder of the corporate swag platform STADIUM, watched his New York City-based offices empty out and knew he needed to make a change. At the time, STADIUM was focused on corporate lunch delivery, but with all of Manhattan—and all of the world—retreating to their homes, the bustling offices that STADIUM had been feeding now stood as empty as their client’s stomachs.
Amin knew that snacks made people happy, and in April 2020, people were in serious need of anything that sparked joy. So, STADIUM started SnackMagic, the corporate snack box service catering to work-from-home employees and virtual event attendees. They scaled the business from $0 to $20 million in just eight months.
Amin turned to international talent to meet the global hunger for snacks. “It became a priority to hire the top talent from across the globe who understood their region’s diverse tastes,” Amin says. From Bangkok to Barcelona, SnackMagic’s remote employees select, source, and stock custom snacks with regional preferences in mind.
SnackMagic isn’t alone in tapping international talent to facilitate major business pivots in the face of Covid. The pandemic brought about a seachange in terms of remote work, with 59 percent of employees still working from home all or most of the time. With employees freed from the cubicle, many companies like SnackMagic, Reach, and Kosy Office are looking across the globe to find their next perfect hire. They are also finding innovative ways to tackle the unique challenges of a global workforce, such as time zone differences, communication breakdowns, and culture building.
Kosy Office co-founders Yanis Melatta and Sam Meurs, a virtual office space for remote teams, first connected on Reddit at the beginning of the pandemic. While everyone was talking about the challenges of remote work, Melatta and Meurs were looking for solutions. They founded Kosy Office to provide remote workers a virtual space for collaboration, spontaneous conversation, and quick check-ins—all the hallmarks of in-person work that can build a thriving company culture.
Kosy Office was a fully-remote, global company from the start. Melatta, who lives in Canada, and Meurs, who lives in Belgium, worked together for 12 months before they met in person for the first time. Today, their team is also split across Ukraine, the UK, the US, Poland, Spain, and the Dominican Republic.
Work hours are one of the trickiest aspects of a workforce that’s as distributed as Melatta’s. How do teams find the time for collaboration when living in different time zones? At Kosy Office, Melatta requires teams to have 4-hour windows of collaboration during each workday. To facilitate this overlap, they focus their hiring on the time zones running from the East Coast in the US to eastern Europe.
Amin also prioritizes a thoughtful approach to time zone differences. “Being aware of your team’s various time zones means everyone has a seat at the virtual table,” he says. Amin uses an online time zone management tool to assess everyone’s availability easily. He also runs quick polls over Slack or via emails to let employees worldwide weigh in on the right day and time for crucial meetings. For team members who can’t make it live, he shares recordings for later viewing.
Cory Pinegar, the CEO of Utah-based Reach, the largest call center provider for dental practices in the United States, solved the time zone issues by heading south. By focusing on Latin American talent, Pinegar avoids time zone issues altogether.
"A remote, international culture needs to be built even more deliberately than an in-person one because it won't happen organically."
Reach first turned to overseas talent during the pandemic to reduce labor costs. Unable to see a profit on the insurance verification wing of their business, Pinegar started hiring contractors in Brazil and Argentina, where competitive wages were lower than they are in Utah. Soon, they saw their profit, but the change to the company culture went beyond dollars and cents.
“We believe that business can be created without borders,” Pinegar says. “Not only can we scale in a cost-effective way, but we’re filling talent gaps, too. Our business runs so much better because we can find top talent anywhere on the globe.”
Pinegar credits their success with a global team to one thing: clear communication. “We’re really intentional with how we run our communication channels,” he says. “There’s not a bifurcation between overseas talent and US talent. We’re a unified team.” Reach gives global candidates English language fluency tests to ensure language differences aren’t a barrier to success.
Melatta similarly finds that communication is all the more crucial for remote companies. He built Kosy Office because he believes spontaneous interactions are the cornerstone of the most productive and efficient teams. He encourages his global team to have the kind of conversation that might, at first glance, seem “unproductive”—that morning coffee chat, the pop-in question, the quick catch-up. This is often where the most work gets done.
Similarly, Amin invites new global employees to write meet-and-greet emails to their team. Though they may not carry the weight of a customer email or a meeting agenda, Amin finds them invaluable for fostering communication and collaboration. “These emails tend to focus more on new employees’ hobbies, pets, and favorite foods, which is terrific because it helps everyone get to know each other personally,” Amin says. “People are more likely to collaborate better and reach out with questions when they feel more familiar with their coworkers.”
This hints at one of the most ineffable challenges of managing a workforce distributed across the globe: creating company culture. Company culture is not only built in the relationships between employees but also in a company’s ability to respond to its employees’ needs.
“A remote, international culture needs to be built even more deliberately than an in-person one because it won’t happen organically,” Melatta says. To intentionally create culture, Melatta is mindful of how company culture may mean different things to different employees.
He starts with culturally-aware benefits packages. For example, many countries give their residents healthcare coverage, making a company-sponsored health plan pretty worthless. Melatta works to customize each benefits package to regional needs. “If fast internet isn’t easily accessible in a region, for example, a stipend for a coworking space could be more supportive for an employee than a healthcare package,” Melatta says.
Recognizing cultural or religious festivals and holidays is another way to build an inclusive benefits package. “Apart from the fixed national holidays we have in Canada, I like to give employees the day off to celebrate the events that are important to their culture or religion,” Melatta adds.
For Amin, openness and transparency are the cornerstones of global company culture. “We share the good and the bad with everybody,” Amin says. “This makes employees feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their backgrounds and work challenges and solutions. It brings out the best in people when they don’t have to worry about what people think.”
All three companies believe their diversity is a source of strength, bringing new ideas to the table.
“When you get different people from all over the world, you get many different perspectives,” Pinegar says. “It’s the best way to innovate and the right way to move a company forward.”