Other advantages to remote working besides location and scheduling is the ability to work in comfortable attire, eat and drink as you please, play music, and create your own ideal work environment, whether its aromatherapy, lit candles, or keeping your feet in a massage machine, when you working remotely you can multitask and create an ideal environment that works for you.
As a part of our series about the things you need to successfully work remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Merritt Fletcher.
Merritt Fletcher is the Founder and CEO of Meet, the only Apple and Android-approved app that allows everyone to schedule and get paid for their own video chat time, down to the minute. Fletcher holds numerous utility patents in both “mobile streaming” as well as “user enabled direct scheduling of direct time” and is a leader in mobile technology. Before tech, Fletcher was a sought-after fashion model working with many of the world’s iconic brands like Tiffany’s, Boucheron, The Gap, Armani, Missoni, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, Kenzo, and more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
Absolutely, my name is Mary Anne Merritt Fletcher and I go by Merritt. I am originally from Athens Georgia but have lived all over the world modeling. As a model, I was fortunate to work with and represent many of the world’s most iconic designers and brands, like Hugo Boss, Missoni, Chanel, Gian Franco Ferre, Levis, Tommy Hillfifger, Armani, Tiffanys, Boucheron, The gap, and more. It was during this time in a fashion that I came up with the idea for Meet after recognizing I would love a way to connect with my fans no matter where I was in the world. I actually had quite a few ideas during those days that I would write business plans about while traveling and eventually I filed for patents and built apps around a few of them. My first app and patent portfolio that made me a CEO was Weple and was built around social navigation with live and saved stories in public or private groups and my second was MeetGreet and Meet with the ability to schedule and sell your own video chat time, down to the minute, no matter where you are in the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Hmm… Well, when you are a founder every day is interesting, but I think being a female founder came with a lot of surprises for me personally. Maybe I was naive going into it because I came from a background that you can accomplish anything that you work hard at but I was really caught off guard when I first went to raise funds in Menlo Park. I remember demoing my first app with my executive team and the VC looking to his partner and saying “what she’s built is better than anything we’ve ever seen but who are we gonna get to fund a woman?” His partner was like, “we can find her a strong male counterpart to lead the company, what do you think?”
They proceeded to set me up with the 3 people in San Francisco who they thought “might” potentially fund a woman, but unfortunately, no one would. This was back in 2014 and it’s gotten a little better through the years but as a female founder, you always have to be five steps ahead of any man.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Hmmm… This one is tough. I am not sure I have a funny mistake but I have made mistakes. Probably my biggest mistake was openly trusting people and partnering with them early on. You learn quickly that not everyone has the same level of commitment as you and that can be hard and can put you in some rough situations if you aren’t careful. For example, I became a co-founder on my first start-up with a CTO, who never put in any money or anything and started working very limited once a week or so, with the team. I then found out he was building his own technology off of my technology and trying to build a company on it. Needless to say, I am far less trusting now and if someone isn’t contributing as they should I easily walk away.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
Meditate. Meditate. Meditate. I love meditation. So I would definitely encourage other leaders to hold daily meditation practices of 15–30 minute breaks where people are encouraged to check in with themselves and recharge. It’s pretty amazing what a short 15-minute meditation can do to reset and recharge your day.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
Sure, Working remotely allows you the freedom to travel and work no matter where you are in the world. During Covid, I moved my portable office back to my home state of Georgia and have been taking off on the weekends and headed to the beach. It’s much nicer sitting out by the beach listening to the waves working than sitting in a cubicle somewhere, so for sure the ability to work anywhere is the number one advantage of remote work. It also allows you the ability to get work done on your own time and when it’s most convenient for you. Naturally, some people just work better around certain times of the day and if you are doing remote work you can make your schedule work for you. Other advantages to remote working besides location and scheduling is the ability to work in comfortable attire, eat and drink as you please, play music, and create your own ideal work environment, whether its aromatherapy, lit candles, or keeping your feet in a massage machine, when you working remotely you can multitask and create an ideal environment that works for you.
Plus it’s an added bonus to be able to work around friends and family and just pop of to handle your meetings or meets.
I obviously took all of the above into consideration when I built Meet and made sure we built the perfect app to handle everyone’s remote working needs, no matter where they were in the world. With Meet we make everything easy to name your own price and book around your own available schedule, so all you have to do is answer the calls and make money. Meet handles all scheduling, connecting, and banking. We even have minimum and maximum time settings so people can maximize their schedules around their own professional needs and comfort levels.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
For me, distractions are the number one issue with remote work. It is great to be around friends and family but they can also be distracting. You have to either love your job or become very disciplined as a remote worker because things can always come up. Plus you need to be self-motivated as well, you can’t put things off no matter how tempting something might be. If you work remotely working around a set schedule is important. It can also be lonely at times working remotely over long periods of time. Particularly, if you live alone and don’t have friends and family around, many people socialize and depend on the collaboration and camaraderie of an office. It’s also hard to unplug after work at times because you are working in your home area as well, so the two have a tendency to combine. Lastly, In many areas of the country or world spotty wifi is a real issue, not everyone in big cities experiences it, but when you are running a company like Meet, that depends on wifi to maintain connections, you see it a lot. We actually built a meet to recognize when we lose connections, so we can refund the money if the meet doesn’t take place, due to poor wifi.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
For me as far as distractions, I try to work in an area with as little going on as possible and will often lock the door to keep others out. I’ve found putting up a do not disturb sign when I am on important calls helps a lot as well, so people know when they can check-in and when 100% they can’t.
I’ve always been pretty self-motivated but I set a goal list and read it daily to try to keep me on point. Then when I have a schedule I stick with it. Usually, I will put things on my schedule as soon as they come up so I can get them done and not have something lingering. My best advice is just to do it. You always feel better after you get something done. Sure you can take breaks if you need to or go do a meeting and come back but stick with it until it’s done or go back to it as soon as you can. For people just starting selling their time on Meet, we recommend starting with an hour a day to get the hang of it and grow it from there.
As far as combatting the loneliness of working from home. I have joined several CEO groups and networking groups just to get that needed camaraderie and collaborative time so I don’t get lonely or too far away from what I love. I personally have always enjoyed my alone time but I know many people hate it. I mainly miss the collaborative effort of bouncing ideas and feedback off of a team. It’s far easier to do that in person than it is over the phone, email, or video chat.
Then as far as unplugging, I simply unplug. Some people find it easier to always work in the same area if they are working from home so that area becomes their designated workspace. I think this is great advice and for me, I always unplug at a certain time and just let work go. I learned this from my ex who was great at it, when he was out of the office and at a dinner he was present. He never checked his phone and really took the time to leave the office at the office. He never talked about work stuff and if once in a while, he had too he would make an effort to apologize before doing it. It really stood out to me and is something that I have tried to take with me to this day. If I am with people socially, I try not to talk about work and if I need to check something, I do it and leave it. It’s important to have that balance, for sure.
Then as far as reliable wifi, I have a personal hot spot. I travel frequently and even though I can hook into my phone’s wifi, I never want to get stranded somewhere without good wifi service so I suggest people who travel and work remotely invest in a good portable hot spot, that is solely designated for wifi services, that’s it. I mean if you are at home all day and do meetings from your home office it’s not a big deal but if you are seriously working remotely, meaning taking zoom calls or doing Meets around town, out and about, at the beach or lake or something then you need to invest in a portable hot spot. Particularly if it’s your main livelihood, You need to make sure you have dependable and stable connections where ever you are.
Do you have any suggestions specifically for people who work at home? What are a few ways to be most productive when you work at home?
This is probably your most important question so far, considering most people work from home. Particularly now with Covid. #1 for me is to stick with a set schedule and routine. This is why we recommend people who start making money on Meet, start with a commitment of simply one hour a day. Spending an hour out of your day meeting with people to make money is actually enjoyable and when you see those big checks roll in, you are glad you did it.
For me, I keep regular business hours as best as I can and get things done around my schedule, if not I can easily get distracted. Then create a home office environment and work there always, Whether it’s an actual home office or a desk in your study or laundry room having a designated area to work is a must, if not you will have work spilling all over your into home and that is just not productive for you or anyone. Then maintaining an open dialog with your family or friends as to times you are working and are available is crucial for me.
I keep the people in my home in the loop, if I have an important call coming up, I let everyone know and ask for cooperation and consideration. I also love mine do not disturb sign on my office door so people do to leave me alone when it’s up.
For me maintaining open communication with everyone who lives in your house and establishing rules and boundaries around your needs when working from home is really important.
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
Well, the main two things that I see mostly are scheduling difficulties and communication problems within teams. It’s often easier to work through communicating things in person than it is virtually and scheduling meetings and staying connected while everyone is working from home is much harder than it is when we are all in the office. My best advice is to encourage open dialog among team members. At home, there are great technologies like slack that allow teams to go back and forth and stay connected even while online and working from home.
What do you suggest can be done to create an empowering work culture and team culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
I like weekly ZOOM meetings and virtual socials so teams can check in with each other. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, providing a time and space every week for the team to connect and share outside of work stuff is important. I also love sending group emails congratulating people or wishing someone a happy birthday or sometimes I will even send out some kind of cool info I find or funny meme to keep us all connected. It’s a great way to let people know you are thinking about them. and get feedback on something totally separate from work stuff.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Back when I was modeling in New York, I started shooting a little documentary called the power of three things, and essentially I went around and asked people if they had the power to do anything, what three things would they do to change the world. The funny thing is, many people couldn’t think of three things they could do to change the world and I couldn’t stop thinking of the things I could do that had an impact on the world daily. 🙂 Hence why I’ve built social media platforms that empower people with opportunities and privacy, but for me, I always go back to the same thing. My first love is the planet and protecting her for future generations. If I could inspire any movement it would be for saving and replanting the Earth’s rainforest. Most people don’t realize that the rain forest controls the planet’s temperature, weather patterns, fresh water supply, food and is home to most of the biodiversity on the planet. We must find a way to work with nature and offset global warming and the best way to do that is to save and replant the rainforest.
Second would be to make everyone feel empathy, we need people who care about things in this world and getting back to empathy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I actually have two the first is a Disney quote “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them” because if you don’t have the courage to go after what you want you will never accomplish anything and the second is by Oprah “ I don’t believe in failure it’s not a failure if you enjoy the process” because as long as you are trying and enjoying what you are doing you are learning something. So you can never fail.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Everyone can download the Meet App and follow or connect with me on Meet. https://meet.live
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success