Goal setting is one of the essential elements to running a successful team. One of the biggest reasons companies fail is because they don’t set short-term and long terms goals. I’m a firm believer that if you plan for something to happen, it’s more likely to happen.
We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools, and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?
I believe running a high-performing remote team can be found in the systems that your company puts in place to make goals virtually met and build a plan to manage and understand what’s going on in the business. In my opinion, teams cannot successfully communicate unless they have an internal motivation that drives them to lead communication with one another and progress in what they want to do. I found that what works best with Slack is using the Trello integration to manage team members and keep everyone on top of what’s going on. I think Slack is excellent for fostering communication, but without a centralized hub for project management, things can get confusing, and teams can lose focus on the big picture.
In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools, and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team, which may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Peroutka.
Jeff Peroutka grew up catching waves on the beaches of Honolulu, Hawaii. Moving away from the simple life, Jeff arrived in San Diego, CA, and received a Marketing degree from San Diego State University. While attending college, Jeff and a few colleagues started a SaaS company called Fyt which utilized machine learning and AI to revolutionize fashion data.
During the Covid19 pandemic, Fyt closed for business. Jeff pivoted to his long-term side hustle, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). His business quickly grew in the rankings on the freelance platform Upwork to become the #1 SEO specialist in San Diego.
Shortly after, at age 23, Jeff opened his agency, scaling it up and working with clients that include New York Times Writers, TV hosts, and large Nationwide Brands. Currently, Jeff lives in San Diego and on the side also owns a home fitness product that sells on Amazon.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better before we dive in. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
While attending college at San Diego State University, some of my friends and I started a SaaS company called Fyt which utilized machine learning and AI to revolutionize fashion data.
Because of the Covid19 pandemic, Fyt crashed and burned. I had to pivot to my long-term side hustle, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and I quickly grew in the rankings on the freelance platform Upwork to become the #1 SEO specialist in San Diego. Since then, I opened my agency, scaling it up and working with clients that include New York Times Writers, TV hosts, and large Nationwide Brands.
Can you share the most exciting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most exciting and best experience came from the first startup that I started in college. It was a SaaS iPhone application; looking back on it, it was the most creative and internally motivated moment in my lifetime. Whoever has never been apart of an incubator, I highly recommend it because at whatever stage your company or you personally are at, an incubator will take your motivation to the next level.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Man must know his limits — Clint Eastwoods. This quote was in my high school yearbook. The business context I took from it if you’re not good at something doesn’t do it. Many people will disagree with this statement, but from a business standpoint, I’d instead outsource to a professional a specific task, i.e., graphic design, and get something done the right way instead of wasting my time and effort into trying to learn something. I believe time is the most valuable asset globally, and many people don’t view life this way.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’d say my dad is probably the biggest inspiration to my career. He started a business himself and created something from nothing. When I went home for Thanksgiving, everyone always told me to get a 9–5 and put my head down and advance a career, but my dad was still the only one telling me to think differently.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed the way we behave. One of them, of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different from working with a team that is in front of you. This way of working provides an excellent opportunity, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?
Whenever a team is together in a collaborative environment, this allows for new thoughts and ideas to arise. Specifically, when I was working on my first startup, it’s incredible the number of views and thought processes we’d be able to come up with in just a short 1-hour meeting. The way I’d run it is to throw out as many ideas as possible and have people rip them to shreds.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?
When people aren’t together, it’s tough for people to be as comfortable with collaboration; something different happens when you talk to someone face to face. I believe it has to do with the body language and communication that you have with someone. If this isn’t present, communication is lacking a specific key element.
Fantastic. Here is the central question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. For Slack: Add a page dedicated to random thoughts to foster creativity in a very informal and uncontrolled fashion. For my business, we have a “Crazy Idea’s page.” It is my favorite page, and I’m sure it’s everyone’s favorite page.
2. Have structure and don’t get discouraged. Transitioning from a physical workspace to a remote one is tough, and not everything will work from day one. Trust your structures and have a team who knows how to get them done.
3. Team building exercises are critical; never forget that your team needs to be internally motivated to be successful.
4. Goal setting is one of the essential elements to running a successful team. One of the biggest reasons companies fail is because they don’t set short-term and long terms goals. I’m a firm believer that if you plan for something to happen, it’s more likely to happen.
5. Data, data, data. Don’t forget to look at data and trends; when it comes to leading a high performing team, understanding how people use their time, and operate at a high level is very important to building the best team possible.
Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their cell phones, or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?
We’ve lost workers due to the pandemic! For me, performance only matters to me at the end of the day, so if employees perform at a high level, I allow them to use cell phones. However, when this gets in the way of someone else, then it becomes a problem.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences, which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
Trello, Slack, Zoom, and having daily standup meetings
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
It would be a feature that incorporates on-demand problem solving and idea thinking. One of the most important skills humans have is the ability to come up with ideas on demand. If you build this skill, then that’s something special.
My particular expertise and interest are in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?
I think the biggest thing is that the pandemic has shown the world that the workforce can still perform at a high level with less communication. That’s a massive discovery because, before the pandemic, companies were forcing communication and physical meetings for employees, which ultimately may not have been necessary. This discovery will reshape everything post covid.
The technology is rapidly evolving, and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
One of the coolest technologies I’ve seen lately is the smart whiteboard, and I think that could be a technology of the future that reshapes the way people communicate and interact. Especially with international teams, I believe it would be incredible.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
Nothing concerns me about this.
So far, we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digitals such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?
At least for my service-based business, our customers seem to be way more receptive to change and technology. Customers understand that processes will change, and they’re way more likely to accept the change and operate within new boundaries. All of our communication has been taken to email, zoom, and Slack.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you, much can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how best to provide constructive criticism to a remote team member?
Feedback is one of the essential elements for a successful team, and I believe one of the most impacted aspects of this has been company culture. Our culture is very open. I think that if your team is not available, then there will always be missed opportunities, so if you can be honest and give constructive criticism when necessary, you will have a team that operates at a high level
Can you give any specific ideas about creating a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
Team bonding exercises
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of significant 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. 🙂
To get every person who has an idea, passion, or hustle that they love and get into action. I’m a lifetime learner, and not getting stuck in “I’m not old enough” or “I don’t have enough experience” can be paralyzing. I’d do my best to get others to do what I’ve done, action, one step at a time.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check me out on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffperoutka/
And on our website: https://pror.io
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.