As the Chief Operating Officer at ZeroBounce, Brian Minick knows a thing or two about grit. For the past two years, he’s been managing a team of more than 30 people, spread out in different offices around the world.
When the pandemic hit, ZeroBounce – an email validation and deliverability company – became fully remote. Keeping everyone focused on the same goal wasn’t going to be easy. In spite of that, ZeroBounce is no. 40 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. Recently, it took number 9 on the Inc. 5000 Regionals – Florida list.
How did we do it?
I invited Brian to tell us how he’s managed to keep all of us so involved and eager to do better. Also, we talked about how our lives have changed since we’ve all been working from home. His answers will surprise and inspire you.
What does it take for a company to make the Inc. 5000 list?
Beyond the basics of a hard-working team, focus and determination, I believe a big part of this is having a solution that helps a large set of users.
ZeroBounce has been focused on helping the email marketers and ‘data people’ of the internet. Our target market and user base are so large that we can really spread our wings wide. This is one reason that we were able to get such a high placement on the list.
Why does being on the list matter so much? How has it helped ZeroBounce?
Being on the Inc. 5000 list – especially the top 40 in the country and number 9 in Florida – means that we’re doing the right things and headed in the right direction.
When you’re a hard-working team that really grinds day in and day out, it’s hard to see the big picture at times. You’re usually so busy fighting fires, helping clients, writing code, promoting this or that. At times, receiving recognition like this is a way to measure accomplishment.
I think about our team, I think about all the hard work that we put in. As a leader of ZeroBounce, I’m relentless at thanking everyone that stays the course with us and marches to the same drumbeat.
This placement on the Inc. 5000 list is an indirect pat on the back for every team member that helped make this happen. We could not do it without each and every one of them.
What’s been the hardest thing for you, as a COO, in the past year?
The most challenging thing with having a fully remote team is making sure we’re communicating well. No matter how well I have or haven’t done, it can always be better.
Communicating to team members in multiple countries, drastically different time zones, shifts and departments is easily the hardest thing for us to accomplish.
We try to mitigate any lack of communication by having a monthly company meeting where each department talks about what we did the previous month and what we hope to accomplish next. It’s a good way to keep team members up to date.
How do you view the team’s work-life balance in this new context of working from home?
I’m getting mixed reactions to this question, it’s something I often talk to my team about. Mental health is very important and we should talk about this topic more.
Since we went fully remote, work-life balance has been skewed to more work, less play. I find more team members being available at odd times of the day or on weekends and near a computer.
For our sales team, I think it’s enabled them to do sales 24/7. Our support team is also 24/7 with rotating shifts.
Given everything going on, I even find myself probably working too much. However, it helps keep the time moving as we seek a new regular lifestyle outside of work.
To answer this question directly, I think it’s negatively impacted work-life balance. At the same time, there’s not much to do besides work, so it does help make the time go by.
How do you manage to keep your team so motivated and driven, despite everyone working remotely? What’s your secret?
I don’t think I have a secret to this. There are a few pieces that are helpful and motivating.
#1. Make sure your team knows where the company is heading. What is your mission for your customers?
#2. Give people the opportunity to speak, chime in, have their thoughts heard and incorporated. A single person can only make something good up to a certain point.
When you have a team of minds that have the same end goals but different perspectives – that’s when the magic happens.
You need a good leader to take those ideas and filter them a single path. It’s challenging but rewarding.
Also, keep things fun. I like to joke with our team, we have challenges we create and put silly names on them so that we can talk about it and laugh.
Also, remove the barriers for your team members to make decisions. Decentralize decision-making where it’s not critical. Empower your team to make decisions that they are closer to than you are.
How do you stay driven yourself?
I think it’s in my DNA. I’m just naturally driven and part of it is because I am curious and generally go out and learn on my own when I want to do things.
But no one is a machine, we all must take breaks, relax, travel or do whatever we need to have mental breaks.
I find myself doing this during the workdays by taking short walks, or just stepping outside and listening to the birds. A quick 5-minute break can re-energize me for two more hours of focused work. If you repeat this day in and day out, through the you’ll have accomplished quite a bit!
And never forget to look back and appreciate what you’ve done.
A great quote that I’ve always followed is to look at the forest from above, not just the tree in front of you. Take a bird’s eye approach to things and find the success patterns.
Also, don’t let failure stop you, it should encourage you to do or try something different.
What’s your favorite thing to do after a long, hard day?
I enjoy spending time with my family. I have an almost 2-year-old and she brings me such joy. I also like telling stories with my wife and just relaxing with her.
If things are really tough, I like to go for a drive. There’s something about horsepower, wind and music that can help me unwind.
Finally, I try to not let a bad day drift into future days. At times it’s hard. But I always try to treat each day like I have something new to accomplish.