Remote founder stand-up with Marcelo Lebre, CTO at Remote.com
“We’re passionate about what we do, not about working schedules.”
As the 6nomads team, we decided that we wanted to organize something special again and, thus, we bring you Remote founder stand-ups:)
The idea is simple: no perfect slides, no spotless speeches repeated dozens of times, no discussing the obvious. Instead, we want to initiate friendly, remote startup Founder, CEO and CTO conversations that are intensive and thought-provoking, but still informal and fun for everyone.
This time we spoke with Marcelo Lebre, CTO at Remote.com, a fully distributed HR tech startup, which has raised $11 million in seed funding about a month ago. The platform is designed to help companies hire and onboard remote employees anywhere, handling global payroll, taxes, compliance, and employee benefits.
“Working remotely, I can work from wherever I want, and I’ll finally give my dog Pico the attention he deserves! At Remote, we’re going to build a plethora of tools to make your (work)life easier and allow you to experience life and work in a totally different and wholesome way,” Marcelo said.
Read to know about the disadvantages of being/hiring a contractor, how to get rid of this pain in the butt without having employees jump through hoops, and a better way to start the productive week.
About the mission:
“You may have a great culture in companies like GitLab or Invision, but at the end of the day, you’re still a contractor or a freelancer.”
Remote.com is a fully remote company, 100 %. And this is a company that allows you to hire people remotely. So one of the problems is that for you to hire someone across borders, it requires someone to be a freelancer or contractor. Even though you may have a great culture in companies like GitLab or Invision, but at the end of the day, you’re still a contractor or a freelancer.
That has many disadvantages for both sides. It’s just a pain in the butt. It’s also not a scalable solution, be it for the culture, be it for its practicality. No one was tackling this, and we decided to fix the problem.
What were the major undercover problems of having teams in offices? Is that we tend to slide back into working synchronously fundamentally. So a lot of unproductive, inefficient methodologies come on very quickly. We just get sort of tag along with it. Like you go for a coffee and then you’re standing by the coffee machine with someone, then half an hour goes by, and then you go to lunch, come back from lunch, someone passes by, touch you on the shoulder and all that. So I’d push very much for people to work from places that they felt comfortable. I always believed that doesn’t matter where you’re working from. And I saw this firsthand.
The reasons why I so badly wanted to start remotes were too great. This is a problem in the world, right? Be it from a practical standpoint, from a legal standpoint of you wanting to hire someone in another country without having to create your entity there and all the hustle which is creating entities and the expense, but also on a productivity side of things. Working remotely brings a lot of things you need to do that you’re not usually used to, but those things are fundamental.
We see now a lot of companies face these things that they need to do to work remotely. Actually, they need it in their day to day jobs and in office, but they just didn’t. If they need the credentials to access something, they used to say, “Oh, let’s call Joe/Jane, he/she knows what that’s about.” And eventually, that person comes by and tells what you need to do. And that’s it.
And all this wasteful thing, among all things, pile up and pile up and pile up. But working remotely doesn’t let you go this way. You need to create your own best practices around any different topics.
And it’s a topic that gets us very excited. That’s what we want. You have a company in one country you want to hire people from the same country or across the world, and with Remote, you can have an employee with really fully legal compliance, full benefits, as if you were hiring someone down the road.
Sometimes people think that it’s not a big deal until they try to buy a house, until they try to get credit approved for a new car.
We believe fundamentally, it is always at our core, that people should do what they love. If you want to be an amazing woodworker, fisherman, doesn’t matter, you should be that. If we start pushing into this end, the world will be a better place. What happens when you’re a contractor, it’s like two invoices, taxes, you probably have an accountant, or you do your account. So there’s this sort of hustle that is in the back of your mind. It takes a long time, and it makes you wonder.
It is very important to have job security, health insurance, a credible employer statement that you can show to the bank and get credit without having to explain that you’re a really well, successful, but you don’t have an employer. And with Remote, you can get all that and make sure that your employees just focus on doing what they love. And we take care of all the stuff, that’s what we excel in doing.
About the customers:
“They have different expectations, but in the end, what they want is literally the same: they want happy employees.”
Ever since we open for business, we have a huge pipeline of customers who want to get on board and hire people through us. It’s from five-persons startup to 15 200 people companies. We get clients from literally all the areas and even the size of companies. They have different expectations towards how the contract goes and how the benefits roll out in certain countries and that. But at the end of the day, what they want is literally the same. They want happy employees that are not worried about their employment in that the company, and they want not to have to worry about opening a formal entity in that country.
In practice, we act as an employer of record. There are three entities: the employer, Remote.com, and the freelancer that wants to become an employee. So what happens is that we sort of making a connection between the two dots. There is a service contract between the employer and Remote and a working contract between Remote and the employee. Through this contract, this person is legally, lawfully an employee of Remote working for the employer, whatever it is. There is a connection between the two ends, and we tie the knots, we’re able to do this because we run our infrastructure of entities throughout the world.
There are a few companies that are doing similar-ish this, but they don’t run their infrastructure, they mostly use third-party companies. You don’t want to have employees jump through hoops, trying to understand who’s this entity that is now invoicing and who’s this one that is now creating the payslips, and is it that one in the contract. What you want is what we offer. When you hire someone, you talk to us, you onboard yourself in five minutes, and then invite the person you want to hire, that person will be onboarded, and that’s it.
Engineering team Monday talks:
“People need to interact as people. If you forget about this, you’re not building a culture, you’re just putting a bunch of freelancers together and making them work together.”
I believe there is a flaw in how we’ve been working for centuries, which is the fact that people separate themselves from their working self. And that’s just weird, honestly, because you spend a lot of hours throughout the day working with people, spending more time with someone than you do with your partner or your kids, and you know shit about them. It’s freaky.
Working remotely also brings people together in very different ways. One is that because you have this window to my house, which you don’t have in an office.
You can see my living room, where my dog is shamelessly sleeping next to me, and my kid’s toys lying around. The reason we do this is that people need to interact as people. If you forget about this, you’re not building a culture, you’re just putting a bunch of freelancers together and making them work together.
A culture is made of people, it’s not about hanging out and drinking beer, it’s about people getting to know each other and working better.
In different years, I’ve seen many companies do typical stand-ups. I’ve done them myself just to give the highlights of what’s going on throughout the week or what’s going to be next. In reality, people space out, don’t hear any of it, or it’s not really important to them.
So instead of having like “Let’s plan the week”, we work continuously. There are no sprints in Remote, and there’s no Scrum, we work in a very fluid, continuous flow of work. If you have something to say, you should say it immediately. When you have a question, there’s not a moment you should wait for. You can just send a message to someone and ask for help, and when that person is available, they’ll reach out.
We’re passionate about what we do, not about working schedules.
But getting together is very important. It’s Monday; most people are starting to work. It’s just a great moment to be together. Some people are having tea or coffee throughout the session, are making breakfast, and we’re talking about the world and things that happen. It’s just a better way to start the week.
Also, we have a 30 minutes optional daily call with everyone in the company. The reason why we do this is sort of similar to the one that we have to start the week. Just to get to know, get to talk a bit with everyone in the company. It’s not just water-cooler conversation, but it’s a moment to discuss something you’re interested in or some important announcement. So make no confusion.
Every time there’s something important, we will write it down and share it with the whole company so that no one misses it, and it stays logged and written. But it’s just good to talk to people. So we usually have a question of the day, which is a random question like why it is bad to have pineapple in pizzas and stuff like this to get people talking. Everyone shares the experience; some people talk about their day or share something important to discuss.
Because if you work remotely and focus on productivity, as we do that, people always have a flow and a sense of progression in terms of their tasks, it’s very easy to get caught up, to overwork and just keep on working. And then you lose your sense of self, and you get deluded into that. So it’s important to take a step back and say, “All right. I’m working with people. I am one of those people.”
About the hiring process:
“Sorry, we’re overwhelmed with applications.”
In March, the first time we have opened an engineer position at Remote.com, and we got hundreds of amazing applicants. I made a point of replying to everyone. I always do. At least I go through the applications and read what people have to say. I make sure that I value a person’s time, even when people just randomly apply, because I want to hire good people and, of course, good professionals, but fundamentally good people. And for me to do that, I also have to be one.
So we got hundreds of applications. One day I woke, we started getting a lot of epic applications, dozens each day. One day I woke up, we had like 80 new applications. It was time-consuming.
We made sure that we would not close this until we got this a representation of diversity in our job. We spent a bit more time going through all the applications keeping it open because I don’t want to hire whoever played first. I also don’t want to hire someone just for the sake of diversity. But for us to evaluate that, we need everyone to have a fair share of attention from us. And we made sure that we went through all the applications. It just was amazing. I am super grateful for that.
I still get applications, even though we don’t have engineering roles open. And as much as possible, I try to answer. If I see that it’s not like copying and pasting hundreds of these messages and seeing whoever picks up, I’ll make sure I have 10 seconds to reply.
Actually, we ended up not hiring just one, we hired two because we found two amazing people and I couldn’t make up my mind, and we could afford it. I thought it best to double down on hiring two people for that role.
I made a point of replying to everyone to make sure that I value a person’s time, even when people just randomly apply. I want to hire good professionals, but fundamentally good people. And for me to do that, I also have to be one.
Something that is important to me is how you apply, how you present yourself. I’m a very straightforward person, and I expect people to don’t treat me as a typical recruiter or person that never hired someone. I appreciate people come directly with whatever they’d like to do and how it makes sense for them to be at Remote, because I also want to make sure that Remote is great for them. People should put some effort into filtering the companies, but we still see many mechanized and automated applications.
I’m a builder, an architect, a software engineer at heart, I’m not just a hiring manager. So you have to get my attention in one way or another. I want you to get my attention. So don’t get the pre-formatted messages that you sent to 1000 companies, put a bit of effort into it. Don’t write a lot, just enough.
If CV sort of fits the bill in terms of what the job opening had described and what we’re looking for, I’ll just set up a quick chat with the person. Usually, I only ask two questions. One is what do you like to do? Professionally or personally, does matter. In five minutes, I’ll understand how you face life, how you define things you love, and how you do them. And the second question is how Remote can help you be successful?
If you tell me, “Look, what I want to do in the future is to be a shepherd and having my herd,” — sure! Great, I’m super happy for you. I just want to know how Remote can help you get there. Maybe it’s getting a job on software engineering for a couple more years until you get enough money to buy your first pair of cows or something for it. If we can do that, it’s great. But if you don’t have something you want to achieve and if we can’t help you, it doesn’t make sense to be applying to Remote.
If you want to work in an office, Remote is not a good place for you; you will face challenges in the culture because we’re passionate about what we do and not about working schedules. And then, we have a very quick exercise, it’s like something you can do in a couple of hours. That will allow us to understand how much effort we would take to win for that person.
And there is a final conversation with the team on which I’m not present. We just try to make sure that the person likes the team with whom they’ll be working with, and the team likes the person. Then they get an offer and either accept or decline it.
Every Tuesday, we invite a speaker and talk with them for 30–40 minutes about their project, remote team, raised investments, mistakes and wasted money, about money spent smartly, their managing tips, insights, and ongoing plans.
Learn more and be sure to join us as an attendee or speaker here, so that you don’t miss subsequent Tuesday stand-ups.
Originally published at 6nomads.com, a platform where talented developers and tech startups find each other in the shortest possible way.