3 Hidden Keys to Successful Communication as a Remote Team

This story is inspired by this week’s Startup Edition question:
How do you effectively work with remote teams?


The biggest challenge of working in remote teams isn’t dealing with the physical distribution of your teammates but reducing the psychological distance between everyone. Bridging that distance is probably a test for all types of teams but requires more work as a remote team.

“One thing that excites me about building a company is the human experience of making something out of nothing together,” our co-founder and CEO Walter recently wrote in a company email. As a distributed company, we have to sweat to achieve that communal sense of creation, but in doing so, we’ve had to consider and resolve aspects of our work culture with deliberation.

Culture takes shape from a sense of coherence, built through shared experiences, expectations, and values — and one key to cohering is learning how to communicate effectively with each other. I wanted to dig deeper into what we’ve learned about communicating as a remote team that deals with building those shared relationships, expectations, and values and that help shape the cultural foundation of how we get stuff done.

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How Love With Food Found its Working Rhythm

Love With Food is a subscription service that delivers a specially curated box of organic and all-natural snacks every month. For every box that’s sent, the company donates a meal to feed a hungry child.


Founder Aihui Ong embarked on Love With Food after seeing a friend forced to shutter her stir-fry sauce business because she was unable to secure wider distribution. Aihui (pronounced “I-we”) not only saw the need for alternative channels of distribution and marketing connecting food entrepreneurs to consumers but also an opportunity to help the one in five children in America at risk of hunger.

From a company of one in late 2011, Love With Food has grown to twelve employees. While growing any startup is challenging, Aihui notes that LWF’s mission helps her hire:  “In the last eighteen months, we’ve donated more than 100,000 meals, and that also draws the right talent to our company. People who want to join us really value that we’re giving back and doing something innovative to disrupt the food industry.”

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How we got to $1,000 in recurring revenue

When we launched a paid version of iDoneThis, we held our breath — we didn’t know if a single person would sign up.

The waiting, the sweat, the nerves.

Finally, the whoosh of a collective sigh of relief. One trailblazer of a person signed up for iDoneThis and put their credit card down.

Amidst all that “will they pay?” jitters though, we figured that if just one person signed up, there had to be at least 1,000 more people out there who hadn’t yet heard of us that would be willing to do the same. And that first month, we got $1,000 recurring revenue signups for our service.

How We Did It

1.   A simple product with a straightforward value proposition.

From the beginning, iDoneThis has been simple to explain and understand:

We send your team a daily email asking, “What’d you get done today?” You reply. The next morning, your team gets an email digest with what your team got done yesterday — to kickstart another productive day.

It’s an incredibly simple way to sync up at work.

For almost every team, syncing up is a pain point, and we provide a simple solution: instead of having meetings or interrupting people who are trying to get things done, sync up asynchronously over email.

The reason that it can be harder to build a simple product is that you will always have people laughing at you, asking incredulously, “People pay for that?” This happened non-stop in the early days of iDoneThis and continues to happen today.

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Effective Communication: The Best of the Internet


REMINDER!  We’re giving away some awesome prizes for subscribers who sign up for the newsletter by Sunday, August 18, 11:59 pm EST. 

How Dan Pink Invested in iDoneThis — it started with a to-do item that sat and sat undone for weeks.

Getting to Better Than Optimal is even more important in this increasingly automated, techie world.

Here’s a peek at the 2nd issue of our newsletter. Baby steps!

30 Online Tools That Are So Good, You May Have to Fire Someone.

5 Habits of Highly Effective Communicators.

8 Myths Startup Founders Hate

The entrepreneur’s journey can be a bumpy one, with thrilling peaks and stressful valleys. It doesn’t help that the startup world is aswarm with hype and misconceptions, which can worm their way into rookies’ heads and lead them down a wrong road or two. Take, for example, the misperception that scaling is imperative in the early stages, which leads 70% of startups to fail.

We decided it was high time to do some startup mythbusting, so we asked founders and leaders this one question:

What startup myth do you hate the most and why?

With a wide range of wise words from hard-earned experience, on aspects from accountability to how you grow to what really matters, here are their responses:

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How ScribbleLive Powers the Moment with Liveblogging

ScribbleLive is bringing media companies and brands up to speed with software that allows them to publish, curate, and syndicate content in real-time.

Recently, ScribbleLive powered Boston.com’s liveblog coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and even served as their homepage when the traffic surge caused Boston.com to go down. By providing tools for journalists and media companies to adapt to this era of always-on social media, ScribbleLive helps fill in context and provide reliable reporting of breaking news.

We talked with Matt McCausland, software development manager at Scribblelive, about how the Toronto-based company manages and communicates with each other.

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The Entrepreneur’s Journey: Slowing Down and Why Grandma’s Always Right.

Are entrepreneurs always dissatisfied?

It’s hard to stop and bask in your own achievements. It’s why we strive to build a tool that shows you how far you’ve come to motivate and inspire. Daniel DiPiazza, who works with plenty of young go-getters brimming with restless, entrepreneurial spirit, reminds us about the importance of learning to relax and appreciate your own hard work.

Grandmas have an uncanny way of presenting elegant solutions to life’s most vexing conundrums — wisdom without tripping the alarm system. Every day, mine would take me on a short walk from our suburban duplex to the small office where she practiced law at her own firm. I always thought the walks were social outings, but looking back, I know now they were opportunities for her to teach me her life philosophies.

At seven, I just wasn’t ready for the sophisticated dose of grandmotherly psychological judo I received, but her words stayed with me.

“Do not be beholden.”

We talked a lot about entrepreneurship, self-direction, motivation, and self-image on our walks. These may seem like heavy topics for a first-grader, but I am certain I would not be the person I am today had we not had these talks. One thing she said to me still rings crystal clear:

“There is no greater pleasure than working for yourself. You do not want to be beholden to anyone else. Chart your own path.”

Photo: Cornelia Kopp

As I got older and started working, something didn’t feel right. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere that I worked. At first I thought it was the job. Or the boss. Or the co-workers. Or the uniform. Until I ran out of “or’s”.

That’s when I realized — it was me.

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Audrey Tan Dips the Ink


Audrey Tan, founder of Waggit, has a neat productivity trick she calls “dip the ink” that keeps the work flow going after breaks and interruptions:

If a friend asks me to take a coffee break or someone starts hovering at your desk as a sign they want to chat, I say – ‘gimme one sec’, get to a good stopping place, PLUS a little extra work on my next task.   I simply dip the ink.  If I’m writing an email, I’ll finish the one I’m doing – then I’ll start composing the first few lines of the next email.  This way, when I come back – I avoid having to think about what to do next.  It’s easier to dive back in and my work flow is less disrupted.

Check out the rest of Audrey’s blog for a look behind the scenes of the startup life.

(Photo: Janos Balazs)

The Kindness of Users

One of our awesome users, Nate Graves, basically performed the web equivalent of taking the time to return some cash he found on the ground to whoever dropped it.

He landed on idonethistoday.com by mistake, realized it wasn’t registered, bought the domain name, and passed it onto us.

Here’s the email we got back in the beginning of this year:

So, today I got my daily reminder from you guys. I saw it pop up on my phone with the from address showing “IDoneThis Today.” Without really thinking I typed idonethistoday.com into my browser and off I went to…nothing. I realized and righted my mistake pretty quickly. But, later I checked the whois on idonethistoday.com and saw it wasn’t registered. It is now and is pointing to your site. I’ll be happy to hand it off to you if you’d like (free of charge of course). Just figured you might have some folks out there like me who wound up in the wrong part of town, and I didn’t want them to miss out on your great service.


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Keys to Building a Lasting Internet Startup

Keys to Building a Lasting Internet Startup