How to run a successful business remotely: key lessons from the CEO of tech startup BugWolf

Remote working

We’ve all read the stories about people running their businesses from far-flung places or from a beach, but the reality is that most small businesses in Australia today still operate from a physical location or office, for a minimum of 5 days a week.

For most businesses that means staff having to show up day in, day out, to sell products or services from a shop or restaurant for example. But for others, like me, I chose to adopt a remote working model, where we sell our software testing expertise from any location we choose to work from. Technology of course makes this possible, but I wanted to share my learnings here for others thinking about adopting a remote working model and my tips about how to do it successfully:

1. Regular communication is important

Regardless of where we are, the Bugwolf team connect every morning via video call for a short update. We meet face-to-face on a weekly basis to discuss priorities, wins and challenges. We could not make this happen without a great set of software tools. We use Slack, Zoom, Google Docs and Trello boards to make this happen.

2. You need to hire right for a remote team

We’re not necessarily restricted to recruiting in Melbourne. For instance, our quality director is based in Sydney. It means we can find higher quality candidates faster, no matter their geography. The team unanimously agree that we’re more productive working in our own space, where each person can ‘get on with it’ without the interruptions common in a traditional office environment.

To fit our culture, we interview to identify motivated self-starters. Successful candidates must be comfortable working remotely, embrace constant change and lead by example to name a few qualities. Our team have many years of experience working on large and small-scale projects. They value the freedom to work remotely, reduce their daily commute, have more time to be hands on with their families or to indulge in other passions without compromising their career aspirations.

Hiring highly-skilled people and empowering them to get on with it requires trust, but is important as competition for top talent is now ferocious. Being able to offer remote work is an attractive benefit that allows us to stay competitive and differentiate our company against most others in the market. Tech recruiter Affix has also been pivotal to success, promoting our offering to potential candidates who might not have considered the benefits of joining a remote team.

3. Enabling people to work from anywhere boosts retention

Many of our team members have been working remotely for several years now. They see it as an attractive part of their role and benefits package, which has a positive effect on retention. The future of work is going to be much more specialised, flexible and freelance dominant. We’re demonstrating how you can unchain your staff from their desks, reduce costs, significantly increase productivity and boost morale without compromising on excellent delivery and customer support.

4. By reducing fixed costs you can invest more in your people

We’re a bootstrapped startup, so we’re all about staying lean. If we can reduce fixed costs by eliminating things like rent and increase performance, we embrace it. As a hungry, growth-oriented startup, the last thing we want to do is be locked into a five-year lease of a premise that we’ll outgrow in 18 months.  By reducing those fixed costs, you can provide financial incentives to your team, such as bonuses at the end of the financial year or at the end of a successful project. Managing a remote workforce makes a lot of financial sense – especially in the early days of starting a business.

If you’re thinking about setting up a business to work remotely, give it a go. What have you got to lose?

About the author

Ash Conway is the founder and CEO of Bugwolf, an SaaS-based platform to user-test applications, websites, and products across multiple platforms and devices. Ash has 20 years of international business development experience, 11 years of that building tech companies, working with startups through to acquisitions and generating sales as high as $150 million. He has extensive experience leading software and sales teams, and was an award-winning designer early in his career.