The Remote X: Josh of Baremetrics

By Keni Teh, 03 May, 2017

The Remote X is a series by the Planetary team to feature the experiences of remote teams across the world (literally!). Every week, we interview people leading or working in remote teams and share their knowledge with others in the hopes that we can all grow and benefit from their experiences.

Art by Vince Joy

Josh Pigford is the founder of Baremetrics, a SaaS analytics platform designed for users to obtain valuable, actionable insights from their subscription data with a single click. We spoke with Josh to find out more about his views on remote working, managing his team of 7, and the challenges that comes with having a fully remote team.

So, Josh, where are you right now?

I’m in Birmingham, AL. In my home office. I’m here but my whole team’s remote though!

Tell us more about yourself and what you do in Baremetrics!

I’m the founder of Baremetrics and I kind of wear all the hats — picking up whatever anybody else on the team doesn’t do. I also handle most of our marketing stuff — I probably spend most of my time doing content!

How do you structure your day while working remotely? Do you find it a challenge to keep yourself focused?

Nah, I mean, I’ve worked remotely for about 12+ years. To me, that’s kind of the only way that I know how to work. So from a distraction standpoint, that’s not really a problem. As far as how my day is structured, I try to have set hours — I’ve got three kids — so mornings are getting them out the door to school, then I work throughout the day and try to wrap it up around 3 or 4.

Was it something that you planned out, or naturally eased into?

Early on, I realized that when you’re working from home, it’s easy to end up working all the time. If you don’t give yourself some parameters to stick to, you’d just keep going. To me, a routine is a healthy way to maintain a kind of balance.

Right. Is there a reason why you choose to grow a remote team instead of having a physical office?

It comes back to me having only worked remotely for the past decade or so — it’s kind of the only way I know how to build a team. There were a lot of people who I knew were really great at their job — I can hire them without asking them to move somewhere else.

Ten years ago, I was living in Denver, which was a city that’s a lot easier to ask someone to move to — but Birmingham, Alabama? Asking a bunch of of people who are great in their respective fields to move here is a little bit of a bigger ask. So I guess I just kinda knew that if I wanted to build a really great team, I’d have a lot more access to great talent by letting them work wherever they want.

“There were a lot of people who I knew were really great at their job — I can hire them without asking them to move somewhere else.”

So you never considered a physical office at all?

No. There’s times that I think it would be really nice if we were all in the same place, but the pros of being able to work when you want, where you want and whatever hours you want far outweighs any of the potential benefits of working at the same office. Just a month ago, a couple of our engineers flew to the same city so that they could knock out a project together — which is fine, we’ll do that kinda stuff, or like team wide retreats and that sort of thing to bridge the gap. That’s how the company itself has always been structured, so it works for us.

Have you ever worked in a physical office?

Yeah! In 2005, I just graduated college with a graphic design degree, and also just got married to my wife. We moved out to Colorado and I got a design job at an interactive design firm for 7 weeks. And I quit.

Just 7 weeks?!

My commute was an hour — I was just like “I’m not doing this!”

You mentioned that your team sometimes meets up to bang out projects — how often does that happen?

Face to face? It’s super rare. There’s a couple of people on our team who travel a good bit, so sometimes they’d be swinging through the same city or close enough to defer a flight to get to the same city so they can meet up, but the whole “Hey let’s pay for flights to meet up” is maybe at most a couple times a year.

How often does your team meet face-to-face or do video conference calls?

So every Monday we have a weekly standup with the whole team, on video chat. I do actual 1-on-1s with each person of the team every two weeks. For random meetings, it depends on the team — our engineers tend to do that a little bit more often, because it’s easier for them to hash out everything out real quick over video chat. At the same time, we try to keep a lot of stuff in text so that it’s reference-able.

How do you manage your team and keep them organized and productive?

We’ve transitioned a bunch of our communication to Basecamp — where the idea is that if you don’t need an answer immediately, put it in Basecamp, and the person who needs to respond can respond at their leisure. We’ve been doing that a good bit more, and it works pretty well. Slack quickly buries stuff when we start chatting.

“Slack quickly buries stuff when we start chatting.”

What are the top three apps or tools that your remote team just can’t do without?

There’s one tool that we started using about 5 months ago, called Clubhouse.io. Technically, it’s more like an engineering tool, but we use it to manage the entire product development cycle. After we’re done with design, it gets dumped into Clubhouse, so most of the tangible work on the product side happens in there. It’s a really great tool that we love a ton!

Oh, and Intercom — we’re kind of Intercom fanboys. And Basecamp, of course!

I think that’s probably like where 90% of stuff happens (including Slack).

How much of an emphasis do you put on keeping your team members emotionally connected?

I would wrap it up in a culture thing, but I think culture is a natural outpouring of how you hire, or the people that you hire. I would say that we hired people who are really great communicators — if something’s bugging them, they’re gonna ask you about it, and if they feel like they may have misunderstood you, they’re gonna ask you about it — not sit on it and boil until they explode.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while managing your remote team?

We love doing team retreats — we all get together, and get to hang out — but I don’t think that we do those enough. A lot of times it’s cost prohibitive, because it’s really expensive to fly a ton of people to a place. So I think that the hardest thing is not any one singular thing, but rather that it would be nice to be able to spend more time together. Not every day, but every few months or something… either part of the team gets together or the whole team gets together, you know, maybe three times a year — that’d be great.

What’s the best thing about your remote team?

We’ve got a really great team of people who don’t take themselves too seriously, which is super important. Nobody’s uptight and overly critical of things — everybody kind of goes with the flow. Again, I think that’s a natural outpouring of how we hire and I think it’s important at least for us. If everybody was always on edge and stressed about everything, it would be a lot harder to ride the ups and downs of building a startup!

Describe your remote working experience in 5 words or less.

Necessary for longevity. That’s less than 5. Three!

This is coming from a founder running a startup — I don’t think I can deal with the typical Silicon Valley mindset of “I have dedicated my life to this company and think and do nothing but this company”. The remote work makes me disconnect from this ‘always on’ culture. So many founders get burnt out and end up selling their companies within 3–5 years because they can’t do it anymore. They run themselves into the ground and they just take the first offer that they get.

Any last advice?

Right — I would say don’t try to mimic office culture. Don’t do meetings unless you absolutely have to. Don’t try to recreate something that would happen in the office, because they’re just two separate things. You need to figure out a way that works best for the people at your company and the way that you work, and not try to put it into some typical box because it looks different for every remote team.

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A huge thank you to Josh for taking the time out to share his experience with us. You can find him on on twitter at @Shpigford and at joshpigford.com!