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May 13, 2019 46 min

As the economy and various business sectors continue to evolve, many leaders are looking at how transitioning to a distributed company might be the best option going forward. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Zapier’s Bryan Helmig to discuss all the benefits and some of the challenges involved with running a distributed company.

Bryan co-founded Zapier in late 2011 with his friends Mike and Wade, and they were soon admitted to Y Combinator’s YCS12 batch. Zapier is a web automation application, with Zapier you can build Zaps which can automate parts of your business or life. A Zap is a blueprint for a task you want to do over and over.

In our conversation, Bryan and I discuss the crucial role of hiring, what that process looks like at Zapier, the three ingredients for running a successful distributed company, lessons he has learned along the way, and much more. I can’t wait for you to dive in and learn from Bryan’s fascinating perspective!

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:45] Guest Bryan Helmig shares his background and why he started Zapier.
  • [5:20] Why hiring is one of the most critical aspects of a startup.
  • [8:50] What does Bryan look for when hiring Engineering Managers and remote employees?
  • [13:20] Three ingredients for running a successful distributed company.
  • [16:50] The benefits of a fully distributed company.
  • [21:30] Bryan describes the challenges he has faced with running a distributed company.
  • [25:00] How does Zapier optimize their hiring process?
  • [31:00] What does the Zapier on-boarding process look like?
  • [36:00] Change is the only constant.
  • [39:30] Why you need to keep an eye on the mental health of your remote employees.
  • [43:00] Tools and resources that Bryan recommends.
  • [44:30] Why people should consider working at Zapier.
  • Why you need to pay attention to your hiring process.

    What would you identify as the number one area that business leaders should focus on as they work to take their business to the next level of growth? Should they focus on big-picture strategies or less sexy aspects like their hiring process?

    Looking back at the growth of Zapier, Bryan Helmig says that the hiring process is the most important area for businesses in general and startups, in particular, to focus on. Hiring can be even more complicated for a distributed company but, in Bryan’s view, it doesn’t have to be. At the end of the day, it all comes down to relationships - the people who you hire and trust are critical to your business’ health. Learn more about Bryan’s approach to the hiring process at Zapier by listening to this episode.

    3 ingredients for running a successful distributed company.

    Let’s face it, running a successful business is hard enough but the challenges can increase tenfold when you are operating as a distributed company. Thankfully, leaders like Bryan Helmig are leading the way and paving a path forward. In our conversation, Bryan was kind enough to share his three ingredients for running a successful distributed company.

  • Team - Focus on less “poster values” and emphasize behavior values like, “Default to action.”
  • Tools - Don’t be a robot; build a robot. Tools drive how your organization works.
  • Process - Be willing to revisit and change your processes as you go.
  • Which aspect of Bryan’s three ingredients resonates the most with you? Make sure to catch my full conversation with Bryan as he expands on these three ingredients and much more.

    The advantages of a distributed company.

    What is your knee-jerk reaction when you think of a distributed company? Do you have a positive impression or a negative one? Don’t assume you know all of the relevant information, get it from the source!

    One of the unique advantages of a distributed company is the limitless opportunities it provides when seeking talent. You don’t have to limit your talent search to those in your geographical area; you can choose from qualified candidates all over the world. Connected to this unique advantage is another advantage - diversified points of view. With a distributed company, you have the opportunity to get a global perspective that can give you an advantage over your competition.

    The challenges of a distributed company.

    While it might seem like there are only positives, the reality is there are a good number of challenges that arise from operating a distributed company. One key aspect is pretty obvious, you don’t get to look your peers, employees, and supervisors in the eye - this can lead to a whole host of challenges.

    People who tend to view their workplace as a key aspect of their social life would find working for a distributed company challenging. Clear communication can also be a barrier for many individuals as well - what may come off as curt and obtuse in an email might not be what the sender had in mind. These challenges may prove too overwhelming for some, but the evidence shows that many people find the freedom and flexibility of working remotely are too good to pass up. Get even more insights into how a distributed company operates by listening to this episode of SimpleLeadership with Bryan Helmig!

    Resources & People Mentioned
  • Zapier
  • Manager Tools Podcast
  • Elastic
  • Mozilla
  • Y Combinator
  • GitHub
  • Slack
  • Wistia
  • Connect with Bryan Helmig
  • Bryan on LinkedIn
  • Bryan on Twiter
  • Connect With Christian McCarrick and SimpleLeadership
  • Christian on LinkedIn
  • Christian on Twitter: @CMcCarrick

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