Our guest today is Matt Secrist, the COO and Co-Founder of BKA Content, an online content writing service. BKA Content hires hundreds of remote workers from all over the U.S. and has been featured as one of the fastest-growing businesses in Utah as well as on the Inc. 5000. Over the last decade, Matt has been involved directly in establishing the hiring process for remote workers in multiple positions within the company, from executives, account managers and developers to writers and editors.
Matt, BKA Content hires hundreds of remote workers but why did you decide to follow this path?
To give some context, our company started with everyone working remotely and then later established a hybrid policy of working in the office as well as working from home, depending on the job position and responsibilities. Working remotely still is an important part of our company culture and we’ve tried to find a balance that helps us meet our company goals. In the very beginning, we established a work from home policy primarily to save on costs. Since a key part of our business revolves around networking with and hiring independent contractors from all over the country, most of the interactions we were having with team members were already being done remotely. We were already investing in specific tools to effectively communicate with our remote contractors, so we used the same technologies to communicate with executives and managers as well.
At the time, this made a lot more sense than having to incur the additional significant expenses that come along with office space, furniture/equipment and travel. As a small bootstrapped operation, this was a crucial way to cut costs and help us find our footing. In addition, this decision to work remotely offered a lot of flexibility to our full and part-time employees. If projects were getting done and goals were being met, the general consensus was that working from home was preferred overcoming into a physical office. Now, our business consists of both remote workers as well as employees that come into the office, depending on their job role. For example, our part-time account managers still all work remotely. Our business model is such that Account Managers work on a project basis and communicate with clients remotely. Since clients weren’t coming into the office to meet face-to-face, we felt there was no need to bring them into an office when they could do the same quality of work from home. This has proven to be a successful model for us. For our executives and department heads, we made the decision to bring most of them in-house for the majority of the week to create a more collaborative atmosphere for strategic planning and goals. Over the years, we found there were some drawbacks to being completely remote, especially when longer, more consistent collaborative sessions were needed to help us accomplish loftier company goals.
You brought some employees in-house and some continued to work remotely. In your opinion, are remote workers as loyal as in-office employees?
We’ve seen a pretty even split. But we’ve also worked hard over the years to develop a company culture that connects the in-office employees to our remote workers. We have touchpoints throughout the year where we can all communicate remotely as well as get together physically.
It’s hard for a remote employee to switch off sometimes, especially if they work from home. Are remote workers as productive as their peers working 9 to 5?
In our experience, a self-motivated person that works remotely on a project-based team (that doesn’t rely on in-office tools) typically is more productive than someone doing the same work in the office. This is the main reason we’ve kept the majority of our workforce in remote positions. For projects that need frequent collaboration, we’ve seen that remote workers are typically less efficient than those that work in an office 9-5. This comes from measuring the productivity in people working in the same position both remotely and in-office. In fact, we’ve found over the years that the people in these job positions that started remotely actually preferred coming together in a physical office just because of the nature of their responsibilities and the people they needed access to. That being said, these in-office positions still aren’t truly ‘9-5’. We typically encourage our employees working in the office to take one day a week to work from home. These employees also know they have the freedom to take care of important things during the day if necessary or to stay home and work remotely in certain situations.
You manage both in-house employees and remote workers. Is it easier or harder to manage remote teams?
For consistent projects where there may be initial onboarding but not as much ongoing strategy, remote teams have been much easier to manage. When the project is set up correctly, the remote teams manage themselves to complete the assignments and get to do it on their own terms. Most of the work we do for clients is done through remote teams of this nature and they absolutely excel. In fact, we couldn’t do the same work in-office and achieve the same level of efficiency.
Diversity of thought is important for a content company but tapping into a diverse talent pool is challenging. Is it easier when you hire remote workers?