Greg Bray, Blue Tangerine
Stuart Platt, Outhouse
Kevin Weitzel, Outhouse (Moderator)
Jimmy Diffee, Bokka Group
Managing a team remotely is likely new for your business, so the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast put a panel of leaders together who have been working remotely for years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly and unexpectedly forced all your employees to now work from home. Stress levels and uncertainty are high. Your team members and your managers are doing their best to adapt to these new circumstances, but there is a lot of adjustment.
Learn tips and tricks to lead, organize and motivate your team from home to set your business up for success.
Panelists: • Greg Bray – President, Blue Tangerine • Stuart Platt – Managing Partner, Outhouse • Kevin Weitzel – VP Business Development & Sales, Outhouse • Jimmy Diffee – Co-Founder, The Bokka Group
[00:00:00]Greg Bray: Hello everybody, and welcome to this a special live webinar edition of the homebuilder. Digital marketing podcast, we are excited to be here today. My name is Greg Bray, with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse. Normally Greg and I would be co-hosting a podcast. But, uh, being that this is about, uh, tackling the hurdles that you're going to experience as a home builder in the world of trying to work remotely, Greg is actually one of our expert panelists. [00:01:00] Uh, so Greg. Tell us a little bit about yourself and Blue Tangerine, what you, what you guys do.
Greg Bray: Yeah. Well, thanks, Kevin. It's great to be on the other side of the, uh, discussion. Uh, today. Uh, we at Blue Tangerine are a digital marketing agency that specializes in helping homebuilders and specialty retailers drive more leads in sales. Uh, we are excited to be part of this and be able to, to help a little bit, um, with those who are out there trying to learn how to work remote.
Kevin Weitzel: So before we get to our other two panelists, just one little bit of housekeeping on one of your mics are muted. That is intentional. Uh, too. If you have any questions, please type those in. The question, a question, the answer section, not in the comments. Uh, it's a, we're going to be monitoring the questions section of the comments is more for just fun.
Uh, but if you could do that, that would be fantastic. And, uh, Jimmy with Bokka group.
Jimmy Diffee: Hi, thanks. So yeah, I'm Jimmy with the Bokka group, and at the Bokka group, we help home builders maximize growth primarily through a customer [00:02:00] experience initiatives. Improving the home buying experiences is our mission.
And so we basically do that through three ways. Integrated consulting, marketing, and technology services, specifically for home builders. Thanks for having me.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. Stewart.
Stuart Platt: Yup. Thank you. Glad to be here. I'm Stuart Platt with Outhouse a, one of the managing partners, uh, Outhouses, a company that provides for home builders, uh, architectural services, three-D modeling, animations, virtual reality, uh, graphic design, uh, interactive floor plans, a lot of interactive sales, uh, displays.
We even have a commercial press room, uh, and build and. All right. Design, fabricate, and install sales office, uh, displays a nice long list of things we do. We're the only company in the nation that provides all these services under one roof.
Jimmy Diffee: Fantastic.
Kevin Weitzel: So just kind of get started. Uh, I know that all three of your businesses actually operate in what's be referred to as an office optional, uh, endeavor.
Uh, maybe that some of your [00:03:00] employees, just even some of your key employees can work remotely from home. And you've been doing that for quite some time. I know that the Bokka group's been doing it for a very long time. Uh, Jimmy, do you want to give us just a quick little synopsis of how you got started with that?
Jimmy Diffee: Sure. Yeah. So, I mean, we've done, uh, we've had office optional, full-blown office optional where no one needs to be in the office at all. I, we've been doing that for about three years fully now, but, um, with a strong focus on digital and technology since we've been in business, which is, you know, we came about in the age of the internet in 2001.
Um, we've always had the ability to work from home, work remote in some capacity. So it's been a long transition getting from. You know, being able to just get work done at a home office very regularly to now having a complete office that is completely distributed. Um, we're all based, most of us are based in Denver.
We have two employees that are not in Denver. Um, but yeah, it's been. Really getting everything to the culmination of no longer needing to be in the office, [00:04:00] logged into a server. Everything is now cloud-based. Everyone has, everyone's computer is, you know, goes with them. So we are fully, we've cut the cord completely.
Um, and really just use the office now as a place to gather socially.
Kevin Weitzel: So in the technical world, it's pretty easy to manage, you know, like production productivity of production, people like people that are creating content and people that are building websites. But how do you manage the fear, or how did you manage the fear when you transition of having employees that didn't necessarily, you were worried that they were even going to be productive at home, you know, maybe goofing off or what, what litness or what process did you put in place.
Jimmy Diffee: That's a really good question. And we hired consultants because we took that very, very seriously. So we hired a consultancy company named agency agile to come in, and we invested very heavily. And, uh, during this transition, we invested in some training. We set up new processes in place. We reached out to our employees for feedback.
So it wasn't just a switch that we, we flipped. [00:05:00] Um, we really were intentional about it. And you know, if things, just some examples of, you know, how do we get the most flow time? Because one of the first things that we learned from this consultancy was, we had a lot of interruptions, and we had a lot of just meetings that were happening off the cuff, and no one could really get into.
You know, a flow state. And so we, you know, one of the first things we did was just looked at what's everyone's day schedule and started creating someday schedules. So as an organization, we were able to just all get on the same page with mostly with communication. And I think that's, you know, working from home, the biggest challenges is communication and accountability, right?
Um, but if you can take the communication and reduce the noise so that it's now, you know, very organized and everybody is on the same page, and it's not just. Chaotic. Okay, well, I'm working in this office and from this time, and we'll have this if you can organize that day, so it's okay; I'm available for meetings during this time, then it makes me more productive.
I think we saw that it didn't require [00:06:00] as much hand-holding as we thought it would just by empowering them and being structured about it. That helps. Give some structure to the people that were working at home. So it wasn't just a free for all. So I think really putting those guidelines around the day structure and when people were expected to communicate with each other and get their work done was huge and improving accountability. And we found that our productivity actually increased whenever we went to office. Optional.
Kevin Weitzel: So that actually brings up a couple questions, which I'm going to come back to, which is about equipment and things you put in place. But Greg, you actually have offices in Melbourne and in Kansas, and you're managing entire teams remotely. How are you handling that? Like the meetings and such and can throw in productivity projects?
Greg Bray: Yeah, Kevin, you're right. We've, I mean, as of three weeks ago now, it's a little different, but prior to, to kind of this, this mess we have, um. Two a physical offices. And then about a third of our team that is remote from home, including myself.
So I, I'm remote from home. I'm not in the [00:07:00] office, um, of our 25 team members. We're in nine different States. Uh, so we're, we're really spread out. Um, and, uh, you know, just, just to go back, uh, just a little bit, I started working from home in 2004, um, so, you know, 15 years ago, um, when a hurricane-damaged our office in Florida.
And so it was kind of a traumatic event that forced me into that makeshift table in the corner of the bedroom. You know, kind of unexpected, trying to figure out how we do that. Um. And, and so, so that's been, you know, from, from my perspective as being one of the people not in the office. Um, before really, we had lots of other people not in the office.
That kind of drove a little bit of our experience where it became more comfortable with that. Um, and, and became, um, you know, this at some point once part of your team is remote, the fact that a few are in the office doesn't really start to. Impact your process cause you, [00:08:00]; you have to be able to deal with people that aren't physically there.
You can't go down the hall and knock on the door. You know, you can't just walk in. Um, because everybody is not in place. Now, there are some things that are easier when you're in the office for sure, but, but I think, um. For us, we've, we've definitely had to create some of those things. Like, like Jimmy was talking about some of those processes, some of those tools and technologies that we'll talk about in a minute, I'm sure.
Um, and, and be able to get comfortable with that whole communication process, just not being quite the same as what you're used to in the office.
Kevin Weitzel: So a couple of things change when you're working remotely, and one of them is obviously policies and procedures. Uh, so Stuart, how did you have you address over at outhouse, you know, policies and procedures with the employees that, you know, how do they have to dress? Can they come to work in the pajamas? Uh, what did you do differently, or how has it evolved?
Stuart Platt: Right. Yeah. Um, you know, today I'm wearing a collared shirt that that isn't always the case, but I've never in my pajamas [00:09:00] Uh,
Jimmy Diffee: are you wearing pants?
Stuart Platt: I am, don't make me get up. Call me out on it, but I am wearing pants, common question. Uh, yeah. You know, policies and procedures do have to shift considerably. Uh, I think, you know, the the three big changes in a company that is trying to go to a completely remote or an office optional model, uh, is number one.
You've got to get people to be able to, you know, there's the production side of things, just allowing people to work from home, uh, and get the job done. Uh, second is the. It the infrastructure around that and make sure they're connected to their clients, to their teammates, everybody involved. Uh, the third one, and probably honestly, I think the third is, especially if you're looking at creating a business model that is not a temporary a remote thing, which I think a lot of, probably a lot of people watching this today are, have been thrown into this remote [00:10:00] working business model.
But, you know, hoping that by the time everything goes away, uh, that, uh, they can get everybody back into the office and, you know, business as usual. But. Uh, you know, if you're going to be looking at this in terms of a permanent, business model for yourself, then you really need to start looking at the company culture, and had allowing, figuring out how to, have your team working with you and everybody else every day and not feeling like an Island.
That they're constantly, they are still and feel like they're part of a team and they're not, uh, ignored or, uh, or forgotten.
Kevin Weitzel: So in our world, because we work so much in the technical aspect, we're doing a lot of, you know, website building a content management and, and, uh, you know, working on campaigns. A lot of that can be done remotely.
But what kind of tools or communication processes do you, would you suggest for home builders that maybe have to manage construction crews or manage superintendents? You know, what kind of tools could you invite them into, uh, to make them part of your environment, your [00:11:00] working environment?
Stuart Platt: I did a ton of research on my company.
Outhouse has been remote for nearly two years, but instead of a. Probably go to smarter route and hiring consultants, uh, like Bokka did. I spent the two practically two years before we went remote doing all of my own research, uh, being, becoming my own consultant on that. So we did a ton of research. There are so many different platforms out there, and what works for one company is not going to work for every company. Uh, so I can only really speak with what Outhouse has done. Uh, you know, for us, the majority of what Outhouse does is digital. So going remote is fairly easy for most of the people, but we still need a physical office.
We've got a full-blown press room with digital presses. We fabricate displays and stuff like that. But, uh, the tools that we use primarily, number one. Uh, ms teams is our primary internal communication tool for, uh, employees and the change to work together, uh, [00:12:00] externally when it comes to talking to, you know, conference calls or.
Uh, screen-sharing, and stuff like that for customers and clients. We use a zoom, and then, uh, you know, most of our files are all cloud-based too. And I think Citrix is our tool. We've gone through a couple of, you know, nightmare scenarios to get to a Citrix, and we're still, I'm not gonna say we're 100% satisfied with that, but, uh, uh, those are the primary tools.
And that's mostly; it just revolves around communication for everybody.
Kevin Weitzel: So Sarah, Sarah Smith actually asks a question about a chat and we're going to come back to that, Sarah, a little bit toward the end because there actually is some solution. There are some solutions there that I do want to mention. Uh, but, uh, Jimmy, a question I have for you is that whereas Stuart's team and Greg's team typically works in an account manager setting where they are literally, can you do emails back and forth as far as asset management and getting those, uh, those, uh, projects in, into place and into production?
You are doing a lot of consultative meetings with your clients, so how are you doing those [00:13:00] remotely? Are you using a platform like zoom? What? What are you doing? It's different cause obviously you been doing it quite some time.
Jimmy Diffee: Yeah, definitely zoom. I mean, zoom has been invaluable for us even before all of this, um, because where we're centrally located in Denver, um, very few of our clients are in Colorado.
So we have, you know, distributed clients across the country. And so we do a lot of zoom meetings. And it's interesting because with, you know, the zoom, I'm now saying. Uh, I got a crash course, and Google meets Google meet and Google Hangouts cause I kind of, you know, mess with it here and there. But now, with our kids having to do that with the virtual learning, what I'm saying, just how superior zoom is in so many different ways in terms of quality, in terms of usability, um, just functionality.
It's just zoom is, I, I'd never realized how great it was until I've seen these other things come about. And. So I definitely big thumbs up plus one for zoom in terms of, you know, being able to be present. They have cameras on or off. And [00:14:00] hopefully we'll get into some of the etiquettes on when you have cameras and when you don't.
But, um, you know, some of the biggest tools, there's zoom. Um, internally, Slack is huge. If you're not using Slack or if you haven't, then you know, it's worth looking into. Um, and then a big time saver for me regarding emails, and this is more on the productivity side, and I'll just mention it and kinda, you know, rattling through a list.
There's something that's called SaneBox, S a, N, E, like sanity, sane box, and that's an email filtering tool that, um, I'd look it up. I think it might just be sanebox.com, or you can Google it, but. Um, I think for maybe 20 or 30 bucks a year, I'm able to set some rules, and I've gone from probably, you know, 60 emails in my inbox per day.
It filters out the most important ones and moves them into some of the folders, much better than like the default Google and Yahoo wants to. And now I get probably, you know, five or six a day. So my inbox is manageable. I was ready to shut off the email altogether. So, um, yeah, SaneBox zoom and then [00:15:00] collaborating wise, I would say Google drive, being able to collaborate on files, uh, you know, or documents.
So Google drive, Google docs, Google slides, um, being able to just share and collaborate using that Google suite, um, has been a game-changer for us and collaborating with our clients remotely.
Kevin Weitzel: Is that why I keep getting notifications that say that Jim, your email is wound up in Jimmy's junk file. Exactly why it's sain bot, you got to go on, right. So, bein, you mentioned it. Let's go ahead and talk about etiquette. What, what do you consider good at again, on these calls and, and the, when you make a video call, when it's a phone call, what are your, uh, current recommendations in that realm?
Jimmy Diffee: Yeah, and I think, you know, the the number one is, um. Have a dedicated space so that you can just practice like a good accountability for one thing. It helps you get in the mindset of being, you know, how have an office check things out in advance. You know? Now I think when people are forgiving things like kids running around behind you or you know, like a bright window [00:16:00] behind you, you know, that's usually bad because then you just end up being the silhouette.
But I would say the number one thing is mute. No, where that mute button is no, practice it on, off, on, off. Um, so that you're not, anytime you're not talking, it should be a habit to just hit mute. Cause that saves everybody a lot of distraction. You know, etiquette. I think it's okay to maybe drink some coffee so that, but generally speaking, it's almost, there's a question as to it should, should I have video on at all?
Is video adding anything to this? Cause if you've got 20 people on a call, should everybody have their video on? Um, if it's a happy hour, absolutely. You know, the chaos and the noise and the mayhem is good, and you can see people and zoom in and, you know, check out their house or whatever. But generally speaking, you know, video is not a requirement.
And we've seen the, you know, we use it for a lot of internal meetings. We try and make it required so people, so we get to see people face to face. Um, but with that comes along, really. Show up for work, you know, take a shower, get dressed, put makeup on if you want. You know, if you, [00:17:00], you know, make yourself presentable just like you would when you come into an office.
That way, you don't mind turning on the camera, and you're ready to do it whenever, you know if you do have an important client and it's not an internal, and that client flips on their camera, and they're like, Hey, how are you guys? You know, you, they'll be the one, the only one that won't turn on your camera because then it seems, you know, okay, well what do they have going on?
Are they not wearing pants, you know not really sure?
Kevin Weitzel: I know for a fact that those rules need to be in place because I signed a work from home document. Uh, I've actually known the owner of my company for 35 years, and I still signed this document that says that I'm going to get up and get dressed and shower and be presentable.
You know, because just because you're getting the luxury of working from home, in our case, it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be in your pajamas. Too that you, when we're talking internally with our, with our employees, uh, or my coworkers, uh, we make it to where you have to be on video, not only for that accountability but also to put that personal touch back into it.
So you actually feel like you're still a [00:18:00] part of that team, not just a number on the end of, uh, a phone call. Um, so those policies are definitely there. Stuart, did you want to add to that?
Stuart Platt: I want to, for anybody that that is. Looking to move to a, an office optional or a remote model like this, I heavily encourage, uh, that, you know, encourage your employees not to change their routine in their regular Workday.
That, you know, you get ready, you get dressed in the way that you normally would. Uh, you know, the biggest difference is, you know, you're cutting out a commute to and from work. Now it's ten steps instead of 10 miles. Uh, and 1.2, when it comes to communicating, we use Microsoft teams for our internal chat and, and video and screen-sharing.
Uh, my rule of thumb with that for everybody is if you feel like you aren't going to be able to communicate what you need in five or less. Texts chats back and forth, you click that video and make a call because you're going to accomplish a heck of a lot more in a, you know, [00:19:00] a one-minute video call than you are in 10 minutes of back and forth typing and chatting.
Kevin Weitzel: Hey, Greg. So what are you guys doing differently? Uh, or as far as, as policies, procedures, and, you know, the etiquette rules that even either with internally or with customer-facing conversations?
Greg Bray: Yeah, I think, you know, for me the whole video on or off thing is kind of been a little bit of evolution cause I kind of resisted it to be honest initially, you know, I don't, I don't really look at it myself.
Okay. You know, I'm not, I, I, I feel we're in, and I'll confess, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go public with this. Okay. I would multitask during calls sometimes, especially if, especially if it was a group call, and I wasn't the only one on there. All right. I'm looking at an email, right when the video's on my attention is different, you know, and, and I, my focus is different.
Um, I'm much less likely to be, Oh, what, what happened over there? You know, it's, um, because I, I know I'm being watched and yeah, put the phone down Stuart. So it's, [00:20:00] it's, um, so for me, there's, that has been. A change where I've realized that doing that makes the meeting more productive, more focused, um, potentially faster to get done.
But then the other part that that I've pondered, and I've, and I've heard this before, way back a long time ago, and communication class somewhere, how much of our communication is nonverbal. You know, when, when we sit there and talk to somebody else there, there is a lot of nonverbal things that we're not even aware of that go on, that we lose when we're just on a phone call voice only.
And so, and so, taking advantage of that connection, you know, uh, with, with the technology that we have now, video conferencing used to be really expensive. Um, and, and now it is basically free, you know, and, um, and so why not improve your communication with the video? Um, I'm seeing now what I'm seeing is.
More customers and clients being comfortable with video. [00:21:00] Internally, we had a little more control, um, before people really didn't necessarily even know what zoom was. And I think zoom has become almost a common word now to everybody just in the last few weeks. And I'm just going, man, I should've bought their stock a month ago, but Oh, well.
Um, it's a. It's one of those things that has become much more mainstream. You know, I've been teaching my kids how to use it for school and other things. They'd never used it before. Um, it's kind of really evolved. Uh, and, and it's gonna it's going to be something that's going to be around going forward in a new way, even when we quote-unquote get back to normal, whatever that's gonna be.
Um, we're, we're going to have a little more comfort with these tools.
Kevin Weitzel: So speaking of normal, Sarah and Paul actually have are ridiculously relevant question. Um, you three, and I know this personally, that all three of you have excellent parties with your employees, that you have great team-building events.
I mean, I've been to an amusement park where Greg literally rented an entire amusement [00:22:00] park, a local small amusement park. Still, there's an amusement park for the entire team. A Stuart does backyard barbecues. Um, I, I don't know what Jimmy does, but I know that we've had some, some, uh, out tastings and stuff
So the question is. In this world where people are really just striving and needing that, that, uh, that engagement with their fellow employees. How are you addressing the attitudes? How are you addressing the need for camaraderie? Um, when you can't just have everybody go meet at Bennigan's for a drink, Jimmy.
Jimmy Diffee: Yeah. And that's back to etiquette, you know, raising your hand. Just like, you know, kindergarten. You know, it goes a long way and, you know, maintaining some sort of order. Um, but I would say, you know, from a camaraderie standpoint, we're always going to struggle with that as a, as a shop that is heavily focused on creativity and collaboration and ideation.
It's, that was the biggest challenge for us was to go remote and find tools that instead of, you know, doing sticky notes [00:23:00] on a whiteboard, which is extremely hands-on and collaborative and everybody, you know, you know, we have processes around that. To now, we have this online collaboration, you know, whiteboarding tool, um, that we use, that, that actually is, has become a pretty good substitute that I thought would never work.
Um, it's really been, I mean, there are, there's so many different tools. It's called marrow, by the way. M I R O. Um, and we use it. That's another tool for collaboration that we use a lot. They have lots of different templates. So you put that in in your toolkit too. Um, for like online, like virtual whiteboarding where everybody can collaborate and add their own stickies at the same time.
Um, super great tool. But that collaboration is important. So I think having tools that the incorporate that and when it comes to comradery. One thing that goes a really, really long way, and we've seen this, the research is, um, praise, giving people praise commonly and having some channel for that. Like for us, we have, we use Slack, and we have something that's called tacos.
So [00:24:00] within Slack, if you're familiar with it, there are different channels. I think we talked about it at dinner. Uh, at one point, Kevin. Um, but, and still the, uh, but the tacos, it's a channel. I think it's like an add on to Slack that we pay for. But all you have to do is mention somebody with it, you know, at Stuart.
Um, and then click a little taco icon and just say for having a great camera set up during the webinar. Um, and it's just, it's stupid, right? But he's like, yeah, I spent a lot of time getting the lighting right and really setting up my camera, and someone just acknowledges it. It's the dumbest little thing, but it doesn't have to be like a reward or an email that goes out to the company.
Just a little stuff, little bits of praise for someone doing a good job goes a long way. And so if you are on Slack and you're, you know, if your company has Slack, I would highly recommend you look into tacos and cause who doesn't like tacos, right? And that, that praise, you know, we've seen that people just use it, which we tried to go away from it for a little while and try something else.
Not, not go completely away from it, but [00:25:00] tried a different tool that was incorporating that feedback more into like peer reviews and that sort of thing, which we're still in the process of. And everyone was like. Tacos are just so easy. We love it. It's off the cuff. So we're now going back to taco. So I mean that praise, you know, I would find ways to incorporate that digitally because that's some of that personal element that I think gets lost when you go remote.
Stuart Platt: Sure. Yeah. And to add to that, you know, some of the things that outhouse has done, uh, probably one of the most used things is that in Microsoft teams, you know, we have all of our project teams and you know, department teams that can talk to each other. But in the very beginning, I created a water cooler channel, and that's kind of a no holds barred.
Anyone has something to share, something fun, something funny, something serious. I mean, anything, you know, it can be posted in there for. The entire company to see and respond to, uh, some days, you know, it's used more than others. Some days it's can get completely out of hand. You [00:26:00] know? But, uh, yeah. I think just allowing that that channel alone, I think, uh, really helps people kind of stay connected to each other.
Uh, in regards to, you know, social activities for us, you know, like, like Greg, we have employees across nine different States. Uh, but, uh, one of our holiday parties, you know, we had it at a restaurant locally here. Uh, and all these employees that were outside of Arizona couldn't come in. I actually brought in a big-screen TV.
Set up, zoom on a, uh, on a wifi there and the employees that wanted to, they could join us. They were part of the door prizes there. They could sign in, sign out, talk to people, come up and talk to the TV so that that works too. I'm also, you know, I try to do a daily recognitions for birthdays and work anniversaries for for anybody in the company.
Uh, but yeah, it really just, you get out of it what you put into it, and it does help employees feel like they're part of the team and [00:27:00] involve, uh, the last thing I do is on a monthly basis now, and I only just started this year. Uh, I do kind of a 10 to 15 minutes stated a union video, uh, just basically updating people on where the companies at, what we're doing, where we're going.
Uh, and right now, it's more important than ever. Uh, people want to know, and it's easy to kind of not put that out there when, when you're not with everybody all of the time. So, uh, I do a recorded video that people can watch at their, their leisure. And so those have really helped outcome to really good feedback for those.
Kevin Weitzel: Greg?
Greg Bray: I, uh, I think for me on a more personal level, first of all, these are some great ideas. I'm, I'm making some notes here for myself because, um, I, I could do better. I'm, I have to, I'm more of the antisocial computer geek, uh, personality guy, you know, so I. I have a bad habit of being very businesslike.
When I, when I call, I have a question, I want the answer, give it to me and let's move on because you're busy. I'm [00:28:00] busy. And as we've made this transition where, um, to, to completely remote over the last few weeks, um, with, with the the covert issues, um, I've been trying to be more aware of just taking that extra minute or two when I talk to somebody to do the chitchat. A portion of the call and not be all business, you know, with my, it was my, you know, Hey, how's it going? What's up with the, you know, just how was your day? What are you working on? How, you know, are you running into any issues. Just to make sure that I'm a little more aware in my team who might be listening this to go on is, you know, I don't know,
but I'm trying. Okay. Um, and, and trying to be more aware of that because, because in the office you do, you have those little hallway conversations that you just bump into each other and just chat. And you've got to replicate those somehow. Um, and let those happen because they're, they're part [00:29:00] of our, our. Social wellbeing, if you will, and I'm not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV, but I just want to, you know, kind of put that out there for thought.
Kevin Weitzel: Jimmy.
Jimmy Diffee: Yeah. And so just to add to that, because I think this also plays into some of that balance and accountability. Um, it's, and I talked about noise earlier, and especially as you get remote and you start having all these different tools, you're trying to figure out which ones are working the best. You get a lot of noise, and it's really, it becomes really hard to be productive and the number one place for that.
And. Place where you see that are on meetings. So I would definitely make a recommendation, and you need to make this kind of standardized as for any meeting because meetings tend to get out of control. Like how do we balance that, Greg? You know what you said, but you know, we want to have time for the chitchat.
But at the same time, you know, we need to be respectful of everybody's time, so we don't, you know, what, what's that balance? And so I would recommend, you know, always have a very structured meeting and set those parameters [00:30:00] up for right. Have an agenda, even if it's a loose agenda. That you know that for the first five minutes it's going to be some chitchat and that this could be with the client, especially with a client or, or you know, with, you know, someone that that's paying you or that you're, you know, because you want us to have that time for relationships.
But then also at the very beginning, establish. The end time of the, of the call or the meeting to say, okay, we, you know, this is a one o'clock stop time to do, does everyone, you know, do we need to have a hard stop here? Can we go a little bit later? Or, you know what, what does that, that way you set those parameters upfront and it's not, okay, well, you know, I'm late for this meeting because I was late five minutes late coming out of that meeting and.
You don't want to be set those parameters upfront, build in a little bit of time for that socialization five minutes upfront, then it's going to keep you on track a lot better, and you'll find that you can have time for that chit chat, but also still get everything you accomplished you wanted to accomplish in the meeting.
Greg Bray: Can I jump in, Kevin? Cause he said something about being late for meetings that just okay with with technology. [00:31:00] When, if the meeting starts at one o'clock, that's not when you click the zoom link. Okay? Okay. That that is you. You need to be clicking the zoom link five or more meetings or minutes ahead of time before that meeting's supposed to start because you know what?
When there's some update, the suddenly needs to download and install or whatever, or that you weren't expecting or your microphone doesn't work today, which has always worked just fine every time else. You know, you need a minute. To be ready to be in the meeting. You know, you can't make everybody else sit around like, Hey, we can't hear you.
You know, what's going on, you know, for, for five or 10 minutes. Um, that just drives me nuts personally. Um, and so we need to be. Early to make sure the technology is ready to go for those meetings. Absolutely.
Kevin Weitzel: So we have three ridiculously good questions. Two of them actually feed into each other. Um, and then one of them is more about the infrastructure of setting up an employee.
But a question from Kelsey Lynnville is, how many employees have you lost? There's a followup to this too. How many of the employees [00:32:00] you've lost because they couldn't handle the transition or maybe didn't cut the mustard on productivity. Uh, and then also how in the followup to that is how do you reduce that learning curve in this video meaning world besides just zoom.
Zoom honestly is the easy button. It is. Monkeys can use zoom. I can use it. I'm, I'm a knuckle dragger, so trust me, it's usable. Uh, but how many employees have you lost? Um, and because they couldn't handle it, and it's actually, there's two different departments. There are two different divisions. There's, they couldn't handle the technology, or they couldn't cut the mustard with maintaining personal accountability on their productivity.
Stuart Platt: Yeah, I'll, I'll start. Outhouse house has little over 30 employees. A good third of them are out of state. Uh, we, and I like to think it's due to the research we had beforehand to be able to put this in place correctly, which a lot of people don't have that luxury today we, we've found.
Luckily that the vast majority of the employees took onto it really well. Now, one of the reasons that we went to an office [00:33:00] optional where we still have an actual physical office is because you're either you already know within yourself, or you're gonna find out pretty quick whether you work well unsupervised from home or not.
Uh, and the leadership's gonna have in their head who they think is going to do well at home or not to. Everyone's thinking about who's, who's going to do well and not. Overall. We found that, uh, most of our employees, uh, were either as productive and, in some cases, even more, productive working from home.
Uh, we had a couple of employees finding out that they were not working as well from home. Uh, and you know, they, luckily, it was nice that they took the initiative and said, listen. The whole theft set up isn't working as well for me. Can I come in and use one of the office desks? Absolutely. We completely encourage that.
Uh, we only had one employee who had that same issue that they couldn't work. Uh, from home. Uh, but they were in Oregon and not in Phoenix. So we lost only one employee out of like 30 some employees out of this. [00:34:00] Otherwise, it's, it's been a terrific, terrific success.
Kevin Weitzel: And to add to that, he actually did state that he just didn't have the personal conviction to work from home.
Uh, he, and he knew that he recognized that of himself, so he was totally okay with, you know, the separation of the relationship. Jimmy.
Jimmy Diffee: Yeah. One thing I'd want to add is that, uh, something has worked really, really well for us on that accountability side. Also fits in with the day schedule, and the flow time that I've mentioned is we have what are called core hours, um, that are required.
You you have to be available for communication. And it has to be, it's from a, you know, 9:30 AM until just after lunch. That way, you know, during these times, you know, if you, if you want to go out snowboarding. For the day. And again, we're here in Colorado. If you want to be snowboarding, don't do it during those core hours because you're welcome to do it in the afternoon and then work at night if you want to get that day's worth of work done.
Um, we, we allow a lot of flexibility and empowerment of our employees, um, because we found that we [00:35:00] actually. Get more productivity out of them when we do that. Um, but these core hours, make sure that it's not just, Oh, well we can't get ahold of Kevin because, you know, he's, you know, at happy hour, bottomless mimosas or whatever at, you know, 11 in the morning whenever we have to get this stuff figured out.
So those core hours being set in the morning, everybody always adheres to it. And. You know, if someone's on vacation or something like that, you know, we'll make exceptions to that. But that way we know when to be able to get ahold of somebody. Everyone is always available. We have what's called CT or coordination time.
That's right after a morning check-in meeting, we just have like three meeting time available, and that cuts out so much of the noise and the unnecessary meetings later during the day when you're in the middle of something heads down. So those core hours, and it took us a while, you know, to get to that by.
Figuring out when are the best, you know, when are all these client calls and what, when are people most productive and that sort of thing. But you know, cause your core hours maybe, you know, in the afternoon or right before closing or something like that. But [00:36:00] again, having those standard protocols across the entire company, I think, helps to ensure that accountability.
Greg Bray: I think too, just to, to kind of piggyback on that a little bit, I think, I think Jimmy's hitting on this idea of trust really hard here. You know, there's, there's some trust to say, Hey, it's okay if you go snowboarding in the afternoon. If you get your stuff done when you get home later at night, if that's better for you.
Um, and when I think about employees that didn't make it, so to speak, it's because that trust got violated. You know, where, where they just weren't getting things done. And, and sometimes it's a communication issue where maybe it didn't explain something very well, you know, um, or, or I had, you know, the four-hour version of the task in mind, and they did the 40-hour version of the task, you know, or whatever.
We had some kind of disconnect there on expectations. Um, and so over-communicating. Um, on when you need things done by, you know if you're going to give people that flexibility to figure out when they're going to [00:37:00] do it. It's gotta be really clear when it needs to be done. Um, otherwise, you know, you just kinda things kinda dry along.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. So I know at Outhouse, I only know this cause I have to do it. We have to check in daily, ain't check out of through teams.
And we also have a light system, you know, red, green, and yellow. You know, yellow is, don't, you know, don't bother me, but you can send me messages, red as you don't have to serve or I'm not even here. And then green is, Hey, give me a call. But again, we have to do the video call. What other tools do you use to have that accountability without feeling the need or the necessity to micromanage?
Stuart Platt: I'll start with that, and it kind of plays off what we were just talking about with the trust issue too. You know, if you're a business owner, uh, or leadership, and you are a a micromanager. Having remote employees is probably gonna try you crazy. And she'll always be wondering who's doing what. And, uh, I think, you know, one of the best things you can do is if it's even possible for your company, is that, uh, having some kind of metrics that you [00:38:00] can measure the performance of your team members, you know, so you know, that they have to get a certain amount done, whether it's in so many hours or so many days.
As long as they are getting that done, and as long as they're available during those core hours, uh, like, like Jimmy talked about, uh, you just gotta trust that they're doing what they got to do. You know, you as a company are getting what you need from that employee. Who cares if they're taking advantage of a little longer lunch or breaks or doing something, even if it's on a personal side, you're just, it's going to happen.
There's goofing off at the office, no matter what. People are going to goof off, whether in the office or outside of the office, they're going to find a way I do. So you know, you just gotta make, as long as they're getting the job done, isn't it? As long as they have a really clear understanding of what that job is.
Uh, you're going to, things are going to go a long way for you. My personal philosophy is, you know, you provide the team with the tools that do what they need to do to get their job done and then let them [00:39:00] show you what they can do.
Kevin Weitzel: So Jimmy, actually, we've had about three or four people comment, uh, what was the actual term you used for after the check-in?
That mandatory time you actually had a term for it?
Jimmy Diffee: Coordination time. It's funny because it's. It's now become a verb because we call it a CT. And so it's, Hey, come, let's CT about that, which doesn't let's coordination time. But it doesn't make any sense. But it's so much a part of our vernacular. And I think that's where setting aside that, I mean, you now have come up with these standardized times to do these things so much that it becomes part of your vernacular and it becomes part of the culture that you have.
And then you know, someone new who hires someone new and they're like, wait, what did you need a CT? What does that mean? Oh, it just, it just means we need to have some coordination time later. But. Yeah. Coordination time.
Kevin Weitzel: So a lot of the project managers for your companies are salary, I assume. How do you manage those hourly employees?
I know that on. You know, from a production standpoint, they can check into a timing or a clock in [00:40:00] system when they actually have to assign it to the job they're working on. But how do you manage those hourly employees to make sure that, uh, you know, that those hours are managed? Obviously, there's going to be that flex and float, but to ensure that you're truly getting those hours out of that employee.
Jimmy Diffee: Um, I might defer this to someone who may have more hourly employees. We have our, our contractors are the only ones that are hourly. And again, with the level of trust that we have, we just have to trust that when, if they said they spent this amount of time to get that done, that's how much time they spent to get it done.
And if the quality is there, then you know, we pay for it. If it's not, then you know, we look for a different contractor.
Stuart Platt: Yeah, we use T sheets. Uh, we just started using it this year. We've used it a couple of different platforms before that, uh, like MC two and a big time. But T sheets, it's, we've found, especially for a remote employees, you can use an app on your phone or just clock in and out on, on your, on your desktop.
Greg Bray: Yeah, I would, I would add, we use a tool called intervals to to track time. And we track time. It doesn't matter if you're salaried or [00:41:00] hourly, because we need to know what you're working on. Because it now, for us, it impacts billing, of course, in, in productivity and, and measurement of, of how well are we doing with efficiencies and everything else.
Um, against, uh, budgets, which no matter what somebody is doing, you want to know how long it takes or you don't know. Whether you've priced it properly or whether you have, you know, accounted for all of the intricacies or, you know, like I said before, did they do it in four hours or 40 hours? May change on how you define things in the future, you know, or how you schedule even if nothing else.
You know, is it okay to say, Oh, they'll have it done tomorrow? Well, you can't ask somebody to have 40 hours of work done by tomorrow. You know, it's just not fair. Um, so, so you've got to give him a, a week or two to get that done. Um, so you need to have that kind of, they, I, I think that applies, no matter whether you're a motor in an office, personally, you need to know what people are working on and, and, and where that time is going.
Um, and whether the hourly or salaried, I'm not sure it applies [00:42:00], or it changes the need for that data to manage your company.
Jimmy Diffee: And if I can add to that, I mean, we have, we're an, uh, an ad. So I told you that the company that we hired for the agile agency or agency agile, we're an age, an agile company. And so we are very meticulous about accounting for the work that we do, and more importantly, for planning the work that we do.
So we plan our workout and two-week sprints, and I want to save some time for questions so I won't go too far into this process, but we dedicate an entire day, almost an entire day, every other Monday. To just planning the work that's going to be done in the next two sprints and assigning that, and it's all planned by the people who are going to do it with account managers that know this much work needs to get done.
And so now here's an entire day and got, it's very structured on how we can collaborate and do that, but then each person responsible for doing the work details, the work that's going to be get done how many hours are going to be, that's going to take. Um, and we do road mapping and advanced. So we have general estimates on how much time to slot into that to sprint.
But then that person with the knowledge they have [00:43:00] says, I know I can get all of this done. I have this much capacity, a a allotted. So I'm not, it's not a 40-hour workweek. We know nobody's going to get 40 hours worth of work done. So you know, we have a percentage of that. That's now your capacity. And if you have days off that or during that, then we account for that too.
So with capacity planning, and so we plan. Our workout during that two-week sprint, and it's, you can get you, you can pick from your backlog. Then to do that work, as long as you get it all done, we call meeting the promise. So at the end of that day of planning, we say, okay, do you promise that you're going to get all of this work done in these next two weeks?
Whatever it takes, even if you go over whatever you're promising that you're going to do that. And if something comes out, you know, somebody says, Oh, well that that project got back-burner, then we take something from the backlog and put it in to replace it that same amount of hours. So it becomes this, you know, the accountability is all on the the person who's doing the work.
So again, going back to that trust that you mentioned, Greg, I mean, it's huge. And if you empower people, they really do want to do a [00:44:00] good job. And so if you can plan for that time for us, the amount of time that they actually spend doing it. The only reason that's important is because if they go way over, then that means they're estimating wrong.
So if they're going way over and it's affecting other work, then they need to start adjusting their estimates better and do better at planning, but they can use whatever time tracking tool that they
Kevin Weitzel: All right? So there's a good example. We just had a little blip on Jimmy. When you're, uh, when we're dealing with this technology today, you can't really hold a lot of accountability to internet connection. It's going to be a problem. Everybody's kid is at home. Everybody's working from home. So we are straining these networks left and right.
Um, so, so don't worry about, uh, you know, if you see a little blip in the the message unless it's just completely void and then shoot him a little message and say, Hey, I didn't get that last bit, but we did get that, that they're just kind of came through a little robotic. Um, on that note, though, if a builder.
Um, or even another company like, let's say an engineering firm. Uh, [00:45:00] I know Mike Willis, Taz, a few employees that would love to work from home. Uh, he's with Willis engineer here in Arizona. Um, obviously, there's a roadmap on how to best implement. Sending somebody home, you know, to work my home, you know, setting up their computer, uh, getting them, getting the right technology.
Uh, would all of you, or any of you be receptive to somebody reaching out to you to kind of get that, a basic roadmap, or help with that roadmap? Uh, so they could, uh, offboard employees to a, a remote, uh, scenario. Some builders are actually forced to it because. You know, there, their employees can't work in the office anymore because they're mandated to work from home.
But some companies they would just see a benefit. Like we did it out of house like both group did. All three of you guys, all Blue Tangerine as well. Um, so what would you guys a suggestion that Stuart. Yeah,
Stuart Platt: it really easy for us. Uh, the way they were set up at the office, they essentially just took that set up home with them.
They are very on company equipment at their home. If they're hired out of state, will you send them that equipment! The only [00:46:00] requirement we have is that they have to meet a minimum, uh, level of, uh, pipeline for their internet. We work with huge graphics files and CAD files and stuff like that. So as long as they meet that requirement.
We really haven't had any problems. I mean, there's, there's things that happen, but, uh, other than that, that was our only real requirement requirement.
Kevin Weitzel: Greg
Greg Bray: I think one thing to keep in mind is, um, if you've got people whose job it is to sit at a computer all day, it's a little different than somebody who needs to be out and about, you know, onsite.
Um, but if they're at a computer all day, a laptop screen alone. Is not the most efficient way you need that. That larger external monitor second monitor can make a huge productivity difference for just a few hundred dollars. Um, you know, and from what I understand, best buy is still an essential business and open, you know, an Amazon still shipping, even though it's taken longer, you know, you can get those monitors.
Um, and, and it makes a [00:47:00] huge difference than just, you know, sometimes you think about going home, we think of laptops and things like that, and. Um, but, but, uh, again, these are for people that are at a desk, you know, most of the day. Um, you know, others, others may be a slightly different scenario, but I, but I think that is money that pays for itself very quickly, um, with, with a good-sized monitor.
Kevin Weitzel: And Jimmy, I know that I know for a fact you consulted with a Stuart a little bit, kind of, uh, uh, commingling ideas and stuff, helping us out in the process of going, you know, office optional, uh, are you, do you make yourself available even even just for a quick little email blast to somebody. As far as some advice and some, some little bit of their pathway
Jimmy Diffee: without a doubt.
In fact, I'd mentioned you guys at the beginning of this that you know, one of the things I would really love to hear is I wish we had, you know, in this case, some builders that could say, okay, this is what I'm doing. These are the challenges that I found and that I have solved. So I would absolutely love to hear any of these case [00:48:00] studies, any, you know, real things that you have been challenged with.
I can't promise that our setup will fix that because, as you mentioned, I mean, having people that are out in the field working. Um, is, is quite a bit different. You know, whenever you're having to manage that, and now you can't go into an office, and you have a different set of tools and different kinds of communication, you know, I think these are probably a lot of the builders, you know, if we're talking to builder marketers, they're gonna think, speak a lot of this language that we're talking here.
But for those that are, you know, dealing with people out in the field, they're probably, I imagine struggling with a lot of this. And so, you know, I'd love to hear from you guys. You know how you're doing it. And can maybe add some, some conceptual advice on either structuring days or improving communication, you know, some findings that we've had from, you know, our years of experience in this and be able to, you know, share that with you.
Stuart Platt: Oh, I'll look, I'll echo that sentiment. Reach out to any of us. We're happy to help. Awesome.
Kevin Weitzel: Um, let me ask you this, and kind of coming back more to the psychology of people working from home, cause there's people like me that I have to be around humans 24, [00:49:00] seven or I just go bonkers. Uh, are you can surveying your employees just to do like a little litmus check to see how they're doing at home and how they're, you know, are they adapting to the processes?
Are they seeing struggles? How are you, how are you getting a feedback? Are you just waiting for it to come in? Jimmy.
Jimmy Diffee: Um, so we have a feedback program that we use. Anyone who's doing any, you know, customer surveys. Um, I would also highly recommend look at doing some employee experience surveys because, you know, again, going back to the customer experience, happy employees lead to happier customers.
That's a trickle-down approach. And all of the companies that we love working with, we usually see that because they love working there and it shows, right? So that's usually very intentional, and it's not something that just happens by accident. Culture can happen by accident. But the really good cultures are ones that are fostered and encouraged, and they have, you know, it's based on feedback that you get.
So, um, this is something that we believe very strongly in is, is employee [00:50:00] surveying, finding, keeping your finger on the pulse of, of what, you know, how they feel. It's now more important than ever when so much uncertainty is around us. So, you know, making sure that you're asking whether it's through. You know, a software solution, a technology solution that maybe you already have for serving your, your current buyers or customers.
If you can, you know, work that into it. Or just setting up a survey monkey or just an email that says, you know, if you want to, you know, give us some feedback. It's harder to get anonymous feedback that way, but, you know, uh, I know that anonymous feedback isn't, isn't always that helpful if they aren't, you know, if you can't follow up.
So, you know, we ask pretty regularly, you know, how our employees are feeling. And I think that's really critical too. That culture and understanding how you can pivot if things are going wrong.
Greg Bray: Kevin, can I just add to that? I completely agree. One of the things that. That, uh, we've done on a couple of our meetings is our benefits program includes an employee assistance program that has, you know, like the the counseling hotline available.
And [00:51:00] I've reemphasized that for our team just because this is a high-stress environment right now in a high anxiety environment for a lot of people. Um, just learning how to work from home is one thing. Learning how to work from home when your kids don't go to school when you're scared, you're going to get sick.
When you've got a friend who's, you know, had something happen to them where you don't know if there's enough toilet paper left, you know, all these important critical things that are going on. Um, you know, everybody deals with stress and anxiety differently and, and we need to, we need to make sure our people are healthy, um, mentally, and emotionally, not just physically.
And you know, so, so just kind of been making sure that everybody's aware, you know, you can call it, you don't have to, you know, confess your soul to Greg. You can call this number, and there's somebody there who will be a better listener. And Greg probably too, will be able to, you know, maybe talk through some of those things and just kind of say, you know what?
Take advantage of it. there's no cost to this thing cause it's part of our package. [00:52:00] And you know, we just need to be aware that this is a high stress high. I don't know. I'm feeling it. I'm sure everybody else has feeling it. You know, kids are bouncing off the walls. They need to get them back in school, please.
Um, but it's, it's just, um, you know, one of those things that is, uh, important, extra important right now. And, and it's, it goes way beyond just working from home and that little piece of, of the whole puzzle.
Kevin Weitzel: Stuart?
Stuart Platt: Um, well, I really just kind of echo Greg's sentiment there. I would say, you know, a lot of the companies and maybe people watching this, you've been thrown into this, you got to go, you have to work remote. Well, working remote for a month or two or a week or two is. Pretty easy. You can get past that. But doing it for the