What’s it like to manage a remote team at one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S.? Also, how do you keep everyone connected and focused when your team is spread throughout two continents?
In this exclusive interview, Brian Minick, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at ZeroBounce, gives us his insider tips and tricks.
Brian Minick, on managing a remote team at ZeroBounce
With headquarters in Boca Raton and another office in Santa Barbara, ZeroBounce employs 36 people working across the U.S. and Europe. In March 2020, everyone became fully remote, but that hasn’t stopped the email validation and deliverability company from expanding.
In 2020, ZeroBounce took no. 40 on the Inc. 5000 national list, followed by no. 9 on the Inc. 5000 Regional Florida list of 2021. This year’s projections look strong, as well, despite all employees still working remotely.
What’s the secret to building a thriving business in such a challenging environment? Finding A players and “keeping them happy and wanting more,” Brian Minick says.
With more than 10 years of experience in Operations, Brian tells RingCentral how he manages his remote team, what his typical days look like, and what he’s learned in the past year and a half.
Brian, there are so many companies in the email space. How hard has it been to make ZeroBounce offer something different and stand out?
It’s always a challenge to make any company stand out in a competitive market and space. One of the things about ZeroBounce that makes it stand out is our dedication to our customers and innovation on the product. This causes constant evolution and transformation of not only our company, but the product that our customers use.
We also have done an incredibly great job at getting our brand out in the marketplace. Our team is relentless in making sure that if you see email validation on the web, or are searching for it, you will find ZeroBounce.
You manage a team that’s spread out across the U.S. and Europe. What would you say is the no. 1 thing that keeps you connected?
The number one thing that keeps us connected is our heavily used messaging systems.
Since we have teams around the world and we run 24/7, there is always someone on our messaging systems and we’re always talking.
One of the challenges of running a company with employees spread out literally across the entire globe is keeping them all connected. We also have stand-up meetings with our departments and a company meeting every month where each department gets to present what they’ve been working on.
Constant communication is key, and trusting the people around you to keep pushing the company forward.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I start fairly early since I have a young daughter at home.
First things first: I check what’s on my messaging and email. Since we’re running 24/7, important things also take place for us while I’m asleep. It’s a terrible habit, but this is usually the first thing I do when I open my eyes, before I even get out of bed. Just checking to see if any fire alarms are going off, or if someone needs something from me urgently.
Once I sit down and truly start my work day, I talk with our sales team first thing. We talk about what happened yesterday and what we plan to do today.
After sales, I start talking to our support team members and what issues are arising and if there’s a pattern or anything needing escalations. This can happen at any point during the day, but I like to do a check-in while the day is young (for me).
Then I start working on my tasks and checking what I need to do, what’s on my calendar, what appointments I need to attend.
Towards the end of the day, I speak with our CEO and we discuss updates and things that might need to get done. This usually happens as I’m wrapping up for the day. He’s in a different timezone to me.
A work day for me lasts from when I open my eyes until my eyes close for the night. I work things in on the personal side to make sure I have the balance. But since we never close our doors or shut down early, I’m always around and available for our team members.
What was the hardest thing to deal with in the past year and a half?
Accomplishing the larger goals that we have as a company. As a leader, it’s my job to help prioritise things and enable our team to execute and ultimately get it done.
We’ve had some large projects we’ve been working on since the start of the pandemic, and many of them have come to completion. When you are in the tech world, there are always more things to do and features that you want to release for your clients. We don’t lack ideas. Balancing what you’ve done, what you want to do, and finishing what’s in progress is usually the hardest to deal with.
What I try to do to reset perspective is reflect on all the amazing things we have done. My brain constantly tells me to “do, do, do, do” and “now, now, now, now.” I have to balance that when the projects are not 100% within my control. That, for me, is the hardest part.
What was the most exciting project you and your team worked on this year?
We’re rebuilding our entire email validation platform, from the ground up.
When we launched a few years ago, we built the platform and changed things as different challenges came up.
Years later, we find that there are better ways to do some things and therefore, decided to rebuild our platform with those learnings in mind.
While our current platform is doing plenty fine and is stable, our new one is what will allow us to continue to push the company forward and push new boundaries. We’re very excited for it, and it’s almost here!
What revelations did you have about remote work and managing a remote team? Was there anything you changed your mind about? What have you learned?
Prior to going into the pandemic, we started to introduce a work-from-home policy. We put everything in place that would enable our employees to do that (laptops, softphones, VPN, and so on) and the team was happy with the flexibility it offered.
When we went fully remote, in March of 2020, it was very easy for us. We made the call as a leadership team at 5 p.m., and the next day it was work-from-home until further notice.
Currently, we’re still all working from home and I think everyone finds it to be more productive and gives them some personal time back as well. I don’t find it overly challenging to manage a remote team versus in person.
There are some things that I might hear if we were in the office that I don’t being remote, but coaching my team, getting the gang on the same page, and executing is not our problem.
I’ve learned to trust my team even more and don’t micromanage anyone. If I do, it’s generally a problem that we’re trying to work on together.
Being that we run 24/7, I think working from home has been a real benefit for everyone—our employees, our customers, and our overall company performance. I love when a win-win-win situation takes place. There’s nothing better.
Some people need consistent guidance, while others are very independent. How do you get a feel for each person on your team and their personality?
This is simple: Build a relationship with each employee to a point where they’ll be honest with you and open up to you.
To do that, you must do the following.
- Create a safe place for them to communicate.
- Listen to what they’re saying and help when you can.
- Empower them to make decisions that they’re able to make, and give them the confidence to do things within boundaries.
I’m very good at reading people—at least I think so. There are many things I talk about with each person I interact with. We open up to each other and that creates a place of security.
So, make your employees feel safe. It will improve everything.
Do you see ZeroBounce becoming a fully remote company or are you planning to return to the office?
We’ll most likely move to a hybrid model as we continue to get past the pandemic. I’m not against remote work, but I do find that some things are better in person. An example would be company meetings and ideation meetings.
While video conferencing has come a long way, there’s no real replacement for face-to-face interactions. My goal is to bring balance to this, but not until it’s 100% safe to do so.
Give us your best tip for managing a remote team.
Make sure the goals and responsibilities are aligned and clear from both sides.
Get an idea of what people’s schedules might look like, so you don’t have false expectations on either side.
Reward your employees and put trust in them. If they aren’t the right people, then you should part ways with them and know that it’s ok.
As a startup, we don’t have room for C players. We need A players, and once we get them, we go out of our way to keep them happy and wanting more.
Originally published Sep 14, 2021, updated Jan 16, 2023