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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

46 Remote Team Management - Jody Grunden

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Jody Grunden of Summit Virtual CFO by Anders joins Erik and Tim to discuss why effective employee management, proper technology implementation, and solid company culture are all key components of a successful remote team.

Remote work has increased dramatically over the last few years, but businesses have to be open to making modifications from in-person work environments to be beneficial. Jody explains, “It's a huge change. Well, people just love change, right? I mean, so much so that they're changing all the time…I’m being facetious, they don't like change at all, and that's what holds people back. So, they make excuses why things aren't going to work, you know, it's not going to work. And then they justify it by hearing a story about how it didn't work. Well, did they really know the full backstory there? They don't.”

Remote work requires intentionality. Jody says, “It just doesn't magically happen...where you magically put somebody in a cubicle and all of a sudden, they're going to be great. You've got to be deliberate with everything. You've got to be deliberate with your people and you've got to be deliberate with the technology.”

With remote teams, the most important focus must be on employees, technology, and culture. Jody says, “I strongly believe that any service-based business can make that switch. It's a mentality issue. And I don't care if you're a 50-person shop or a 10,000-person shop, makes no difference to me. As long as you put the game plan in place, the culture, the people, you know, get everything in alignment, it'll work.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about remote team management.

About the Guest:

Jody Grunden is an accounting visionary with over 20 years of experience. He has helped pioneer innovative changes within the industry, including the introduction of the first subscription-based billing method employed by an accounting firm. He is the author of two books, Digital Dollars and Cents and Building the Virtual CFO Firm in the Cloud.

Together with his partner Adam Hale, Jody co-founded Summit CPA Group (Summit) in 2002, which merged with Anders CPAs + Advisors (Anders) in 2022. Summit, now a division of Anders, was the first fully distributed firm and the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services in North America. His specialties include Virtual CFO Services, Creative Agencies, and Remote Team Management.


Episode #46: Jody Grunden

Erik Martinez: [00:00:00] Welcome to today's episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: Today we have Jody Grunden on the show who founded Summit CPA Group in 2002, which is a leading provider of virtual CFO services in North America. In 2014, the company went fully remote, and we're gonna spend some time talking about that today. Jody, welcome to the show.

Jody Grunden: Yeah, thanks, Erik and Tim for having me on.

Tim Curtis: Good to have you.

Erik Martinez: So, Jody, before we totally dive in and talk about remote work [00:01:00] and virtual CFO services, if you don't mind, just give us a brief synopsis of your journey and how you got here.

Jody Grunden: Oh, geez. That's a whole day's worth of talking here. I'll make it short though. Started Summit in 2002 as a traditional accounting firm. So, that's what we did. We did accounting, tax, that kinda stuff. 2004 is when we made the switch to virtual CFO services. It was something brand new. Nobody was doing it, at least they weren't marketing on the web.

It was one of those new concepts and we wanted to really kind of help people go from, here's where they're at, to here's where they need to go. So, really kinda looking forward, forward to thinking conversations, meeting with clients on a regular weekly basis, really kind of just changing the way that people think about accounting. And that was kind of the goal from day one, just kind of being a disruptor. Right?

We went ahead and created this concept, we created a subscription-based billing model along with it. You know, we thought, you know, hey, let's really kind of break the mold. Instead of charging hourly, like most accounting firms do it, and have done for a long time, we were just gonna create a subscription model.

It was [00:02:00] widely, widely successful. And I'd be lying to say it took off like really quick. It was one of those things that took off, like over a period of five to six years. I thought we were gonna go bankrupt in the process because nobody understood subscription-based, nobody understood virtual CFO. We had to educate clients and really educate prospective clients out there.

As it started growing and niching, we started niching our service into creative agencies where we were working primarily with web design, web development, SEO, SEO media companies. You name it, we are working with those folks. We started seeing really a growth in our service level. Uh, those folks understood a lot better than the doctors and the lawyers out there, you know, that type of thing, and it really kind of hit speed. And then we thought we'd throw the other curve ball in, in which we were gonna go fully remote.

I had a first client that was a CFO client in the creative agency space, was a hundred percent remote, started that way. They were a 65-person dev shop out of Rhode Island. And they called and said, you know, hey, do you think you could help us out on the CFO side? I'm like, yeah, absolutely. So, we helped them out. And in the same process, we figured out what worked and didn't work for them as a [00:03:00] fully remote team.

And then in 2013, I introduced that concept to our team and said, you know what? Hey, we're gonna go fully remote. And at that time we had 18 people on the team. You know, and we were really rocking it here. We had everybody in the same building, the building that I owned actually. And I sat in front of everybody and said, Hey, we're gonna go fully remote.

They thought that I was joking. It was like dead silent. And it was like, no, we can't do this. What are you talking about go fully remote? I heard every excuse in the book. You know, it's like, oh, we can't collaborate. We got great culture. What's gonna happen to that? People aren't gonna take us seriously. All the different things that you heard pre-pandemic, I heard like in 2013, like hit me right in the face.

And I thought, well, I can't lose the entire team. And so I thought, well, what I'm gonna do is I'll spend a hundred grand, we're gonna remodel the offices, and we're gonna make it really cool so that they have a cool place to actually work in now that, uh, we're gonna stay at brick and mortar. And so I did all the construction. Built this really cool fish tank in there, put some exotic fish in. It looked really neat. All the offices had TVs in it. I have no idea, so you can read stocks and I [00:04:00] did it anyways.

About six weeks into it, you know, the construction kept getting delayed and delayed. I had to kick everybody out of the office in that timeframe because they were literally taking walls out and there was no way they could work in there. So, it was just me in that office guiding the construction crew. One by one just about all eighteen people came to me and said, you know what? This remote stuff's kind of cool. Do you mind if I do that? I'm like, well, sure. Yeah, absolutely.

I never actually got to the point where I put the signage up. It was like, fine. We're gonna go fully remote here. It was all but like three or four that didn't have internet. You know, they hung out in the office with me for a bit. It didn't last for long either, about six weeks, maybe another six weeks, maybe a couple of months. And then they decided to go remote. And I thought, you know what? We're gonna do this. We're gonna do this. I'm gonna take the life preserver and toss it out, and we're gonna hire now fully across the United States.

It worked out really well to our advantage. At the same time, Forbes recognized us as one of the first hundred firms to go fully remote. And all of a sudden, the recruiting thing, it was no problem at all. We had like 2000 resumes in about, oh, about a day and a half of all these really great [00:05:00] people that wanted to, you know, try this remote thing out, new concept, new idea. And it was just so much so, it about locked my computer up as many resumes as I got. It was like literally pinging my inbox in front of everybody.

It's like, everybody's like, new resume, new resume, new resume. My employees were like, should I be worried? I'm like, no. I have no idea how to turn this thing off. That's kind of the circle thing. And then, oh, geez, we had 35% plus growth every year since 2010, and we basically doubled our size every three years. We grew to about 10 million, and that's when Anders, an accounting firm out of St. Louis, Missouri took a look at us and said, Hey, we'd love for you to join us and become our virtual CFO arm.

You know, we want you to stay remote. We want you to do everything that you're doing now. Don't change anything. Instead of, you know, doubling your size every, you know, three years, let's see if we can triple your size every three years. Let's see if we can get you from a 10 million firm, is what we were back in April of last year, to a 50 million firm within the next three or four years. And I thought that's exciting. You know, that's something I could definitely do.

And so, I made the entrepreneurial mistake of, not a [00:06:00] mistake, but at that time entrepreneurs would definitely say it was a mistake, sold my business, joined in with a larger accounting firm, became an equity partner in that firm, and now I lead the virtual CFO division in that firm. Again, our team is kind of hybrid now, right? We went fully remote back to hybrid, where we've got 300 and some people that are working in the St. Louis office. And then we've got the 70-ish to 90 people that are, are working fully remote.

Erik Martinez: That's really interesting cuz that's gotta be a little bit of a culture clash in terms of, hey, you got part of your team working fully remote, you got some of the people in office. Everybody's like experimenting with some form of hybrid work, right? Trying to balance the office culture versus, quite frankly, we get a lot of productivity when our employees are working fully remote. We went through this transition.

I actually started fully remote as a single person and started building a team. Then we had a small office, but we always have been able to work fully remote because of [00:07:00] tools, like back in the day I was using Skype. I needed Skype and an internet connection and today I just need an internet connection. Right.

Jody, as you look at the fact that you guys went fully remote, now you're part of another organization that's kind of hybrid, what are the three keys of running that type of organization? How did that play out? What are the challenges that you see? I feel very strongly that our retail clients are really struggling with this idea. That they feel like they have to have somebody sitting in a cubicle or just down the hall so that they're always at their beck and call. I've found in 13 years of doing this, I don't really have a problem reaching my team.

Jody Grunden: Right.

Erik Martinez: It's extremely rare for me to have a challenge reaching my team or being able to connect with them or even build culture. So, tell us a little bit about that.

Jody Grunden: Yeah. No, that's great. That's great. I would say the biggest thing is trust, really, when it comes down to it. You've gotta really trust your [00:08:00] team. You've gotta build a team that trusts each other. Because again, you're going to be in a different location. So, as a remote worker, I might be in Massachusetts today, tomorrow I might be in Florida, and the next day I might be in Tennessee. You know, who knows where I'm at, and it really makes no difference. But the trust factor is super important.

So, to kind of back up in the accounting world, cause I'll relate to that a little bit more, is that it's typically by the hour. You work by the hour. You're working along teammates. They're asking questions back and forth. There's a lot of collaboration going on. It strictly comes down to the hour. And when you work remote, it kind of shifts away from the hour and it becomes the task. So, instead of the hour, it's like, Hey, this project's due by Friday at two o'clock so that we can review it and meet with a client at five o'clock. I don't care when they get stuff done, but I need that done at that time and I need to hit their deadlines.

Tim Curtis: Mm-hmm.

Jody Grunden: So, working remote changes. If they were three hours in the morning, they take two hours break because they have a PTO with their kids or whatever, and they're hanging out with [00:09:00] them. Then they come back and finish it off. I don't care. Why would I care? That's the flexibility of remote. But what I do care is I wanna make sure they get it done timely, and there's no excuses for that at that point. It's a mind shift really. It's a mind shift around trust.

You know, I don't need to see people in an office to know that they're getting the job done. I would argue that our team is a lot more productive than any brick-and-mortar team where their people are sitting side by side chit-chatting all day. You know, having all those water cooler talks, you know, maybe stretching things out because they just have to be there. You know, there's a lot of that game that goes on in the the brick and mortar that our team, I just don't feel that has that issue.

Tim Curtis: You know, it's interesting when you're talking about models that people often will cite won't work, accounting is oftentimes one of those areas where they identify that's not the model where this will work. And it's interesting that you, in being one of those 100 pioneering firms as virtual CFO services, that's exactly what you were and that's exactly what you did. And I think it underscores, what I say is the [00:10:00] need for a little bit of a different mentality and it's sort of a restart.

Jody Grunden: Mm-hmm.

Tim Curtis: You know, one of the things that you had kind of identified in some of your background information was three things which I thought were really core. It was managing employees because that's a different process. It looks different.

Jody Grunden: Yep.

Tim Curtis: The requirements for that, whether that's a QC process, whether that's just traditional managing them day-to-day, training, et cetera, but also implementing technology and building a solid culture. Those are the other two elements that are just so critical, whether that's a hybrid work environment or a fully remote work environment.

It's interesting that we will stick people in an office environment and expect, in some respects, some of these elements to come together on their own. It's just ironic to me that as a virtual CFO services, again, the type of work that just can't be done remotely, you've made that work. That just underscores why we've gotta think differently about this issue.

Jody Grunden: It's a huge change. Well, people just love change, right? I mean, so much so that they're changing all the time.

Tim Curtis: Exactly.

Jody Grunden: Obviously that's, I being [00:11:00] facetious, they don't like change at all, and that's what holds people to back. So, they make excuses why things aren't gonna work, you know, it's not gonna work. And then they justify it by hearing a story about how it didn't work. Well, did they really know the full backstory there? They don't.

With us, when we decided to go remote, I knew one, we could provide the service level remote to people. Cause we've been doing it for years, you know, before that. But we just weren't remote ourselves. And it was kind of silly how we can say, yeah, we're gonna be your virtual CFO and you know, you're gonna be in Texas. I'm gonna be in Florida. My coworkers gonna be in Massachusetts, but you know what? We can't work remotely together. I mean, the concept didn't make sense to me.

So, when we made that switch, now again, I had some brilliant people that were already doing it, and they too said, oh, there's no way. My partner was that way. Now Adam, my business partner for, you know, now 20 plus years, he's like, there is absolutely no way that I can work remote. I've got kids, every reason in the book. And then once he actually did it, boom, he figured it out. So, I think it's just simply opening up your mind to do it.

I will tell you [00:12:00] the three things that you pointed out there, you have to be deliberate on all of those things. It just doesn't magically happen. Like you mentioned, where you magically put somebody in a cubicle and all of a sudden they're gonna be great. You gotta be deliberate with everything. You gotta be deliberate with your people and you've gotta be deliberate with the technology.

You know, for a lot of folks that went remote, they were kind of thrust into it during the pandemic. They didn't adapt quick enough. They didn't find that technology that allowed them to do it. They just kept doing what they're doing normally and hoping that they got through it. Whereas they should have been really kind of looking, Hey, what's the best way of working remote now? What kind of technology is out there that we can collaborate better with? Is it over Zoom? Is it Teams? Is it a product called Sococo, which kind of gives you the SimCity look? What's going to work for our team to give them the feeling of being remote and being on a team? That's hugely important.

And then with culture, our culture is solid. It's way up there. If you compare us to any kinda service-based business, we're in the top 80% in culture. And that's brick and mortar, that's everybody. Accounting firm is way, way up there. And I would say that's [00:13:00] because we're super deliberate on everything. Deliberate through the communication. We communicate in the same way with everybody. That's important. We've got it set up where people feel part of a team.

We do things like the team retreats. We have those every six months. And then we've got excuses for people to meet up individually if they need to for various things. That touch and feel is super important. We do those things and those are all part of the culture and part of being as that unit.

So, I strongly believe that any service-based business can make that switch. It's a mentality issue. And I don't care if you're a 50-person shop or a 10,000-person shop, makes no difference to me. As long as you put the game plan in place, the culture, the people, you know, get everything in alignment, it'll work.

Tim Curtis: It will. You know, there's so many things you can do to move your strategy along. As you were alluding to there offline ahead of the show, one of the things we were chatting about was the fact that these last two conferences in the last, what, two and a half weeks or whatever, the number one question, among the [00:14:00] executive C-Suite, was this work remote, in-house, et cetera.

And, you know, when I sat there in a couple of different sessions and really listened to different individuals share, I was in more of just an active listening mode, wasn't really sharing a whole lot. I was interested in really hearing kind of what people were saying. And you know, and as service providers, of course, you know, both Erik and I are as well, and from an agency perspective, really, what we're talking about is just a slight modification or slight twist on a challenge that we run into quite frequently.

And that is also this concept of if things are in-house, they're better. If things are in-house, I control them better. I have more leverage. What we have found over the years is that framework that guided business for so long is very seriously antiquated.

What we're looking at now is it's not really a matter of in-house versus outsourcing in the case of an agency. It's really about the [00:15:00] aspect of control, what that looks like. Do you really have more control? When you're in a totally in-office environment, you are dealing far more with stagnation than you are when you're dealing with, in some of these instances where people are having a more collaborative online, it's forcing people to do things a little bit differently.

I was really struck by the parallels between those. And Erik and I can just go story after story after story of clients who maintained that we're gonna put everything in-house, and they were blind to the slow decline of innovation and the slow decline of their own business. Now we're talking about a slight variation of that, which is, you know, that hybrid and, and in the case of your services outsourcing.

When we're talking about this whole in-office hybrid or fully remote, we really have to take one step back, and again, drill down to those larger three issues, which is where are we going from a management perspective, [00:16:00] what technology's going to get us there, and then culturally, how do we invest to make that culture? We do that. When we went fully virtual, we started having in-service meetings where we all got together.

Now for us, that was our teams. Since we're in San Francisco area, we would go to Sonoma. We would do tours in Sonoma together and really was just two days tacked to the end of meetings of social. We do Christmas in Vegas every year. We just do a lot of really, really fun things. We have fun things that we do during the week. We do virtually fun things. Those are critical. Those are the kind of investment, but man, that doesn't look like anything anyone has ever done before. You just have to have a different mindset.

Jody Grunden: Oh yeah, a hundred percent. I a hundred percent believe that if you're gonna go remote, you've gotta have the team retreats like you're talking about. I mean, that is a game-changer. And you will find people will get disconnected quickly if you don't do that. I can just basically go back before pandemic. Our retention rate for our employees is in the 90%. We [00:17:00] had very small churn. If you compare that to other CPA firms, that's pretty good. We're pretty happy with it. We even have that high retention with a fast-growing company, which again, is really tough to do.

When the pandemic hit, it just happened to hit March there and our next team retreat, again every six months, next retreat was in May. So, people were looking forward to going to that team retreat, and it got bubbled up, bubbled back, bubbled back, and finally, we're like, you know, we gotta cancel it. We can't have our team retreat. So it took, it was about a year after that before we actually could meet again.

It's kind of funny, but just about every person that we hired within the four months before that team retreat, during that one-year period, they're not here anymore. They lost the connectivity. They never had that bonding experience. Folks that were here before the team retreat, they're still here. We didn't hardly lose any of those folks. The 12 or so people that we hired during that period of time. Gone.

I strongly believe that that was it. Once we went back to the team retreat, since then, our turnover's been back down to the 10%-ish, you know, mark. [00:18:00] There's really not a whole lot other that we did differently. You know, we changed the pay structure a little bit, but I can't imagine that would be it. I think it's a connectivity that they just didn't have during that time. I tell people, you know, that's a must. If you're gonna do the remote thing, that's not even a negotiable item. That's a must.

Like you had mentioned, don't make these retreats all work shoppy, where alls they are, hearing all this technical stuff over and over and again, because they're not gonna want to be there. You can have some technical stuff in there, which is perfectly fine, but make it soft-skill stuff. You know, Hey, let's look at DISC, or let's look at EQ-i, or let's look at the Working Genius model and apply it to our team. Or bring a speaker in that's gonna talk about purpose or, you know, whatever that might be. But make it so that they really enjoy going to it.

But more importantly, make it so that once that retreat is done during the day, that they have time to just hang out with everybody. We do scheduled dinners where we mix people up. There might be dinners of eight and we pay for 'em to go out for dinner and all that kind of stuff. And so they're forced to talk to people that they've never met before, [00:19:00] they've never had no reason to meet before.

Because when you're in a remote environment, you're only as big as the number of people you meet with. Right. So, I can be an 80-person firm. But if I only talk to three people, guess what? I’m a three-person firm cause that's all that they know. But when you go to these retreats and you're forced to mix and mingle with people you don't know, now you're a 15-person firm or a 10-person firm. The next retreat you go to, now you're a 20-person firm. It's amazing what those retreats do.

You know, and after they go out for dinner, we always have something that they can come back to. Maybe we'll rent out a penthouse and we'll have a bartender there and then, you know, it'll be a open bar until like 11 o'clock or whatever. So, they again have a place to socialize, come back, mix and mingle with everybody else that they've known, and really develop that culture that you really, really need with any company, whether it's remote or brick and mortar. I think that's really important.

People look forward to going to these retreats. We have, I'd say 95%, of people, attend out of our firm, which that's a pretty significant amount. And the ones that can't, they're just bummed. There's usually a super good reason why they're not going[00:20:00] because we make it enjoyable for them to go, something to look forward to and hang out with their friends that they've been meeting with over Zoom for the last, you know, six months or so.

And we've all experienced this. It's amazing when you meet people and you've seen eye contact and you know 'em, and you're meeting with 'em all the time. It's not a big deal. It's like you've known 'em forever. Right. And you've may have never met 'em in person. The only difference is you don't know how tall they are, you know,

Tim Curtis: That's exactly right.

Jody Grunden: Seven foot.

Tim Curtis: Oh, that's funny. Hadn't thought of that one.

Erik Martinez: We actually did our first team retreat two and a half years in October. And we had that exact experience that you talked about. Right. We did some training. We brought in a speaker, and then we spent about half the time just doing fun things. We did Top Golf. We did Universal Studios. Paid for everybody just to go hang out and have some fun. And we got really, really positive feedback on that event.

What's really interesting is we do have a couple of employees who kind of sit on [00:21:00] the fringes because of their jobs. They're typically part-time employees and they've got a very, very specific role that nobody else does. And I keep hearing from them that, hey, you know, we're a little disconnected, we feel a little disconnected from the rest of the organization because we sit out here by ourselves. What do you do in that situation? I know what we've been trying to do, and I'm not sure we're a hundred percent successful yet, but what's your advice on that type of scenario?

Jody Grunden: Yeah, that's a tough one. Um, you know, and I'm trying to think of different roles within our organization that may be kind of being on the fringe. We treat everybody very, very similar. We purposely do that. I could think of a few folks that would be in that thing is that during the retreat, maybe they're doing the speech or maybe I'm getting them more involved than what I would have to get involved with somebody that's normally meeting with everybody.

So, I guess I would say in that regard, just kind of think how can I get that person in front of everybody so that they're [00:22:00] more noticeable. You know, and it may be tough for them cause they may not be that person that wants to be out, out on the front stage. And so you've gotta kind of figure that out. You know, make 'em a team leader at the retreat.

It could be something as simple as, hey, you know, I want you to make sure you're picking up the tab for everybody, you know, at your table. You know, I'll cover the costs, you know, whatever it is. But I would do things that purposely put them in the front row. I'd be curious to see what you've done so far. I'm sure that you probably thought of that, I would think. What have you done outside of that?

Erik Martinez: Honestly, some of this has come up fairly recently. One of the things we do as a team is we've got a once a week all hands meeting. I told my director that runs it. I'm like, look, if you get some business done, great. It shouldn't become a status call. It's an opportunity, maybe relate some key information to the team. Honestly, make it fun. Let them chat.

Jody Grunden: Yeah.

Erik Martinez: It's a real challenge cuz you do have those employees or you do have those departments that are small and somewhat [00:23:00] sometimes isolated. And the bigger your organization, sometimes the more isolated they could become, right? It's really a matter of trying to keep them connected to the rest of the organization where they don't feel like they're out on an island by themselves.

Jody Grunden: And to kind of think back through it and just kind of jogging my memory a little bit on that, is that you sparked an interest where, like our tax team, four or five individuals out of the 70-person organization. Right. So, we're tax. We obviously do tax for clients that we're doing work for. Right. Well, the leader of that team could easily have been isolated just like you're talking about. But what I did for that is I made that person, he's the tax director. He runs our leadership meeting. So, he's the one that actually runs it.

You know, is he the best person to run it? Probably not. You know, there's probably other people that have better skills to run a meeting than what, what he might have. But I'll tell you that he's done a very good job. He's in front of everybody. He's talking the talk. He feels very, very connected.

Whereas I think in the circumstance if I would've had somebody else do it, I could easily see that, [00:24:00] hey, he might not show up every once in a while because we're talking CFO stuff. We're not talking tax stuff, you know, that type of thing. I purposely made him in charge of that, just for that reason. In thinking back, I don't know if that was my thought process or what, but that's definitely worked for us is putting them into that lead role.

Erik Martinez: Pivoting a little bit to this hybrid model.

Jody Grunden: Mm-hmm.

Erik Martinez: When you guys put your organizations together, tell us a little bit about the culture clash and how you guys have been dealing with the after-effects of that, and what that looks like today or what you think it might look like tomorrow. I have a client in mind, a direct-to-consumer retail company. They just moved out of a building they've been in for 20 years into two different offices.

Which is funny because they're the company that's absolutely, people must be in their office, working inside the company type thing. Yet they have this little dichotomy right here where their operation is split. I think it could be a, a teaching [00:25:00] opportunity for them to say, you know what? We're not really all in the office together. We are split. How do I keep my company from looking like we're split? How did that manifest itself for you guys?

Jody Grunden: Yeah. It's a great question cuz we went in and we knew that we could be very successful as a fully remote distributed team. No issues there at all. We were humming along, solid culture and everything, and then we joined a firm that was primarily butts in the seats type of a firm. They did over the period of probably the year and a half, two years before that, experiment with people working outside of the office, and that was actually becoming more and more prevalent where they had people working two days out and three days in and kind of that type of back and forth. Not a ton of people that were a hundred percent out, but it was usually kind of a, you know, a kind of a mixed bag there.

And so they were experimenting with that and working that, and their culture's super strong as well. So, it wasn't like our culture was really great and theirs was bad, or ours was bad and theirs was great, or anything like that. But the idea was how are we gonna bring these two cultures together so that it made it even better?

If it's [00:26:00] equal, I don't think that's a win. I think it's gotta be better than what it was before. It was tough. We're in our first year, actually wrapped up our first year, going into our second year here, and we're still working out the bugs on it. It's not a perfect culture mix. There's a lot of things that have to be worked out. A lot of 'em are just simply the details.

How do we track time versus how do they track time? You know, our culture is, you know, Hey, get the job done. You can work 50 hours in four days and if you wanna take Friday off, no big deal. Doesn't go against your PTO. Whereas theirs like, well, it's butts in the seat, so if you take more than four hours, you have to take PTO on it. I'm not saying that's stupid, that's just their policy versus our policy. It's stupid that that would be a barrier, but you've gotta figure out all of those little bitty barriers so that people are on the same footing.

You know, with our team, we gave a $2,500 education stipend every year. They'd get it right on their Divvy card. We would do the same thing with a tech stipend so they can get their, you know, furniture and computers and upgrades and all that kind of stuff every year. Anders does not do that. You know, they provide that stuff for 'em.[00:27:00] When you're in an environment where it's remote, that's a lot of admin work if you're gonna provide, ship, and all that kind of stuff around.

You know, why not give those folks the autonomy to make those decisions themselves, within reason? You know, give them a card in order for them to do that. And so even that small thing can cause friction between people cuz then they feel like, oh, the remote team is getting something I'm not getting. You know, that type of thing, or you know, vice versa.

And it could be like the Christmas parties. We're gonna have a Christmas party in St. Louis, but we're not gonna fly everybody in for that. You know, only the people in St. Louis are gonna have, we can't have everybody doing their Christmas party. You know, so different things like that have gotta be, you know, ironed out. You know, how can we make it so that, we don't, you know, make one team feel like they're isolated, you know, out here red redheaded stepchild versus this team here? Is this the perfect, you know, the perfect location type of thing?

There's a lot of little bitty things that you've gotta work out. You gotta keep in mind when you're going through it. You just have to make sure that if you're in the brick and mortar, you don't discount what it's gonna take to run a fully remote [00:28:00] team and run it successfully. Because if you start discounting it or think that I'm just gonna convert them and they're all gonna fall into the same policy, it's gonna be a struggle. I'm not saying it can't work, but it's gonna be a super big struggle, going through it.

Just as simple as the time-tracking thing I mentioned before. Like, Hey, if I don't come in Friday, but I get all my work done, I don't think anybody really cares. You know, because I got my work done, I got everything I was supposed to get done. I was productive. But if you're in a brick and mortar where you actually see somebody not coming in, then it becomes like, oh no, what's going on issue? Even though they may have worked, you know, a bunch of hours beforehand, people, maybe people don't know that.

That transparency's gotta be like I said, the trust factor's gotta be there and you've gotta be able to understand the pros and cons of both and kind of develop policies that maybe won't work for the remote team and won't work for the brick and mortar. So, maybe there's two separate policies. But you've gotta actually address the issues though, I guess.

And we didn't address the issues initially because we didn't know what the issues were, you know, as we're flying it out on the runway. Which is probably not the best thing to do, [00:29:00] but again, being such a new concept, you gotta do it. You just gotta take that step and do it, but be cognizant of both sides and what works for one may not work for the other.

Tim Curtis: A couple of things I was just kind of writing down here, little thoughts and, and things, and it kind of goes back to some of the previous conversation, but there's always been tension when people move from one cultural norm to the next, and it doesn't really matter the context of that. You know, we look through the course of history and as people groups have moved from one cultural norm to the next, or there's been joining of cultures together, whatever it is.

Where we're looking now is, I think there are those people who for COVID forced them to sort of build the plane in the air. We're taking off down the runway, and there was little time, little to no expertise. They were vetting systems as they were jumping on them. Like you, we had gone virtual ahead of COVID and had the time and the space to really articulate and think through some of those things. So, we were already fully acclimated to [00:30:00] Zoom, and we were using Zoom on our every day. So, we didn't miss anything. We didn't miss a beat because that really provided us the opportunity to just do what we were already doing.

But that being said now, when we look on the back end of that, and we're looking at two things. Number one, the realization and the recognition that what hasn't happened is we now have several years of workers who have come into the working environment, who never worked in an in-person environment. Zero understanding of the cultural implications of that, the time management implications of that, the appropriateness of interaction between teams and between superior and subordinate roles in a company. Absolutely no context to that. And so in some cases, you see where there is tension, that tension often arises from a fact that these young people that have come into work just don't have the understanding about what that work environment is.

And then lastly, when you think about that, I think when we're all sitting here and we're looking at the [00:31:00] virtual environment, we're really having to reassess our onboarding and our training components. People are at different stages of their journey and their ability to work remotely. Some are more seasoned. Maybe they've already gone through some element of that, or they're a little bit more positioned to work independently while others don't have that learning style.

By throwing everyone into the pool at the same time, that may not be the most efficient. You're gonna have to really take a step back and evaluate are we demonstrating what the proper behavior looks like, what the outputs look like, and then measuring effectively against those. Otherwise, you can keep hiring and keep letting people go because you're not going to get the mix right.

Jody Grunden: Mm-hmm. I a hundred percent agree. I mean, to the point where the training is so important. I mean, some of the training has to be, when I say in person, I don't mean necessarily physically in person, but it has to be through like a conference here where we're actually going through or walking thing through screen sharing, all that kind of stuff. Some of the training can be, Hey, here are the five books I want you [00:32:00] to read about, and others can be video. It's a great time to create a 18 video module on every part of your company that you want somebody to know about. Have them go through it and then talk to 'em about it. The message is the same over and over and again, and it makes it really, really great.

But one thing I would say is that with the training part, We actually have individuals that they don't know anything about accounting at all. You know, they couldn't tell you what a debit of credit was, nothing about tax, but their job is to really kind of help people out, with everything from people skills to you name it. We've invested a good portion of our money into that. We've got two individuals, they're full-time people, and that's their main job.

They're meeting with people all the time saying, Hey, you know, Hey, what's going on? What's going right? What's going wrong? Hey, you know, Tim said this. I'm not sure how to really communicate well with him. Is he sarcastic? Does he really mean that? Or, you know, all those different things that you're talking about that you would figure out in a brick-and-mortar place that you really don't know cause you only have a few minutes with them online.

That was a huge asset. A [00:33:00] huge, huge win when we implemented that about six years ago, for our team. Just to coach people on how to communicate back and forth with not only their clients but with the people on their team. With their clients, it was the same way. You know, Hey, such and such really it feels like I'm wasting his time, I think on the calls. And it's like, well, what kind of personality is he? Does he want to get right in and get things done? Or does he wanna chit-chat for a little bit before he gets into it?

Because I'm telling you, if it was me talking to him, I wanna chit chat a little bit before I get into the nitty-gritty things. I don't wanna just jump right in. But for him, maybe he does wanna jump right in. That coach can kind of help those individuals, and really teach 'em how to communicate and be a better manager, better leader, better worker bee, you know, whatever that might be. That was a huge investing in those people for the soft skill training.

Tim Curtis: That's a really interesting concept. I'm trying to write that down as you were speaking because that's a really, really good idea. Are they just on your team? Are they just coaches or what are their specific roles?

Jody Grunden: Yeah. So they lead our team meeting. So, not our leadership meeting, but our team meeting. So, they're the person that's out front. They don't do [00:34:00] the interviewing. They can. They can be part of the interviewing, but they're definitely part of the onboarding. They get to know the people right away. They're part of the reviews. They're sitting in on the reviews. They're the people ops person. And then they're assigned to coaching to where they coach all of our CFOs.

You know, they've got an hour a month that they're on a call with each of the CFOs. You know, just going through, Hey, how's things going? What's going right? What's going wrong? You know. We've got another one coach that's assigned all of our accounting teams. So, you know, not the CFOs, but the accounting teams. So, that's what their job is. What's going right, what's going wrong, and then they communicate back and forth. So, they're kind of like the liaison between the two teams. Kristen's, you know, really doing, what does she mean by this? She's on me all the time about it. And then they'll give 'em ideas how to address those situations.

They've got the set meetings, but they're on call anytime throughout that process. They meet directly on a weekly basis with all the directors. They have one-on-ones with the directors. You think that you know, we're all great. We get along real well. Well, that's not the case. It's no different than a family. I love my brother, but it doesn't mean I get along with them every day. They're the kind of the referee.

Tim Curtis: [00:35:00] Great concept. Wow. Great concept.

Jody Grunden: Yeah, definitely a game-changer.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, and that's kind of what we were referring to earlier about, you know, really having to rethink what a team looks like in those roles. What's the best way for people to get ahold of you, Jody, if they want to reach out? I'm sure there's a lot of people who are gonna listen to this with a lot of different kind of questions, and I know it's always helpful to reach out.

Jody Grunden: Yeah, and I, I'd be happy to hop on a call and talk about anything from remote work, what works, doesn't work, doesn't make any difference. They can reach out to me either through email at jody, J O D Y, or just hop on our website. We've got different functions there where they can reach out and schedule a meeting, you know, through that way too, We couldn't afford, so we decided to go, so

Tim Curtis: I get it. Well, this has been a particularly rich session, and it's absorbing all the oxygen in the room and, and you really have solved for a lot of the challenges that people are bringing up about their impossibilities. So, I think this is gonna be a very popular episode.

So, again, thank you so much for taking the time to really [00:36:00] share it with us, number one, and then to let me ask these questions for a friend. We're all appreciative, we're all appreciative of that.

Erik Martinez: And by friend, he meant me, myself, and I.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, I'm asking these for Erik. Erik needs help. So, there you go.

Erik Martinez: Oh, yeah. Trust me, Erik needs help.

Tim Curtis: All right, well, thanks again for coming on today, and thank you for our listeners. This has been another episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. This is your co-host, Tim Curtis.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez. Have a fantastic day.


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