Real-World Advice On Building & Managing A Remote Team

December

9

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Remote work was the exception rather than the rule prior to the pandemic. Now it’s a widely accepted practice, but building your team in a remote environment can be challenging. Our special guest, Rusty Fulling with Fulling Management & Accounting, has had a remote team for years. He will provide his real-world advice and tips so you can learn from his experience.

Join Tim Fitzpatrick and Rusty Fulling for this week’s episode of The Rialto Marketing Podcast!

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Real-World Advice On Building & Managing A Remote Team



Tim Fitzpatrick
Remote work was the exception rather than the rule prior to the pandemic. Now, it is a widely accepted practice, but building your team in a remote environment can be really challenging. Our special guest today has had a remote team for years, and he is going to provide us with some of his real world experience, his advice, his tips, so that we can learn from what he has done so we don't have to make some of the same mistakes. Hi, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, where we believe you must remove your revenue roadblocks if you want to accelerate revenue growth. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. I'm really excited to have Rusty Fulling from Fulling Management and Accounting with me today. Rusty, welcome, and thanks for being here.

Rusty Fulling
Hey, Tim, thanks for having me. It's great to visit with you earlier this year and hear your podcast.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes. Awesome. Well, I appreciate you taking the time. I know we're not going to talk about what you do. We're going to touch in on what you do at Fulling Management, but we're not going to talk about accounting today. We're actually going to talk about remote work, which I think is a super relevant topic, and I can't wait to hear what you have to share. I have had a remote team for a long time as well, so I think we're going to have a great conversation around this. Before we do that, I want to ask you some rapid fire questions, help us get to know you.

Rusty Fulling
All right. I'll be ready.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Good to go? Okay.

Rusty Fulling
Yes, sir.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So when you're not working, how do you like to spend your time?

Rusty Fulling
So about three years ago, we were blessed with one of two now little granddaughters, and so that's probably where I spend most of my non working time, is just getting to hang out with the family and enjoying the local walking trails.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. So you can spoil them and then send them home, send them away.

Rusty Fulling
You come back, though, so that's good.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, good.

Rusty Fulling
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's your hidden talent?

Rusty Fulling
Oh, man, hidden talent. Hidden talent. I was a puppeteer for years, so actually doing puppets.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay.

Rusty Fulling
My goal in life years ago was probably to be on Sesame Street, working on that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Rusty Fulling
Best advice, and there's been so many. I would say just move. Sometimes you just get stuck, and sometimes it's just move. Just get that momentum started. So I'd say just stuck with me.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's a great one. Super simple. But when we start taking action, we learn from that action, and we can iterate and adjust. What's one thing about you that surprises people? Other than the fact that you're a puppeteer?

Rusty Fulling
That's right. So I've been in Kansas for 30 plus years, grew up in Texas. The house that my wife and I bought here was built in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was president.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Wow. Dang. So have you had to do some updates?

Rusty Fulling
We just got indoor plumbing about a week ago, so, yes, a few updates over the years. And we are not the original owners. Some people have asked that before too.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's good, I like that. What does success mean to you?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, I think over time, I think it's just watching people that we've invested in really begin to thrive. And that to me, is success when you're kind of that legacy builder piece. So that's been big.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Where's your happy place?

Rusty Fulling
Oh, man. Well, I've already talked about the granddaughters probably sitting outside on a nice day with a book in hand.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What qualities do you value in the people you spend time with?

Rusty Fulling
What qualities do I value? There's a proverb that I love. It says, he who walks with the wise grows wise, but the companion of fools suffer harm. So I love those people that are encouragers, that build each other up, innovator, just some of those kind of qualities. So wisdom, encouragement, and innovators would be some qualities I really like.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. So before we talk about remote work, tell us a little bit more about what you're doing at Fulling Management and Accounting.

Rusty Fulling
Yeah. So we started almost 23 years ago now, and our main focus is providing accounting, business coaching, and CFO outsourcing to help small business owners get clarity, grow their profits, and gain peace of mind. We have a team of about 15 now spread across the country, and I think we've served clients in about 27 states now across the US.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Wow. Any particular industries that you enjoy working with?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, there are a lot of good industries. Initially we were looking at medical and bioscience was kind of our target, and we noticed the medical field, the small practices were getting bought up by hospitals. And so we begin to shift. These days, we're not so focused on industry as we are leaders, and so we're looking for leaders with integrity, leaders that see value in outsourcing. So really looking more for that leadership of a business versus the industry.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, got it. So let's talk about remote work. You've had a remote team for a long time prior to the Pandemic. Just tell me more about that. Like, why did you do that and how do you manage your remote team?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, I'm just thinking here, remote team probably seven or eight years ago, I would say we started really getting into that more. We had remote clients for 20 plus years, but our team probably just more recent in the last eight to ten years. Some of it was just finding talent that was flexible. And so we were looking for flexibility where you fast forward today and I think it's the other side where the team member is looking for flexibility. So that was a big piece of it. We used some of the online gig places where you just hire somebody for a short gig or a short project. And through that process we begin finding team members that are like, man, we want this person more than just a gig.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Right.

Rusty Fulling
And so just begin building some of our team in that form.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So you wanted flexibility. That kind of spurred looking for people remotely at the time. Did you actually have an office with staff in it or?

Rusty Fulling
We did. We had a small office at the time, probably two or three of us in the office. And so we began adding I think we added one team member and maybe 5 hours a week remote and then over time they go to 10 hours a week and 15 and 20 and so kind of gave us a little bit of runway versus just jumping in and having a 30 or 40 hours week person. So that was really helpful. And then our internal team or in office team, the relationships are pretty close, pretty tight. So part of that was just learning how to incorporate that person outside the four walls.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So it's almost like you started to walk before you were running. I like that idea of kind of, hey, let's try this 10 hours a week and okay, this is working pretty good, let's increase that. So I'm sure that makes you feel a lot more comfortable starting to branch out.

Rusty Fulling
Absolutely. The other thing that allowed us to do is we were able to test out, let's say multiple providers, multiple remote workers, and honestly, some of them did not they weren't necessarily a good fit. And your risk is minimized in those forms, but for those that really fit, you can continue to add and add to that's. Worked out well.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Now do you have an office still or have you gotten rid of your office entirely?

Rusty Fulling
We do actually have an office space still in the Kansas City area in Olaya, Kansas. We probably are in there oh my gosh, maybe 5% of the time if that. And when I said it's kind of nice if team members that are local, that are working from home want to run in and just have some quiet time to work in a more professional office. And we do have clients in the building and the facility we're in as well, so that's always nice to meet with them. But we would not have to have it. It is a nice extra for what we do. We just blew everybody in, all of our remote team members in and we did a three day offsite retreat and part of that was spending a little bit of time in our office place before going off site. You can see some of our photos on our website from Metabet. So.

Tim Fitzpatrick
How do you manage people remotely? I mean, are there some tools that you rely heavily on that have helped you?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, early on it was more of a they're remote and not really part of the team mentality and I think that was definitely not the wise thing to do, but began to incorporate them. So we just use simple things like Zoom on our staff meetings. And so once a week we have everybody's kind of all play every Tuesday morning at 8:30, everybody logs in and so we're actually seeing the entire team every Tuesday morning for an hour. And so that plus throughout the day and throughout the week we have strategic meetings, strategic check ins, communication, going through things like Microsoft teams. Again Zoom some of our workflow management systems. So definitely have incorporated as much as possible just as if they were working right down the hall from us.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Do you have any ways of tracking productivity and production or are you concerned about that?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, and I think early on it was a little bit of that, well, I hope they're doing this. And so that's where the workflow management tools are extremely helpful because you can actually see as they're almost they're checking things off the list or they're documenting here's what's going on. That's been huge and it's cloud based type software. So I definitely say if folks are looking to outsource their team members, just have some type of collaborative effort, collaborative software that they can work within because you never want to wonder if somebody is doing something. You want to make sure and some of that can be verbal too. We do daily check ins and so it's a tim, what do you have going today? Oh, I've got these projects and great, you meet tomorrow. Hey Tim, had that project go yesterday. Your kid had a softball game. How did that turn out? So we try to incorporate both the work and the personal and some of those again, kind of that water cooler talk almost within a virtual environment.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, so all of the people that are on our team are remote and they're overseas. When I hear people talking during the pandemic about asynchronous work, I was like, what the hell is that? And then realized, oh yeah, okay, I've been doing that for a while. But I love some of the things that you touched on here. You're certainly having consistent meetings. The daily check ins is great. One of the things that I do is I get just an email at the end of their work day that just like, hey, what did you work on? Is there anything you're stuck on? What do you need help from me with? And you know, I don't necessarily spend a ton of time on those emails, but I just want to make sure that if they need something from me, that they get it. Your workflow management tools. We're using project management software and or our CRM, depending on the team member. And those are really good ways for us to just get an idea of what's happening. Are things getting done? I've just gotten to a place where I'm like, look, you need to trust people that are on the team. If you can't trust them, then, like, they shouldn't be working with you. And we got to treat people like adults. Trust them and let things go.

Rusty Fulling
Absolutely. And Tim, I think one of the things that we I think did right in the process is we treated our remote workers just as if they were in the office, in the interview, in the hiring process. We had several steps in the process, and I think the only thing that we didn't do was a lot of times we'll get together for dinner right before the offer. And we didn't always do that on a remote team members, but going through and treating them, they're the same as somebody sitting down the hall from you. So that's been extremely helpful.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. One of the other tools that I use multiple times every day is Loom, which is screen capture software. There's a ton of software like it out there, but dang, when you just need to walk somebody through something, it is so easy and just so much more effective. And we just have tons of tools that help assist with remote teams. At this point, we just need to know what we need and find it.

Rusty Fulling
Absolutely. We had a team member that worked for us a number of years ago and actually has come back recently to help on some project work, and it was funny. And they actually would come in the office back in the day, and we were introducing, hey, now, here's how we do things now. And they're like, oh, my goodness, this is so nice, because everything's here and they're working. They can literally work from anywhere. But all the project management, all the files, everything that they need is very accessible for them. And I think further the security piece is the other thing too, that, you know, make sure that's amped up even that much more if you're doing a remote team. And so we've invested. I would say that was one of the investments that we've done and continually do, is not only our IT infrastructure and management is definitely elevated, and we do monthly training for our team on security and things like that. Just around the whole IT infrastructure. Those are just kind of those built in. If you're going to go this way, it's not always, okay, let's just get it rolling, kind of think through some of the strategy to make it make sense long term with the right tools and right security in place.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Let's talk about company culture, because throughout the Pandemic, you came up a lot. Like, we're really struggling to build our culture in this remote environment. You touched on a couple of things that I think we can pull off of here, or at least I want to pull out. One you mentioned, hey, we just recently got our entire team together for a three day retreat. I see that as one of the things that you're certainly doing to build culture. But you also touched on your hiring process. And I think the hiring process is one of the key aspects that a lot of people miss in building their culture. I think if you hire the right people that are the right fit, that share the same values, that's going to help naturally build your culture. What other things you're doing? What other thoughts do you have on what I just mentioned there?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, well, I'll just say that our offsite retreat this year, our theme was our core values. And our core values acronym is GRACE, G-R-A-C-E. We use that as kind of a launchpad. But the cool thing is we went over those. So G is for growth. You should be personally growing, professionally growing. And it was really neat, even in this morning's staff meeting, it was neat to hear some of our team members jump into, hey, by the way, here's what I'm doing to grow this week or this month. And so that was huge. And then R is called represent the client. It is, hey, make sure you're doing things. Think like the client. Make sure they're the important piece in the call that we're serving them. And then A integrates is accountability, and that starts at the top. And making sure that things that we do for as leaders, as a team is seeing that it's on behalf of the leaders, on behalf of the team clients. And then C in GRACE is champion attitude. You're going to have a bad day every once in a while, but you've got to bring that attitude. I mean, you've got to bring that good attitude, that champion attitude, because it's going to go a lot longer in a good way doing that. And our last one is really somewhat personal to us in our leadership team is what we call eternal impact. And what we're saying in our core values is we want to have a bigger impact than just the numbers. We want to help change lives in what we're doing. And it could be financially, it could be relationally, but the things that we do in our day-to-day operations, man, it will be making impact beyond the business. So that's our GRACE acronym, those core values. So when we're hiring, it's phenomenal. The number of prospect team members that gravitate to that, they're like, oh, this is exactly what these are, my values. And it's just one of those little check marks that say, hey, there's somebody we ought to talk to because they already are in alignment there. So that's one. The other neat thing we've done, Tim, is in our Tuesday staff meetings is we'll spend about half an hour going through tactical things. And then the last portion of that is typically a culture video, a lesson of some sort. Yeah. And so this month's lesson covered things like growth. And I'm trying to think some of the other things, but then we break into small groups on Zoom, and it really helps people get to know each other when they're in that smaller group versus the big piece. And we've even had team members that have come on board and they said, you know what? I've gotten to know people here in a remote environment much better than when I was working in the corporate world, and they were right down the wall. And that's just being intentional about building a relationship. So those are a couple of things that come to mind when you're asking about that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So with the videos, are those always related to one of your core values?

Rusty Fulling
Core values? Not directly. The series we're in right now is very close. It could be, oh, we did one. How to lead when you're not in charge by Clay Scroggins. That was a good series. And so it could just be leadership development with our team. So we want to develop folks that are in the bookkeeping stage and administration stage, all the way up to that CFO level person. We want to make sure that we're growing them as leaders, and it just filtrates through the rest of our services and our clients and so forth.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I love that. One of my mentors talked about with building company culture, he talked about gently but relentlessly beating the drum, like you're just doing it over and over and over again consistently. And it sounds like you're really doing that when it comes to your values. And I think when you all share the same values, I think it's so much easier to build a company culture because you have similar standards.

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, absolutely. We call that you need to have a chief repeating officer. Repeat once again, repeat.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes. I love what you touched on with one of your team members talking about, hey, this is what I've done to grow this week. Right? It can be as simple as that. Like, hey, anybody want to share what you've done this week to live out our values? Right. And I think that can spur great conversation. What are some of the benefits that you've experienced in building a remote team?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, when we got together as a group for this offsite, so everybody flew into Kansas City, and I had not met a handful of our team members in person up to this point because we had COVID, and actually that wiped us out for like, two years as far as getting it in person. And so we scheduled Monday morning to go to our actual office space here and take pictures. And I thought, hey, we'll slot 30 minutes. It may not take that long for pictures. Tim we were there over an hour, and it was because people were laughing and having I mean, it was like a high school reunion. And I'm thinking, these people have never even this is the first time they've actually gotten together in flesh. And I think that to me, in fact, at the end of our three day deal, we kind of went around the table and said, hey, what's one of your highlights for this event? And more than one said it was just a laughter and just enjoying working, enjoying being together. So that to me was one of the huge benefits. When we're talking about being virtual, there's so much more we can do there. And I think people sell it short by just being more transactional and making the transactional relational. And so that to me, that's where you win.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Do you feel like being open to remote team members has opened up opportunities on the recruitment side of things?

Rusty Fulling
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Our last few hires I'm just trying to think through here. Wyoming, Ohio, Texas. So definitely opens it up for, I'd say, a little bit of diversity from different even if you're looking at locations, I think there are some neat things we get even from that. So sometimes I'm heckling for those that aren't Kansas City football fans, it's been a little bit we may have to do some payroll deductions on that, but now it's fun. It is really neat. You have to get to meet others and hear what's going on in these different parts of the country, so.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Do you see remote teams also impacting retention and engagement?

Rusty Fulling
Yes. And you're talking about for clients or for team members?

Tim Fitzpatrick
For team members. So retaining team members for longer and their engagement while they're with you.

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, and I would say yes, but I might put a little asteroid by that because I do think there are those in fact, we had a team member recently that said, I really need that in person interaction. And so I think it's really important in the hiring process to identify those folks that they really crave that in a remote environment you may not have I mean, the video is going to be a lot of your relational piece and how do you make that work? So I would say when you get the right people and if you're hiring processes is geared towards making sure you're listening for those, yes, the recruiting, the retention, just the job satisfaction, the flexibility, there's so many things that can happen. I've heard of too many companies saying, hey, coke is over, let's all get back to the office. And people have kind of built up a system working remotely. And I think that's where we've seen some of the great resignation. We've also getting the great return. We've had team members that have come back and joined again after being gone and being called into the office and it's like, hey, we kind of enjoy what we were doing before.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. There certainly are companies out there now who are forcing people to come back in when it's not really required. And I think those are the types of companies that are going to have a really hard time because unless there's a justifiable reason for it, you've had people working remote for a long time. Why are you forcing them to come back? But I also think that they're going to have some recruiting challenges and retention and engagement issues as well because this is the way we've always done. It has never been a good philosophy and running a business.

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I think we need to be open, as open minded as possible. Rusty, this has been a great conversation. Any last minute thoughts? Where's the wisdom you want to leave us with today?

Rusty Fulling
Yeah, I'd say continue to grow, and that has just been such a fascinating thing to see, even in our team and the investment in some of the growth areas. So just find ways to either self grow or through your company. So that would be the big thing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Where can people learn more about you?

Rusty Fulling
You bet. So our company website is fullingmanagement.com or F-U-L-L-I-N-G-M-G-M-T or they can look me up by going to Rustyfulling.com.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. So if you liked what Rusty had to share today, you want to connect with them, go there. We'll make sure that that information is all in the show notes for this episode as well so that you can easily find them. Rusty, thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it. It's been a great conversation. Like I said, I've been doing remote stuff for a long time, so hopefully people picked up some great tips that they can use. And if they haven't been doing a lot of remote stuff, maybe they'll shift their path a little bit.

Rusty Fulling
Absolutely. Thanks, Tim. Sure appreciate the opportunity.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, absolutely. And those of you that are watching, listening. Thank you. I appreciate you. Again. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing. If you want to get visibility to your revenue roadblocks that are slowing down your growth, you can head on over to RevenueRoadblockScorecard.com. Takes less than five minutes. You're going to get a customized report so that you can discover and assess what's been slowing down your growth. If you want to actually talk to us, you can always head on over to Rialtomarketing.com, book a free GPS call. I'd be happy to chat with you and help give you some guidance on the direction that you should head with Marketing based on where you are and where you want to go. Till next time, take care.


Connect With Rusty Fulling



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