Distributed Teams - the future of work?

There was a whole culmination of factors that led me to start Growth Division with Tom, but these were probably the most important:

  1. At Ordoo we validated that bringing channel-specific expert freelancers in on monthly contracts to prove or disprove growth assumptions was a highly effective way to grow and understand what works & what doesn’t.

  2. As a freelance marketer myself for the 12 months prior to starting Growth Division I was constantly asked by clients if I knew any PR/SEO/Facebook Ad/Organic Social etc experts. And I built up a decent network of very talented channel-specific experts.

  3. I saw a trend towards distributed teams and figured this structure works perfectly for startups in their early stages of growth (when they don’t know which channels for growth work and which doesn’t).

And it’s that last point I want to focus on here.

This was something I noticed pre-Covid and now with various lockdowns and restrictions, the distributed team trend looks to only have accelerated. Even long before the virus 70% of companies offered 1 day per week remote working (meagre, but a starting point). Since lockdown more and more corporates have committed to the idea of remote, distributed teams, you can see some here.

In 2019, as a freelancer, I worked with around 25 different (mainly UK-based) startups. The pay was good, especially compared to the startup salaries I had been on before, and the lifestyle was liberating. I spent extended periods of time in Mexico, Paris, Berlin, Bristol and London. The whole time I was thinking:

“Why doesn’t everyone do this! It’s crazy to sit in an office 9-5”.

I was getting more and more convinced that bringing in an expert on a monthly retainer to execute on growth experiments made a lot of sense. Especially for early-stage startups, where they can work within channel specialists on short term contracts.

Then was the moment where the dimly-lit lightbulb suddenly became a beacon… 💡

I was checking out AngelList, interested in which startups were hiring for growth/marketing roles and what I saw made me reel in disbelief. Marketing job description after marketing job description was looking for the following skills:

  • A pro on Facebook and Insta ads

  • Experience building up organic audiences on social media

  • Capable at Google AdWords

  • A good understanding of SEO

  • Email copy-writing pro

  • Proven ability to grow blog traffic

  • Highly competent on CRM

All this… for £35k/year (plus access to the pool table at lunch and other startup gimmicks). Right… you wouldn’t be able to get someone who can do this effectively for £150k/year (pool table or no pool table).

What did this tell me then?

Well… firstly it tells me this: most startups have no idea what to focus on (ie: what works and what doesn’t). Secondly, it tells me they’re willing to hire some sub-par “generalist marketer” who will waste marketing investment, resulting in lacklustre growth and no learning.

And it’s a story I’ve seen all too often being in various accelerators and startup hubs in London. Founders either trying to make a channel work themselves (when they have no idea how to effectively execute on it) OR hiring these generalist marketers to waste their marketing spend for them.

So, much like in Hollywood...

Where directors bring together experts with specific skills to execute on certain roles in the production (then they all go their separate ways until the next time), Growth Division brings together highly skilled teams of growth experts to execute on growth experiments.

This idea of having distributed teams of experts is proving itself as you read this. Right now, I’m in Budapest and the rest of the Growth Division team is distributed across London, Paris and Belgium. We’ve managed to put in systems and structures that allow us to work effectively together and with our clients.

Challenges vs. Benefits

Of course, there are challenges including: building culture, communication and the lack of in-person interaction can prove challenging on an individual basis. At Growth Division we’re heavily relying on technology to bridge these gaps in interaction, some tools we use include: Slack, Zoom, Asana and Donut.

However, so far, the benefits are far outweighing these challenges. Overall I’d summarise the benefits of distributed teams as:

  • Work with the best - You can bring in the best experts, unrestricted by geography

  • Improved agility - You can bring in the exact talent and skills you need at that moment

  • Employee centric - You enable a truly great lifestyle for your team, giving them the ultimate flexibility (apparently remote workers are 13% more likely to stay in the long term)

So, if you’re a startup with a great new idea interested in bringing in a team of growth experts give me a shout…


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