How to Prioritize Your People, No Matter Where They’re Located

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Inc. here.

People are everything.

Across the five companies I started, this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. I’d even go so far as to say that a company is 98 percent people and just 2 percent product.

But I’ll come clean and tell you that I didn’t always think this way.

Early on in my career, I thought that if you built a great product, a great culture would follow.

I did focus on hiring the best and the brightest individuals, but didn’t always think about how they’d all fit together. Sometimes it worked. Other times it led to accidental cultures that weren’t great for the company or what I would have planned myself.

By not focusing on creating a culture, my teams didn’t have a reason for being, to work together. And this led to folks, myself included, not being proud of everything that was created.

That’s why when Elias Torres and I started Drift, we took everything we’d learned throughout our careers and made sure to prioritize culture from day one. Not just our people as individual contributors, but how everyone fits together to create strong teams and a strong culture.

Fast-forward six years, and we took Drift Digital First. It’s allowed us to further solidify our leadership position in the space, expand our hiring pool outside of our core markets, and gave our teams more flexibility, like working from places as far away from our Boston headquarters as Saipan.

But we’ve also seen new challenges arise. We no longer see each other in person every day. We’re not sharing lunches and getting together as often as a team. It’s required us to step back and double down on our commitment to our employees, regardless of location, to keep them motivated and aligned with our vision at large.

Here’s how we’re bolstering our culture and motivating Drifters no matter where they are:

  • Staying dedicated to our voice. Whether in-person or conferencing across 10,000 miles, you can never forget your voice. You have to stay true to yourself, your story, and your mission. It needs to be top-of-mind in everything you write, build, or create — and in every interpersonal interaction you have with your team. Some things have to change with remote work but never our brand, not our voice, and not our ethos. If we lose those things, we won’t stand out or stand for anything in the long term.
  • Making time for shout-outs. Successful organizations all have one thing in common: They’re in the business of people. Teams, customers, individuals: People should come first. That’s why we’re always giving shout-outs to our team members, making sure they know we appreciate them. And I suggest you do the same. Let your teams, and the public, know that you’re proud of them. It’s a small gesture that makes a big difference.
  • Encouraging excellence over speed. We spend so much time worrying about saving a few minutes a day that we lose sight of what’s truly important. Our to-do lists, emails, and requests are continuing to pile up with seemingly no end in sight.

I like to remind my team to focus more on time to create. To make something. To better themselves. Rather than sifting through a million little things, I want to see them working on the one thing that is going to move the needle the furthest.

The shift to Digital First has been an incredible transition for Drift. And as more companies make the leap, they’ll go through some of the same things. Just remember: Never lose sight of what’s most important — your people and your culture. If you keep them top of mind, everything else has a nice way of falling into place just fine.

DC shares what he’s learned as a 5X founder in his weekly newsletter. Get The One Thing delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

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