How to Run a Remote Company the Right Way
Articulate, a company known for its award-winning e-learning software and authoring apps, is considered a trailblazer in the industry—and their method is just as innovative and unique as their product. Articulate is 100 percent remote, and with more than 150 employees globally, that makes it one of the largest fully remote companies in the U.S.
How did Articulate achieve success at such a scale?
When Adam Schwartz founded Articulate in 2002, the idea of a remote workplace was more of an anchor than an asset, weighing down the perceptions of would-be customers: at the time, the lack of a brick-and-mortar office was synonymous with a lack of credibility. Schwartz wasn’t exactly advertising the fact that he was working from his living room.
What initially started as a cost-saver, however, soon became a part of the company philosophy and culture that Schwartz wouldn’t dream of changing.
Benefits of Being Remote
Sure, as a veteran remote-way-before-it-was-cool workplace, Articulate can tell you all about the trials and tribulations of being remote, but the company is also uniquely positioned to tell you about the advantages.
Early on, Schwartz saw that the business model was highly productive and that collaboration and communication were all the better for being targeted and intentional. The remote business model also provided freedom in hiring—something that Lucy Suros, Chief of Staff and Chief Marketing Officer at Articulate—points to as a continuing benefit more than a decade later.
“While most of our folks live in the U.S., we do have people all over the globe,” Suros says. “One of the major advantages of being remote is that geography doesn’t limit our access to great talent.”
Culture & Communication
Obviously remote work is a better fit, to some degree, for self-directed people. But autonomy doesn’t mean that people work alone, or that a company loses accountability from its employees.
“When you’re distributed, the only way you know someone is actually doing their job is through the work they produce,” Suros says. “So we have a really strong culture of productivity.”
As a member of one of Articulate’s remote teams, you don’t punch a clock. You can work from a desk at home, a coffee shop, a campsite, anywhere. There’s no need to dress in business attire or master the other arts of office work (e.g., appearing very busy at your computer when you’re very much not). You’re valued for what matters, which is what you get done.
In a fully remote company, there’s no physical meeting point where employees congregate, no water cooler or coffee pot or lunch room. You can’t just peek your head over a cubicle to talk to your neighbor. But the digital lines of communication at Articulate are myriad. Just because you don’t see your coworkers every day doesn’t mean that you don’t get to know them or don’t feel a sense of community.
“Our way of working involves a lot of real-time collaboration, which makes it easy for people on the same team to get to know each other,” Suros says. “And because people here want to be connected to each other, they take initiative to create spaces for that to happen.”
Suros says in addition to “many, many lively Slack channels around shared interests,” Articulate has a Lean In group of women that meets monthly to support each other, and employees often get together in person in small groups for work weeks.
Articulate also invests in an annual company retreat that’s focused more on hanging out and having fun than work. Seems like a sound plan to us: who wouldn’t vote for some company-wide quality time in Deer Valley, Utah or Laguna Niguel, California?
Here at Droplr, we have a lot of admiration for Articulate’s business model and experience. As a remote company ourselves, often we look to clients like Articulate for inspiration as well as feedback on our product.
In closing, we can’t resist asking Suros how we fit into Articulate’s day-to-day and what she thinks about us.
“I’m a huge user and fan of Droplr, as are many others at Articulate,” Suros says. “For us, it’s a simple, fast, visual communication tool.”
“We’ll send each other screenshots via Slack (the integration with Slack is great) to ask and answer questions, clarify issues, and simply keep others in the loop. I often use it to provide quick feedback on projects. A lot of times it’s easier, faster, and more clear to explain things with an image, and Droplr makes doing that really simple.”
We apologize (a bit half-heartedly) to Suros for fishing for compliments, then we get back to work with smiles on our faces. Check back soon for more upcoming profiles on remote workplaces from the Droplr team. Also, if you have a remote team that needs better tools, we encourage you to check how Droplr can help you stay more connected over a distance.