Posted on February 23, 2021
Ricardo Fernandez has a long career in helping Spanish startups grow. He is currently Managing Director in Spain for Limehome – a company leading the digital revolution in the hospitality industry to define new standards in convenience, comfort and design.
He is a Spanish American who has lived in about 7 different countries throughout his life. For the last ten years, he’s worked remotely for several digital startups in the US, the UK and all over Europe. From 2014 to 2019, he was the only employee in a company of 200 who worked remotely. One of the most interesting positions he has held was the head of global and business development for a fintech company where he managed 40 people in 7 different countries and 4 different time zones.
Ricardo has a TED talk in Managing Cross Cultural Remote Teams and was more recently a guest speaker at Berytech’s Euro-Med Scale Up Innovation Day where he shared his experience and tips on managing remote teams. Here’s a roundup of the tips he shared during his talk titled Leading & Managing International Human Capital: A Key For Success.
“I was an anomaly for the past 10 years working remotely, but now I’m the norm.”
People always ask me why I chose to work remotely. Remote working seemed very interesting for me because I wanted to be able to choose the job that I wanted no matter where I lived. I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family and friends. I also did not want to spend 2 hours a day commuting.
It’s very clear for me what remote working will look like in the future; it’s going to be some sort of hybrid model. By this, I mean that we will be splitting our time, working from the office for 1 or 2 days a week and then working from home for the rest.
I was hired in April 2020 as the GM of Limehome, a growth company of about 100 employees which operates touristic and service departments all over Germany, to scale it, right in the middle of the pandemic when I could only leave my house in Spain to go to the supermarket.
I put on my remote working hat and started hiring a team: business development, operations, etc., but in about 3 months we realized we needed an office, which came as a surprise to me. The main reason was because we needed to transmit the culture and the team vibes that we had created in Germany into the Spanish team. Culture is something very important for a startup, especially as you are scaling and that is very hard to do in a remote setting.
The second reason is that we hired quite a few juniors to join the team who had no previous working experience and were not familiar with work processes. We had to teach them the basics such as emails and meetings, and it was tough to do in a remote setting.
This is an example of why I believe that a hybrid combination of office and home is what work will look like in the future.
Before you can even think about setting up a remote team and working remotely you need to think about the basics. Things as simple as having a good internet connection can make all the difference.
An important aspect is having a good understanding of the cultural differences. For many of us who work with people from all over the world, we need to understand that people have different ways of working with each other. In a remote setting where you don’t have a physical presence this becomes even more important. Being on time for a meeting is fundamental; it might be rude if you are not in certain cultures, but in many others, for example the Latin culture, being 5 or 6 minutes late is actually not big of a deal.
So, in a remote setting these things need to be set right. I highly recommend the book ‘The Culture Map’ by Erin Meyer. I shared it with my organization and it really created a high-performance team. We trusted each other more and we were able to communicate more efficiently.
My learnings from 10 years of remote work are that everything can be done remotely or outsourced. Some things are much easier such as customer support, tech and operations, while others are much tougher, such as the sales department or your core functions and strategy.
First and foremost, you need to think of the processes and documentation of everything you need to set up in order to have remote working options. Back in 2017, in my previous company, we had about 100 persons outsourced. As we launched our second product, we thought we would follow the same process and start outsourcing right away, but it was a big failure on our side. We took 6-12 months to go-to-market because we didn’t set up the process correctly. So, if I were to do that again, I would do things inhouse, set the processes, document well and then find the right partner to be able to outsource. The decision of what you do remotely and what you outsource is fundamental to get things right.
I have been quite lucky in my career to be able to work with more than 30 different managers, mostly because of my consulting projects and all the startups I worked with. I learned great lessons but also learned about all the mistakes that I should avoid making.
The key ingredient for successful remote work is measuring the performance of the team. In order to do that, you need to set a good structure and be result-driven. Using OKRs (objectives and key results) is a great tool to measure performance. It leads to great alignment in the organization. If you are not familiar with it, look it up and try to implement your own.
The Euro-Med Scale Up Innovation Day
The Euro-Med Scale-Up Innovation Day was organized by Berytech under the EU-funded THE NEXT SOCIETY initiative as the first virtual event for scaling-up Mediterranean startups through the COVID-19 challenges and consequences on startups, businesses and economies.
More than 1,000 people of the region’s most entrepreneurial minds signed up for the six-hour event that gathered more than 50 speakers and 40 exhibitors from more than 15 countries. The event included around 40 activities from power talks, success stories, discussion panels, growth workshops, virtual exhibitions, and live networking. The event saw more than 250 one-to-one meetings happening to solidify the exchange of knowledge and support and the forging of new partnerships. Read more about the event.