Experiencing the working from home setting over the past several months, Positive Venture Group have learned a lot about what it takes to remain efficient & effective in a remote work environment.
Their employees have continued to exceed expectations in their roles, proving the Positive model is optimized for a remote culture. Based on that success, the Founder and CEO of Positive Venture Group, Jason Burke, has made the decision a month ago to embrace a digital-first business model.
We interviewed Brent Gorman, the marketing manager at PVG to hear more about their journey.
About Positive Venture Group
Positive Venture Group, based in Ottawa, Canada, is providing outsourced finance services, virtual CFO services and executive consulting solutions.
Since their birth, they have been 100% focused on helping startups, high growth ventures, and established companies meet their financial obligations, while also preparing them to raise capital.
With 51 employees and an average age of 30-35 years old , they thrive on the energy of the startup culture.
What do you do, where is your office based, how many employees and the average age?
We provide completely outsourced finance services, virtual CFO services and executive consulting solutions. Our office is based in Ottawa, Canada. We have 51 employees, and our average age is about 30-35.
What was the working situation like in your company before COVID?
We had just moved into an office a year prior to COVID. It was a big bright space with lots of collaboration rooms and it was conducive to our growth. Unfortunately with COVID closing our doors, we didn't have the opportunity to really set ourselves up properly for work at home. We’ve had to anticipate not going back to the office in a very short period of time.
Our weekly collaboration team meetings where everybody would get together for lunch, coffee, all that stuff that was part of our day-to-day and part of our culture was quickly transformed as a result of COVID.
Why did you decide to keep the team fully remote post social isolation?
The largest piece of the decision to go fully remote came around safety: safety for our employees and safety for our families. But we also realized that we could work effectively and efficiently, and still have that collaboration, in a remote environment.
We’ve still had growth even though it’s been slower. We are still working towards growing our company and we’re able to place a lot of ownership on daily tasks to employees that can handle it during their work days and still have the opportunity to be with their family. We didn't necessarily see a suffering to our business which gave us the confidence to say we can go fully remote even though it does mean we lose that great work space we had before. Now we can focus on the safety of our team, we can grow our company and we can look at new ways to have that collaborative team atmosphere that we had on-site before.
What did you have to implement to make it happen?
At Positive Venture group, we run an outsourced financial support team. We are a team of accountants, controllers, payable clerks, and CFO's and with our outsourced structure we were already used to working in a cloud-based environment. So now it’s a lot of the tools that we were already using on a day-to-day basis even before COVID. We were already part of an at-home work environment, so we didn’t have to implement a lot.
However, some things that we did choose to implement were a few strategies from a management perspective:
- Making sure that we're properly meeting with our teams and communicating
- Setting up a highly responsive HR team
- Setting up opportunities for teams to get together, using Slack and different collaborative tools to keep conversations going
We were lucky that we didn't have to implement too many drastic pieces, just a few new strategies, and doing what we could do to get everybody set up at home in a comfortable environment. We were able to offer employees an allocation of funds that they could purchase a desk or a chair or maybe ergonomic keyboards, things like that that would make their home office set up as comfortable as possible.
What challenges did you face to have all employees working remotely and how did you overcome them?
I believe that the largest challenge was making sure that everybody was communicating effectively. Obviously using email and Slack and different social channels within the office is great, but we missed dropping by the desk and seeing faces every day. We had to try to keep that culture alive and maintain that day-to-day interaction we had in the office.
A lot of it has to do with the team meetings and also having lunches together, so we set up specific times during the week where teams can get together. It’s an opportunity, even if just for a couple hours a week, where we can take our hands off the keyboard and really just focus on having a conversation and make people feel connected to their colleagues again.
How do you keep your team aligned, productive, motivated and continue to grow a positive company culture with the remote team?
In terms of alignment, our teams were already in place. We set up a structure just within the last year to make sure that we had streamlined and effective communication channels between all of our teams, and we continue to leverage that.
Keeping a team motivated is a strong push especially during this time because it was not just about becoming remote, it was also dealing with the social aspect of being in quarantine: not seeing extended family, not seeing friends, not being able to go places. All of that has an effect on us as people, much more so than just going remote, and we had to continue to motivate our team through that, offering them the opportunity to take time off when necessary.
Our employees work on a flexible schedule that meets the demands of the job but also the demands of their family and keeping them safe and maintaining a positive balance. We want to ensure that what we're doing here is for the greater good. We believe the biggest focus for us has to be making sure that we stay in communication, keep the channels open and continue to offer up accolades and team meetings on a weekly basis where we can pat each other on the back and share the great things being done within the company.
Keeping up awareness and communication up the channels also means that management is made aware of the successes, and upper management and leadership team members are seeing the great things that our employees are doing even though we don't get to see them on the day-to-day like we used to.
What are your favourite tools/softwares helping the company to work remotely?
Well beyond email, we use Slack which is our social channel where we’ve got many threads of communication. Some channels are random, talking amongst ourselves or sharing jokes, while other channels are set up specifically to discuss industry or clients. Using Slack is a big piece of our communication strategy, uplifting one another and having that daily touch point.
We also have our telecommunications and weekly meetings via video chat. This a big piece, it allows us to see faces and the smiles that we’re missing by being remote. We’ve realized that we can still have that interaction while working from home, just through different mediums than before.
8-Are you inspired by other companies having only remote employees?
Inspiration might not be the word that we use but certainly knowing that successful companies like Shopify, here in the Ottawa area, were able to go remote has helped us. Large companies, like Twitter, show that the opportunity exists and you can still move business forward while being remote.
It gave us confidence that we were making the right decision and we could look at ourselves and say what we are able to overcome the challenges and remain successful and driven even without a fixed address. Remote offices and flexible schedules can work well. Inspiration was not something that we took but the fact that other companies were able to become remote helped to validate our decision. Indeed, we can continue being profitable, grow and keep motivation high.
According to you, what are the success factors for remote work?
Our largest success factor would be ensuring that employees are not leaving and that they remain engaged with the business. We continue to send out surveys and get top of line marks on customer service, interaction and communication. It’s a big success factor that shows us that you don't need an address to have the kind of employees that we have.
The 9-5 schedule might not be what they work during their day, but certainly whatever schedule they have set up does not impact client experience and client satisfaction. It's important to our success that we ensure that we maintain communication with our clients, showing them that what we are doing is right and that there is no drop in satisfaction from our choice to go remote.
How do you see the future of remote work?
I believe that the remote work environment is something that is here to stay. I believe that we were transitioning to that already through what we have seen over the last few years with flexible work schedules. People realize that through virtual communication, such as email, it's no longer the way of the dodo which was years ago where you had to go to an office because that's where the mail & letters went and the phone rang. All that is now either in our pockets, on our laptops or in our homes.
I believe that the future of remote work is growing and I think that there's a lot of businesses that will be able to employ this and also be able to attract talent from beyond a closed region. With us being Ottawa-based in Canada, we can now have people working from all over. We don't have to say “Okay, you've got to come to an office so you have to be in Ottawa.” Now, you can be remote and working out of Vancouver, Boston, Toronto or wherever, and we can attract the best talent and grow our team to reach our full potential.
It's no longer about who is in our area, but instead about making sure businesses are set up in specific areas so that they can attract that clientele or that talent. I believe that the future of remote work is positive. It's going to present great opportunities post-COVID for people that are unemployed to be able to work remotely from wherever they are for a company located anywhere in the world.