By putting technology at the heart of a flexible working strategy, entrepreneurs Ben Jesson and Dr Karl Blanks have opened the door to a global talent pool and a truly international customer base. Andrew Millard, senior director marketing, EMEA, SaaS division at Citrix finds out more.
Love it or hate it, businesses are seeing a sharp rise in demand for flexible working. In many cases, this has been driven by the widespread popularity of mobile working tools and employees’ desire or need to move away from a 9-5 culture and office-based working practices.
Yet this is by no means a one-way street. If successful, a flexible working strategy can allow businesses to operate in new markets and gain access to global talent. Crucially, at a time of smaller bonuses and static salaries, it’s a benefit that won’t cost a lot but could pay dividends.
Having recognised the potential a good flexible working strategy can bring, more and more entrepreneurs, bosses and freelancers are now managing their businesses remotely to minimise the time and cost of operating from an office or travelling to external meetings.
For Conversion Rate Experts (CRE), a flexible working strategy coupled with remote working technologies has been key to the evolution of the business. Based out of offices in Staffordshire, the international consultancy works to optimise the profitability of online businesses, including leading brand names such as Apple, Sony, Google and Facebook.
It was founded in 2006 by internet marketing expert Ben Jesson and former scientist Dr Karl Blanks. From the outset, CRE adopted a flexible working model which relies on the Citrix GoToMeeting videoconferencing tool. Over time, this has effectively enabled the firm to operate as a virtual, borderless business. Today, 30 of its expert consultants are located remotely across 12 different countries and the business has to-date served clients in 22 different countries.
One of the biggest advantages of CRE’s evolution as a flexible employer has been in cutting down time spent travelling to meetings. The firm seldom meets with new clients or visits them during the course of projects: everything is done using video conferencing.
As well as helping existing staff manage their commitments more effectively, the decision to allow CRE’s staff to work remotely also effectively removed any physical barrier to recruitment. As an example, current team members include two former eBay managers from Vienna, a best-selling book author from Boston, USA and a former Apple project manager from Switzerland, none of whom would have been prepared to move to the UK.
“All our consultants are well paid and real experts at what they do, so the idea of making them spend lots of time travelling is crazy and would be counterproductive,” says Blanks. “By having everyone set up with GoToMeeting, we can talk to clients at the touch of a button, share our screens and give high-quality visual presentations.”
According to Jesson, one of the few drawbacks of the firm’s international remote working model can be the need to operate in different time zones, which has led to working practices being adapted. “Having the tools to work with someone regardless of geography is great but waiting several hours for a response can be detrimental,” he says. “To avoid any potential delays, we typically assign responsibility for work according to the time zone in which each individual client and consultant operates.”
To manage client projects effectively, Blanks and Jesson agree that it is crucial to define processes for keeping in contact. They also maintain that setting clear objectives and productivity goals is important.
“We’re largely results driven, so we don’t ask people to fill in timesheets because it’s a waste of their time,” said Blanks. “Recently, a member of our team had 39 online meetings with people in 11 countries in just one week. In this respect, productivity tools are a real enabler for efficient, flexible working.”
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