Jonathan Zacharias and Kevin Miller, cofounders of GR0, a digital marketing agency.
Nailah Barcelona Houston
The future of work is here, and it’s digital all the way.
With many businesses keeping workers remote or exploring hybrid models, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a revolution in the way we work—and there’s likely no going back to the way it was. The digital experience is king now, and not just for customers but for employees, too.
The big question for entrepreneurs and startup founders: How can we scale our business successfully with a workforce that’s scattered far and wide? I connected recently with a team that’s uniquely equipped to answer that.
GR0 is a digital marketing agency focused on igniting organic growth for direct-to-consumer startups and helping brands rank #1 on Google. Founded in early 2020 just before Covid hit, the company succeeded in expanding rapidly despite the pandemic’s monumental challenges. And its triumphs haven’t gone unnoticed. Cofounded by SEO and marketing experts (and longtime best friends) Jonathan Zacharias and Kevin Miller, GR0 received a Silver Stevie® award for “Fastest Growing Company of the Year” as part of the 2021 American Business Awards®.
To help your venture thrive, the GR0 team shared a few secrets to scaling successfully in a digital-first world.
1. Leverage Flexibility To Find And Hire The Right People
These days you can recruit beyond your office locations, gaining broader access to top talent across the country. For GR0, casting a wider recruiting net comes with big benefits. “Having the ability to recruit for remote roles has opened up the opportunity to create a much more diverse candidate pipeline,” says Lauren Cassen, GR0’s recruiting lead.
“We put a focus on finding people who are a culture add, as opposed to a culture fit,” she notes. “This is helping us build a company that strays away from a model of ‘homogeneity of thought’ to bring in different voices and innovative ideas.”
GR0 team members (and a few furry friends).
Nailah Barcelona Houston
2. Digitize Your Employee Training
When most (or all) of your team is remote, it’s not easy for new employees to shadow coworkers as they learn the job. One way to get around this is to digitize your training and learning-and-development (L&D) activities.
“We’ve created self-guided training modules through an online LMS,” says Kirkland Gee, L&D manager at GR0. “This is a learning center of written documents, visual flowcharts and how-to videos to accommodate different learning styles, and a library of screen recordings to demonstrate these vital processes to entire teams rather than through individualized sessions. These things free up our time, allowing us to continue adding new team members without taking away from the development of other important training resources.”
3. Build Out A Strong Referral Network And Partner Program
These days, startups rely more on virtual introductions, because organic connections in the real world are not as easy to come by. With a focus on warm referrals, GR0 was able to make the most of virtual intros and quickly scale their business.
“The growth of an agency relies heavily on the influx of clients, and our sales benefited from a group of referral partners who introduced us to clients that were highly qualified and predisposed to do business with us,” says Kevin Miller, GR0’s CEO and cofounder. “These referrals contributed to the majority of our growth, as a warm lead always helps the sales process move faster.”
4. Find The Best Tech Tools To Help You Thrive
As a remote-first company, you have technology on your side—including a wealth of apps to help you optimize productivity and teamwork. GR0 uses Notion for project management, Lattice for goals and feedback, Rippling for HR, Calendly and Google Calendar for scheduling, Slack for speedy and organized communication, and Zoom and Google Meet for meetings. All of these help to move every part of office culture to online forums.
5. Establish A Supportive Team Culture, Virtually
To build teamwork and foster positive employee experiences, GR0 emphasizes a culture of recognition. “Before, we would only have the managers do praises during our weekly company meeting, but we wanted to make it an equitable experience for everyone,” explains cofounder Jon Zacharias. “So, we integrated a praise system in our Slack that lets employees easily give praises to each other.”
Each praise equals a raffle submission in the company’s biweekly raffles for cool prizes, some of them from GR0’s clients. “It’s incredible and very uplifting to see hundreds of [praise] submissions every two weeks as our employees show appreciation for others,” adds Zacharias.
6. Embrace Automation In Strategic Ways
Automation can be a powerful tool rather than a threat. Used strategically, it can even help you scale your business.
“Instead of withering at the notion that robots are taking over the world, GR0 has embraced strategic automation,” explains Felix Von Sass, director of operations. “This has freed up time for our team to do the types of tasks that humans are uniquely positioned to perform, while simultaneously reducing the margin for error on repetitive, unrewarding and banal tasks. There is no one-size fits all solution for softwares. However, we make sure that the softwares we choose all communicate with each other to avoid the time drain of manual data entry.” The result: greater efficiency and quality improvements across the board.
7. Use Flexibility To Your Advantage
When you have team members working remotely across the country, it’s easier to offer the flexible schedules that today’s workers value so highly. This attracts and retains the best people, because they know you’re measuring their performance, not their attendance. They’ll also feel valued and supported, knowing that management understands that all employees are juggling different variables in their lives that require flexibility.
Yet, flexibility is not just an internal benefit. GR0 has found that it’s a business advantage, too—because having employees in different time zones means there’s always someone available for their clients.
8. Let ‘Remote First’ Be Your Mantra
As an overall ethos, “remote first” can have a transformative effect on your business across the board—just as it’s had for GR0.
“We believe that GR0’s transition to a remote-first company has provided us with advantages in how we implement our company values and overall culture,” says Aaron Friedman, head of people. Making the shift to remote-first compelled GR0 to robustly enhance its HR technology stack to support and scale its new processes and practices. Adds Friedman: “It also forced our People Team to quickly infuse our values into specific company business practices, from crisis management to employee engagement and much more.”