THE THOUGHTFUL ENTREPRENEUR PODCAST

1787 – Remote Workplace Best Practices with Virtira’s Shane Spraggs

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the CEO of Virtira Consulting Inc., Shane Spraggs.

Spraggs wide

The world of work has undergone a seismic shift in the past few years. Remote work, once a perk, has become a necessity and, for many, a preferred mode of operation. Shane Spraggs is at the forefront of this transformation, leading Vertira, an operations and project management company that excels in the virtual space.

Shane's book, “The Power of Remote,” is not just a testament to the current trends but a guidebook for leaders looking to harness the potential of remote work. During our talk, Shane delved into the strategies and practices that make remote organizations survive and thrive.

One of the main topics he explored was the art of building high-performing teams in a virtual environment. Shane emphasized the importance of clear communication, robust processes, and the right tools to keep teams aligned and productive. He shared examples of how Vertira implements these practices to achieve remarkable results.

Shane discussed the various tools and platforms that facilitate collaboration and project management. He highlighted how Vertira leverages these technologies to streamline operations and maintain a competitive edge.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Shane Spraggs, CEO of Virtira
  • Building high-performing organizations in the virtual workplace
  • Operations and project management
  • Remote work strategies
  • Thriving in a virtual workplace
  • The impact of remote work on organizations
  • Strategies for success in a virtual environment
  • The power of remote work

About Shane Spraggs:

Shane Spraggs is a notable figure in media and software start-ups with over 25 years of experience. He's significantly impacted Virtira as CEO, enhancing productivity for Fortune 100 clients through innovative systems and strategies, particularly for remote teams. 

His problem-solving skills are highly acclaimed, especially in addressing complex organizational issues for sustainable success. Shane co-authored “The Power of Remote” in 2023, a best-seller providing insights on modern team management. He's also a seasoned speaker, adept in various formats, including podcasts and roundtable discussions. 

Shane's expertise centers on enhancing remote work culture, strategic planning, and project management. Shane excels in creating productive environments for remote teams and preparing them for remote challenges. 

His approach combines research with practical experience, offering tangible strategies for organizational improvement. He offers in-person and virtual sessions, sharing his knowledge and experience.

About Virtira Consulting Inc.:

Virtira specializes in enhancing remote work performance. Amid the rise of hybrid work environments, Virtira leverages its extensive experience in remote operations to assist companies in improving sales, accelerating growth, and boosting productivity, regardless of their physical office presence. 

Emphasizing a ‘Work Without Boundaries' philosophy, Virtira rejects traditional office constraints, advocating for a barrier-free approach to work and creativity. This ethos is grounded in believing that great ideas and high performance aren't confined to office cubicles. With over a decade of running a highly productive remote organization, Virtira has successfully empowered teams at Fortune 500 companies, helping them achieve beyond their perceived limits. 

Virtira's approach redefines conventional workspace notions, proving that significant achievements and innovation can originate from anywhere, unhindered by physical boundaries. Their impact is evident in the substantial improvements in the capabilities and output of the teams they've collaborated with.

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Virtira Consulting Inc. website at

https://www.virtira.com/

Check out Virtira Consulting Inc. on LinkedIn at

https://www.linkedin.com/company/virtira/

Check out Shane Spraggs on LinkedIn at

https://www.linkedin.com/in/shane-spraggs/

Check out Shane Spraggs on Instagram Threads at

https://www.threads.net/@shanespraggs

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Transcript

Josh (00:00:04) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence. Com and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence. Com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. Shane Sprague's Shane, you are the founder of Terra. That's ver. era.com. And you're also the author of the book The Power of Remote Building high performing organizations that thrive in the Virtual workplace. Okay, every leader listening right now, their ears just perked up. Shane, it's great to have you.

Shane (00:01:21) - Thanks. I do have one. One. Correction I'm not the founder. I can't take that credit, but I am CEO of Futura.

Josh (00:01:26) - Okay. All right, my bad, my bad, my bad.

Shane (00:01:28) - No worries.

Josh (00:01:29) - All right Shane. Yeah? Tell us about the work that you do before we get into the book, tell us just who Vertica is and what you do there.

Shane (00:01:36) - Yeah, absolutely. We are our productivity company. It's people, not not software. So we put people into companies to help with the operations and project management and sales operations. And we've been in business remotely for over 15 years. And so when the pandemic hit, we were in pretty good shape. You know, we didn't have to worry as much as other companies did, although it did affect us because we we tend to get together once a year anyways and there's some value of being in person. But we took the opportunity to say, okay, let's take all of our experience of working remotely and put it into a book and hopefully help others with that.

Josh (00:02:10) - Yeah. And so when you're working with your clients at Vertigo, what does that typically look like?

Shane (00:02:16) - Well, so I'll give you a good example. We have a team who works with a bunch of sales enterprise sales teams in the states, and they do all the backend work to allow the sales people to focus on the strategy of the sale. So you got a sales person. They are hard to find a good one. You want to maximize their time. You don't want them doing all the paperwork even as far as you can, putting quotes together and, you know, tracking deliveries and doing all the other backend work. That's where we come in. We help take that off the hands of those busy salespeople, and we offer what some companies call a deals desk a service in that respect. In other cases, we will just do staff augmentation and help, uh, you know, a startup with a project manager, you know, a lot of small companies will will need a project manager. But if they hire a project manager, that person is being put in as a silo.

Shane (00:03:06) - There's no one on that team who can, uh, provide them with mentorship because they're the only project manager, and you're stuck with one person and, you know, you have you have this individual who may or may not be the right person for the job, and they have no no one to look up to and no one to help them with any problems they might come against. So we can help with, uh, providing a project manager fractionally or full time.

Josh (00:03:26) - Yeah. You've worked with organizations like Cisco, Dell Technologies, American Express, tell us, Imperva, VMware, and what might be some of the pain points you hear when you start having those initial conversations with organizations like them?

Shane (00:03:45) - It's just time. The people we work with are so maxed out and, you know, they have their meeting calendar scheduled, chock full. They hardly have time to think themselves or working 60 hour weeks. And this is where we can come in. And just us doing the same task that they might do saves them double at the time because they have to stop their work.

Shane (00:04:04) - Put that down, go deal with the order, then put that down. Go back to their original job. But we can go through and handle multiple orders at a time, and that just streamlines things and helps them, uh, get focused on, like I said, the strategy of their sale and their customer service.

Josh (00:04:19) - Is most of the work you end up doing in, you know, kind of setting up better systems. Obviously, you start with strategy, but, you know, I would imagine a lot of that implementation then is just, you know, kind of establishing those systems that are going to work better for folks that may be in and out of the office or not in the office at all. But yet the leaders are still able to get the, say, maybe the efficiencies of the productivity that they're looking for, that maybe they once had when everybody was in the office.

Shane (00:04:47) - Yeah. And that's exactly, you know, so from a remote work standpoint, I look at it in this lens of what's called the self-determination theory.

Shane (00:04:54) - And this is a theory that was born out of the 1980s by a couple named Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. And they talk about how motivation requires three key things. That's autonomy, competency and relatedness. And so if you really think those are pretty straightforward terms and they know what they mean, what you think they mean. And if you think about when everyone went from, you know, working in the office to working remotely, then people would still have the autonomy in a lot of cases. A lot of people had the competency, but it was that relatedness really started to suffer. And so, you know, we have a lot of approaches to things and a lot of them are very simple. You know, something as simple as having an icebreaker before a meeting can help build relatedness with the people you're working with. And we find you don't need to have, you know, this strong social atmosphere like you tend to have in the office. All that's doing is organically trying to build the relatedness that you can build if you have a bit of intentionality.

Shane (00:05:45) - So we help organizations figure that out for themselves and help them get back to a place where they can be operational and more productive. I mean, we hear a lot of results about remote work. Depends who you talk to. But in my opinion, the opinion of many other research companies, that remote work is more productive and more so than that. Remote workers tend to be retained by the company longer. Yes, they cost less. Not because they necessarily have to, um, you know, pay them less. But there's no office, you know, there's no pain there. You know, their hydro, you're not paying their electricity bill. You know, they have all that at home and they're happier. You know, they can do a work life balance far better than they can in the office. And they're saving themselves, on average, an hour and a half of community each day. And that's saving them money. So it is just a win, win win for a lot of people. And you know, it's not obviously for everyone.

Shane (00:06:30) - Some people feel some feelings of loneliness and being siloed. So when we hire remotely we look for people who have a strong social life outside of the office. Not only does that give them a outlet for their social needs, does everyone still need social needs? It also gives them a chance to, um, gives them something to work for during the day that they want to get back to after the weekends and evenings.

Josh (00:06:53) - Shane, let's talk about your book, The Power of Remote Building, high performing organizations that thrive in the virtual workplace. Who needs to read this book? And what's the transformation that that that will occur when they read and apply?

Shane (00:07:06) - There are three main categories of people who need this book. And I say that when the pandemic happened, the employees were ready to go to work out of the house. The managers were not ready, they had no idea how to work remotely. And this book helps them with management, HR was not ready to go work remotely. No idea how to hire people, how to fire people.

Shane (00:07:24) - This will help them. And executives had no idea how to continue doing strategic planning and maintaining a yearly plan remotely. And we have, uh, bits and pieces in the book for that as well.

Josh (00:07:36) - Yeah, well, maybe walk me through. I know you offer a free chapter, but if we were to condense the thesis of the power of Remote into, let's say, like a mini TEDx talk, what would be the kind of the conclusion that we'd move people to.

Shane (00:07:50) - Right? Right. Sure. And I'll do my best. One of the things with this book, it's not like your typical business book. It's not one theme that's been stretched out across, you know, 200 pages. And by the time you're at the end of the book, you're like, just hoping that you see that index on the next page to get the book over with is chock full of practical feedback and ideas on how to run things, as well as includes a lot of history and references to support our claims. And starting from the top, companies have to do a better job of sharing and communicating their purpose.

Shane (00:08:19) - Uh, they have to make sure that throughout the entire hiring process, people know why they're joining the company. We want to hire people who want to join to support the purpose of the company. And then in onboarding, you want to make sure you people with with somebody like an onboarding buddy, you want to make sure that you have a strong onboarding plan so that people can learn all about your organization. And what we say is that, you know, set up it up. So you you meet in the first week and you talk about next week's goals. You meet the next week, talk about the following week's goals. Do the same thing again until you get the first month done. Then you talk about what's going to happen in the next month, and then with the employee, you talk about the next month. And by the time you've done three months, now you've got to set up where you're talking not just about what their goals are for the next three months, but you have a performance plan already put in place for the employee, and you connect that with the companies trying to do.

Shane (00:09:07) - And so they have a sense that their relatedness of relatedness to how their tasks push forward the company plan. What are they doing that's making progress, that has impact. And companies direction. And that's critical. To keep people engaged is like, how am I helping out? And yeah, you know, I'm a big proponent on making sure that employees have at least a weekly one on one with their managers. Uh, we have some thing in the book about how to do that more successfully than your typical one on ones in person. It's not rocket science. There's there's stuff you need to be able to do. And we say that it doesn't need different management. It just needs better management. So all the management techniques we've all heard about over the course of, you know, many, many years, all these books out there that talk about how to manage well, you have to apply much of that concept but remotely so that you can manage your people.

Josh (00:09:58) - Well, I was just kind of glancing over an article that you had written that got picked up on LinkedIn, and you talk about, uh, again, remotely, relatedness is the key.

Josh (00:10:08) - And then related is requires meaningful connections with others. And if you're in office, relatedness tends to develop organically remotely. You're going to need a little bit of intention. And what you talk about is you use the self-determination theory as the roadmap for running successful remote company. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Shane (00:10:26) - Yeah. You know, and as I mentioned earlier, uh, the self-determination theory is three main components. It's the autonomy, competency and relatedness. And as a manager, if you try to satisfy all three of those for your team members, you're doing a good job. The focal point for this, and it all comes together at the one on one. You can imagine when you're having a conversation with your team member, you need to make sure that you are giving them work that they have control over. So I like to say that it's not about telling, you know, when you have point A to point B, it's not about getting them to figure out what point B is. As a manager, you need to provide point B, you have to let them figure out how to get there.

Shane (00:11:03) - Right. And that's the part most managers miss with assigning accountability is they don't want employees, don't want to be on the hook to figure out what needs to be done. They need that leadership from you. So they they want to be able to have some flexibility on how they take care of that, how they get from point A to point B, so you take care of the autonomy. You make sure that they are competent enough for the work that they have to do. So, you know, do they have the right skills if not to the other training, you know, are they over skilled for this work, that sort of thing? And then the relatedness side, how is this connected with you with the company goals? Uh, how are they connected with the people they have to work with on their team? How are they going to see value from this task when it is finished? And so with if you keep those three concepts in mind for all parts of your work plan, you can work out what needs to be improved upon remotely.

Josh (00:11:57) - Yeah. All right. So again we've been talking about the power of remote building, high performing organizations that thrive in the virtual workplace. Spell seller on Amazon. You can also I don't mean to steal your thunder here Shane on a call to action. But you can read the free chapter right now. No opt in required at your website. Vertica dot com VRT. I are a shame. What I'd like to do is maybe give some action items, and folks that are inspired by what we've been talking about today can maybe implement immediately, or maybe just one little task, something that they could do so that they could maybe improve, you know, their current culture and or performance productivity, uh, you know, just how things are being run.

Shane (00:12:45) - Sure. And I'll take I'll start with a basic one. Communication. Communication is probably the most important thing in the company. Everyone does it slightly wrong. I shouldn't say wrong. No one's ever happy with how things are communicated. And I have a saying that, uh, that once you're tired of saying that, people are starting to get it.

Shane (00:12:58) - So a lot of companies do not have their communication plan written down. If you're a small to medium large company, uh, you were just getting started and you don't have someone responsible for corporate communications, just sit down. It takes about an hour. Write down how communication works. Um, top down and left and right. So how is the message going to go from the CEO to the worker? How's information going out for the worker to the CEO? And how how is information shared laterally? Right. And it doesn't take long to outline this. And you can just gives you a starting point and that gives you something to improve upon. Right. Well that didn't work with just differently. So a good example is that you might have okay. My my plan to communicate information down is a quarterly all hands. Well you do that for a few times. Are people getting the information they need to understand what's happening at the company? No. Well, let's throw in a monthly newsletter. Great. That's too much information.

Shane (00:13:51) - Or, you know, people aren't reading it and you make these changes iteratively to improve things over time. But you got to start somewhere. Got to start with a just write it down. Right. And the same thing applies for your onboarding. Onboarding is such a critical time for an employee to become feel a sense of relatedness with the organization. And a lot of times all it requires you just sit down and write down what things you want them to learn, who do you want them to meet and what goals do they have? Up in the first 2 or 3 months. Right. And by doing that, it's again, it's intentionality. You're not leaving things to chance. So, so many companies will just hire somebody and they'll let them flounder and appear on meetings and nobody knows who they are. And that does a significant disservice to the new hire, and it forces them to struggle. And this goes first few critical weeks. So those are a couple of things. Write down your communication plan. Write down your onboarding plan and just start iterating it.

Shane (00:14:47) - And the onboarding plan is a great example where at the end of the onboarding process with your new hire, ask them how to fix it. What did we do right? What do we do wrong? And every time you do that, you get some new little nugget that you can fix and improve upon.

Josh (00:15:01) - So your book, again, the power of remote building, high performance organizations that thrive in the virtual workplace. It's on Kindle, it's an audiobook, it's hardcover version. It's all in Amazon. And again, link from your website, vertica.com. Anything else in terms of resources or, you know, when folks go to your website, you'd recommend their next steps be.

Shane (00:15:19) - We have a number of things. One of the things we did recently that I think people will find really interesting is we did a survey. We surveyed all about webcam usage back in 2021. This was of interest to us at the time because when people all went off, uh, you know, on remote, there's a huge push for always being on camera.

Shane (00:15:35) - And that was different for us. We didn't you know, we're here as a company. We don't force people to be on camera. And our assumption was at the time that that was onerous on on individuals and it causes people to burn out. So we ran this survey back in 2021. We reran the survey in September. And so we have about a thousand people each time and we got some great results. So if you want some fundamental research that you can use to talk to your boss or talk to a leader on your team about how things should be, have a look at this survey. It talks about meeting fatigue and zoom fatigue. Zoom fatigue was the big one for the longest time. Yeah. And people are, I think more or less the last few years getting used to being on camera. But we still tell people if you're in a meeting where typically it'd be in a boardroom, it'd be one person talking at a time. That's a crappy place to have a camera on. You're just going to be sitting there staring at people, and that's going to slowly drain that person's life away, right.

Shane (00:16:31) - So, um, we advocate that, you know, in those meetings, do your first 15, ten minutes of conversation and socializing on camera, then get off the camera, let people do their job, and you don't need to be on camera for that. But if you are talking with someone like we're having this conversation. Yeah, of course, let's put camera on it. You know, uh, visual cues are, you know, a big part of the communication. So. Yeah, um, that we believe in what we found out in 2023 was it's less about zoom fatigue and more about meeting fatigue. And for whatever reason, I shouldn't say, well, we kind of know, but there are more meetings remotely than there are in the office. And they are now. Unfortunately, people have their whole day booked up. They're back to back. And unlike in the office where you if you had a back to back meeting, at the very least you would stand up after that conversation and walk out the door and get a few minutes of, you know, stretch your legs, set in your mind what it was you talked about virtually.

Shane (00:17:25) - You just click the button, go to the next meeting. You're going from one to the other. People need breaks, right? It's just too much. You can't do 3 or 4 hours of meetings in a row without impact. I don't care who you are. That's going to impact somebody, right? I do it.

Josh (00:17:38) - Yeah, maybe I'll tell you. One of my biggest hacks that I figured out because I, I do probably about six hours of zoom, three days a week and probably four hours on on Monday. So the biggest thing that I learned I have to do is I have to turn off self view. Don't look at yourself. And I noticed when I did that it seemed to be a lot more tolerable. And then I think there is probably a little bit something to the, uh, you know, kind of pushing out the comfort zone initially. Like if you go from zero, you know, and I think a lot of people were right there, you know, zero hours on zoom and all of a sudden they're 20 hours on zoom in a week.

Josh (00:18:19) - Yeah, that's going to be very unsettling for sure. So I think I'm just used to it at this point.

Shane (00:18:25) - Yeah, I think a lot of people are and. Yeah. And uh, and so we have a lot of, you know, have a look at the research. We have, uh, all that's covered in there, uh, and some real good stats about, you know, and so some recommendations as well. So for example, at Retiro, we have earmarked Friday Friday's meeting, no meeting Friday. And I don't always have no meetings on that day. We you know, it's a place for me to pick up time if I have to. But having a day where you can work is so productive. Uh, and I also benefit from having my most of my teams out east. So I'm in western Canada, most of my team is out in Nova Scotia, and we span four time zones, which allows us to help customers to every time zone. But it also means we have less overlap for when we actually work as a company.

Shane (00:19:08) - And we have a policy. There's no meetings before 8 a.m. Pacific or after 5 p.m. Atlantic. So that means that from 1:00 on my time, I have no meetings. And it's brilliant, right? I get I get so much done in the afternoon because of that. And I'm far more productive. And so if you can take some time to be a little more intentional with meetings, you need, and a lot of times meetings are there because people set them up and never turn them off. And yeah, they don't they don't have an agenda. They don't have any purpose. They just get together and talk.

Josh (00:19:38) - All right. Shane Sprague's CEO of vertebra and co-author of the book The Power of Remote Building High Performance Organizations That Thrive in the Virtual Workplace. Shayne Spriggs, thank you so much for joining us.

Shane (00:19:49) - Thanks, Josh. Pleasure.

Josh (00:19:56) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my influence.

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