When your company has an inspiring mission, it’s understandable that applicants will flock to you—and you don’t want to turn away the best talent because of geography.
In the third episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with a fellow Adam, Adam Dole, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Bento, to discuss how he built a rock-solid culture with his global, distributed team. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including the advantages of a remote work model and why it’s essential to prioritize human connection, regardless of the remote work tools you use.
Introducing Adam and His Approach To Remote Work
Adam has aimed to improve the healthcare system throughout his career, building products, services, and businesses that help people live higher-quality lives. After serving in roles at NASA, Method, Inc., and Not Impossible Labs (among several other companies), Adam founded Bento to eliminate hunger and food insecurity in the United States.
“We started Bento at the beginning of the pandemic when remote was the default,” Adam said. “We didn’t intentionally want to start a team that was going to be remote/distributed, but it was just what had to happen at that time. Fast forward three years, and we’ve got 25 people not only spread across the United States but internationally as well. It’s been a wild ride personally for me to see how good it can be to have a remote distributed team, especially in the ecosystem that we’re operating in now.”
Adam recognizes that a distributed model has empowered his team to fulfill their mission in ways that in-person work couldn’t.
“The advantages are numerous across the board,” he said. “First, just being able to attract talent from any location and not being limited to a certain region—or have to have those conversations with a really talented candidate about what it would require to move them… It’s been a crazy, positive competitive advantage for us, just in terms of our effectiveness to work in a distributed way, for a variety of different reasons.”
The Importance of Prioritizing Human Connection On A Remote Team
Building a strong work culture, regardless of your working arrangement, takes a conscious effort. Remote work has forced Adam’s team to be intentional about how they operate in ways that in-person teams can often neglect.
“There can be this expectation that because people are coming to the office, it’s easier to build culture, it’s easier to get on the same page,” Adam said. “But the reality is, it still requires a lot of intention, and a lot of thought and choosing how to do that. And I think it doesn’t always get prioritized when people just make the assumption that because everybody’s coming to the same office, that’s going to happen. Not being in the same space has really forced us to prioritize that as a company… how we’re going to build culture, how we’re going to make sure we’re all on the same page, how we’re going to interact with each other as humans in ways that might not be as obvious when you’re not with each other in the same room.”
Adam’s team uses a mix of video conferencing and project management tools to complete their work, including a different tool for happy hours than their usual virtual meeting platform. But the tools don’t matter as much as how you frame them, he says.
“The tools are necessary but not sufficient,” he said. “What has allowed us to get the most out of these tools—but also perform as a company and to be a company that people want to be at, that people get excited to show up to every day—is because the intention of getting to know each other as humans first, and not relying on the tool to do that for us.”
How does he accomplish this human connection in a remote culture? For starters:
- Not every meeting is purely transactional. Adam’s team talks about things going on in their personal lives, and they prioritize this opportunity to do so.
- They set clear guidelines around how to use each digital communication tool in a healthy and fulfilling way. The goal is that everyone knows each other well enough that they can interpret their tone through messages.
- At strategic times during the year, his company comes together in person—just like we do at Frameabe at least once a year. It’s an investment that is well worth it.
For more of Adam’s insights into building a thriving and human-focused culture as a remote team, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 3. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.