Why we’re becoming a remotely distributed company

14 Aug 2017

Shane Griffiths

We’re moving away from our traditional agency setup and becoming a remotely distributed team.

When we started The Idea Bureau close to 5 years ago now, we didn’t have much of a plan or strategy. Our mandate was pretty simple; we wanted to create a team we were excited to work with every day and collaborate with people who were working hard on trying to solve some of the most difficult issues society face today.

In a relatively short space of time we’re proud to have worked (and continue to work) with some amazing organisations around the world, such as Girls Not Brides, ECPAT International, Consortium for Street Children, Open Contracting Partnership and more. These organisations work on some very important themes and it’s an honour to contribute to their mission.

Working on projects like this makes what we do worthwhile. The idea that in some way we’re contributing (albeit in a small way) to eradicating child marriage, providing support for victims of child exploitation and street-connected children, or working to make government spending and contracts much more transparent, is most definitely what makes us get out of bed in the morning.

This year myself and Ben have been thinking hard about how we can further continue to build upon our work and push our team further forward.

When we first started The Bureau, we felt the most important thing we needed in order to do good work was to have a studio which was worthy of us spending time in. A place which felt homely and also productive.

Our studio is based in Taunton, Somerset, a relatively small town in the South West of England. It’s a lovely place to live and Ben and I have both grown up here. When we first moved in we literally spent all our spare time laying carpet, knocking down walls and painting everything grey.

At first, this was great, but now not so much.

Recently some of our team have moved onto pastures new, and while we wish them the very best of luck, it has forced us to reconsider some of those original decisions. From experience, recruiting talented people locally has been extremely difficult, there just isn’t the footfall that neighbouring cities like Bristol enjoy, and this causes issues when we want new starters to join us in the studio.

We could never really justify recruiting people remotely in the past due to this idea of having a “studio team”, and that to do good work we needed to be together in the same place.

The truth is, we’ve always been working remotely with our clients, most of whom are either in London or overseas, nowhere near our studio. All of our processes are optimised for working remotely to ensure our clients can collaborate with us effectively, but we haven’t been applying those same principles internally. Why?

Running a studio is also expensive and comes with lots of overheads, especially to a small business. Our costs for the studio are ~£15,000 per year, and for that we have poor internet connectivity and a limited pool of local talent to choose from. I think when we started out we felt you weren’t a “proper business” or “successful” unless you had a fancy office to show off to your friends. The truth is, that doesn’t matter, not one little bit, and we’ve now got to the point that being confined to a fixed studio space is now actually holding us back.

The only measure of success which matters is understanding how we can better serve our clients and develop as a team.

With this in mind, we’re deciding to let go of these false comforts and transition over to a remotely distributed team. We’ll work from wherever we want, and we’ll do it in a way which caters to our individual tastes while adding greater value for our clients. It’ll mean that we’ll be able to recruit new team members, focusing on skills and contributions instead of where they live. This also means we’ll be more flexible and have the additional resources available to travel more and meet our clients in person, something we rarely do.

Remotely distributed teams and remote working culture is increasing all the time. So many companies do it and do it well (we’re huge fans of Hanno!). It’s becoming the norm for so many people, and we’re excited to join this trend. Technology makes this so simple nowadays and has given teams like us the chance to work all over the world. Doing this from an office, a coffee shop or home makes very little difference if you have the right tools, processes, and team culture.

It’ll be a little sad in letting the studio go, it’s been a strong asset for us, and it’s been lovely working here. But it’s been a comfort blanket and an excuse not to push ourselves and the team forward. We’re excited about this transition, and we’ll document what we learn from this so you can follow along.

We’re excited for what the future may bring, in the coming months we’ll be looking to grow the team, so if you’re a UI/UX designer or web developer who loves working remotely please get in touch! ????