Announcing the Virtual Frontier: a podcast about virtual teams

11/7/2018
25 min read time

Flash Hub is excited to announce our new podcast, the Virtual Frontier. The Virtual Frontier is a podcast about virtual teams that is created by a virtual team. We have a lot of exciting things planned for the show. We’re going to have episodes dedicated to tips and how-tos featuring our founder Manuel Pistner. We’re also going to have guests from all over the globe that have experience with virtual teams talk about what they’ve learned.

 

Here is the trailer:

 

You can subscribe to the Virtual Frontier and leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher or anywhere else podcasts are found.

Listen to the rest of the episodes of the Virtual Frontier on our blog.

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Full episode transcript below:

Chris:

Hello and welcome to the Virtual Frontier. The podcast about virtual teams created by a virtual team. I’m Chris. I’m part of the team here at Flash Hub and I’m real excited to welcome you to today’s episode. On today’s episode we’re talking about how you define the culture of a remote team. I figure who better to talk to about that than the fearless leader of Flash Hub himself Mister Manuel Pistner. I grabbed him for a few minutes so I could talk to him about his background, more about Flash Hub and I learned quite a bit. I’m fairly new to the team so there was a lot of new info that I got from this conversation and I think you’re going to learn a lot as well. So I’m really excited to share this with you. So without further ado let’s get into the episode.

Chris:

Here is Episode 2 of the Virtual Frontier featuring Flash Hub founder Manuel Pistner.

Chris:

So why don’t you tell us about yourself and Flash Hub.

Manuel:

Yeah sure. Thank you very much for the podcast.

Manuel:

So my name is Manuel. I studied computer science and founded Bright Solutions as a freelancer in 2006. Yeah. Local software development company. And during the years since 2011 I shifted a company from a software development company to a like web and mobile app development company and now these days we transformed our company from a local service provider to a full virtual team.

Manuel:

That means we have some people locally sitting here in Darmstadt in our office which are facing the customer and working towards the customer and all the production all the projects all the work that is done gathered up from the requirements of the customer is now done with a virtual team. That’s a huge shift in our culture and that’s a huge shift in how we work and everything that we do. And that’s what Flash Hub does because we experience so many many positive situations and the overall positive effect on the company that we want to help other organizations and companies to experience the same with virtual teams. That means we provide fully managed virtual teams to our customers, to other agencies, to product owners that need to scale their product development team or to founders that want to scale their operation and ensure that the lack and the gap of talent which exists locally here, especially in Germany, will not affect their operations in a negative way.

Manuel:

And that’s what we do today working with more than 150 globally distributed freelancers.

Chris:

Yeah I mean I know I’m one of those freelancers.

Manuel:

In fact yeah.

Chris:

So let’s let’s do a quick discussion about what we’re doing here.

Chris:

So we put out the trailer already about this podcast and normally you’re gonna be the one doing the interviews talking about the tips because as you just mentioned you’ve spent a lot of time working with people installing virtual teams and setting them up for success. So you’ve got a lot to say on that but I figured who better to put on the first episode talking about defining the culture of remote team than mister remote team himself.

Manuel:

Thanks for the kind of inflection.

Manuel:

I mean having this podcast alive now was one of my great experiences because imagine you sit at the beach and you watching the sea, it was in Barcelona about four weeks ago, and I heard a podcast, another other podcast, which described how things changed with social media and efficiency and podcasts and working culture and everything around new work.

Manuel:

And I decided oh I have so many things about new work and efficiency and remote work that a podcast which I do by myself would be a good idea. Yeah that’s how I found you. In the same day we got an interview and I decided hey Well Chris that’s a good opportunity. Let’s start with that. So we decided to do our podcast. And then I introduced you to our marketing team and the marketing team produced a podcast in about two weeks. And I was not involved at all but saw the intro and the specific marketing around the podcast that I was very very surprised and it was a fascinating experience because things come alive even without being involved. And that was a very very good idea.

Manuel:

And sharing these ideas but they were also very well acquired a lot of negative moments and setbacks that I experienced while shifting my organization to a virtual one. I want to share this experience in this podcast and then the next ones I will interview people that do things differently, that changed things for the better, that work remotely, that just completely changed the way how they work and how they interact with people and specifically how they define work and how work gives people a purpose and how work contributes a positive thing to lives of people.

Manuel:

This is one very important thing and I want that others listening to this podcast see what can happen if you go first step and change things and try to do something differently.

Chris:

Yeah definitely. We are exactly on the same page. [laughs]

Chris:

I know you have a lot more to say about it than me so that’s why you’re the one that’s going to be doing most of the interviews and the tips as you’re the expert, I just happen to know stuff about podcasts. So since you were talking a little bit about it just now how the company culture just kind of created the podcast where you once you and I did our interview why don’t we get into the meat of the episode.

Chris:

So first of all I wanted to see if you could define what you think company culture is.

Manuel:

On the basic level it’s the values that the company represents and that all people commit to these values and share the same purpose of work. They know and understand why they are working. They are not just working, at least in our company, because I give them money for a specific amount of time. It’s more because they know what they contribute and which value they give to other companies which are our customers. So culture is a common understanding of what we do and why we do it. And culture can be found in everyday work.

Manuel:

I mean it’s just the small things that make the culture visible. It’s if you do something good to somebody and he says Oh thank you very much I appreciate that. Or if you do something to a person and the person say okay thanks and goes by goes bye and it was just a word but there was no meaning behind that. This is a small thing to express your culture.

Manuel:

Our culture is also based on a very flat hierarchy. So even if I’m the founder and formally I’m the CEO, I’m not the boss. I don’t tell people what to do. I coach them and I build a system for them where they can thrive where they can make the best out of their working time providing the most value to our customers. And this is a spirit of our company because people don’t sit here and just work 9:00 to 5:00 so every day and after that they go home and say Oh my God thanks that this day has passed. They should go and this is why I founded my company. They should go to the company and see their life’s value aligned with a company’s value. And that’s why they love being here and doing work even if it does not feel as having work. Sometimes we compare ourselves so as a sports team we try to win the match and we do everything that is necessary to win this match. And we have a common goal. We want to become world champion but we know we need to win each and every single championship along the way. That’s our mission. And with Flash Hub the mission is that each and every company can use virtual teams and leverage the power of virtual teams easily without going through all the pain and all the changes that we had. This is something that everyone in the company knows and that’s why people come here for work.

Manuel:

Of course there are other things, we have a few good manager which helps people to be happy which helps people to live healthy. They get food every week so they they should be aware of what they eat. We have a fitness studio on the same floor as our offices so people are sporty. They go to the gym like every second day and we celebrate success which is also part of the company. We go to parties together. We celebrate if we won a deal and we celebrate customers happy with us. We also have a global team and we do like cheers on the screen on the screen cast if we had success together. So it’s how people interact and why they go to work and which purpose they have. That’s the culture of our company.

Chris:

Yeah definitely. And you talk some about how that works within Flash Hub and Bright Solutions too but you also mentioned sort of the issues and the trials you’ve had with it.

Chris:

So can you talk about how you transition from your development and your mobile apps over to the remote team and then installing the remote team with us.

Manuel:

Yeah. You know there is a sentence called diamonds made by pressure and that’s what we experience and that’s what I hope other people don’t have to experience. We had some projects that were about crash and there was a huge demand with huge problems and huge pressure to save these projects and to make them successful again. And that was the point where I decided that the old fashioned system of having people sitting locally and buying their time selling their time to the customer is old school and doesn’t work anymore properly because you don’t find people.

Manuel:

And if you have people they stay for maybe two years then they jump to another job they leave and then you don’t find other people anymore and customers they want full service they want services faster in higher quality in the most flexible way and that’s what you can’t do with local people.

Manuel:

So at this point I decided to do things different and just try to work with people all around the globe. And while having my first experience with developers and quality assurance people it was a great experience because you find motivated people. You find people that have time that have skills and that can contribute to your project and it’s so hard to find these people. So I found a way to get rid of all these barriers and borders and limits and just do projects that our customers like because I can have access to people that like to work with us. And then there was a time where we saw that things speed up they get much much faster than ever before. We have projects that have a new team staffed within two days and projects that end or deliver results in four weeks. Where on the old fashioned way we would have needed like eight weeks 12 weeks or even more. And this speed is somehow also overwhelming for other people. But then you come at a certain point where you need to decide the right people that helps you to reach your goals and are those the right people in this company and which is very important. Does this company make those people happy and that is when I came to the point that I thought okay it’s not for me to decide what makes the happy but it’s me to decide how to build a culture. And at a certain point where where we are right now we decided that we will get rid of all these things like resource planning because we have staffing on demand. We get rid of you have like 30 days of holiday per year. You can have as many holidays per year as you want as long as you achieve your goals. We don’t have a fixed salary and people don’t have to negotiate their salary with me because it’s not me to decide. It’s other people that can decide if this person contributes a value or not.

Manuel:

It’s customers who decide if they have a great contact person that helps them to solve problems. And it’s the numbers that decide how much a person can earn. So I don’t want to tell them okay you only get like five thousand euro month but you earned ten thousand so the rest is for me.

Manuel:

If they see that they earn that amount of money they get it.

Manuel:

And how they can control it. We have radical transparency as a culture. So every numbers, my salary, everything will be transparent to people. They see how they are doing in the projects. They see how much they earn with the projects they see how much everyone costs. And then they they have the knowledge to decide what is best for the company and best for their life. And that’s how we decided to grow and develop our culture that is not very easy. We lost many local people. So even during this year we had like 40 people in the beginning of this year.

Manuel:

Right now we are 22 but 150 remote workers. And that’s that’s a great shift because you see that even when you shrink your local employee count you can grow. And you don’t have all these bottlenecks and barriers and limits. That’s a great feeling and that feels great for those people that love speed and results and they get what they earned.

Chris:

Yeah I think it’s interesting when I when we first talked and then other times we’ve talked during the project, and even now, the way you view the big picture in terms of this. Having run my own company previously and then other kind of founders that I’ve talked to they would completely stay down seeing those in-house numbers shrink but for you that’s encouraging because of the growth that you’ve seen, not just the number of remote people but what has been achieved, and so that’s led to more revenue et cetera. And I think that’s unique to you. That’s why I think you are, in my opinion, created for this company. This was what you were supposed to do. It took you while to find it but I don’t think many other people would keep that positive outlook when people keep leaving they

Manuel:

Definitely I mean I I definitely found my purpose in work and I love success. I like to be with people that want to be successful and do something good to contribute something positive to others. That’s what I love. That’s my DNA and that’s the culture that I want to build. Not everyone that you meet in everyday applications of new people here will be a good fit for that and in the future we had many, in the past sorry, we had many tradeoffs that we decided okay let’s hire him because nobody else applied and then we hired this person. But we understood that this person is not a good fit for our culture. And then it polluted the culture because you keep people because somehow they are nice but that’s it. And if you want people that are only nice you can be friends with them but you don’t want to do you work. You would not even be in a sports organization with a person that doesn’t contribute to becoming a world champion right. If the person is just nice okay be friends with this person but it’s not somebody who contributes to the company’s mission. You know it’s hard to do this transition because we had a company of three million in revenue and we had our profit of 15 percent every year so other stream of that. But it was not what excited me so I decided to shift everything around. I’m not motivated by money but money is a measure to measure results. It’s a number to measure your success rate. That’s what motivates me and that’s why I provide this transparency to everyone else in the company so they can see how they are doing.

Chris:

Right. Yes I think that you view your revenue as just one of the metrics in a number of other metrics that you look at. From a marketing perspective you would look at like okay this much traffic led to this many sales but that’s okay. I’m more into the awareness of this and that clients are happy that the projects are completed. Is that is that true?

Manuel:

Definitely that. And this is the most important thing. Be aware of what you do for your customers why they hire you and it’s not me who pays your salary every month. It’s the customer. And if they are not happy and you don’t provide value they won’t pay you. That’s life.

Manuel:

And if you do a good job you earn the money. So you have success. That’s that’s how the company operates and that’s how the whole economy is working.

Chris:

Yeah definitely. And I think that with our culture and I think what you instill in your clients is a teammate mentality. You referenced that a few times sort of, I think for you you’re thinking more in terms of soccer probably being over in Europe. But for me…

Manuel:

I hate soccer. [laughs]I don’t like it but I love sports. I don’t like soccer.

Chris:

Well for me it’s more basketball than anything. And so you think that yeah there might be contracts to where you’re on the team but you don’t play if you’re not contributing to the success of the team. That’s exactly what you’re defining. You know I once I joined it was a can you help us get this thing done? And it was very clear that like quickly once I started showing that I could contribute I was given a lot to do. And that’s really refreshing having been pulled in as a freelancer on other teams that just kind of let you sit there and hope you’ll figure it out. Yeah definitely. It’s interesting. And I prefer that a lot. So I like that.

Chris:

I think we should talk a little bit about culture with other companies because we’ve talked quite a bit about the culture with Flash Hub already.

Chris:

I guess first I want to talk about if you have specific success stories with some clients you want to highlight. Maybe you don’t want to say who they are maybe you do but sort of the difficulties they were having, how you solve that and just talk about that a little bit.

Manuel:

Of course. I mean the most exciting story was that we had to content migration for a customer a manual content migration of 8000 sites and we only had three and a half months which is not a huge amount of time and we decided that we need to find an outsourcing company in the Ukraine and they should do this automatically somehow.

Manuel:

But our project managers they were over overwhelmed with that and also the outsourcing company didn’t exactly know how to do that. And then three months passed until they gave us a signal. Sorry it’s not possible to do that automatically. And then I said thank you very much. Now we only have like four weeks. Eight thousand pages for four weeks and I decided Okay. That was before Flash Hub but that was the project that I decided to build something like Flash Hub. What I did is I thought I need to find a project manager in India and I need to find an Indian outsourcing company so they don’t share a common interest but they help me to bridge the cultural gap. So I decided to hire this project manager and I did. I decided to let him recommend an outsourcing company to me and then I hired this outsourcing company and they committed on doing the whole migration in three weeks. Wow that’s great.

Manuel:

And there was a lot of hope because I had lots of pressure. They shown me like 10 pages everyday which they migrated and I thought okay 10 pages they look nice feels good okay. I don’t ask too many questions. I hope they can do everything. But I had no transparency over how many people, which skills they have, how they are leading, how they are controlled and what they do. The deadline was on Friday and on Thursday morning 5 p.m., actually 5 a.m., I got the message that they will cancel the contract and that was… that was a time when I felt oh my god that can’t be true.

Manuel:

Hopefully we have planned with a little bit of buffer but only till Monday. So the challenge was to migrate 8000 thousand pages from Thursday to Monday. Now find somebody who will do that. If you ask people here in the company they say okay I can do four hours over the weekend. Okay thanks that’s nice but it will not save the project right. We need to find a way to deliver like 500 to 600 hours over the weekend and it worked. I hired an HR lady and she had three recruiters and they stuffed me the whole project within a day. They had 19 people which are experts in quality assurance and content migration. One project manager and a team lead and they committed that they will work 14 hours every day over the weekend. They even canceled all family appointments so they just did the work and they were happy with that and that excited me because I see there are people that can help you and they are happy so I have a positive effect on them. They have a positive effect on me. That’s amazing. And they completed the whole project till Monday 4:00 p.m.. That was amazing.

Chris:

Yeah that is amazing. That’s insane.

Manuel:

Definitely. That was when I started to think about something like Flash Hub so that I can provide these virtual teams to other companies so they experience the same positive effect and the speed and how other people can help and how limitless projects can be.

What platform was that what? Were they working on the WordPress, Drupal, something like that?

Manuel:

It was Drupal and they were organized. I mean it was a Drupal site to migrate the content but the previous supplier they somehow integrated WordPress with Drupal so it wasn’t positive to migrate the content automatically because it was a nightmare. They were collaborating on Trello and Slack and I’ve created an onboarding video to show them what they do. And that was a very clear task description of people that help. So it was a completely distributed system of people from everywhere in the world working 24/7 because of the times on shift and supported by cloud technology which helps them to contribute and to collaborate. And that was the base of Flash Hub.

Chris:

Wow. So I’m seeing it all come together here. You started defining the culture right there. You said you recorded an onboarding video. Did you do anything else like that?

Manuel:

I hired an HR team and the project manager. And that’s it.

Chris:

So they kind of took it from there.

Manuel:

Yes sure. I mean this was a flash team. It’s not important that this whole flash team has the same culture. They are there to work with me and to do the projects and they get money for that and they are happy to do the work they want because it’s their choice to work when they want and how they want. So they are free and I want our people here in Germany to be free in the same way. So that is the shift of local people to give them, I mean, more freedom but more responsibility and this must be on the same level. That’s what our culture is. If I think more about it its responsibility and freedom on the same level. You can’t be free without having the responsibility for your life. And that means also your job right.

Chris:

Yeah yeah. It’s one thing to say like oh yeah I make my own schedule but it’s a whole other thing to say like yeah I do what I want. Well that means you probably don’t work very much. [laughs]

Manuel:

Definitely. Yeah absolutely.

Chris:

I don’t know if you’ve come across that very much but here over in the US, specifically in Texas, where I am that’s what tends to happen. People say like oh cool you don’t work much then if you make your own schedule and work at home. No that’s not how that works. I actually work a lot. I’m on the computer like all the time.

Manuel:

Right and You are not forced to do that. You make your own choice and decision when you want to work where with whom in which projects. So you are free.

Chris:

Yeah yeah. I like everything and I’m working on right now. And that’s the freedom that I feel. But I’ve chosen a lot of projects that I like so I have a lot of work to do but I’m fine with that.

Manuel:

And that’s positive. That’s a good thing. And other people that go to work every day and think ooohh I have to go to work again. They are doing something wrong.

Manuel:

Go quit your job do something that you like it’s your life and you only have a limited amount of time so don’t do what you hate do what you love. That is my message to everyone here. So I I push them to leave the company if they don’t like working here. They will find another job. They should be clear about what makes them happy. That’s our culture.

Chris:

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a massive part of culture. That’s not something people that hire you would normally tell you.

Manuel:

Yes definitely.

Chris:

That’s a that’s a giant part of it. So what I really want to know is where people can find you on the Internet because I know but our audience doesn’t really know where we can find you and everything else about Flash Hub and this podcast. So can you tell us?

Manuel:

Sure. You can find me personally on LinkedIn. So Manuel Pistner is my profile. I’m the founder of Flash Hub. You can find me by searching for my name or for Flash Hub. You can go to FlashHub.io and contact me there. There is a contact form. I’m also on Twitter with Manuel Pistner, my name.

Manuel:

And if you will visit Darmstadt or the region around Darmstadt we have a meetup about new work and digital transformation, agile transformation, flash organizations so everything around this new work topic where we want to share and engage with other people that are interested in this topic.

Chris:

Great! And you can also find him on the upcoming episodes of this podcast. From now on he’ll be doing the tips and the interviews and I’ll just beyond the intros and the outros.

Manuel:

Absolutely. And I’m happy to meet many exciting people and to talk with them about their experience with virtual teams and new work.

Chris: 

Yep definitely. I am especially excited. When you take it over it’s really going to take off. I’m just I’m just holding you down a little bit. You’re ready to just take off. [laughs]

Manuel: 

Definitely. [laughs]

Chris:

Well thank you for joining us on this first one. We’ll talk to you on the next episode.

Manuel:

Yeah. Thanks for listening. See you next episode

Chris:

Thank you again to Manuel Pistner for joining me on the show today. I always appreciate him taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with me. You can subscribe to the Virtual Frontier or leave us a review on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or anywhere else podcasts are found. On behalf of the team here at Flash Hub, I want to thank you again for listening. So until the next episode keep exploring new frontiers.