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40
Published on
June 12, 2020

040 | Building a Social Culture for Remote Teams with Sharon Koifman, Founder of DistantJob

Summary

Sharon Koifman is the founder and president of DistantJob - a boutique staffing agency focused on recruiting remote tech talent. A self-professed "social nerd," Sharon shares an extrovert can run a fully remote company without compromising the social aspects found in a traditional office setting. A veteran of both operating and hiring remotely, Sharon shares the nuances and advantages of remote operations - especially in light of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Highlights

The difference between geeks and nerds

How Sharon built and sold his first company by the age of 30

Outsourcing and recruiting for company culture

Succeeding in an international business world with fully integrated offshore talent

Startup office culture versus running a fully remote team

The challenges of transitioning to a remote workforce

Software and technology for managing remote teams

How remote operations are not one-size-fits all

How making mistakes are optimal for personal and business growth

Mentioned Resources

Episode Sponsors

This episode is sponsored by Juhll. They are a full service digital marketing consultancy that has over 20 years of experience helping your business grow sales online. They've helped most of their clients grow more than 50% year over year by helping them meet their digital marketing goals.

Juhll Digital Agency works with companies who are doing $50 million in top line revenue that have a marketing budget of $2 million. They build your company from the ground up and they also help you in creating a strategy that will work best for your team.

You can email Chris Snyder, President of Juhll Digital Agency, at chris@juhll.com, or contact their team today and find out which of their services will work best for your success story.

Tweetable Quotes

"Criticism is beautiful." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"Own mistakes, love mistakes. You take mistakes like they're your best buddies." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"Just don't call them mistakes, call them experiments and just get up and keep on going." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"Be good to failure. Our society, one of the biggest things that we're not teaching our kids these days is how to fail." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"I try to create a mistake-friendly environment for my company. That's part of our processes, that's part of our culture." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"And if I feel that you are not saying then everything that is on your mind, I actually paralyze that because I want people to transition as quickly as possible to an environment where you just spill everything that comes up with no consequences at all." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"There's a part of me that has been a little jealous of those startup companies that you walk in, they haven't accomplished anything, but they'll already have like 10 people hanging out, shooting Nerf gun at each other." Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"Everybody needs to be treated like they get six-digit salaries, because if you're not going to give that passion to that lower-salaried individual, this is the result you're going to get back." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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"You want to make a person feel like he has a stable job, because once you invest in the person, the person invests in you." - Sharon Koifman, DistantJob

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Sharon Koifman

President and Founder, DistantJob

Sharon Koifman is the Founder and CEO of DistantJob, a recruitment firm focused on helping companies source top-tier remote talent. Sharon’s unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s clients to get high-quality IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost.

Episode Transcript

Chris Snyder:

Welcome everyone. Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, President at Juhll.com and FounderofBanks.com. Although we usually talk with industry leaders and entrepreneurs about what's working and what's not with their growth programs, we decided to pivot the show in here, how industry leaders are guiding their teams through this tough time of COVID-19.


Quick message from our sponsor. Juhll is a full-service digital consultancy and we focus on helping executives solve their toughest, digital growth problems while working as an extension of the executive team. We focus on three things: We quickly identify the biggest problems impeding growth. We propose solutions that give you the best opportunity for success. Finally, the work has to get done, so, we bring a private marketplace of vetted world-class talent to execute the plan. And of course, we manage this whole process.


To learn more, you can go to Juhll; that's J-U-H-L-L.com or you can email Chris directly. That's chris@juhll.com. Okay, without further ado, my guest today is Sharon Koifman. He is the founder and CEO of DistantJob, a recruitment firm focused on helping companies source top-tier remote talent. Sharon's unique recruitment model allows DistantJob's clients to get high quality, IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost. Sharon is here to share with us some insight on the benefits and best practices for managing a remote team, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Welcome, Sharon.


Sharon Koifman:

Hi Chris and a pleasure. Thank you for having me.


Chris Snyder:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Tell us about your upbringing, where you grew up and how you got to where you are today, Sharon.


Sharon Koifman:

I'm an Israeli immigrant. I came here when I was 10 years old. I don't have an answer, how did I make it to Montreal? It was most where my dad found his first opportunity, but the moment that I landed in the city, I fell in love with it. I don't know Chris, if you ever get a chance to be in Montreal, it's one cool city. One of the coolest cities in the world, as long as you can handle the cold. The cold is really not made for human beings, but it's really, the big joke is that my dad is originally from former USSR and my buddy was the same family background, always jokes around it's like, “What was our parents thinking, right? They went from freezing land to even freezier lands.”


Chris Snyder:

More freezing land.


Sharon Koifman:

Yeah. Montreal has so much more infrastructure than most cool places in the world. It is considered to be one, if not the coldest big city in the world, right? So, it's quite an experience, but the cool thing about this city, we have fun in the winter. You just learn how to put a coat on and it's a good time. It is also a great city to start an international company, because it's fun here and you don't have to depend on certain things that don't work as well in the city.


Myself, I kind of went a little bit on Montreal, but myself, I came here to Montreal. I live with my family for a long time and very quickly moved into the city the second that I could. My family is very, very business-oriented. My brother runs the biggest office coffee services in our province and one of the biggest in Canada. My dad runs an engineering firm. I have never knew anything else, but being an entrepreneur.


One thing that I learned very, very early on from my dad, the way he ran the company, before that he had few employees and eventually just to be clear is an engineer. So, everything just comes from his head and for a while, he had some employees, but eventually he just started outsourcing everything. He simply just put everything on paper and lets the machine shops and let the individuals that are good at what they do to put together that machine that he engineered from his brain. And it worked so much better, in a much more cost-effective path.


And that was my first introduction to outsourcing this. This was very interesting to about 20 years ago, from university I started a company and actually it was even before university. I started a company that I was interested to compete with some of the illegal music distribution websites out there.


Chris Snyder:

Napster.


Sharon Koifman:

And I wanted to … Napster, absolutely. Napster was the thing. One thing that I actually did not like about Napster, that they felt they had the right to distribute any tune, any musician out there claiming that they're just sharing music and yes, many musicians did love the idea. Clearly, some of them did not appreciate that there's a company that does whatever they wanted with their property.


And I was thinking, by just creating the same solution, but using permission-based music. In order to do that, I did not have investment back then. I did not know how to raise capital. I was only 24, 23 at the time. No, yeah, sorry. I was 18. And I just started seeing … Sorry, I was 23. I was thinking about it. Before that, I had a few little tiny projects, but MyTalent was the name of the website and I did not have investment. I did not know how to raise capital and I decided to do it with my own money, which I did not have much.


So, what happened is that I got myself a shared hosting … A shared hosting package and a web-hosting company. And they told me I can have more than one domain. And I started providing hosting solutions for a few people in order to pay for the cost of building this company. The reality is that MyTalent was never built because I did not have the budget to pay real programmers and eventually with my little negligence, I even lost the domain name, but suddenly I had 100 coins-


Chris Snyder:

Wow.


Sharon Koifman:

… using me for hosting.


Chris Snyder:

For hosting, right?


Sharon Koifman:

And like a $10 shared hosting account. And that was an incredible proposal for investors. I actually purchased… I decided, “Okay, I'm getting it.” And I learned about outsourcing, so I start hiring these outsourcing services in India to support this web hosting, which came with a lot of obstacles, which I was not aware at the time, but I started providing this service and it was exciting.


Chris Snyder:

So, was your undergrad in software development, or engineering, or did you know any-


Sharon Koifman:

Industrial engineering.


Chris Snyder:

Okay, got it.


Sharon Koifman:

And I always joke around that, the only thing that I learned from an engineering school was … engineering school university was how to speak nerd, right? And this is, I don't remember anything else, because industrial engineering is not exact … Although there is some management component to it, it did not help me specifically with what I needed to accomplish in business. It did help me with who I always surrounded myself with.


My best friends became, for lack of better term, nerds, right? I'm more of a social nerd myself. Although I'm always welcome in every nerd club, I try very hard.


Chris Snyder:

You're going into layers of nerd here. I've never really looked at it that way. I'm not qualified to hand out nerd titles, so I'm really interested in this right now.


Sharon Koifman:

I was very preoccupied with analyzing, who is a geek and who is a nerd.


Chris Snyder:

Oh, okay.


Sharon Koifman:

Right? I feel not too many people put enough effort and emphasis in that discussion, but for me, it was a big deal because I always fancy myself as a nerd, not as a geek.


Chris Snyder:

So, in your taxonomy - a geek is way smarter than a nerd? How does that work?


Sharon Koifman:

No. No. I think, a geek, by my definition, it's not the dictionary. You can't get, technical on me, but for me, geek is somebody who gets passionate about one topic, one hobby, which is contradictory to a social activity. I'm not expressing myself well, but what I'm saying is that you like one thing, gaming, you like comic books, you like Dungeons dragons, all these activities that are not associated with activities of being social: such as partying, playing sports, you can't be a sports geek. It has to be an activity that requires introvertedness less social build.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. People are wired that way and they just don't … There's people that are wired to be around other people and it gives them energy. And there's other folks that, it really sucks the life out of them when they have to be around too many people for too long, right?


Sharon Koifman:

Yup. And nerds are people that associate with activities of intelligence.


Chris Snyder:

Oh, interesting.


Sharon Koifman:

That's how I define nerd, right? So, I see Bill Gates as a nerd, I see Steve Jobs as a geek.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, that's interesting. That's interesting.


Sharon Koifman:

It doesn't mean that they can't be intertwined, right? Which in reality that happens all the time, but one is passionate about one specific topic that they got really good at, or a few specific topics. One is, their lifestyle is those types of activities. And they don't particularly … You can be a music geek, but you can't be a … You can be a nerd that likes music, but a nerd is the guy who reads books, comics, plays D&D, does love science, everything is associating self with more activities of intelligence over activities of social.


Sharon Koifman:

Although there are such things as social nerds. Well, we're diving very deep into that. So, 20 years ago I was very passionate about, who's a nerd and who's a geek?


Chris Snyder:

I'm a self-proclaimed social nerd, so that's-


Sharon Koifman:

I'm a self-proclaimed, social nerd.


Chris Snyder:

Love it.


Sharon Koifman:

If anybody accepts me in that club, I'll be very happy.


Chris Snyder:

I love it. I love it. So, you went to start one company that wound up being another company, which led you to probably driving some interest from some investors on this hosting thing. So, what happened to that company? Because it sounds like, it's been probably 20 years since you started that company, right?


Sharon Koifman:

Yeah. So, it started getting real, I would say about 17, 18 years ago, that's the time that I usually put in my bio. I need to go back and trace it back, but it became [inaudible 00:12:45] house. I started acquiring companies, providing this outsource solution and I grew myself organically. Also, we grew up to 3,000 clients at the time.


Chris Snyder:

Wow.


Sharon Koifman:

Those were all bunch of tiny, little, shared, frustrating, super-complaining clients, right? Which one of my first lessons is - stop, don't get into the Walmart business because that's what it was. It was a Walmart of web hosting, cheap, cheap, cheap, and lots of complainers, but it grew to something big and the truth is that I kind of ruined it. I did not have ... I'm a good salesman. I had the ability to bring up this concept, to bring clients, to bring investment into this, but I did not have the skills to operate it.


I was myself not a system admin and managing my team was very, very challenging back then.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, it's tough.


Sharon Koifman:

I was just letting them down. So, the selling of that company was not a great sale, but as my father says, Harvard costs a lot of money also, so you might as well learn it in the business world. And I gained incredible insight into the importance of managing and operating a company, especially when you're into our company's remote.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah. How old are you at this point? You were 22 or 23 when you started the company, you sold it when you were, how old?


Sharon Koifman:

MyTalent, that music company that I started about 23, 24, it quickly evolved into this Empire Host. 24, 25 a year or two later is when things are just, “Oh my God, this is the real deal.” At about 30, I sold it and I did some consulting for certain companies while starting this. Back then I didn't even realize it was a recruitment company. I still thought that I was an outsourcing company, because Empire Host, the web hosting company has evolved to be an outsourcing company.


Also, I had 30 employees in India. I said, “Hey, why not make some work design? Why not provide those solutions?” And so, I was in outsourcing solutions for a while. And then when I sold it, I said, “Okay, let's focus a little bit about the outsourcing, but I don't like the way this works. I don't like this idea of people not really fitting as part of my culture. People are not being focused on. Why aren't they?”


What I felt was the biggest sin that I saw in business in those early years, in Empire Hosts is when, web development companies or technology companies would come to me as a solution, just because I'm cheap.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah. It's a bad business to be in when you're … There's no differentiation, you're a commodity and the pricing just keeps going into the basement, right?


Sharon Koifman:

No, it was awful, but it was also a problem with the people that came to me. I didn't understand why a web design or web-consulting or software company would come to me to outsource their software and web design and web consulting. That was a business sin, in my opinion, because people pay those companies money to do something special, to do something unique.


They have their own methodology. They have a way of coding, the way they manage the team, and something you outsource to this unfocused outsourcing company and I'm comfortable right now admitting that we were a mediocre service. A really cheap labor service. I had a niche, whoever needed a cheap website and cheap web hosting, we did an okay job.


But a technology company, outsourcing their technology to us because we're cheap, that was the challenge and that's what brought me to DistantJob, realizing that in order to succeed with this international world and I'm really segueing, I guess maybe I'm skipping a question here, but in order to segue through this international world, you need fully-focused, fully- integrated, fully-invested people in your company.


Chris Snyder:

Got it. Got it. And so, that's interesting. So, you realized right away probably soon enough to skip over, maybe even creating your own professional services firm like everybody else did. And the way it goes now is, if you create a professional services firm, some of those services, there's not much differentiation.


So, to save into higher real talent you have to pay for it, right? And so, if everybody kind of looks the same and pricing continues to go down, at some point, we all wind up in offshore, we all wind up in India, we all wind up in these other places-


Sharon Koifman:

It doesn't work.


Chris Snyder:

But to your point, you're like, “Well, wait a second. Why would you come to the table saying you could do those things and then really, you're just outsourcing it?” So, you took the approach to say, “Hey, if we're going to do this, we're going to help you recruit remote talent yourself.”


Sharon Koifman:

We don't want to manage … We still run an HR manager company. I don't want to be dishonest. I'm certain, there is still a small aspect of our business that is outsourcing. Although for me, the word outsourcing is so cringe-worthy, right? I don't like that. I think associating with the outsourcing today, the stigma is so bad with the term outsourcing, but you do outsource the HR part to us, but the idea is that we believe that the best managers are the clients themselves, the bosses, the people that really built these companies and the processes and the culture and everything that comes with it.


Chris Snyder:

When did you start DistantJob? When was that? Did you start DistantJob?


Sharon Koifman:

I did start DistantJob, yes.


Chris Snyder:

All right. When did you start DistantJob and how has that evolved over the years? Because what we see now, remote placement agencies may not have started there. Can you tell us the journey with DistantJob?


Sharon Koifman:

Originally, we work kind of an outsourcing solution, right? We even took on one or two projects and it was an evolution, right? Because really, I wanted to focus be about people. I did not want to take on projects, but in the beginning, “No, I know I can do this. Why not? I'll take on some project and redact like a focus.” I delivered even worse.


What I did deliver badly was people not only that is simply, it was perfect within my skills. I'm fluent in nerd. I do understand a certain level of technology and I'm also quite social and quite the salesperson and IT recruitment fit my personality so much better that I literally just stopped taking on projects and just focused on finding the perfect fit.


In the beginning, I was just recruiting everything myself. I brought one person on board. We slowly learned from each other and that's the way the process went eventually into evolving into a fully remote recruitment agency, remote placement agency, without doing any projects, any outsourcing whatsoever.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah. That's interesting. And then, did you have a thesis in your mind that your company would also be remote, or were you just providing these services to your clients remotely? How does that work?


Sharon Koifman:

I did write this in my book. There's a part of me that has been a little jealous of those startup companies that you walk in, they haven't accomplished anything, but they'll already have like 10 people hanging out, shooting Nerf gun at each other. I hope they're not shooting the actual Nerf gun, but using Nerf guns to shoot each other, having beers, having social activities.


And in the beginning, I really wanted to have this experience, not for business benefit, for mental benefit. I'm an extreme extrovert. I'm quite ADHD. I like to socialize. I created systems that I build this company living in the city center because it was important for me that the moment that I'm done working, I'm going to hang out with friends, I got to go out, right? And it worked out really well.


But for a while, I was dreaming that I can go into an office and have people smiling and being proud about being a startup or … Although, I also disliked the word startup because it feels like eventually in the long run, I've met way too many companies in the startup community that just are enjoying being startup. And I thought that the goal of a startup is to eliminate that term startup as fast as possible.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, right.


Sharon Koifman:

But I digress here. But going back, in the beginning, I was trying to have people in the office. I had three, four people. It was not the most social activity because the people that I had did a whole bunch of introvert jobs anyways, but I gave up on that. I gave up with that about seven, eight years ago when I had my VP back then he was the head, nothing less. He had literally done every single job in the company and my director of marketing and I became friends with my employees.


And simply, we started growing a culture and interacting, and now we sit on Zoom way before everybody was doing the Zoom these days, but even five years ago, we're sitting on Zoom … Zoom existed back then? Or whatever tool we-


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, it was GoToMeeting for us.


Sharon Koifman:

We used Skype, but very quickly, the moment Zoom came out and the moment Zoom got popular, we were one of the first people to use it. And I just love the concept of every like five, six people around me on the screen. And I see them and I socialize with them and suddenly it was not so bad. And then I completely, completely accepted 100% of the remote experience and I adjusted to the social experience that comes with this.


Chris Snyder:

So, the benefit you were seeking for having an office was the social benefit. And it sounds like what you learned is that, you could have the same or close to the same experience just by doing the Zoom thing. Is that fair to say?


Sharon Koifman:

Yes, absolutely. And these days we play games, we have drinks, we socialize, we really hang out a lot. In the past two, three years, the company has evolved to a full, social, culture-building experience that I am friends with my employees. Some of my employees are clearly intimidated by me, but at least the old ones are not. And they get a chance … And I really create an environment where you really can say anything.


And if I feel that you are not saying then everything that is on your mind, I actually paralyze that because I want people to transition as quickly as possible to an environment where you just spill everything that comes up with no consequences at all. It takes six months. It takes six months. It takes a year to get an employee to really trust that this boss is not going to fire his ass for saying what's on their mind.


But at least the old employees are just feeling it and creating that experience in the office is how I feel that I have somebody on the other side to interact with.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, that makes total sense. So, it never ceases to amaze me. We were early on the Zoom thing as well. And I actually had our folks, I'm like, “Every time I get on the phone with you, I want to see video. I want to see video. I want to see video.” Right? And it took a while for people to get used to that. And now that we have, we did that a year ago. Getting on now, doing podcasts. Now, all of our teams always on video.


And sometimes they might say, “Well, look, I got stuff in the background, so I'm not doing it today,” but that's like 1% of the time. Then I would say, I always thought maybe we were a little bit behind. And I thought everyone around us was probably doing a better job of this than we are. And then when this whole COVID thing broke out and a lot more meetings had to be remote, there are very few people on video.


And I'm kind of like, “Guys, we've been doing this now for four weeks or six weeks, or however long we've got these shelter-in-place orders.” I'm like, “When are you guys going to get a clue and actually show your face on the video?”


Sharon Koifman:

Just get on video.


Chris Snyder:

Just get on the video already, what's the big deal?


Sharon Koifman:

It's very funny. I, eight, nine years ago before I got sophisticated with the remote process, I used to just talk to people by text. And once in a while, I used to talk to them by voice using Skype. Skype was the big thing right then. MSN Messenger and Skype - those were the tools that I was using back in the days. And I remember when I just met my wife, when she was my girlfriend at the time, and I did not have … I had still a small company, it had about five employees.


And she would say, “You don't see the people that work for you?” And I'm like, “No.”


Chris Snyder:

Just like, “Why would I want to see anybody's face? [inaudible 00:28:26]. I'm a sociable nerd, but I don't want to see those guys.”


Sharon Koifman:

And it is funny. And so, I give credits to my wife on this one a bit. And of course, the team that came with … My team that stayed with me insisted on that also. But I was like, “You're right. I barely know the people that I work with, because I don't even … I see their face once a year.” And this was in Saturday. And it was like just within weeks, everything switched. Just do it. Just come on webcam.


My laptop has like webcam on it. I have like three webcams, I never used them. And suddenly, I have to use them. So, I can't believe that that was like an epiphany. I can't believe that that … Why was that not obvious, but it's not. People are not coming on the webcams. And experienced businessmen are just so used to be on the phone, then when you come to the remote environment, they stay on the phone.


Chris Snyder:

So, do you think-


Sharon Koifman:

But you've got to go on the webcam.


Chris Snyder:

So, you're going to give them a pass saying maybe they just don't know that they have webcam on their computer, right? Or, is there something deeper here psychologically or from a social standpoint like, I'm really not willing to give folks a pass on this. This is how the world works right now and I'm honestly completely unwilling to give anyone a pass. I don't care if your kids are in the background. I don't care what you have on your walls.


Anyone who's conducting real business and cares about the things we're supposed to care about, I hope and trust that none of that stuff matters. And you wouldn't think of walking into a meeting with your face covered, like a bag over your head or something. Like, I just don't understand why people won't turn on their webcams.


Sharon Koifman:

I don't understand. I don't understand why when I give you a Zoom link, you'll enter through that phone code. I barely remember that that exists. It's just, sometimes I don't even give that option, right? But sometimes I just give that crazy, massive email with 500 international codes and one Zoom link, right? And-


Chris Snyder:

You find your number in the Netherlands to dial in from, right? It's like-


Sharon Koifman:

Yeah. And it's like, “I didn't put that on purpose, I just …” And the other times when you give that link and they comment and they don't show the webcam, I say, “Dude, come on. Let me see your face. Let me interact.”


Chris Snyder:

Maybe I'm being a little bit overly critical, but I'm doing it to serve a point.


Sharon Koifman:

Criticism is beautiful.


Chris Snyder:

But I think, you wrote a book about this and we'll talk about that. On your website, you're also saying, you're offering free consultations, how to lead and manage remote teams. Clearly, you've been doing this for eight or nine years. Part of your work is interviewing people-


Sharon Koifman:

I've been doing this for about 18 years, right? Because the first company was all run from my computer. All the people worked from India and my servers were in New Jersey. So, I've been doing this for a long, long time.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah. So, help us figure out some of the nuances around this offering that you have, the book that you wrote, what is it that you think you can help with given all your experience? What are the things you're leaning in on? And I want to hear about this book too, because I think you wrote it in about a month and a half. Lean in on this a little bit for us.


Sharon Koifman:

So, the book itself, I started getting the itch. I started becoming passionate about writing. It's a very, very new thing. It's about a year and a half old. Keeping so many ideas, I'm also very politically active and I'm going to potentially write a political book, right? Because I just got so passionate about writing about just writing. And for years, ideas grew in my head. And one day I said, “Let's start writing.” And I started with a little blogging and just ideas came out on the Google Docs so easily.


And then it was about a month and a half ago when I decided crazily to go on vacation to the Dominican Republic with my wife. And because we just heard that the Corona is coming, it's happening and it's like, “Let's book a vacation before everything goes kablooey in the world.” And the funny thing is the big news, the big news that things are starting to shut down. And when it became real, it was literally when I was on the plane to the Dominican Republic.


When I came off the plane, I started hearing the news. And literally on the resort sitting, sipping up in a colada, hearing the wave and everybody talking about this zombie infestation that is happening at home. And eventually, we will have to go back to this zombie world, whether we choose to go early or not. And I said, “Whoa, people are just panicking about working remote. This is their biggest fear. This is the time to write the book.”


And I agree with my director of marketing, that if I'm going to take a year to write this, it is a little bit in a rush, but if I'm going to take a year to write this, it's not going to be as useful and helpful as it is right now. So, I'm really hoping to publish this in a month from now.


Chris Snyder:

Wow.


Sharon Koifman:

So, I wrote it in a month and a half. I literally said, every night, my kids literally poking my ear, picking my nose, hanging and I'm sitting there and typing and typing and typing. I'm very fortunate that I have a good marketing team. We're very focused on writing. So, the editing experience is going very quickly and we're going to publish what I like to think, a pretty amazing book guiding people during these tough times.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah, that's great. And I think it's … I see a lot of things in the state of California and abroad. Actually, the news today said that there's shelter-in-place orders that are going to be extended actually. I think that was in the news today. So, I think the book will be still timely. And there's, I think there's even some colleges and universities that have already agreed that they're not going back in the fall.


So, there's going to need to be some entrepreneurs, executives, smart people that care about the situation like yourself, that are going to just give us this stuff in your head, share your experiences with all of us, and hopefully it'll help someone, right?


Sharon Koifman:

Yeah. The world is changing and some people are talking about hypothetical changes such as, we might be more ethical and we might even care more about the environment. And I really, really hope that will be the case. Although, forgive my cynicism, we have a bad history as humanity to going back to our bad habits. But remote is something that will affect companies in a way that they're going to reflect under this, something that they've been missing, this capacity to have people working in their most optimal working conditions.


They kept that access to this massive…down to cross the world. Companies would see that they have been handicapping themselves. And a lot of them would say, “Look, my process works well. I don't want to change it. I don't want to improve it.” This is a reality with the world that if you're a successful company, you don't want to fix something that is broken. But there is companies who are broken or who do have a better capacity to evolve and are going to say, “Wow, I can destroy my competition.”


Chris Snyder:

Well, I think you have to make a conscious effort to want to be part of the best, right?


Sharon Koifman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Chris Snyder:

So, if you're making a conscious effort to be in that top 10% of your peer group or that top 20% of your peer group, you're going to find the best tools, the best people, the best business models, the best cost models. You're going to do that with every single part of your business. And if you're looking at your accounting firm or you're looking at your knowledge workers, or you're looking at … If you're not looking at getting your knowledge workers out of the office and getting them in a spot where they can actually do the, in some situations intensive knowledge work that they need to do, not distracted, we kind of herd everybody into the office and we treat them the same.


And we're even doing the same thing in a work remote environment. I'm hearing these horror stories about managers telling their staff to keep their Zoom video on while they're working. The most absurd thing I've ever heard in my life.


Sharon Koifman:

I don't think it's so absurd and I'm a renegade in the remote community about this. I feel that if you have to, at least in the beginning, do what's comfortable for you. But the good thing is about that and keeping your Zoom or in Facebook, they have a different inference there, well, I don't remember the name of whatever it is, but the good thing about keeping your Zoom on or replicating exactly your office experience is that, first you get the feeling that it doesn't hurt so much.


If you really can get to a conclusion that having people work remote is no different than your office experience, that is the first step. That is the first step.


Chris Snyder:

I agree with you there, but here's, I think the problem with how some of these organizations are thinking about it is, working remote is not simply replicating an in-office experience. I think what you're saying is, “Look, if we can get them comfortable with that and that's what makes them comfortable, let's do it.” But in my view, it's like, “Look, what we do,” and I've talked about this publicly, we have software on all of our remote machines and it basically just tells us, when you log in, when you log off and what your productivity is.


It's just a signal of how often people work, what their work cycles are, what their work routines are. We don't watch that stuff very closely. We're still goal- and objective-oriented. That's how people get measured. But if you're going to run a marathon and you're not stopping at the mile markers, you're not going to finish the marathon, right?


Sharon Koifman:

Some people, first of all, some people would say, what you're doing is not remote enough, because you're using … Correct me if I'm wrong, you're using a time-doctored kind of software that measures the effort throughout the day, right?


Chris Snyder:

It's called Teramind. You've probably heard of those guys. I don't know.


Sharon Koifman:

Yes. Actually, if you ask me, first of all, everybody runs … This is what I learned. I myself, I run a fairly successful company. There are people who are significantly more successful than me. To start telling them to change all the processes, when they've built multi-billion-dollar companies, this is not acceptable.


Chris Snyder:

No. I agree.


Sharon Koifman:

I don't believe any software. You tell me what you do in the morning. You conclude what you … you finish it at the end of the day, I'm not measuring your hours. I'm not measuring anything. We do have a concept of your time of the time you're expected to work. I don't like the concept of pure flexibility, do whatever you want. You have an approximate shift, I'm not going to bust your chops if you're missing once in a while, but every time when I message you, you're not available is a little annoying and shows a loose strap, but I don't even believe in that.


So, for every person that says that I went remote enough, there's another person who says, you didn't do enough. You got to be more flexible. You got to be more … You got to feel more like a freelancer, right? Make your people produce by making them feel like they're in the beach, right? No.


Chris Snyder:

That's bullshit. Yeah, that's bullshit.


Sharon Koifman:

So, at the end of the day, right? If you manage to replicate the bad habits and the good habits of your office, but you successfully to a remote environment, in my opinion, you've done 70% right. You're good enough. There's so much you can improve. So, this is a big difference for me and a lot of the remote without the other. You've done good enough. Now, slowly, slowly, you can eliminate the bad habits. The meetings that everybody dreads so much, they're focusing on mental health and creating a better culture in a remote environment.


Yes, there's a lot to improve, but if a guy comes to me and says, “I built a multibillion-dollar company, I'm inspiring and motivating.” I hope the person doesn't seem so and you're going to … I don't want to swear on the show, but-


Chris Snyder:

Oh, you can. I do it all the time.


Sharon Koifman:

Okay, you're going to fucking tell me how to run my company just because you understand a little bit about remote? Tell me how my processes that helped me build a multi-billion company can reflect properly on remote. Don't start changing my entire company. I respect that. I don't think … I don't think. Yes, I agree with you completely, this entire being available on Zoom all the time, although I like that it's not a big brother. As long as I'll be … At least you know who shows up, right?


But if a boss that has been running this company in a healthy manner, kicking some ass for 20 years and now he's forced to go remote and you automatically tell them, “Hey, you need to do it different because you're remote.” I'm not sure that I have the legitimate right to do so. I see some of the big boys … I see the base game guys keep on saying that, that their way is the right way and no other way is the right way.


Do you know what? They built a 100 billion-dollar business. Maybe they deserve to say that, I don't. My mission when I consult people, is to try to get as comfortable expense as possible, transitioning from their unbelievable process to something that feels similar in the remote … And trying to eliminate some of the bad habits.


Chris Snyder:

Well, let's crack that open a little bit, because you have a company, you have a lot of clients, undoubtedly. So, let's pick that apart a little bit. You touched on mental health a little bit. I don't know how much of that you guys work on, the emotional and mental health side relative to the raw business process and operational types of side. But why don't you tell the audience, tell us, what are some of the key milestones or some of the key concerns that your clients at DistantJob are experiencing and how are you helping them?


We're getting a little bit of a flavor before this, but can you get into any of those specifics?


Sharon Koifman:

Well, look, most of my clients get … Most of the mature clients that I have, not the ones that I hired one or two people, mature clients, come and get it. They come in there realizing already that remote is good. They've already created a certain system. My job is to provide you the best quality people, the most brilliant people in the world. There, I sold you on the idea that if you expand to the world, you can find amazing people.


Now, it's my job to prove to you that I can find you better people than you will find locally. I like to think that I'm kicking ass in that. And my product/service is exceptional, right? But I'm biased a little bit, but that is really what I do. Now, there is … And in the beginning years, there was a lot of clients who came to me because they were thinking in that outsourcing and as I call it, the noncommittal work mentality; the outsourcers, the freelancers, the contractors, people that are not focused or not integrated in your process.


And the question that you would usually come, this person does not exactly do things the way that I'm asking you to do, is that okay if I correct them or improve them? I can … Those were real questions in the beginning of the business, which I needed to correct immediately. If you are not having the same standards for those remote employees, as you have for local ones, you're missing the point, you're missing the point.


Then you should have even higher standards because, in the beginning; seven, eight years ago, I'm not sure that I provided the same quality, it was more of a cheap labor, you asked before about evolution, that is a big evolution in our company. We still provide incredible value, but the focus is about quality people and they're a little bit more expensive.


So now that they pay a little bit more, those questions get eliminated, but people have to get out. They to get out of the freelance, outsource mentality. And this requires some repeating and training, both for the remote worker and for the employer. It's, stop asking, first of all, questions of whether you can request this from the remote person, have higher expectations.


My rule, even one of the biggest lessons that I learned from my first business is, back then, Indian employees used to cost about $300 a month. And I treated them like $300-a-month employees. I said, “I get ten people for the price of one. I will destroy the competition.” And now it brought me back. It caused damage. And very quickly, I learned that you need to treat every employee, it doesn't matter what price range there is and of course, these days, our employees are starting slowly, slowly coming to North American salaries and nearly comparable, but there's still a little bit … The sellers are still lower.


You need to treat those remote employees, those people that get paid 2,000, $3,000 a month, as if they're getting paid six-digit salary. Everybody needs to be treated like they get six-digit salaries, because if you're not going to give that passion to that lower-salaried individual, this is the result you're going to get back.


Chris Snyder:

How do you feel about … What are your thoughts on staff augmentation firms? It feels like what your designing for is, companies that work with you, that they onboard these folks. They pay attention to everything about these folks. They don't look at this as a freelance, or a quick gig, or the Gigster, or the Fiverr, or … You're really advocating for higher quality people that are members of your team.


Sharon Koifman:

Members of the team.


Chris Snyder:

So, how do you feel about staff augmentation firms? And then also, to follow up with that on the back of staff augmentation, in America, I think we're going to have 30 million people unemployed. I was just looking at Airbnb today, they said they were going to lay off another one to 2,000 people. These are predominantly white-collar jobs in tech, in the big tech hubs. So, talk to me about where you think the park is headed, both with staff augmentation and now with a market that's going to be flooded with supply, right?


Sharon Koifman:

Look, I personally think that stuff augmentation term will disappear, right? It is just going to be recruitment. Different kind of recruitment solutions. I have an optimistic view that things will come back to normal whenever this covert will disappear, that employment will increase by 10%, but not 30, 40% like we have right now. So, there will be a battle to bring back everyone to the table.

Sharon Koifman:

My theory is that this is an opportunity for big companies to commit less to individuals. They will hire a bunch of contractors. And when I say they'll hire contractors, if paying somebody as a contractor is the most optimal way for you to pay the individual so they can benefit from this and you can benefit from this, that's great.


Sharon Koifman:

But there's going to be that continuous contractor mentality. Again, it's what I call the non-committal workers.


Chris Snyder:

It is not a good strategy is what you're saying, right?


Sharon Koifman:

No, no, no, no. It's not. You want to make a person feel like he has a stable job, because once you invest in the person, the person invests in you. That's straightforward.


Chris Snyder:

Yeah. No, this is a real interesting conversation. And I couldn't agree with you more. I think, unfortunately the cost model from, I don't know how you want to classify it, offshoring, staff org, labor laws, requirements in certain states and cities and countries that require somewhat overloaded benefits, packages, that you have to raise the price, but everyone else is sending the work to India or everyone else is sending the work to Argentina.


Chris Snyder:

It's just real … It's been real difficult I think, for employers over the last 10 years when unemployment rates were 3% in the United States. Anyway, I'm not being global right now, but I hope it does flip back to that. I hope we can get a better sense of quality and I hope we can get a better sense of teamwork out of this. Do you think that'll happen?


Sharon Koifman:

Look, I think that you're kind of diving a little bit in the political discussion of the remote world, which started off with the outsourcing world where people always discuss how they were losing their jobs to Indian companies. The interesting phenomenon is that actually, the jobs were not lost. The unemployment has never been reduced unless something crazy happened.


That bank recession, the tech boom, the COVID that is happening right now, unemployment does not get reduced because of outsourcing, offshoring, and now for remote work. Why it doesn't happen, because when you are giving jobs to those cheap-labor countries, such as India, Eastern Europe, Latin America, what's happening is that you're turning them into consumers.


When I first entered India 15 years ago, 16 years ago, I did a trip. I had the person who was managing the people in India for Empire Hosts and I noticed Pizza Hut and McDonald's and Nike and it was made very clear that this is all new things, that is being consumed by this ever-growing Indian markets. Where do you think those jobs are coming back to? They're coming back to North America.


And just, when people start losing their jobs, because of outsourcing, nobody came to them three months later and asked where they are now. And they were much more interesting, much more evolved job. So, COVID is something that will make our economy suffer temporarily. It could be three months, or it could be two and a half years, I don't know. I don't have … I hate that our leaders are not communicating with us their strategy. They're not telling us what is it that they're doing.


And it's the most frustrating thing for somebody like me who was very politically involved also and invested. And why are you not telling me what is your plan? But assuming that even if it's going to take two years until we get the vaccination and everything will start getting to normal, outsourcing, offshoring, remote, will not be the cause for people and for unemployment increasing.


What will be the cause is companies deciding that everybody is a contractor, with no commitment, with no nothing and I hope that the companies will realize that this is not an effective way to actually hire employees. And that's my story.


Chris Snyder:

No, I love it. I love it. We're getting close on time here, so I want to get one more piece from you. Obviously, you've been an entrepreneur for probably more than 20 years. You've done a lot of great things. But if you had to think of your mind-


Sharon Koifman:

Great, I like it, I think.


Chris Snyder:

You like it a lot.


Sharon Koifman:

Okay, there some great things out there. But, yes-


Chris Snyder:

Go ahead.


Sharon Koifman:

… thank you for the compliment.


Chris Snyder:

Of course, I have more. I have more. But if you had to give our listeners kind of one piece of advice, whether it be perseverance, don't quit, keep going forward, whatever it is that you think has helped you … One or two things that has helped you get here, what do you think it is? What's your secret sauce?


Sharon Koifman:

Oh, mistakes.


Chris Snyder:

Well, that's interesting.


Sharon Koifman:

Own mistakes, love mistakes. You take mistakes like they're your best buddies. Just get used to get up, clean yourself, and just move forward. This is the biggest thing. I don't know how to do it any other way. Maybe I'm not so brilliant. Maybe there's just guys, maybe they've got it right in the easy path. My life is...but always increase and always improve.


Just don't call them mistakes, call them experiments, and just get up and keep on going. The last time that I read those statistics and those statistics always changed, but the famous one is saying that one out of 10 people succeeds in business. I don't think that it's a fair statement, considering that it's probably about seven out of those nine people who haven't taken it really seriously and just registered a company.


But one out of 10 people succeed in business, but one out of three succeed when they try again.


Chris Snyder:

Interesting.


Sharon Koifman:

This is huge. Well, this is a big deal. So, that's the thing. It's, just be good to failure. Our society, one of the biggest things that we're not teaching our kids these days is how to fail. And you can just kick so much ass if you know how to get up again and doing it a second time with so much more experience and so much more exposure. I try to create a mistake-friendly environment for my company. That's part of our processes, that's part of our culture.


Just go ahead, make mistakes and I'll bust your chops. But I promise this is not going to hurt your career. You're going to earn respect in the company if you just keep on trying cool things and fail.


Chris Snyder:

Wow, that is really great advice. That brings us to the end. Everyone, we've been talking with Sharon Koifman, he's the founder and CEO of DistantJob, a recruitment firm focused on helping companies source top-tier remote talent, top-tier remote talent.


Sharon Koifman:

Top-tier. The best. The smartest.


Chris Snyder:

Best, the best.


Sharon Koifman:

We use such fancy words in the description. We find awesome people. We go to companies, we say, “Hey, do you want to work from home?” And that one in four says, “Where do I sign? Give it to me. I want the job.” Yes.


Chris Snyder:

That's right. That's right. Well, this has been an amazing episode. I really appreciate your time Sharon and we should do it again sometime real soon.


Sharon Koifman:

I love it. Maybe you will join us on our podcast very soon.


Chris Snyder:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I'd love to. Thanks a lot.


Sharon Koifman:

All right.


Chris Snyder:

We'll see you.


Sharon Koifman:

My pleasure, Chris.

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