Building a Global Presence From a Small Town Beginning15th April, 2021
Can you imagine starting an agency without all the “right connections?” That’s the myth Pete Baumgartner smashed in the most recent Agencies That Build episode when he said, “You don’t need a deep connection of people to be all plugged in to a network in order to start an agency.” The network he’s referring to are the top tier connections you want (Silicon Valley) to drive your business, but the network he highly values are the prospective clients and the people who will refer him to those clients.
This mind-blowing concept didn’t come out of thin air. In fact, it is from his personal experience. Baumgartner comes from a small town that had no tech scene and worked up the ladder to his current role as Founder of Lincoln Loop, a full-service software development agency specializing in Python and Django development for web and mobile systems.
It didn’t happen overnight. His advancement required time, dedication, skill and finding the right team. Baumgartner was freelancing while also writing blogs, attending conferences, and speaking with others in his focus area in order to grow organically. He realized that through the participation and interaction in these channels, “people will find you if you’re doing good work and putting yourself out there.”
Baumgartner attributes his growth to putting himself out there in writing and speaking, which led to his recognition as a thought leader within a niche group that also opened opportunities for his expertise to be used by those who listened. The advances that have been made over the last 10-15 years have assisted with his operations and tech opportunities, but in the beginning of Python and Django implementations, he took full advantage of being seen in spaces where others would see his work and remember his contributions to their growth.
[Not] Following the Cloud Crowd
Getting deeper into unconventional methods, Baumgartner explained that he’s made several decisions that are unconventional or go “against common wisdom.” For instance, while the cloud frameworks, such as Rails and Ruby, were gaining momentum and demand, he decided to not go that direction. Not because of the application itself, but because he enjoyed working with Python and Django’s coding techniques. He didn’t jump on the bandwagon of early cloud development because he saw the potential elsewhere.
Jessie brought to light how having the exposure and expertise is ideal for his business growth because those who have followed him through the years are created ‘influencer sales,’ which is a huge opportunity because the “buyer isn’t the most knowledgeable person and they are trusting their team to bring challenges and solutions.” It works well for Baumgartner to have influencers informing the decision makers as he speaks tech and produces results; the top-of-mind he gets from others generates the revenue to continue agency growth and retain his team for as long as he has.
The Wild Wild West
Lincoln Loop is fully remote, with employees in seven countries! It’s always been this way for him - with the confinement of a not-so-tech-savvy small town, as a freelancer with no interest in moving anywhere, the level of spatial familiarity, and his mindset. Baumgartner has a history of collaborative development and needed the same types of people for his agency as his projects continued to grow.
But, it wasn’t without trial and error. Varun asked Baumgartner to further explain concerns that agency owners have when it comes to trusting their contractors and employees, especially when working directly with the customer.
Baumgartner relates his beginning experience of agency ownership similar to a cowboy antics who perpetually had his fingers crossed. During that time, it was hard because he wasn’t sure who could be trusted to complete the tasks and he hadn’t learned how to give up the control he once had as a freelancer. At one point, he had 2 of 3 contractors ghost him shortly before a project was due.
Fortunately, the other person was able to pull through and the client was understanding. *** This is not always the case*** Since that time, Baumgartner has established rapport and trust with his team, who have now been working for him for over 10 years! The trust has been established, he knows their weak points and works diligently to find the right project fit for them so that they can continue their autonomy. However, finding the right fit for these roles and responsibilities takes time, especially in the beginning stages of building a remote agency.
How to Make it Work
Aside from the obvious skill levels, differentiation and experience, the ‘Manager of One’ philosophy is a concept that Baumgartner has embedded in his hiring process because it is a foundation to what is needed for remote work to be accomplished on such a large level. But what does this really mean?
Remote workers need to be able to manage their projects and their time without being micromanaged. They have the capability to be autonomous in how they work and can enjoy the perks of flexibility, to spend time with family and friends and to work in hours best suited for them to accomplish their tasks. A well-oiled machine isn’t readily established and comes with hardships. Don’t give up!
Challenges & Solutions
Consider the ways you interact with your team and how they interact with you and the client. See if there is room for improvement to implement positive productivity, growth or culture. Challenge your employees to see if they have ideas for improvements.
- Time Zones
- Understand the overlap times and provide the team member with the project that’s the best fit
- Candidate Mentality
- Not ideal for those who are new to the remote environment
- The most successful workers have a history of doing freelance and contractor work
- Not ideal for those who are new to the remote environment
- Company Culture
- Communicate outside of group chats, such as Slack, and articulate the message in a detailed manner for best results
- Everyone should be involved in the conversation so that they are on equal ground
Trusting people to do the work that their able to do and giving them the flexibility and the space to do it.