How to Design a Remote Business by Marc Köhlbrugge
The way you design your business has a significant impact on how feasibly it can be run remotely and on how much you enjoy managing it.
Marc Köhlbrugge, founder of BetaList, has been running his current company for seven years and has designed it in a way that fits a nomadic lifestyle. In his talk in Gran Canaria as part of Remote Talks organized by Quaderno, he shared his experiences from this process and the most important factors to consider when designing a remote business.
About Marc Köhlbrugge & BetaList
Marc Köhlbrugge founded BetaList 7 years ago, in his hometown of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. After spending 6 months out of the year in the Netherlands and 6 months elsewhere, he made the shift to a fully nomadic lifestyle. His business, BetaList, features the 5 hottest new internet startups on its website every day. These are chosen from about 1,000 submissions received each month and presented to an audience of early adopters, journalists, investors, entrepreneurs, etc. BetaList’s annual revenue is in the low six figures, and the lean team consists of Marc and one other member.
The Most Important Questions for Your Business
Do you enjoy working at your company? Does the company fit you?
We have all heard of product-market fit; a similar kind of logic can be applied to founders, the products they build, and the markets they serve.
Try to build a company where you leverage your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and work the way that suits you.
How to Set Up a Business in a Way that Suits You
Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can leverage or minimize them, respectively. Bear in mind that your weaknesses may be strengths in disguise and vice versa. Try to turn your weaknesses into strength. Also, discuss this with the people around you: Others might perceive completely different strengths in you than you do yourself.
Think about what you would like your workday to look like. Do you enjoy answering emails or making sales calls, or do you prefer coding and prototyping? Do you prefer working by yourself or in a team? Do you like working from the same office every day or would you like to combine work and travel?
Benefits and Challenges of Traveling
Traveling can present several advantages and disadvantages for business owners.
Depending on the destination, traveling might allow you to enjoy a lower cost of living. It will definitely broaden your horizon and get you out of the bubble you are used to, thus providing you with fresh perspectives and new insights. Traveling makes it easy to meet many, often like-minded people and will allow you to expand your personal and professional community.
On a practical level, there will be times when you are not available for your team and your clients or customers. Travel-mandated downtime such as flights or airport transits will disrupt your possibilities to take care of business. Products requiring a lot of bulky equipment or services that can only be performed in person are usually not a great fit for business owners who want to travel. Communication with your team and/or your clients or customers is more of a challenge when you are traveling, as you might not always encounter the conditions you need for this. Larger teams mean that you can delegate more tasks, but they also require more management and are less agile and flexible.
How Would You Like to Work?
Do you prefer working by yourself or with a team? Do you enjoy a steady daily amount of work, or do you prefer to work in sprints and then take a few days off? Do you find it easier to focus on just one thing or to handle many different things? Do longer deadlines or ad-hoc projects feel easier for you?
Consider These Factors for a Remote Business
Marc has identified a few key points to ponder when designing a successful remote business.
- Team size. Teams can range from one-man- or one-woman-shows to hundreds or thousands of people based in different locations. The sweet spot for remote businesses here is anywhere from solopreneur to a small team of about a dozen people. Anything bigger quickly becomes unwieldy and much tougher to manage remotely.
- Competitive landscape & market size. On a scale from custom products to large or mass-market goods/services, niches are a great fit for remote businesses. Ask yourself: Is this a market where I can be one of the top 5 players?
- Product complexity. Products developed and sold by remote companies should not exceed a manageable level of complexity. Bulky physical gear or equipment, or products requiring a substantial logistical effort, are not ideal.
- Customer type. For remote businesses, B2B products are usually easier to manage than B2C goods and services. This relates to the fact that B2C products generally pay less per unit, so you need more customers to break even. Higher customer numbers are more difficult and time-consuming to manage. In the B2B space, you can generally reach the same revenue level with fewer clients or customers.
If you want to run a successful remote business, the first step is getting to know yourself. What do you enjoy doing and which activities do you tend to avoid? What are your strengths and weaknesses? This will help you define which product, market and team suits you best.
If traveling is a factor that is an important factor to you, make sure that you go through Marc’s checklist and consider how feasible it is to run your desired business model remotely.
And, of course, don’t forget to submit your business to BetaList 🙂