Startups love to share their tech stacks: the technologies on which their software is built. I'm more interested in the tools that companies use to run their businesses. I'm always happy to see a company I admire using a tool that we use at Tortuga. That social proof is a big factor in my choosing which tools to use for our business.
Software is a competitive industry, so I want to highlight the tools that we use and recommend. Today, I'll highlight the tools that we use to keep our remote team running.
Communication is the top priority and challenge for running a remote team. Here's how we keep everyone pushing in the same direction.
We use Asana as our project management hub. Each team at Tortuga (Web, Product, Concierge, Marketing) is set up as an Asana team with its own members and projects.
Within Asana, we can share projects and tasks, assign work to others, and manage recurring tasks. Our content marketing team even includes non-employee freelancers in Asana.
I also use Asana as my personal to do list mixing recurring work, tasks assigned by teammates, and my own additions to the list.
Slack, obviously. Chat, despite its downsides, is a necessity for remote teams.
For the 96% of the year that we aren't together in person on a retreat, Slack is our social hub. Even if you never accomplish anything work-related over chat, you need it as your water cooler to facilitate as much virtual team bonding as possible. Asana and email are good tools but neither allows a team to connect like chat does.
Without chat, every interaction within your team will be work related and purely functional. That setup is no way to build a team.
Chat does have a downside. It can be a major distraction and time suck. To minimize these side effects, create policies and set expectations around chat usage. Read this short guide to maintaining your sanity with Slack then adjust your notifications and Do Not Disturb schedule.
Internally, we use Slack's video calls because we can start calls with a teammate or entire channel with one click from the respective DM or channel conversation.
Team Tortuga is small enough that we can easily start a DM conversation with everyone who needs to be on a call. As the team grows this might be more of a hassle since we have more people in a team's channel than on that team. At that point, we may use Zoom more internally. Right now, we have a Zoom account primarily for external use.
Google's GSuite includes Gmail, Docs, and Calendar.
Operations and Finance
HR and Payroll
Managing payroll and HR across multiple countries is complicated. I outlined our current system in this post.
I recommend Gusto, our original HR tool, for most businesses. Gusto is the best option for most small companies to manage payroll, insurance, benefits, PTO, and onboarding. Last year, we switched to Rippling which allows our "back office" provider to manage and broker our insurance policies. Gusto is the broker of record for policies within its system.
To pay non-US employees, we use Transferwise over Paypal because of Transferwise's ease of use, transparency, and low fees (~1% of the transfer amount).
For employees or contractors that are on retainer, Transferwise has a "Repeat Transfer" button next to your past transfers to make the process easier and more repeatable.
Get your first transfer for free by signing up for Transferwise.
After starting with Charles Schwab (okay for business owners but not scalable), then moving to Ubiquity (awful), we finally landed on an easy-to-use platform: Guideline. Most importantly, Guideline integrates with Gusto and Rippling making contributions easy to manage.
Online businesses should use cloud-based tools that integrate with their other cloud-based tools. This sounds silly but is a useful feature when considering new software.
After starting out on Quickbooks, we moved to Xero years ago. Xero is online and always up to date. Plus, it has native integrations with nearly every other financial tool that we use, including Gusto and Bill.com.
Invoices / Bill Payments
Our bookkeepers introduced us to Bill.com as a better way to collect and pay invoices. Now, contractors send their invoices to our @bill.com email address, and our accountants process and pay the invoices in one batch. Recurring contractors can set themselves up for faster payments via direct deposit. The invoices, payment status, and expense category all sync to Xero for simplified, end-of-month bookkeeping.
We use Dropbox for most long-term file storage including graphic design, presentations, and purchase orders. While Dropbox is taken for granted now, it's still the easiest way to share, store, and access files from anywhere.
Google Drive supplements Dropbox. We use Drive to store 1:1 and team meeting agendas. It's also the best way to share a doc that requires feedback and notes, e.g. during the copywriting process.
Alternatives: Dropbox Paper
Security is paramount in a remote team when you can't share a password without transmitting it over the internet. Without that layer of in-person security, remote teams are even more vulnerable.
We use LastPass to manage and share passwords. A good password manager will help you create and save passwords so secure that you can't remember them.
You can then share access to your team's apps without sharing the password. Sharing privileges, not passwords, protects you in the event of needing to change a password for security. You also avoid having an insecure spreadsheet of passwords, which I've seen startups do. You also don't have to worry about who has access to the password. If too many people do, you'll never know the cause of any problems or leaks. If a disgruntled employee leaves the company, you know they aren't taking any passwords with them, so you don't have to scramble to change anything.
Members of a remote team may work from coffee shops, coworking spaces, and other insecure networks. Using a virtual private network (VPN) in these instances offers extra security. Get a team license and ask your team to use the VPN whenever they're using a public wifi network.
If you have employees who live in or visit China, try Astrill. The UI isn't great, but we've found it to be the best option for dealing with the Great Firewall.
Did I miss anything? Let me know, and I'll add it to the list.