Introducing SirraTeam.com

Since we at QuickSchools take remote working so seriously, I decided to create an app to help us track the hours logged by our contributors and to easily pay them via PayPal.

The result of that is SirraTeam.com.

Here’s what SirraTeam offers that I was specifically looking for:

  • It’s Free! The other solutions like PayMo charge by user. Since we have more than 30 contributors, that can add up. SirraTeam is free while in beta (which will be for a while) and after beta we plan to keep prices much lower than the competition.
  • Ultra-simple time tracking. I don’t want too many features that our contributors might get lost in. I just want simple time tracking.
  • Integration with PayPal for quick payments. This was the biggest thing. It’s our philosophy to pay our contributors frequently, sometimes as often as weekly. And with 30 contributors that got really time consuming, fast. SirraTeam is fully integrated with PayPal, so I can just click “Pay” and the PayPal payment is created.
  • Delegate payments. I can delegate the responsibility of paying specific users to managers. This is important as we scale up the team.

Lastly, I think it’s worth mentioning that SirraTeam.com works from the point of view of your organization/company: You create an account, you invite your contributors to log in, and they track hours with you. And then you pay them. Many other solutions are a little different in that they take the view of the freelancer – they log hours and invoice you.

SirraTeam.com is open to everyone. Check it out and let me know what you think. You can email me at aris at sirrateam.com if you have any questions or comments.

Having trouble working remotely?

Working remotely is getting better and smoother every day with the improvement in collaboration tools that are available. We continually try to push the boundaries of working remotely at my company QuickSchools. We have over 25 employees working remotely all over the US, with only 3 that work in our “central office” in Sunnyvale, CA.

Here are two simple tips that we’ve discovered that make working remotely much smoother.

Use Google Hangout video chat

Many of us use gmail and have gmail always open in our browser. The ability to reach someone in an instant by clicking on the video call button is so powerful. Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I don’t want to be on video chat when I’m in my pyjamas!” Well, sure, that won’t be the best thing, but then I think keeping a decent appearance shouldn’t be necessary only when going into the office. Working remotely shouldn’t be an excuse to be a slob, methinks.

It’s just that human beings give off so many non-language cues that it’s imperative you use video to communicate at least some of the time. It’s too easy to get frustrated waiting for a chat response for example. But with video, you can see when someone is just paused to think, or when someone didn’t get what you said.

The beauty of Google Hangout is that screen sharing is built-in. That’s powerful.

It’s funny, we like Google Hangout so much that even when we have two or more people in the same meeting room in a multi-location meeting, those two or more people each have their own Google Hangout session running. All but one will mute their microphones and speakers to prevent audio crosstalk, but wow it works well.

Work off a “Discussion” Google Doc

We create a Google Doc that serves as a discussion doc every time we meet. New updates are put on the top, not at the bottom so that new updates are always visible when someone opens the doc. Also, don’t keep creating a new Google Doc every so often. Keep using the same Google Doc, even if it gets long. Don’t worry, Google can handle it. This makes it easy to scroll down to see older entries, and also allows you to use Ctrl-F to find old information.

Date every meeting. In fact, you can even put entries in advance of meeting. Suppose you are meeting in two days, and there’s something you want to bring up. Make an entry for that future date (on the top of course):

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

[Aris] Do we want to include the latest blog entries on our home page?

What you’ll find is that people will see that entry before the meeting date, without you having to explicitly email them, because they too are going in to put entries in advance. This means they’ll have a chance to start thinking about those topics. Even more awesome, they’ll start putting in their thoughts in the doc even before the meeting date! Issues get resolved without spending even a minute meeting on it.

Those are the two most important discoveries we’ve made. Please let me know how well these techniques work for you if you try them.

Extreme HR

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write more about how we hire and how we structure HR at QuickSchools. But first and foremost, I need to give it a name. It needs a label. That would make it easier to talk about and identify.

I thought about the phrase “Extreme HR”. Not sure if that’s the best name for it or not. I guess it is a bit extreme. Some parts of it are reasonably common these days – 100% virtual arrangements, results-oriented work environment and hourly compensations for example. But I think some parts of it are pretty damn extreme. Resume-blind hiring, for example. I get some pretty strange looks when I tell people I don’t look at resumes when deciding between candidates. Or offering 5 people the same job so I can do an apples-to-apples comparison. Yup, that gets a fair amount of debate.

But we’ve done this “Extreme HR” so many times that it feels totally natural at this time. And totally logical given recent trends in work structure. And of course the kicker – it totally works and takes so little time to find great people.

Well, I guess we’ll call it Extreme HR for now, till we come up with a better name!