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remote team

Mastering Remote Team Leadership with Liam Martin, Time Doctor

May 3, 2023

35% of the American workforce is now working remotely, and studies have shown that a remote team is often more productive than its in-office counterpart. Through his company, Time Doctor, Liam Martin is on a mission to help the world smoothly transition to remote work. In this episode, he shares the approach he has taken to ensuring operational efficiency and building a business model based on referrals and why the key to managing a remote team is developing the skill of asynchronous management.

About Liam Martin:

Liam Martin is the CEO of Time Doctor, a leading time-tracking and productivity tool that helps businesses manage remote teams effectively. With his expertise, he has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and Fortune. He has been invited as a guest speaker at numerous conferences and events, sharing his invaluable insights on remote work and entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, Liam co-authored the best-selling book “Running Remote,” which provides strategies tailored to business owners. This groundbreaking guide delves into the mindset and strategies of remote work pioneers, empowering readers to build and scale successful organizations with seamless, freeing, and cost-effective remote work approaches.

For a comprehensive book review, check out this page.

Episode Highlights:

  • In the early days of your entrepreneurial journey, you need to be the one doing everything. However, the quicker you can stop doing so many things inside of your business and transition into a more executive role, the better. “Owning [a business] is much better than running [one].” (02:35)
  • Ensuring that your operational infrastructure keeps growing at a rate at which it sustains your business requires a force of will, regularly rewriting your software, and dollar investments. At Time Doctor, they invest 7 to 12% of every dollar into improving operations. (04:30)
  • One of the most effective marketing strategies is one that is based on referrals. People trust people more than they trust brands, so build a product that people love so much that they will recommend it to others. (19:47)
  • Studies conducted on remote work have found that it leads to an increase in productivity. The key to a successful remote company is asynchronous management, and there are various tools within the remote working stack that can be used to achieve this. (35:45)
  • When hiring someone, make sure that they are aligned with the mission and vision of your company. To do this, build a Vision Traction Organizer (VTO) (i.e. a core vision document) and ensure that you give it to every potential hire to read and share their thoughts on. (40:40)

Liam’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“Building out those multiple products in your product line; you cannot do that without operations. Nothing works without operations.” (25:38)

Connect with Liam:

Resources Mentioned:

Follow Beyond 8 Figures:

Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links in this episode are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, we only promote products/services we believe will benefit your entrepreneurial journey.

Transcript

[00:01:10] A.J. Lawrence: It was for their remote teams. So I think we’re gonna have fun diving into the value of remote, but even more important as I’ve been geeking out is talking with Liam about the different inflection points, the difficulties that will happen as you’re growing through them.

[00:01:28] But as we were geeking out, just what those inflection points can allow you to try and do compared to smaller or earlier stages in your own journey. So let’s start talking with Liam because this is just gonna be a lot of fun.

[00:01:43] Liam, thank you so much for being here on the show today.

[00:01:46] Liam Martin: A.J., thanks for having me. I am also excited jumping into this because very rarely am I able to nerd out to the level that we just did in the last half hour.

[00:01:55] A.J. Lawrence: No, and we will have some fun. So before we kind of get into some of that nerd level, you were a teaching assistant then staff.com and Time Doctor, they seem pretty close, and it seems like that evolved a little bit into the current iteration, and now Running Remote. Where do you see yourself as an entrepreneur these days?

[00:02:18] Liam Martin: Oh, boy. Well, I think a transition point between entrepreneur and executive. And I think that that’s probably happened over the last four to five years, essentially, and I think that’s probably one of the points that we wanna address in Beyond 8 Figures.

[00:02:35] A lot of entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are in a head space of as their businesses grow, recognizing that what got them to where they currently are right now is being an entrepreneur – is being the person that can handle everything and do everything and execute on whatever needs to be executed on. If I need to jump on a plane and fly down and talk to a client, I would do it.

[00:02:55] If I needed to run a split test and me be the one that implement it, I would do it. If I was gonna write 12 blog posts last week, I was gonna be the person that does that. And you get really, really good at that activity. And counterintuitively, the fastest way for you to transition to the next level is for you to stop doing all of those things completely.

[00:03:16] And it’s very, very difficult for a lot of entrepreneurs to be able to make that switch. I’m still not completely out of it. There are certain things that I still do inside of the business, but a very smart man once told me something that hit home. He said, do you want to run an 8-figure business or do you want to own one?

[00:03:34] And he said, I’d rather own one. And I agree with him. Owning is much better than running.

[00:03:39] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, we were talking earlier and let’s kind of maybe jump into some of the things because you had a great figure about sort of the negative impact of operational deficit. Because as I grew, I stopped growing my operational infrastructure. I had a really nice business, that 3 million, maybe even 5 million. But as we got past it, I was getting rickety and the wheels popped off. It was like watching the car that you have, Oh, it says oil checkup at 10,000. Oh, that’s a lot. Lets go for 100,000. I had operational deficit.

[00:04:10] So let’s talk about one, what you do to make sure you have it, and you talked about a coach that brought it. But then also let’s talk where that came up that you realized there was a need to make sure you put these plans? What do you do to ensure that you have operational infrastructure in place?

[00:04:30] Liam Martin: Well, so first off, that three to five to sometimes even seven range is really through force of will. It’s that entrepreneur forcing that business to exist, and everyone needs that. No one gets from 0 to 1, 0 to a million, a million to even 5 million without that force of will.

[00:04:48] So it’s really important that you have it, and no businesses would succeed unless it did exist. So SaaS business, Timedoctor.com, is the largest SaaS business that we run. And inside of software companies, there’s something called engineering debt. Basically platform debt, meaning you’ve written a certain feature or you’ve built infrastructure inside of your software platform and you need to spend a certain amount of time rewriting the work that you’ve already done. That’s maybe a year old or two years old, or five years old.

[00:05:19] I would highly suggest you never get to five years old to be honest with you, cuz then you run into bigger problems where you have to completely rewrite the software from scratch. But the rewriting of this software is a really fantastic analogy towards operations. So the same thing exists – that programming debt exists from an operational perspective, and you need to be able to invest in it.

[00:05:42] For us, we invest between 7-12% of every dollar of the business inside of operations. And that means hiring a COO, that means hiring staff to be able to do process documentation, make sure that our systems are on point, our Tech Ops team, our HR, our Finance, our Legal. These are all costs that we need to be able to make sure that are properly managed in that 7-12% ratio, but they will never provide a direct return on investment towards the business.

[00:06:15] Much like hiring that extra engineer, you can’t measure the ROI of hiring that extra engineer to be inside of your business. But anyone that was running a software company would never fire their engineers because they recognize that that is literally the application in itself. You can force yourself into I would say definitely a low 7-figure business without that resource, but to be able to get to 10 and beyond, you need that infrastructure in place. And so that’s why we’ve made that investment.

[00:06:46] It took me a really long time to be able to figure that out. Took me about five years to be convinced that we should do that. And it comes down to actually this issue between an entrepreneurial type of mindset and more of an operational executive mindset, they’re polar opposites of each other.

[00:07:04] When you actually look at the demographics of an entrepreneur, the vast majority of entrepreneurs are left-leaning politically, as an example. Actually, sometimes they’re extremely left-leaning politically. They’re all about, Hey, the world should be kumbaya. Possibility, it’s about building the new thing.

[00:07:20] Operational people are the polar opposite. They are the most right wing politically, socioeconomically of that entrepreneurial type of person.

[00:07:30] So you need to actually have those two types of personality types in order to be able to run a business. And that’s why you see things like when Elon Musk bought Twitter and he identified that there were no Republicans inside of Twitter at all. There was no one that voted for the Republican Party. That’s a major red flag.

[00:07:47] You need to actually have people on both sides of the political spectrum, not just from a political perspective, but literally from a socioeconomic perspective because those people think differently. And you need to have those different types of opinions inside of your business.

[00:07:59] A.J. Lawrence: Diversity.

[00:08:00] Liam Martin: It hurts, it sucks, but it’s how these businesses succeed. And I will never run a business ever again without an operational component inside of the business. Would I be best friends with these people? Absolutely not. But they’re absolutely critical towards the business.

[00:08:18] A.J. Lawrence: Okay, you were talking about you were about five years in so let’s either discuss about the size you were or sort of what was happening to really make those two points, that entrepreneurial versus executive or just an operational strain level. What was going on that kinda brought this to the fore that you just thought, as you said earlier, you started talking to a coach and your coach was the one who sort of made the case that this was a necessary component of the business. Where were you? What was going on?

[00:08:48] Liam Martin: Well, so there were two stages to that, and it was really at the 5 to 10 stage. Five to 10 million.

[00:08:54] A.J. Lawrence: Okay, yep.

[00:08:55] Liam Martin: Which is where the majority of that threshold was starting to present itself. We were recognizing that there were operational issues. I remember once we have a process for when we send out an email to our customers. So we had this stupid little excel spreadsheet or this Google Doc, and you had to have one person that would write the email and then another person that would approve the launch of that email.

[00:09:19] So we would set up all of the launching parameters who we’re gonna send it to, which countries, age group, what kind of user are they? And we would send out 30 or 40 of these a month.

[00:09:31] And I remember we sent out an email to the owners, or it was supposed to be targeted towards owners, but we sent it out to our users. And it was just like the wrong thing. And we got a whole bunch of really negative feedback. The users were really angry. The owners were really angry. I think it was actually to be able to advertise another service and it was a service that would pull some of the users out of their companies. And it was just like this huge disaster.

[00:09:59] And we realized, oh, well we need to be able to change this. This is like completely a breakdown of operations and procedure inside of the business. So that was one issue. But then, where it literally hit the nail in the coffin, the very last one with regards to the need of operations was February of 2020. So February of 2020 4.5% of the US workforce was working remotely, and by March it was 45% of the US workforce.

[00:10:23] It’s the biggest transition in work since the Industrial Revolution. But the Industrial Revolution took about 80 years, and we did that in a month. And we went from about 5,000 leads a month going into the business to about 35,000 leads a month going into the business. So we completely transitioned. We went from a relatively successful business to an absolute hypergrowth business within a month. And we needed to hire.

[00:10:49] The biggest investment that we made was operations. I think March, April and May, we had shut down all new feature development. It was literally let’s just keep the lights on, let’s keep the infrastructure running so that we don’t break down, and so that the software doesn’t break.

[00:11:07] And so that was a huge moment for us. But we recognized that if we hadn’t had the operational infrastructure that we had had at that moment, we would’ve completely collapsed as a business. And a lot of our competitors didn’t have that in place and they just completely melted. Like we were getting people coming in saying, yeah, this other competitor that we signed up with, they don’t work. It’s just not working properly. We’re not getting an answer back, but you guys are answering us pretty quick.

[00:11:33] So that was a huge aha moment for us where we realized that 10% of our budget that we were putting into operations kicked in in the most beautiful way possible. In 2020, we did 202% year over year growth. For an 8-figure business to do 202%, just from a SaaS perspective, one in a thousand SaaS businesses gets to that type of growth level.

[00:11:55] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

[00:11:55] Liam Martin: It was absolutely amazing.

[00:11:57] A.J. Lawrence: There are plenty of stories about the difficulties occurring from COVID, but definitely you were in this position, you had built your base of luck to take advantage of this.

[00:12:10] When you say allocating 8-12, one, you’re in that five seven. So all of a sudden you are talking about potentially, let’s put half a million bucks a year, give or take, into Operations. Now because I know this was difficulty I have. It was sort of like, where do I put that?

[00:12:28] I was talking about the ways I found that could be helpful, but how did you decide on how to allocate that budget? Was it like, okay, we’re gonna go put someone senior and then let them figure it out down, or we’re gonna look at our problems and put money at each problem. What was that?

[00:12:45] Liam Martin: Yeah. So we started with someone very senior and then that person was in charge of that department. So there needs to be someone in charge of operations and effectively that becomes essentially the president of the company. So they manage all of the other executives inside of the organization.

[00:13:02] They manage the CRO, the CMO, the VP of Sales, the VP of Marketing, all of those people. And that’s one side of it that then frees me and my business partner Rob up, to be able to focus on more product innovation, getting closer to customers, and also doing things like this, which is building more community.

[00:13:25] I effectively see this type of process, literally boiling back to building community inside of my organization, because hopefully you’re listening to this and you like what I have to say. And if you do, there’s a lot more back at Running Remote or Timedoctor.com that you can check out. So building that was really important.

[00:13:43] And then also two, recognizing I like to jump into my calendar and really ask myself what am I currently doing in the calendar that can produce a maximum return for the time that I have. And I was working 60 hours per week, well definitely Pre-Covid, the very beginning of the business.

[00:14:01] Then I really kind of boiled down to doing about 40 hours per week. Then I went back up to 60-80 hours per week during COVID, cuz I recognized my train had come into the station. I don’t know if you’ve seen those tubes at game shows where there’s like a hurricane of money.

[00:14:16] A.J. Lawrence: Yes.

[00:14:17] Liam Martin: And the prices, right? And it was March of 2020 and I was like, Oh, I’m in that tube right now. Just get to work, do nothing else other than that. Execute on trying to get as much money as I can stuffed into my bra, because there may never be another Black Swan event like this in my entire lifetime.

[00:14:38] So go into your calendar and identify where the time sucks. I talked about this right before we jumped on. Vaishali, shout out to Vaishali, is the person that ended up facilitating this meeting between the two of us. And I got a one pager on you on the podcast. What podcast should I check out first, that I have a full understanding of the context of this meeting, and how I can be as helpful to your listeners as humanly possible?

[00:15:08] That amount of research would’ve taken me probably 2 hours, and in 15 minutes I was ready to go. That’s the type of stuff from an operational perspective that you need as well, is everything that needs to be prepared for you. Again, it goes back to this counterintuitive perspective of you shouldn’t be doing anything yourself. It should all be done by other people. And then that allows you to be able to really buy back your time and focus on what’s important.

[00:15:32] A.J. Lawrence: Well, that kinda goes to sort of the capabilities of your business allow the resources you can use to buy back your time, but also increase your own impact in different layers. Like basically you spent 15 minutes, you could have had a decent, and given your intelligence and your ability to handle quick changing subjects just since we’ve been playing, you would’ve been a very impactful guest. Even if you just like, oh, LinkedIn page, all right, got it.

[00:15:58] But because you use this system, all of a sudden you were able to bring more impact, which will, hopefully the idea is hey everyone, go check out Time Doctor and see if it’s within your business model. There, you got the plug.

[00:16:12] Liam Martin: Thank you.

[00:16:12] A.J. Lawrence: It’s the fun part. But what is neat in this is a lot of times people talk about, oh, you need to do this, you need to do that. What I’ve really been interested in since we’ve been chatting before the show and now here, is you’re one of the few people who talk about how these come into play at different inflection points of where you are. Cause even this, it’s not worth it to be doing this even though I had seen people do it very early.

[00:16:39] Yeah, it’s some incremental value. But you have a much larger opportunity range, space, edge, whatever it is to then take advantage of this. We were talking about some of the growth tactics you’ve used, and let’s kind of just jump on that because this really does tie into your ability to grow.

[00:17:02] Force of will to get you to where it was, that entrepreneurial journey you were talking about, into that executive conflict utilizing then that inflection point to bring in that right leaning operational head to then start putting in processes to help allow systems and structures to continue the growth, which then allowed you to use additional, and I’m paraphrasing and pulling things together so please correct me.

[00:17:33] But then as that happened, tactics that would be very difficult or expensive earlier, all of a sudden became very valuable, of which referral, community, etc, became main drivers of your ongoing growth and really that kind of "brand development". It’s product led growth, but you had to go through a long period of time where it had to be supported with different tactics to then have that true classic product brand growth.

[00:18:03] Liam Martin: Yeah. So, a lot of the things that I’m saying are somewhat disingenuous because the business was started in 2012. And if I was starting a business in 2023, I would probably, I would do it very differently. Essentially, I would be buying the initial community I would be, and doing that through basically through paid advertising.

[00:18:23] That would be the the fastest way that I would do it to be able to get to the point in which I’ve built a community that’s been exposed to my product-led funnel and I’m waiting on referrals. So Time Doctor, 67% of the business is through referrals and the way that you found me was through a referral from a previous guest of yours that was on the podcast, and so that’s how the entire business runs at this point. But it’s kind of a chicken and the egg issue.

[00:18:52] How do you get to referrals? Well, you get to referrals through exposing people to a product that they really like and they like to the degree to which they would want to be able to tell their friends about it. If you look at larger companies, I love Tesla because they spend no money on advertising, like zero, and they’ve put all of their money into product led growth.

[00:19:13] If you know of anyone that owns a Tesla and you say, Hey, do you like the Tesla? They’ll talk to you for three hours about it. They absolutely love the thing, right?

[00:19:20] A.J. Lawrence: It’s not a car. It’s a different experience.

[00:19:23] Liam Martin: Yeah. It’s not a car, it’s a Tesla. Right? And so I think that that’s something, and particularly in 2023, that is the only business model that works. There’s no more left. I would challenge anyone to be able to say that you can build a 10 million business and I’m going to use SaaS, Software as a Service as a very specific use case cuz I know that much better than anything else.

[00:19:47] You cannot build an 8-figure SaaS business with paid acquisition alone. You need referrals as a fundamental part of your business model, and not only just a fundamental part, the majority of your business model in order to succeed. So you basically just need to purchase that attention to the point in which people are really excited about it and purchasing it is the fastest way to do it.

[00:20:10] You can also do it quite in a much slower way by building community organically. So if I had no resources right now and I was just trying to basically build another software product, I would not build the software product first. I would actually build the community first. I’d probably go on to TikTok and I’d start to put up a whole bunch of TikToks about, let’s say I wanted to build a payroll product, about the payroll industry and how it’s broken.

[00:20:36] And I would just start to do something really funny and I would get those heads of people, heads of HR following my content and absolutely loving it. And then I would actually start to sell that attention to my eventual competitors, number one, to be able to acquire capital to be able to build my own product, but also number two, to be able to test market whether or not it works. And then eventually, once I had enough resources, I would start my own product.

[00:21:01] I actually think that in the future, almost all businesses will be influencer-based. And every entrepreneur will have to be an influencer in order to be able to succeed in the market. I don’t know if you know the YouTube channel, Mr. Beast.

[00:21:17] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

[00:21:17] Liam Martin: He’s the biggest YouTuber on YouTube right now. His chocolate bar just overtook, I believe Hershey’s as the most sold chocolate bar in Walmarts across the United States. He runs a YouTube channel. Like what’s going on here? He’s a YouTube channel guy that has a chocolate bar, but they’re doing hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

[00:21:39] Logan Paul and I can’t remember the other name of the guy, but they have an energy drink called Prime that’s doing a $100 million turnover per year.

[00:21:47] A.J. Lawrence: Yes.

[00:21:48] Liam Martin: So you need to get the attention, basically. You need to get the attention and you need to be able to have a really good product. And those two people, those two assets need to meet.

[00:21:57] A.J. Lawrence: I think even playing into this, cause alright, you need those things. But even in touch with what you talked about, the operational structure, there’s been a lot of discussion about how quickly some of these AI-backed businesses are growing.

[00:22:13] Basically it’s ChatGPT-skinned with some additional prompt structure, but like some of them, they’re growing unlike we’ve seen. ChatGPT itself probably became the fastest billion dollar revenue business ever. Too soon to even know how much money it’s made already. Not even including external investment, but just like from user base.

[00:22:34] Then all these fun. It’s like the concept of moat. And I think it gets to these as we look at businesses, you have to jump through different things. I think your focus earlier, where we were talking about like this need to put the operation. What I’ve been reading really fascinated me in thinking about as I look to acquire companies is this idea that the business I’m buying now is not even the business I run in three to eight years. You literally have to plan for continuous growth.

[00:23:07] Fastest growing companies have product suites. They continually innovate and it’s their speed of innovation and the speed of development that ends up being that long term sort of. When you look at Salesforce and the big SaaS’s, they literally cloud because they’re literally just trying to, again and again, service the continuous needs of their customers. To upsell them, to cross-sell them, to extend their lifetime – all that is a fraction of a new customer acquisition.

[00:23:38] But you just kind of put in a really cool concept of how to even get into that game. We’ve been talking about audience-driven growth and it would be fun to maybe talk about some business models and how to go from A to Z on doing this.

[00:23:55] Liam Martin: Sure. I can give you a perfect example, A.J. So your audience that’s listening to this podcast right now, if you came up with a new product, some of them would try it. And probably some of them would buy it. Dependent upon whether or not the product was crap or not would literally measure what would define whether or not those people that trialed it and bought it would refer it to the rest of their customers.

[00:24:16] So you have the attention part already solved, right? Like the intention part is very, very difficult, but you have to a degree, that issue solved. The next part of the transaction is connecting that community with the right type of product that feeds into that attention feedback loop.

[00:24:32] And I think to me, the fastest way to be able to do that, and I’m seeing this on YouTube right now with all of these influencers. Like literally in the last two years, they all switched from selling other people’s products to selling their own products cuz they recognized that the ROI was way better.

[00:24:48] I was in a fantastic meeting with a bunch of $100 million plus ARR SaaS businesses, it was like six guys. And one of the things that completely blew my mind, going back to your point about Salesforce was they told me, well, at 10 million you really should have actually been building your second product inside of your company. And it should have been launched at 20. And it should be 30% of your revenue by 50.

[00:25:16] And that was something that no one at least had told me before and was kind of an Aha moment for me. And I remember this one guy and he runs one of the biggest SaaS businesses in the world, he said, No one will get to 100 million without at least two products, if not four or five.

[00:25:34] And I was like, oh, okay. Well that was another big aha moment that I had, which was building out those multiple products in your product line. And that you cannot do that without operations. It completely does not, nothing works without operations. You have a CEO of that particular product.

[00:25:51] For the running remote conference, that’s Egor. He’s the CEO of Running Remote. He runs Running Remote. My job is to be able to advise him and help him, but fundamentally, that’s his business. I do not get into his business from an operational perspective because that’s his direction in where he wants to go on.

[00:26:11] I set the vision and I set the framework in order to be able to execute on that particular vision, and I set the budget. But outside of that, that’s his project and that’s another product line that we’re building out inside of the business.

[00:26:24] A.J. Lawrence: No, I like that concept . I learned the hard way that operating much more, but I realized it really is deferred gratification.

[00:26:32] I kind of got into tech early nineties and I jumped quickly to project management cuz I was so frustrated with being on development project as a coder that we’re just so crappily run. And then realized so much of it was where you planned for the bottlenecks, but in the way it really does kind of just simplify it.

[00:26:51] Like knowing where you need to defer your gratification, for whatever means, profitability all these different things, for your stated goals. It could be long term, it could be exit planning, all this. But it’s this idea of understanding where the levers are and what need to be moved to make sure you move towards what you want. And then defer to later the easy runs of growth or profits or whatever it may be.

[00:27:20] Liam Martin: Yeah, I would say everyone needs to keep a healthy amount of EBITDA in their books once they’re at 8 figures. So I would define healthy as between 10-30%, not so much because you want to put money in the bank and you want to defer your risk, which is important by the way.

[00:27:36] Throwing a couple million dollars in the bank per year is critical when you have a SaaS business that is effectively representative of 98% of your net worth. Right? You want to be able to make sure that you can pull some of that risk off the table as the founders, but also two, it hedges you against economic downturns.

[00:27:57] And we’ve been in business for 12 years and we recognize when those downturns occur, and we are probably in the middle of one right now. So being able to absorb-

[00:28:07] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

[00:28:08] Liam Martin: Yeah. I mean, who knows what’s gonna happen? That’s a separate podcast in itself. But how are we gonna absorb that? If we have 20% EBITDA in our books where we can say, okay, well it looks like there’s been a bit of an economic transition, and in SaaS it’s a very resistant business model, so maybe we lose 5% of our revenue due to people churning specifically because they just can’t afford our software anymore.

[00:28:34] Well that’s fine because now we’re at 20 and we’re down to 15, and we can just be a little less aggressive in terms of hiring and get ourselves back up to 20. But actually the counter to that is, at least I’ve seen right now, labor’s on sale.

[00:28:48] So the cost of labor in the tech industry is way cheaper than it was two years ago, and it’s way cheaper than it was a year ago. And so we can get people for 30% discount from where they were even a year ago, and that’s another big advantage. Because you can do a lot of buying during that time and you can lock those people in that are excited about your vision and really want to take you where you want to go. And you’re going to give them 5-10% raise per year.

[00:29:17] Well, even if you’re doing a 10% raise per year, you’ve gotten three years at a lower than market rate for that person when you lock them in at that time. And that’s a huge leveler because you’re talking about saving millions of dollars, at least in our part.

[00:29:32] A.J. Lawrence: And we didn’t talk about this, and the conference definitely is sort of the big embodiment, but you literally built a company around one of the major desires of the modern workforce – remote work .

[00:29:46] Liam Martin: Correct.

[00:29:47] A.J. Lawrence: From playing around a little bit through it, it’s less kind of called out but also something that you guys facilitate. There is time tracking, but there’s also the ability to do work sort of on your time. I always hate it when a word just disappears from my brain.

[00:30:01] Liam Martin: Asynchronous management.

[00:30:02] A.J. Lawrence: Asynchronous work structure. I mean, the core product is definitely the time tracking and sort of the evaluation. But in going through that, that was pretty cool.

[00:30:10] Once again, you’ve been doing this from 2011, 2012, the product has sort of evolved. But now you are literally on sort of the forefront of the change of working culture. You said, COVID kind of was the Industrial Revolution in one month compared to 80 years, but you culturally were there. How are you seeing that evolve?

[00:30:33] Liam Martin: Yeah. So really what happened was the digitization of the economy, and I would say we moved forward five years in one month. So we’re seeing 2025 numbers in 2020. And it wasn’t just us, right? Like Shopify had insurmountable crazy growth because all of these businesses shut down and they’re like, oh, well how do we make money? Oh, well we gotta do it online and we gotta bring ourselves into the digital era.

[00:30:56] So a lot of businesses went that direction and I knew that that was up into the right trend back in 2010. The projections were that by 2029, there’s two studies 2027 and 2029, this is Pre-COVID, 50% of the US workforce was going to work remotely. And we achieved that number in 2020. Just instantaneously.

[00:31:20] The numbers today right now are 35%, so down from that peak of 45, and the thing that is even crazier is that that number’s going back up. So we’re going to probably be back at 50% essentially around 2025 to 2027. So I see that trend line as something that’s just going to continue.

[00:31:41] And to your point as well, one of the biggest aspects of remote work that a lot of people don’t necessarily address or shy away from is the issue of accountability. Is the ability for people to be able to say, Hey, I need you to show up to work at this time, work this amount, and then stop working at this particular time.

[00:32:02] That’s been something that has, it’s kind of a third whale rail inside of remote work. Not many people really want to talk about it. But it’s the vast majority of the reason as to why there’s been this pushback to the office even though remote work studies have continuously found, I looked at 17, more specifically my research team looked at 17 and gave me the results.

[00:32:24] They identified that out of the 17, 16 identified an increase in productivity and one identified a neutral increase. So everyone’s basically agreeing, working from home makes you more productive, produces more widgets per hour for your organization. But there is this pushback to the office because of work accountability.

[00:32:47] And that’s kind of an issue that’s not being discussed, but we perfectly solve for that problem. And we do it in, I think, the most egalitarian way for both users and owners. So we have like the business owners that want to be able to say, Hey, I need to be able to have accountability for all of my workforce and recognize what you’re doing.

[00:33:10] And the users that say, Hey, well, I want to be able to make sure that I have my own privacy when I’m using the computer in what context. And I think we draw a happy medium between those two. But fundamentally that is a critical part of the remote technology stack that isn’t going away. There’s plenty of more things inside of the remote technology stack that we would want to be able to pursue.

[00:33:32] Our mission statement is we wanna empower the world’s transition towards remote work and really focus on the pragmatic aspects of remote work that not many people really address. Sometimes it’s all about doing a flashy Zoom or Apple’s gonna come out with a VR headset next month talking about how they’re gonna be able to do meetings in VR that are gonna be amazing.

[00:33:52] Those are really cool. But at the end of the day, people wanna be able to make sure that the work is done and the work is done well.

[00:33:58] A.J. Lawrence: I agree completely, it’s about the results. But I also think it’s the style of business and we’re facing both either from [unintelligible] or from sort of a management structure. That there is this sort of like smaller, younger businesses are more willing to be flexible because we come from a point of less. We have to be more flexible within our needs, and I think remote work is great.

[00:34:24] One of the first times where I’m seeing like, Oh wait, it’s actually a selling point, when I was New York City Agency and before Dumbo became this hot neighborhood trying to convince people to come over when I wanted to hire talent.

[00:34:40] Now all of a sudden, I know people who are leaving big companies, forget even the layoffs, because they want that flexibility. They know they can deliver the work, they know they can create value. So having it, it is a fun thing. It will be interesting to see that management structure, where it comes and where it goes, and how hybrid and remote kinda come into play because I think so many of these, you must be back in the office. I hope they break on sort of the inefficiencies of that. But that’s kind of the fun of business, watching it.

[00:35:17] Liam Martin: There are lots of things about the sociology of work that just don’t make any sense whatsoever. I remember the big debate about open office plans.

[00:35:26] Every study shows that open office plans do not work, that they are more disruptive, people have less focus time. But yet, what do you see everywhere? Open office plans. Everyone, you still uses them even though the data is wrong. So there’s a lot of those things that are happening regardless.

[00:35:43] Touching on that a little bit as well, one of the reasons why I wrote this book, Running Remote. It’s the book of the same name. And I wanted to actually call it Async, but my publisher wouldn’t let me because he said no one knows what that term means, which is the reason why I wanted to write it.

[00:35:59] The key to remote work and running remote is asynchronous management, is the ability to be able to manage people without directly interacting with them synchronously. The average new company that went remote during the pandemic spends 56% of their time on video calls, which is insane. We spend about 17% of our time on video calls. We spend as little time as humanly possible on synchronous communication so that we can optimize for deep work in asynchronous communication and management.

[00:36:31] And so, that’s the big piece that I think everyone’s not really getting. And to kind of delve into this a little bit deeper, not to necessarily get quasi conspiratorial, but there’s all these pushes back to the office, and it’s not the executives that are actually doing this pushback.

[00:36:46] There’s a really great set of studies by Slack on this subject and they survey 10,000 companies per quarter. Executives love remote work. The employees love remote work. 76% of them want to spend the majority of the time not in the office. The group that doesn’t is the mid-level managers. And when I studied asynchronous organizations for the book, we found on average their managerial layer was 50% thinner than they’re on-premise counterparts. They are not needed inside of new businesses, these new remote businesses. They are redundant in the process and they can be repurposed to individual contributors very easily. They just don’t want to go because what’s the big thing that every single individual contributor wants to have when they’re a high performer?

[00:37:36] The direction up the organization is management. And I actually think we need to really disconnect that and say, it’s not about how many people you manage, it’s about the things that you get done that is important.

[00:37:46] A.J. Lawrence: Quality is important.

[00:37:47] Liam Martin: And this is the breakdown that we’re currently seeing in work today, and I’m hopeful that that will change. But based off of the history of sociology of work, it’s not gonna change anytime soon.

[00:37:57] A.J. Lawrence: No. But that does kind of even bring up like you talked about you’re entrepreneur to executive sort of friction in that mid-seven, upper seven range. But it’s also that extra intention. And I talk about being deliberate because it’s one thing I realized or I had learned after rubbing the sticks together. I learned and I practiced and I was very deliberate and then I threw everything out the door thinking that was how we were gonna grow faster up. I didn’t think just throwing things out. I had some logic in that point, but in my hindsight it’s like, f*ck.

[00:38:32] But to the point I think what I’m seeing, like your discussion, there’s some really good discussions of people who are diving deep into, and EOS is not the only one but there’s others, but generally into that visionary integrator.

[00:38:47] And in a sense, harder thought process, more deliberate execution of growth, delayed gratification, all these things that then allow for better opportunity down the road. And I think this is where we’re starting to see, especially in a smaller, more nimble company like yours compared to a larger company that has that infrastructure.

[00:39:10] It is that like, Okay, if you’re willing to put in that extra time to really be clear about your objectives and what that means, and what does that dive into the mission, the culture. It’s nigh inifinite at times it feels, but if you are deliberate and consistent and incremental, as you show with Time Doctor, so like how do you see where you’re going now that you’ve moved to the executive? You’re being more that visionary brand developer showing where is possible. Where are you finding the hard part?

[00:39:47] Liam Martin: Oh, there’s a lot of hard parts to be honest with you. There’s a lot of me holding myself back from actually executing on something myself because at a business of our size, it’s not how, but who, constantly. It’s never how, it’s always who. Who is going to do this? Not how am I going to do this? And holding yourself back from actually doing that is super counterintuitive because everyone wants to just kind of get it done themselves. That’s how you got to where you currently are is by doing it yourself.

[00:40:19] So that’s why it’s so, so difficult, and I catch myself almost weekly doing this. We were starting a new TikTok campaign and I’m critiquing the TikTok video edits that are coming back, and I’m realizing that I’m stepping on the toes of the person that was in charge of the project. Those types of things that you need to to constantly fight up against.

[00:40:40] But you brought up another previous point that I wanted to kind of readdress, that is a perfect example of this. Inside of EOS, there’s something called it’s basically the core vision document of the organization. What’s the mission? What do you wanna accomplish with the company? How do you plan on doing it? What products are you gonna sell? That type of stuff. And you will not be able to hire the right people unless the people that are doing the hiring, of which we have a team of eight people that do that inside of the company, understand the VTO Vision Traction Organizer perfectly.

[00:41:14] So they understand everything about it. They can teach you about it. They should know it better than you know that document. And until you actually build that document, you can’t actually come back and get the people that connect with you culturally in the right direction.

[00:41:29] I remember before we built the VTO, we were going to hire a VP of Sales and there were three candidates that we boiled it down to. I was doing interviews with all three of them, and the top candidate technically towards maybe the end of a one hour conversation, he just as an offset statement, said, well, I don’t really believe in remote work.

[00:41:49] And I was like, Oh. Tell me more about why you don’t believe in it. He’s like, well, sales teams should never be working remotely. They should only be working in an office. And you know, if I was gonna be the VP of sales, that’s something that I absolutely need to do. I said, awesome. You’re not the right fit. Thank you for letting me know.

[00:42:06] And I went back to the Operations team and the HR team and I said, how did you not detect this earlier? Our mission statement is we’re trying to help the world’s transition towards remote work. Did anyone tell him that that’s the purpose of the company? And no one had. So the first document that we give new hires, particularly anyone that’s a director and above is we have them review the VTO for about an hour.

[00:42:33] And that’s one of their assignments that they have. And we ask them three things that they disagree with inside of that document so that we can very clearly identify, is this person the right fit for us? Because when you’re hiring a director and above, they should usually have multiple candidates.

[00:42:50] They usually do have multiple companies they’re talking to. We would just like to be able to make that process as easy as possible for them, more than us, to be able to remove themselves from the candidate pool. Because if they don’t believe in the VTO, then they shouldn’t be working in the company.

[00:43:05] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. When you say it, you’re like, oh, how could someone, but the reality is people are too focused a lot of times on trying to sell themselves into a situation rather than that fit. It does help that a lot of times there are multiple opportunities, but I still think sometimes even in talking to people who have multiple opportunities, they’re so focused, especially at the higher level, on the selling of each one. They wanna get each one. I’ve been in that situation also in the past where it’s like I will do whatever I can to win the interview.

[00:43:38] Liam Martin: Yeah. I’m getting a pretty good radar though on sniffing that out and just recognizing, do you want to work here or do you want this job?

[00:43:45] So those are two separate things. Do you want to work here? Meaning I’ll do anything in this company, I just wanna work in this company cuz it’s super cool. Great! Versus I want this job, I want this particular position because I know I’ll be paid more, or I’ll be the CRO instead of the VP of Sales, whatever it might be. I get a title increase.

[00:44:04] Those are not the people that you wanna be able to have in the company, and the VTO is just a fantastic way of sniffing that out very quickly and easily. And also two, ties back to the operations discussion. Why do you have a VTO? Why do we spend hundreds of hours working on the V T O every single year thinking about what we need to change inside of that document? Are we evolving as an organization?

[00:44:23] I think we’ve got like 40 different iterations of that document that exist inside of the company from an iterative perspective. Because we are supposed to spend a lot of time on this because this is what everyone’s supposed to know forwards and backwards. In the next two weeks, I’m going to Dubai for a company retreat where everyone flies into one particular location, we’ve chosen Dubai.

[00:44:44] And we’re going to have a lot of new team members cuz this is the first time that we’ve done an event since COVID. And what I do at the very beginning is, everyone is given a piece of paper and they flip it over, and it is what’s the mission of the company? What are we passionate about? What do we stand for?

[00:45:03] And I tell people, you have five minutes to fill it out. You don’t have to put your name on it if you don’t want to. It’s an anonymous document because this is measuring my capability to communicate that vision to you as opposed to you remembering it. And that’s a really important piece to be able to measure.

[00:45:21] You need to identify, are you communicating that vision to people? Understand it? Are they, as I like to say, do they have a cult-like following towards it? Because if they don’t, then you either gotta make a shift on the person, or you’ve gotta make a shift in the way that you’re delivering that information.

[00:45:37] A.J. Lawrence: And you may find, Okay, I thought I was articulating it this way, but Oh wow it’s being lived a little bit over here.

[00:45:44] Liam Martin: Yeah. One of the ones that we switched recently was, we had something that we stand for, which is passionate about what we do. And we recognize that people just weren’t remembering it because it was forgetful.

[00:45:55] It’s kind of like a large corporate passionate, like, oh, we’re passionate. So we switched that from missionaries, not mercenaries.

[00:46:06] A.J. Lawrence: Okay. Yeah. That phrase.

[00:46:07] Liam Martin: Now we say missionaries, not mercenaries. We are missionaries of remote work. We’re not just getting jobs here. We are also proliferating our vision that everyone on planet Earth should be able to have access to remote job if they want it.

[00:46:22] And once we’ve accomplished that massive goal inside of the company, that’s our Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that we want to achieve. And so just kind of reframing a lot of those things is really important. So getting the messaging is important, but again, if people aren’t passionate about it, then go find somewhere else to work, to be honest with you. We’re not really interested in having you here.

[00:46:42] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. You work on the operational structure, so therefore you can be picky and choosy. See, we’re gonna tie it back to that. So you can work on the passion, that focus, that mission, because then it allows you to basically feed the operational efficiencies and then therefore get better. And so it’s a nice and a logical approach.

[00:47:05] Talking to you is really cool because I’ve talked with a lot of entrepreneurs who say very similar things. But a lot of times we get so caught up that we talk sort of after the fact, like, oh yeah, we did this, we did that. And it’s sort of like, okay, how did that impact this? What did this come to from something?

[00:47:21] Looking at it from after the fact, you forget all the little like stumbling blocks and the incremental stupidity that you just were like, it’s not working!

[00:47:31] Liam Martin: I mean that happens a lot right now, by the way. Like, I’m not saying that I’ve solved this. There’s a whole bunch of things that don’t work.

[00:47:40] A.J. Lawrence: It’s ongoing. There’s new stuff.

[00:47:42] Liam Martin: Absolutely. It’s just I have other people that deal with the vast majority of those problems now, which is good for me. So I can focus on less and go deeper on the issues that I’m still involved in.

[00:47:54] A.J. Lawrence: Well, we could just keep going and going on. You are moving in your role within Time Doctor and you are moving more to the executive role, but as a person who is an entrepreneur, how do you go about defining your success now? And then what is the end success going to look like as an entrepreneur for you?

[00:48:17] Liam Martin: I think success for me is abundance of time. The ability to be able to hold off from gratification earlier on in my career in order to be able to do whatever I want with whoever I want for as long as I want, wherever I want. That’s my definition of success as an entrepreneur.

[00:48:37] I mean that really kind of boils down the nitty gritty of it. And about five months ago, my second daughter was born very preterm. She was born at 29 weeks and six days, and that produced a two and a half month ICU stay for both me and my wife to be able to make sure that we were getting her through that rough patch.

[00:48:59] She’s doing quite well now, but it’s very, very tough. I was able to, in seven emails and literally like two process documents that I triggered, walk away from the business for two and a half months. And there were some issues that popped up, but 95% of the business just cruised along with any problem whatsoever.

[00:49:20] So that goes to number one, the operations issue, right? Operations were the only way that I could actually achieve that. Making myself redundant inside of the company was absolutely critical. But then also two, it executes on what I see as the end goal of entrepreneurship, which is the ability to do whatever you want with whoever you want, for as long as you want, wherever you want. And my choice was I wanted to spend two and a half months in the ICU with my daughter.

[00:49:47] A.J. Lawrence: No, I have not been two and a half months. I’ve been a week and a half. And yes, I do not envy that situation, but I do envy the flexibility you had to be able to do that. So that’s a great, great way of looking at it. That is very, very cool.

[00:50:03] Well, other than checking out Time Doctor and looking at it for our listener’s Operational Structure for managing your remote teams, how else can people find you and check out what you’re talking about? Check out everything else.

[00:50:17] Liam Martin: Yep. So timedoctor.com. Check out a trial there. If you want to go to the conference runningremote.com. Next one’s in Lisbon, end of April. If you can’t go to the conference or if you don’t wanna signup for a trial of Time Doctor, go to the YouTube channel youtube.com/runningremote, and all of our talks are up there for free. Again, connected to our mission of trying to empower everyone on planet Earth have access to remote work. We put that stuff all up there for free, so anyone can go and check it out.

[00:50:46] And lastly, if you just wanna kind of connect with me, I’m on pretty much everywhere at @liamremote on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, that kind of stuff.

[00:50:56] A.J. Lawrence: Thank you, Liam. We have all that in the show notes, in the email announcing it, and again in our socials when the episode comes out.

[00:51:05] Liam, thank you. This has been a lot of fun and I would love to have you come back on in the future and let’s dive into more of this, cuz we barely touched, I think, a fraction of what could learn from you. This has been great. Thank you Liam.

[00:51:21] Liam Martin: Yeah, thanks for having me.

[00:51:28] A.J. Lawrence: This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye-bye.

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