As I was listening to an interview with Chris Lema, I was surprised to hear how Crowd Favorite has offices setup across the world. Many of the WordPress agencies I’m familiar with are 100% distributed with one physical office. This is the first time I’ve heard of a WordPress development agency with multiple offices throughout the world. I contacted the CTO of Crowd Favorite, Chris Lema, to learn why the company is structured this way and what practical benefits and drawbacks it offers.
The Crowd Favorite Approach To Offices
Crowd Favorite takes an entirely different approach to having an office. Instead of one or two locations, they have small, satellite offices spread across the world. This approach allows the company to merge the benefits of a distributed work force with having physical locations. Each office is staffed by a group of people who excel at a specific skill. Lema describes the offices as communities of practice.
For example, there’s an office in Phoenix that we have that is dedicated to design work and branding, and they’re fantastic at that. That’s a very different dynamic than if you had three designers across the country, four designers across the country, or two brand people across the country.
Sure, if they were really phenomenal people, you could hire them and you’d get a bang for your buck, but if you put a whole group of them together in one place, you’ll discover that they go further faster.
Regional and localized offices enable people to work together to accelerate their progress. The offices are also used to focus on disciplines. For example, the Las Vegas, NV office is focused on video and promotion, the office in Arizona is focused on design, and the office in Denver, CO is focused on advanced development. Crowd Favorite even has a small office in New York focused on .net and Ruby development.
Offices Have Different Purposes Depending On The Region
Offices outside the US have a unique business dynamic associated with them. They’re used as the final component of a business deal after establishing trust and a relationship with a customer. “As Karim Marucchi worked in several different countries, it became a cornerstone of the way he works, that he would have an office, and that’s the office that would drive the business in that region.” Lema said. “It’s especially effective when you think about it on the international stage because you want to be able to make sure that your presence is physically felt in the areas where you’re doing business. We have an office in Italy for example, specifically for that reason.”
The Lone Rangers Of A Distributed Workforce
One of the benefits of having several office locations is the increased opportunity for employees to work together. However, one of the biggest drawbacks is that some employees end up working alone. For example, Crowd Favorite has an office in Seattle, WA that handles development operations that is staffed by one person. This is why Crowd Favorite and other companies with a distributed work force organize company wide meetups once or twice a year. It gives individuals a chance to meet their co-workers and strengthen their connection to the company.
How Other WordPress Companies Handle Offices
One of the benefits of working with WordPress is that it can be done from anywhere in the world, as long as an internet connection is available. Automattic is a leading example of how employees can accomplish anything without having to spend eight hours in a cubicle. Despite having a distributed work force, the company maintains a physical presence with an office in San Francisco, CA. The office is used as a co-working space, to host shareholder meetings, or to just hang out.
Web development firm 10up has an office in Portland, OR. The office hosts speakers, out-of-town guests, and the occasional workshop. WebDevStudios is another large web development firm with a 100% distributed work force. Unlike 10up and Automattic, the company has two office locations, one in New Jersey and the other in Philadelphia, PA.
Copy The Motivation, Not The Model
Going with a 100% distributed work force has drawbacks as does everyone working in the same physical space. Crowd Favorite believes they have figured out a way to reap the benefits of both methods. “When you say we’re only going to have one office, there are drawbacks. When you say we’re going to be 100% remote, there are going to be drawbacks. I think we’ve tried to thread the needle on this to find the situation that gives us the least amount of drawbacks with the most amount of potential.” Lema said.
Is the way Crowd Favorite uses offices a model for other WordPress development firms to follow? “Copying someone’s model is a really poor approach to anything. Copying someone’s motivation may be a more helpful approach to think about.” Lema told the Tavern. Every company is different and has to satisfy its own needs and requirements.
Crowd Favorite has found success using offices not only for co-working spaces, but as a way to build trust and establish relationships with clients in other parts of the world.
Blogged about my thoughts on this: http://jakegoldman.me/2014/08/hub-and-spoke-vs-distributed/