How to Operate a Startup in 3 Time Zones

April 3, 2014

11:00 am

We live in a globalized world. Working in London, having a team in Sydney, or talking to prospective clients in Tokyo isn’t unusual. Many companies operate overseas, particularly due to the fact that more than 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is located outside the US. While many big-name companies have offices overseas, can startups find global success, as well?

Operating a startup in multiple time zones may seem like a difficult feat, but it certainly isn’t unusual. In fact, according to the 2013 Startup Outlook Report, 46 percent of startups have one or more foreign-born persons on their founding team. A global perspective is innate in many startups, along with the benefits of alternative perspectives, varying ideas, creativity, and diversity, all of which can all contribute to a successful business.

Yet, you can’t ignore the fact that operating a startup in multiple countries comes with its challenges. I know firsthand: My tech PR agency operates in three different time zones. In my experience, I’ve learned that while operating a startup in three time zones does comes with certain challenges, there are ways to move past them.

Take a look at these best practices:

Focus on talent

About nine in 10 startups plan to hire new employees, but an equal number say it’s challenging to find workers with the skills they need. In order to successfully operate offices at a distance, it’s vital to build a team consisting of those who are communicative, organized, don’t require an inordinate amount of direction, and work well independently. Once you do that, you and your team can do anything together.

Think about hiring people who already have an international background or have worked with global companies. Understanding how to communicate and perform with an international team will be natural to those who have the experience. In addition, transferable skills, such as software knowledge or foreign language proficiency, can be particularly beneficial to teams in multiple time zones.

Use location to your advantage

Location doesn’t have to be a roadblock to startup success. In fact, it can be the main driver to acquiring new business and establishing your brand.

Case in point: My agency operates in Los Angeles, New York, and Tel Aviv. We don’t view this as a limitation, though. For instance, one our employees who lives and works in Tel Aviv, attends many networking events. By doing so, she meets all kinds of interesting entrepreneurs and industry experts that our company would never have been exposed to otherwise. Additionally, using location to our advantage has increased our likelihood for attracting new business in the various locations in which our company is located.

Use the best technology

I’ve learned that in order to operate in three different time zones, you need to utilize the best technologies. Since you may not always have the chance to talk face-to-face with your team, communication initiatives must be amplified. In addition, documents, information, and the latest updates should be as accessible as possible.

For example, my agency utilizes a project management software that allows team members to assign tasks and note progress. I’ve seen that this has become a great way to streamline communication amongst our whole team, particularly due to the fact that this software is compatible on mobile devices.

In addition, communication platforms like Skype or Google Hangouts are not only simple to use, they can also cut down on international calling costs and feature a video chatting option. The combination of these technologies has really connected our three time zones and makes working with global team members quite simple.

Schedule communication

Clearly, the toughest challenge of operating in multiple time zones is the lack of or delay in communication on either end. Having set hours that overlap for a large portion of the day keeps this problem at bay. However, with three-, six-, or even nine-hour time differences, dealing with important matters that come up suddenly can be tricky.

These challenges can be overcome by implementing various initiatives that establish organization and protocol. For example, my agency implements set work hours, ensuring our team members in various locations are working the same hours for a portion of the day. Another key strategy is holding weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily team calls with at least one team member from each time zone. While it may be complicated at first, keeping communication moving establishes consistency and organization throughout our company.

Operating your startup in multiple time zones is a great way to expand your company’s presence and find talented employees. While adjusting to a team in multiple time zones may seem difficult, use these best practices as a way to draw in new business and really establish a global brand identity.

What do you think? Do you operate in multiple time zones? What are some additional best practices?

Guest author Zach Cutler is an entrepreneur and is founder and CEO of The Cutler Group, a U.S.-based tech PR agency. A member of the Young Entrepreneur Council, Zach specializes in crafting innovative PR campaigns to help innovative tech companies and startups thrive. He can be reached at [email protected].

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