Everyone has heard the horror stories of launching a startup: sleepless nights, 20-hour days, sleeping bags under your desk, iteration after iteration of whatever it is you’re trying to perfect and bring to market. There’s no question that starting your own company is a challenge not to be taken lightly. But what if you added an extra layer of complexity? Launching a company while your co-founder and team are in the U.S. and you’re in China? That’s what I did.
With so many entrepreneurs working remotely from far-reaching corners of the world and businesses birthed from laptops, more of us find ourselves in nontraditional work settings. After six months in business, here are five tips for making it work across the many miles:
1. Become a master of the power nap.
There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 day or a solid eight-hour sleep night when working on the other side of the world. Late nights and early mornings are non-negotiable. It’s the only way to catch people across the globe as they start and end their workdays. I’ve learned how to sleep whenever and wherever I can. You learn that the sun shouldn’t, and really can’t, dictate sleep patterns. There is no shame in catching some z’s at 6:00 pm so you are fresh and ready to go with the other side of the world. Mastering the 15-minute power nap in between late-night calls is also key but train yourself to not fall victim to the snooze button!
2. Learn how to jump over firewalls.
Being based in China means lots of Internet firewalls and restricted access to any foreign social media, email, search and even some online news outlets. There are ways around these huge hurdles, but it’s not easy and requires immense patience. And don’t even get me started on Internet speed. Even under the best of circumstances there isn’t enough time in the day to get a company up and running but imagine slowing your pace by 50 percent because of Internet issues.
The biggest takeaway? Learn how to multi-task and don’t get down on yourself when the first five tries to post that perfectly worded caption on Instagram fails. Put the phone down during those frustratingly long 10-minute “load” times and focus on another task. It will save you your sanity (and keep you from hurling your phone out the nearest window!).
3. Trust your counterparts.
When you’re not in the same space as your team, or in my case, the same country, you’re going to miss a lot – networking events, in-person meetings, press interviews. Trust that your team knows what they’re doing and will do you proud. Having some distance can help in defining the vision of why you are taking part in such an event and what you want to achieve. It’s important to be strategic and be able to prep someone else so they can then share the vision on your behalf. It’s a good lesson in linear and goal-oriented thinking.
4. Be a news consumer – and quickly.
Just because you aren’t in the same time zone doesn’t give you the excuse to slack off on staying up to date on everything that’s going on in the news, whether in tech, politics or pop culture. Find what tools work best for you to stay on top of everything that’s relevant to your business. Also, take advantage of learning about new tech developments in the country where you’re based as well as where you’re launching your business. There may be some new and exciting tools that could give you a jump on your U.S. competitors.
5. Plan ahead.
When you’re not in the same place as your team it’s essential to maximize the time you do have together. Don’t waste Skype calls and infrequent in-person meetings on small talk. These are moments for brainstorming and strategic discussions. Stay ahead. Use the time zone to your advantage to divide and conquer on tasks and plan ahead for meetings while the rest of your team is sleeping. It’s also important to be a stickler for timelines, content calendars and business roadmaps. Be overly organized on both sides of the world.