Outsourcing your development team abroad can provide many benefits to an early stage startup. Co-founders can develop a product, test the market, and place it in the hands of users before investing in significant amount of funds in domestic development. Several of the investors and consultants I’ve spoken to find that it’s totally normal and common for a startup to have an offshore team.
There are challenges and uphill battles, however, when managing a team abroad.
- Unstable infrastructure: Your team may work with shaky internet and electricity. This can inevitably create delays in your development. Video conferences and online phone calls may also be a challenge due to low bandwidth in your team members’ home country.
- Communication issues: Some things may just get lost in translation. It is important to make sure instructions are written and spoken clearly for your team. Encourage an open door policy where they can come to you for clarification in case there are doubts in what was relayed to them.
There are ways to mitigate such challenges and foster a great culture and camaraderie within your startup.
- WhatsApp, Google, and Skype Groups: If your team was onshore, you would probably want to have your team on one or more of the groups I just mentioned. Pretend your team is onshore. Build rapport with your members using global messaging apps.
- Birthdays, Religious, and National Holidays: Remember your team members’ birthdays just like you would for an onshore member. Go out of your way to give them a call via WhatsApp’s free international calling. Or, you can send them an e-card. Keep in mind that your remote team’s holiday and religious calendar may not be in sync with the U.S. calendar. As such, it is important to discuss when and when not to take time off during those days. Respect your team member(s)’ religious holidays and permit time off for observation when those days occur.
Treat your offshore team members more than just a low-cost commodity. They will sense that and work extra hard to meet a deadline even if there’s no power or internet to work with.