Toni Schneider is a partner at Automattic. Toni just put a great post up on his blog, 5 reasons why your company should be distributed.
In Silicon Valley, distributed means the employees are home based. It is a new term for me, but not a new concept. Wordpress has created such a passionate community, many members contribute for no financial gain whatsoever. I am not surprised this works well for them. The Wordpress community is a movement that I am a part of. It is rewarding to contribute to making software that is improved by each member that touches it. Matt Mullenweg and Toni and all the Wordpress community members have a reason to be proud. WP is the anti Wall Street.
I asked Toni some pretty specific questions, like how do you keep people from freelancing, and how do you motivate them. He gave me a very thoughtful response, and it has me thinking it is time to try it again. My reluctance lies in the nature of Arcade Digital employees. We are primarily a marketing company. Our team is committed, but small. If we grow, can we trust an entry level Internet marketing assistant to write articles, do submissions, and stay away from pirating music and laying on the beach?
Toni’s advice was to do projects first, before you commit to full time employment with benefits and stock. I’ve thought about this, but haven’t tried it yet. I will when we hire our next Internet marketer. I can assign him-her to a couple clients, and ride it out for 90 days. Month to month. Internet marketing and social media lends itself to goofing off. If we can determine that the marketer is not, we have a keeper.
Check out P2, by Wordpress. It is a Wordpress theme that is real time blogging. I am going to install it and see if it can help us manage the work being completed by each of us. Arcade already uses Basecamp, this may compliment it, like Campfire was made for by 37Signals.
I need to wrap my arms around how to judge how much social media marketing should be done in a reasonable week. The analytics are easy, but the intangibles of marketing are difficult to quantify. Marketing is hard work, and it takes a lot of effort to manage an effective social media campaign. It would be easier to manage SEO and SEM.
What has been your experience with distributed companies? Have you been a home based employee, or do you employee home based Internet marketers, and public relations managers?