When Ruben Gamez first founded Bidsketch more than 10 years ago, he never would’ve anticipated his passion project would scale into two flourishing SaaS businesses. Today, Ruben executes goal after goal remotely, with his fully remote work tribe diligently plugging away from their homes.
With the recent events surrounding the novel coronavirus still affecting the global marketplace, it’s time to check how Ruben and his team have progressed through recent months.
Relying on Remote Roots
“I have two products at this point, Docsketch and Bidsketch, and Bidsketch was the first SaaS product that had launched over 10 years ago. I worked on Bitsketch on the side, when I had a full-time job, nights and weekends for the first year and a half. And at that point I quit the job. It was enough to pay myself a salary, not entirely the exact salary that I had, but enough to live on, and continue growing the product.”
“I went mostly working with contractors, even from the earliest days,” he explains. “Then about a year ago we launched Docsketch, a second SaaS product. I still have the small team at this point, five people, and everyone works remotely. Besides the core team, I work with a lot of other contractors for help on everything from marketing to design, to even extra development help.”
Managing five direct reports can be a major task, especially when you involve a network of outside freelancers as well. How can one manager stay on track of how everyone on the team is doing?
“When it comes to calls and meetings, the one rule that I have is that they all take place on video. The reason for that is that it’s easier to just get to know people, feel you’re working with real people. It helps the culture when everyone’s working remotely, versus just always typing in text and hearing audio all the time.”
LEading a Team in uncertain times
With over ten years of remote work experience under his belt, Ruben is no stranger to working from home. But one of the most significant perks of working remotely is the ability to work from anywhere—not just confined to your house. Obviously, Stay at Home orders this spring brought on by COVID put a screeching halt to any idea of stepping into an office or coffee shop to get work done.
“The thing that changed was that a couple of the people on the team do tend to go to co-working spaces. So, they weren’t able to do that,” shares Ruben. “It’s hard if you don’t have space, if things aren’t comfortable for you at home. What I started doing was having one-on-ones more frequently. Just to check in on them, and make sure everything was okay.”
These one-on-one calls are Ruben’s chance to ensure every team member is coping well, mentally and emotionally.
“I’m the boss, right? So on the other side they’re often trying to get status updates on projects, and things like that. I let them know up front that it’s their meeting, and that’s not what these meetings are about,” Ruben points out. “The only thing that I rely on is reminding them of that, and just using certain questions to refocus on the right things if it starts to move into more of a status update-type meeting instead.”
Ruben adds, “I did notice that, at least on the development side, the behavior changed. They’re working too much, and late at night. So I did have a conversation about that. I do still encourage them to take a little bit of time off, not work so much, not work on the weekends, things like that.”
As a remote founder and the head of his team, Ruben feels it’s critical to use video calls as an opportunity to create a stronger team culture across his employees.
“We spend a little bit more time talking about what happened on the weekend and not just diving straight into our weekly status updates like we did [before the pandemic]. I figured everyone’s working from home—it can only help to not be all work all the time and just talk about some fun stuff a little bit before that meeting really starts,” he explains.
Modifying Business to Adapt to Pandemic Restrictions
Bidsketch is a proposal software that creates professional proposal templates and landing pages in significantly less time than it would take to whip up a traditional proposal. And, Docsketch is electronic signature and sales tracking software that makes signing proposals, contracts, and more a breeze.
“It’s a different market now,” Ruben points out. “Customers have been signing documents on-paper, in-person forever, and now they can’t.”
Now that businesses are operating remotely, they also need to sign deals digitally—and Docsketch is here to answer the call.
“We have a discount for nonprofits and people in education,” Ruben explains. “We’re giving them the first year now for 50% off, and then helping them in the transition. We know the questions that they have, and the problems that they run into. So we have a sort of a checklist and guide to help them through it.”
In addition to helping his clients through this odd period of transition, Ruben is sure to help his team members along the way as well.
“We’ve had tough weeks to where we’ve been growing in uncertain parts of the business, and things can get really busy and really wild,” Ruben said. “And every once in a while, if I’m feeling that’s happened this week, I’ll ask them to take a few hours. Take off early. Just, try to recover a little bit.”
And Ruben is doing his best to follow his own advice, too.
“I’ve forced myself to sort of take an extra day off,” he agrees. “Take more time off, even if I don’t feel like I’m having trouble, or I’m stressed or anything like that. It’s kind of preventive … just knowing myself and sort of looking for warning signs.”
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