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Startup Journal: My Experience Working Satellite for a Tech Company

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For the last 6 weeks, I've had the joy and pain of working satellite from Text Request.

Working satellite is supposed to be a dream of freedom and minimal oversight! While I can’t speak for older companies, working satellite for a startup has blurred the line between work life and personal life more than ever.

That's the dream gif

And it was pretty blurred to begin with.

Life Before Working Satellite

When I joined Text Request, I only submitted to a little blurring. I gave out my personal cell phone number instead of the company extension, because (as a new guy learning sales) I wanted prospects to be able to reach me whenever they wanted.

In every other way, though, I closed up shop at 5. I took no calls from the rest of the team, responded to zero texts, and ignored all Snapchats.

But as I grew closer with others on the team, things changed. Work friendships turned into weekend volleyball and frisbee matches. Those turned into (tame) parties, and co-workers moved more and more into my personal life.

Sure enough, work followed.

Related: Startup Journal: How Should You Spend Your Time?

All of a sudden, taking a call at 9:30pm from someone on the West Coast didn’t seem like such a problem.

Rolling out of bed early Monday morning to satisfy the time-constraints of a particularly early riser seemed natural. And one Sunday evening, I even took a call at midnight from a guy in California!

I wish he had texted me instead (ahem).

Fast forward 10 months, and I’m working satellite in a completely different state.

Life While Working Satellite

“Pick your own hours,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Right.

Now, I can’t wait to get back to Chattanooga! Being in a different state (let alone in a different time zone) means that all of my communication with the company is via text, email, and Snapchat.

Die Hard Join a Startup

If something is really serious, I might get a brief phone call. And these communications come in all the time!

I’m usually at the gym when I get the first batch of emails. I schedule my shower and other activities around calls in the morning. And I eat lunch whenever things seem to be off to a great start.

Of course, by that point, the second email batch is rolling in, and client X wants to know how client Y is accomplishing mutual goal Z.

I spend the day bouncing around on other people’s time.

For the most part, though, I roll out of bed checking my emails and trying to figure out how I can bring value. It's usually a mixture of inside sales and account management, just like when I’m home in Chattown.

So, what's the problem?

The problem is, so much of being in a startup is the camaraderie and encouragement from your team to keep going.

When you’re a cool 700 miles away from the team, that fire is tough to duplicate! Which means I have to prioritize scheduling my time in order to achieve comparable results.

Text Request Chattanooga

My attitude in Chatt was simply “do the next thing." In a startup, that’s not a bad attitude to have. As long as “the next thing” fits into the overall plan, you’re good to go!

Everything on that monumental list of necessary tasks has to get done, so you get cracking, put your head down, and just drive for a while.

Given, a lot of that list can be summed up as “increase revenue.” So I had the luxury of knowing that, when in doubt, direct sales was the answer.

Working satellite means I don’t have a tangible list of things to get done unless I plan one myself. I’m not sitting there getting little prompts and reminders to prioritize this or that.

Related: Startup Journal: Is Explosive Growth Really the Goal?

If I don’t pay absolute attention, I get distracted. My thoughts about a sales conversation I just had will rabbit trail to who knows where, even while I’m writing down my notes!

During one of these rabbit trails, I discovered I hadn’t finished taking notes on a call for nearly an hour. Gathering my thoughts led to an email to this person, then a call to that person, and then “what was I doing again exactly?”

All of which brings me to this point.

Would I recommend it?

Being part of a startup takes an emotional commitment that is fueled by physically being in the trenches with your co-workers.

The drive to succeed is contagious. But keeping that drive going alone is like trying to fuel a campfire with nothing but dryer lint. You can start the fire, but it will fizzle out without proper fuel.

I will be returning to Chattanooga in a couple of weeks, and am thoroughly looking forward to it! While working satellite has it’s perks, working with the rest of the team is vastly preferable.

-- Foster Benson, Accounts Manager

Related: Startup Journal: Accepting Failure vs. Expecting Failure