Remote work has gained an increasing amount of attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of businesses were forced to allow employees to work remotely. The question is how can remote work be done without losing company culture.
In this episode, Flavilla is joined by Ozzi Jarvinen. Ozzi is the founder and CEO of Iglu. They discuss how to do remote work effectively and grow without losing company culture.
How did Ozzi end up in Thailand?
He came to Thailand to study at Bangkok University. At that time he was studying International Business and realised that South East Asia was where he wanted to live. He was going back and forth between Thailand and Finland for a couple of years and in 2006 he flipped a coin to decide whether he should go to Thailand or go to Abu Dhabi and it was a coin that decided to stay in Bangkok.
How did Ozzi manage to grow a big company with remote work?
Iglu has been working remotely from day one, so working remotely is nothing new to Iglu. They also have physical offices in several places. These offices work as community centres for them. These centers or offices are utilised to organise offline events and build personal relationships. The company also organises online events as not everyone can make it to the office. Then, at least once a year the company does a company escape where they book a resort, get together and see what everyone has been up to in an informal way rather than being in a room and using PowerPoint slides.
For example, Recently the company did something called “Thought Exchange” where they gather all the comments from all employees, and they can see what they like and what can be improved. It’s quite surprising that even though all employees work remotely, the ideas of most employees are similar.
Does hiring remotely affect the company’s culture?
A company shouldn’t focus solely on the technical part when you are interviewing someone, rather a company should also take into consideration the culture. It will take some time, but if the company’s culture is strong, then people will adopt it quickly.
What was the gap in the market that Ozzi saw when he started?
He was working as a freelancer in Thailand and it was very complicated. So, he started to think that there should be a way to combine the good things about being employed in a company and having the freedom of freelancing. He didn’t want to be in charge of invoicing, payment collections, payroll, etc. So, he thought of making a group of freelancers and another group that does all the bureaucratic work so that the freelancers can concentrate on the actual work. Ozzi also thinks that he was at the right time at the right place as there were not many companies doing that at that time.
When companies reach Iglu for their services?
Companies usually come with the problem that they are not able to recruit the talent they need, disregarding their geographical location. Then, they come to Iglu and due to our geographical location, we get the type of talent that is not around those companies. That’s Iglu’s secret sauce and the way they operate.
What is Ozzi’s opinion on working remotely?
I think that people work efficiently at different times of the day as well as in different locations. I’m not a huge fan of working from home, rather I’m more into work anywhere where you feel that you can get the work done. You cannot force someone to be in an office from 9 to 5, otherwise, you might be missing out on the talent that the employee is not giving because of being in one location.
What were Ozzi’s journey milestones?
He started Iglu 2 months after his wife passed away in 2010. It was a hard situation, but it was diverting his mind and concentration into something else to escape from the situation.
In the first 2 years, it was a lot of trial and error, trying to find the right model. In 2012 they had around 5-6 people. His girlfriend played a big role since she helped me get all the licenses that he needed, paperwork, etc. They started growing in 2013 and every year used to be 100% to 200% on ROI. There was a coincidence that helped them grow, one journalist from a financial newspaper published an article about the company and what we do, that article gave us exposure and gave a boost to the company.
How does Iglu acquire customers?
Most of Iglu’s clients come from word of mouth based on previous clients. The big part also comes from new employees that move in, because a lot of them might have been working as Freelancers and they have their own contact network. But the company is now in a position where we need to start using a systematic approach to acquire a client. We recently found a software called “sinode” which is a resource management software that allows Iglu to monitor everyone’s tasks and give them projects based on their skills and interests. Currently, the enterprise has a big talent pool that is enabling a way to share knowledge among the employees.
This software is almost becoming an ERP for them.
How has Ozzi implemented automation to grow Iglu?
The first thing he automated was a payroll tool. Since the taxes change quite often with very short notice in Thailand, he didn’t want employees to think a lot about how much they were going to get paid, rather this automation does it for them straight away.
How has Ozzi’s journey evolved from delivering the work to become the CEO?
It has changed, from 2010 to 2012 they had an external accountant who used to do all the paperwork. From 2012 onwards his girlfriend took care of that so he didn’t have to worry about it, and he could focus more on marketing. But, the most important thing for him and Iglu is trying to keep employees happy.
What’s the future for Ozzi and Iglu?
They finished a thought exchange program where the employees suggested the following:
- International expansion: more locations to work which gives them more flexibility.
- Knowledge sharing: Iglu started Iglu Academy to train developers and get new members into the company. We have people with more than 20 years’ experience that want to share their knowledge.