Podcast

Transitioning To Remote Work To Unlock Your Best Talent With Mark Cherry

Mark Cherry – Remote Work Training Solutions

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Name: Mark Cherry

LinkedIn Profile: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/mark-cherry

Company Name: Remote Work Training Solutions

Company Website: https://www.remoteworktrainingsolutions.com/

Short Bio:

Mark has successfully grown start-up businesses specialising in Marketing and Operations Management. Mark has considerable experience supporting businesses from an operational perspective creating bespoke training programmes, analysing complex data and making recommendations to improve efficiency and with a strong background successfully performing executive search campaigns for a range of roles including remote working vacancies.

Show Notes

On today’s episode, I’m speaking with Mark Cherry of Remote Work Training Solutions about remote working. This topic is more relevant than ever after the global pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote working in business. We covered what remote working means, how to create a remote working offer for your employees, hybrid working models and the future of working from home.

I hope you enjoy the conversation and please let me know if you’ve got any feedback or questions about the show. You can always hit me up at [email protected]

If you enjoy the episode, please take 10 seconds to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or like, share and follow with your favourite podcatcher!

Mark’s LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/mark-cherry
Website: https://www.remoteworktrainingsolutions.com/

Transcription

Sam Wilcox:

Mark Cherry, founder of Remote Work Training Solutions. How are you doing my friend? Are you good?

Mark Cherry:

Very well. Thanks, Sam. How are you?

Sam Wilcox:

I’m good. So we both sat here in our home offices doing a podcast. There isn’t much more remote work than that, I don’t think. So why don’t you start by just giving everybody a little bit of a heads-up about yourself and what you guys do and the business, because I’m interested in finding out a little bit more about your actual services and what you help people with.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, of course. So I set my business up during the first lock down, I had the idea for it and spent about a month or two writing business plans and getting everybody to read through it, double check it. Everybody I could grab hold of basically to just have a look at it and give me some advice. Launched at the end of May last year. So coming up to one year’s service now and my background has been in recruitment. So I’ve worked at a recruitment center for a little over a decade. I’ve worked in various different roles from trainee consultant through to marketing management, operations management within the sector. I have worked in executive headhunt type roles, predominantly within a variety of sectors from oil and gas all the way through to the charity sector. And yeah, it’s certainly quite a varied career that I’ve had. And my exposure to all those different sectors has been something that’s really valuable to me. And something that I think has really opened my eyes.

It’s the potential in so many different working environments for this new way of working. And I had an opportunity to work in a remote role previously, where I was supporting an accountancy practice that was at the start of business and growing. And they wanted some help with business development and marketing support. So I helped them out in a short term contract and it was purely remote and it was something that really opened my eyes up. I’d just had my first child at the time… my wife did and we were really excited about the prospects of having a child and really excited about spending time with them. But obviously, when you are working Monday to Friday, it is challenging. It’s really tough to spend time with your kid.

And I remember the conversation I had with my wife, where I actually came to a realization in a job I had before this, if I’d started work at the time I used to start work and I finished work at the time I finished work, I would leave the house before my child even woke up. And I’d be getting home after they’d gone to bed in the evening. And that caused me to feel a little bit sad.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, I’m not surprised.

Mark Cherry:

Wanted to get to know them a bit better. So yeah, long story short, basically the business I’ve created is all based around this idea of enabling organizations to actually embrace this idea of remote working and allowing them to grow that business using remote working as a tool, instead of having it as an optional extra, that they just tied onto people’s benefits in terms of when they take them on. So the services that we offer here are based around consultancy work, actually looking at your current setup, looking at what you want to have in the business. Are you looking at setting your entire business remote? Are you looking at assigning it to a certain team? How’d you go about that? How do you use the best platforms to get what you’re trying to get? From a leadership training perspective, as well as helping leaders understand how to manage and lead remote teams effectively, it is a big challenge. I think a lot of people aren’t really equipped to do it at the moment through no fault of their own.

And the other element to that, as well as obviously my background in recruitment, actually helping businesses to recruit remote workers. So in my mind, the best person out there doesn’t necessarily have to be somebody that is within a radius of your office. The best person could be anywhere in the country. It could be in another country for all we know, it’s about what it is you’re trying to get and how you want to grow your business without having to buy a bigger office and increase your rent costs and everything else, really. So that’s what I’m all about is trying to enable organizations to really embrace the idea of remote working and use it to further their business.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, I love it. So I’ve got a couple of questions just to pull up some of the things that you mentioned in that. A couple of things that came to mind, which is you do the consultancy side of things, trying to figure out, “Okay, well, what are you trying to achieve? Do you want to go fully remote, part remote?” What are you actually seeing there? So what are the trends that you’re seeing? Are you seeing that companies are now moving to a more fully remote mindset and they just want to make that jump? Or are they slowly transitioning? What are you seeing with your clients and the people you’re speaking to?

Mark Cherry:

It’s a good question. There are people out there that are staunchly against this idea of remote working.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Mark Cherry:

There’s no hiding from it. And there are people that just don’t like it, don’t want to do it. Don’t want to

Sam Wilcox:

And why? Generally there are reasons for that.

Mark Cherry:

Tradition more than anything else, I’d say. The conversations I’ve had with people around it have been, “I’ve done this for so many years now. It works. I don’t need to change it. Yes, the pandemic’s opened up this can of worms, but it’s not necessarily something I’m going to adapt to and because I know what my business needs, and what it needs to do and how it’s going to work.” 

I don’t want to stay that it’s a bad thing. And as with all things, these new and exciting ideas come up and some people embrace them. Some people don’t. And it is down to an individual and how they feel comfortable with running that business. So it’s not an approach for everybody. But a lot of businesses out there are using this hybrid model now that they’re trying to embrace, and utilize and implement throughout their business. But-

Sam Wilcox:

Can I ask a quick question, sorry, to interrupt you Mark-

Mark Cherry:

No, it’s cool.

Sam Wilcox:

I just want to get your opinion on this though. Do you think that the people that are dead against it, because, “This is the way that we’ve always done it and we’re comfortable with this way.” Do you think they are, I don’t wanna use the term doomed to fail

Mark Cherry:

Are you trying to find the right words?

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah. I don’t want us to use the term doomed to fail, but do you think that they are, you know what I’m getting out here?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

Because the way that the world is moving is more towards, especially with the younger demographic, I suppose that’s also something I’m trying to get at here. It’s like with the younger demographic and the younger workforce that are coming up and coming through, do you think that they’re going to expect some level or be more favorable towards the companies that offer remote as an opportunity, or as part of a work package over those companies that don’t? So I suppose my question is more like, do you think that they’re going to suffer competitively in the market if they’re not offering something like this?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. 100%, I think flexibility now is so important to people when they are considering a career move. You’re talking about graduates that are coming in… started coming out of university. And these are people that are fully technically savvy. They’ve been using iPads since they could walk. My two year old son knows how to open my iPhone. I still don’t know how he does that. The technological advances in generations have moved to a point now where, and especially you consider the last year, everybody’s been communicating using FaceTime. Everybody’s been communicating using video messaging and all this stuff that has been around for years, but nobody’s really used it to this extent before. So businesses that aren’t embracing this idea, businesses that aren’t willing to adapt and modify are going to lose out on new employees, which are skilled, capable, would improve their business. And they are probably going to suffer as well from the existing employees, are going to be offered other opportunities elsewhere, with more flexibility, they’re going to struggle to retain quality people that in some cases, who have probably worked with them for years.

But if you were given the opportunity to work in a remote role or a flexible role, which gave you much more opportunity to have a better work-life balance. So it’s one of those things that is now taking over from people’s expectations on salary. If my salary stays the same, or my salary is around the same, and I’m given an opportunity to work in a flexible role, in some cases, even the salary might be less, but I’m given that flexibility.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Mark Cherry:

I’ll take it because I can have that freedom there

Sam Wilcox:

Because people are valuing that flexibility

Mark Cherry:

Oh, yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

Despite the monetary gain. Right?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. And the value’s gone

Sam Wilcox:

Makes total sense.

Mark Cherry:

Through the roof.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah. I’ve been working remotely for probably about six, seven years now. And I first made this transition when I was working at a digital agency. And I entered the agency as a junior and then the whole team was remote. And it was like, “Wow, okay. I never even knew this was a thing.” And it was a little bit shaky at first because you come from working in a more corporate environment. Well, I say you, well, I came from working in a more corporate environment and more of a traditional boutique agency set up after that. Where you are bums on seats in an office transitioning into this remote role. And I think this is a nice topic for us to transition into how you help your clients tackle this. But for me, as an employee moving into that new position of being in a remote company, it was quite difficult to grasp mentally. Because as a junior at the time, you don’t have somebody looking over your shoulder, you don’t have somebody making sure that you get shit done. You don’t have that level of micromanagement that a lot of people of my age will have expected or seen everywhere else.

You’ve got to report to a manager. You see your manager sitting two seats away from you, whatever it may be. You have to make this transition to autonomy. You have to become more autonomous with the way that you manage your own time and your own motivation, which is empowering, but it’s also quite challenging. Right?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. Very much so.

Sam Wilcox:

So how do you tackle that with your clients? Because I imagine this is something that you have to talk to them about.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. It’s never an easy fix. And I don’t think there’s ever going to be one solution that fits all models. Quite frankly, every client is different. Every project is different. And I think one of the things that I’m learning from doing this because I think I’m still learning and developing as I go. And in five years’ time there’ll be even more to learn and more to digest, which is quite exciting to me, really. But one thing that I’m learning is that there is not a one size fits all model. It needs to be handled on a one-to-one basis. You need to look at your actual team and your setup and what you’re trying to achieve with this idea. Because there are some people out there that are happy with the status quo, like we were saying. And things are going well, they’ve been doing it for years. They know how it works. They’re comfortable with that. That’s fine. But there are businesses now that are trying to really shake things up. A good friend of mine who works down in London, their company made an announcement during one of the lockdowns that their lease was up in their office and they weren’t returning.

That they were just going fully remote. And that was a decision prompted by this lease ending, and they’re investing all the money that they’re saving from not spending that on office space into their team, and giving them better equipment, better technology, better opportunities to work. And it’s about trying to understand exactly what it is you want. You’re trying to get out of this campaign and this project and this idea and how it’s going to benefit you. Because if there are people doing it just to shut their team up, because there’s people going remote working and they want to be flexible. Now their HR just does it to stop them talking about it.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Mark Cherry:

It’s the wrong mentality. You need to have this idea of, “This isn’t just going to benefit my employee, it’s going to benefit us.” And one of the main missions… my first client, I started working with. The main idea I had for them was, they’re a Northwest based organization, working with an actual client base was a great opportunity that your main clients are in the Northwest, but you work across the country. Your best clients, the ones you closest to are in the Northwest. So why don’t you work with other people based in other parts of the country, people that have networks and contacts in other parts of the country that you can utilize. These are experienced, qualified professionals that know what they’re doing, and they can bring something to your business that you don’t have. And that doesn’t require you to set up another office facility in every major city in the UK, that doesn’t require you to invest considerable amounts of money in growing new presences across the country.

You can literally identify somebody who is capable of delivering, buys into your mentality and your vision, your mission, everything that you are trying to do and work with them to help your business to grow. And that’s been a phenomenally successful project that we’ve worked on with that client. And they’ve employed more people than we were initially anticipating. And they’ve started to really see the potential that that actually offers them now.

Sam Wilcox:

I think that’s a super-

Mark Cherry:

But it’s challenging.

Sam Wilcox:

I think that’s a super interesting point that you made there around you unlock other networks in different geographical locations.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

So by hiring the right people in the right places that are strategic for the business, you don’t have to go in all like, traditionally what you would do is you would open an office in Reading and then you would try and convince a few people to move down there and manage that process through. Whereas what you could do is just go and headhunt somebody or a small team of people that work remotely around the area and unlock their network and the opportunities that come along with that, while providing them the flexibility at the same time. Yeah. Super interesting. I’ve not thought about that before. So were you doing the-

Mark Cherry:

It’s not a common thought process. That’s why I think this is one of the, sorry to interrupt. But-

Sam Wilcox:

No, you’re fine.

Mark Cherry:

But everybody’s been so used to, “I need this person and they need to be based there. I need this type of person and they need to be able to commute into the office.” And the only question I have is, why? At the end of the day, if this person is good enough to do the job, why do they have to be in this location? You’re asking sometimes to recruit somebody and relocate somebody that, they have children in school. So they have to move their children out of school and move them into another school

Sam Wilcox:

Which is a bigger deal than people think it is.

Mark Cherry:

Oh, yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

That is a big deal, moving kids from schools.

Mark Cherry:

And mortgages, people that have mortgages and they’d have to find a new home. That takes a long time. And it’s an unnecessary task in some cases, but anyway, I’m lingering on that point. So, carry on.

Sam Wilcox:

No, it’s good. We can linger all over the place, my friend, no problems. I was just going to ask, with that kind, I’m just interested, do you help them with the recruitment side of things as well then in that kind of engagement where you’re convincing them about the… well, not convincing them showing them the way or the possibilities of remote work, but also kind of guiding them on the recruitment. I suppose, the perfect fit for you with your recruitment background.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. That’s probably my main business area at the moment. That’s the area that’s getting the most traction because I think people are still a little bit hesitant in some cases to explore remote teams. Even with the news and everything else that we’re seeing, there are people out there that are just going and just completely going remote and fully remote. But there is still a hesitance from some people. So I think from my perspective, the way that my business has been built is to try and demonstrate to them, let’s find somebody… you’re looking for somebody at the moment, well, have you considered hiring a remote worker? Have you considered hiring somebody that isn’t based within the local area to your office? Have you considered somebody elsewhere? And then finding that individual and then being able to demonstrate proof of concept to say, “Right, well now let’s expand this. Let’s grow a remote team. Let’s take people you have working in the office, in-house at the moment and put them on a remote basis.”

And from then on, it starts to allow me to be able to offer my additional services of, “Well, now we can optimize the team and we can help train your leaders on how to actually lead these people effectively, how to get the most out of them and how to get the most productivity from each individual through the whole process.” So, honestly, it wasn’t how I intended to start my business but it led down that path and I’m glad it has to be honest with you. Because it’s been quite successful in the first year or so now. So yeah, really looking forward to what else comes up in the next year, but that’s definitely my main area of focus right now is that recruitment piece.

Sam Wilcox:

Let me ask you this then, because this is something that I, as a business owner that works remotely and has hired people with varying degrees of success in the past. What would you say the key difference is between hiring remote, but hiring a remote employee or hiring a remote contractor, let’s say. Because for me, if I’ve got a specific problem that I need assistance with, then my brain goes to, “Let’s go and find the freelancer, or the contract or the agency.” Because I’m so used to working in a remote environment and outsourcing these tasks in inverted commerce. Then that’s where my brain goes. I will go and find the person to help solve that specific problem. Like SEO, for example, we’re working with a great team now, a remote team, where I can pay them to go and do the SEO and work with them on that basis.

How does that stack up from a remote employee perspective? I know obviously that everything’s different because you’ve got this employee, they need benefits and you have the taxes and salaries, all that kind of stuff. But what do you feel the key benefits or pros and cons are of each?

Mark Cherry:

That’s a really good question. And actually one of the clients I’m working with has hired contractors through me to do the same thing, but it’s quite a clever system they’ve come up with. They’ve actually started them on a contract basis to basically make sure it’s working. So it’s like a probationary period. They then start on a contract and once they’ve proven their worth and shown what they’re capable of, they then graduate into full-time employment. And I think that the answer I would give you is again, it goes back to what I was saying earlier, you have to understand what it is you’re looking for from these people. Do you want somebody to do a project that’s going to last three to six months? Or do you want somebody to grow a division? Do you want somebody to add value? That’s going to last a long time and build something. It’s the same.. It’s exactly the same scenario. If you were looking at a full-time employee in your office or a contractor, why would you opt for a full-time employee over a contractor?

It’s normally down to the length of the project they’re going to be working on. Some people like contractors, they like to have flexibility. They like being able to employ people on an on, off basis. And, again, that’s a great method and a great process for some people, others want to build something and have a team of dedicated people around that. And my argument is that the team doesn’t have to be in one room anymore. That team could be spread all over the country, spread all over the world. Now it depends what you’re trying to do. And, yeah, that’s probably the easiest way.

Sam Wilcox:

I think that makes sense. I think just as you were talking as well, I think one thing that springs to mind is, it depends on, I think with an employee, like you mentioned, whether it be in a more of a long term process and thought that the commitment is more long-term or hopefully as well long term with an employee. You’re trying to align with. You’re trying to get that value. You’re trying to find somebody that’s values align with the company values, from a cultural perspective. So that they can commit to helping the business grow over the long-term, rather than, short-term contracts that they might come in and focus on some specific tasks. But they’re not really committed to the business ’cause they’re running their business. Right?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. It’s all about understanding what the individual you’re taking on is actually going to bring to the business. Are they going to bring short, sharp actions that are going to deliver a specific piece of work or are they actually going to add value to the organization by buying into whatever it is you’re doing. And then ultimately working through that, using their skills to bring something into the business. Again, you can go either way with it, to be honest with you, it’s not a-

Sam Wilcox:

A mix of both. A mix of both.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. And I think this is what a lot of the businesses are actually doing now. They’re seeing this as an opportunity and I’ve heard over and over again this year is being referred to as the year of the freelancer. And I’m living evidence of that. I’ve set up my own business and I’m working as a consultant for several different clients and working on several different projects at the same time. And I think it’s quite an interesting insight, I’m guessing at the moment because of the work I do with recruitment and I’m introducing people that for me… whenever I’ve done recruitment projects throughout my entire career, the one thing I’ve learned is that the best people you get into a role, the best people you place into a position are often the people that truly understand and buy into everything that organization’s trying to do. The people that live and breathe the same values and have the same values as that organization, that is the most successful piece of work you can ever do for a client.

And that is what I’m trying to do with this. So I’ve been involved in startups for a number of years, working in various different startup environments. And I’ve spent a long time working on trying to build a culture from scratch as well, and from a brand new start as a business, trying to build that culture up. And it took me quite a while to try and figure out how that works. And you see so many videos and content online about getting your culture on a big plaque and to stick it on the wall. And then put it all over in different colors and put it on a screen, so everybody can see it over and over again. And it’s something I’m quite passionate about. Every company out there, every business has a culture, has something that makes them different, makes them unique.

And I don’t believe that a culture is about having something on a wall. I think a culture is ingrained in you and what you do and how you do it. So I think remote working offers a lot of different obstacles for businesses to face, i.e, how do you find people that truly buy into that culture if they’re not around people that buy into that culture every single day? And my argument will be well, it comes back to the recruitment and onboarding process. If you’re making it quite clear from the outset, “This is our culture, this is who we are. This is what we believe. And these are our values.” You have a list of key objectives and deliverables that are non-negotiable and that’s from the outset. That’s not, “You’ve got the job. Congratulations. Here’s a list of our mission statements and values and everything else.”

That is done throughout the whole process, the people who accept the job, the people that are offered the job, the people that line up with those, the people that understand and believe in those as well. So those people… I’ve had quite a few people say to me that culture is quite difficult to embed in a remote team. And it is more challenging and this isn’t an easy fix, but if you’ve done the process right from the outset, it shouldn’t be as much of an issue as people think it is. I think if you’ve gone through the process in the right way, of identifying the right people that truly understand and believe in what you believe, those people will continue to share that culture. And that culture will show in the work that they do and in how they treat people, and the customers and clients and so on and so forth.

Regardless of whether they’re in an office or not, the office itself is a convenient space to reinforce that message. And there needs to be a different way of doing that, moving forward, but it’s not the central criteria to have a culture you have to have an office or vice versa.

Sam Wilcox:

I think it changes the culture as well though. Doesn’t it? So it-

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, very much.

Sam Wilcox:

Just, whether you like it or not, offering remote as an option just automatically changes the culture. And so I suppose what you’re saying here is doing the process right, is probably thinking about that first. So not just saying, “Oh, okay, well, we want to offer people remote. Because it makes us more competitive.” Or whatever it is. You also want to really detail out what that means culturally for you as a business and to the employees of that business. So that when you start to hire remote employees, you can test them for the values of the culture. Right?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. And it goes back to what I was saying earlier, when you’re looking at actually setting up a remote culture, your reasons for doing it need to be quite clear, but you also need to establish a process you’re going to follow. As to how it’s going to work and getting people to buy into the idea and how it’s going to look. And I think what I’m trying to say from a cultural perspective is, it actually does make you a more diverse organization. It brings in new elements you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. And that could be people with new skills, people with new ideas, people with new insights into your business that previously you just wouldn’t have access to because they don’t live in a commutable distance to your office, or your office locations or anything. And actually, I think that’s a really good thing. I think that’s something-

Sam Wilcox:

It’s powerful, yeah-

Mark Cherry:

Businesses are perhaps missing out. Yeah. And I think if used correctly, that is what’s going to allow and enable a lot of businesses to flourish over the next few years, and that’s going to allow businesses to realize the potential that this actually has for them, and allow them to make decisions that aren’t impacted by geography anymore. Now the technology exists, you and I aren’t in the same place right now. And we’re having a conversation, it’s easy. It’s quite simple and straightforward. I’m not sitting in a studio that’s worth millions of pounds with hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment set up around me. It’s relatively easy to do this now. And it’s just about people actually embracing it, and running with it and having the understanding behind them that this is going to lead to something better and something bigger. But that does take a lot of courage for leaders who have been doing the same thing for years and years and years, and doing it very successfully

Built very successful businesses, to take a step down this path does take a lot of courage. It takes a lot of balls for somebody, yeah, to step out there and go, “I know we’ve done it this way for the last 10, 20, 30 years. However, we’re now going to try this and see if it works and see what happens. It might do nothing. It might make the business crumble. However, it might, the other side make the business much more than we ever imagined it would be.” And that’s why I’m trying to help businesses understand that perspective.

Sam Wilcox:

Do you have to set clear goals then I imagine in terms of what they’re trying to get out of this, because like you mentioned, if somebody is going to go down that path and take that jump of making the change, or trying to take this hybrid model, for example. I imagine there needs to be clear, measurable outputs as to whether this ends up being a success or not. Right?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. Measurable output is important. And I think the one thing that I was thinking about before this call is all the different pros and cons and the advice you could give to businesses about how to set up a remote operation.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Mark Cherry:

Easily. From a technical perspective, there’s a lot of ideas and things to discuss, but I think the first thing you need to do before any of this, and I’ve probably mentioned this quite a few times now, it is the most important thing, and you need to have a very clear, concise goal that you want this to lead to. It’s got to be something that is going to allow your business to grow. It’s something that in my mind, the clients I’ve worked with, see it as an opportunity. To try something a bit different, but an opportunity to bring in something that they couldn’t have before, an opportunity to expand in a way they couldn’t do it before, and an opportunity to actually have something that they couldn’t have before. And those goals every time, because there will be frustrations every time there’s a frustration. Every time there is an issue, every time that something comes up that they weren’t expecting, they go back to that and go, “Well, okay, that’s fine. But this is why we’re doing it. This is why we’re taking this step. And this is what it’s going to lead to in the future.”

And going back to my client, I mentioned earlier, you know, they took that step to grow that business. And it might not have completely bombed and not worked. And they hire somebody that didn’t buy into what they were trying to do and didn’t work out and just didn’t have the right impact. But luckily, I think the work I did with them as well, you try and get a really good understanding from the outset. What is this going to lead to? What did you expect from it over the next three, six, 12 months and onwards? What do you hope to achieve with this? And when you’ve got that clear goal in mind, it actually does make it a lot easier because every time something does come up, you just go back to that and go, “This is why we’re doing it. This is what it’s all about.”

And that’s what I think is going to be a massive differential between businesses that are reacting to this remote work trend and this idea of hybrid work, going, “Oh, well, everyone’s doing it. So we’ll do it.” And people that are… and businesses that are being proactive and saying, “Well, actually we’re doing it for these reasons. Not for the reasons everyone else is doing it. This is why we’re doing it. And this is what we want to achieve”

Sam Wilcox:

Not because I feel like we should.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, exactly. It’s like the iPhone, isn’t it? When the iPhone comes out, you get your early adopters and your… I can’t remember the exact terminology now, but the people that queue up and sleep in the street for months before it comes out, so they can actually get it first and have that. And then you get the people that take it on because it’s becoming a bit more commonplace. And eventually you get the people that take it because there’s no other type of phone available. This is going to have the same effect with remote working. It’s going to be exactly the same over time. I still believe there is a place for offices and there’s always going to be a place for offices. Offices aren’t just going to close up overnight. I believe they’ve got to drastically adapt and change the way that they operate. However, I do think there’s always going to be a place for offices.

But I do believe like you were saying earlier, businesses that don’t adopt this method of hybrid working or remote working, or just offering some level of flexibility that’s going to make them struggle.

That’s going to prevent them from growing in the way-

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah. Do you think that in the future, this dystopian remote working future that we live in, all the office space is going to be barren apart from a few blocks of offices?

Mark Cherry:

Like Mad Max?

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah. But they’ve got revolving doors and it’s more like an old WeWork style of offices in the future. The way the offices will, not that drastic, obviously I’m being-

Mark Cherry:

I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture. But to be honest with you, all I’m seeing when you’re talking about this in my mind is, like you said, a bit of a wasteland and office blocks just empty, and dust over the handsets and the keyboards that are still plugged into the monitors. Yeah. I genuinely believe that offices are going to adapt and they’re going to have to change. I was on a really interesting webinar the other day with the CEO of Regis and listened to his plans. And they’ve launched some type of subscription model, which I think they’ve been running now for a while.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, I see that. Yeah.

Mark Cherry:

They mentioned something about 90% of the population living within a 20 minute drive to an office space that they run. That’s going to be the future. It’s going to be me waking up in the morning and going, “Right. I need a printer. I need a meeting room and a scanner today for my work. Where is the nearest place I can go to with that? Great, go book it. I’m going to be there at nine o’clock.” And that’s how it’s going to evolve.

Sam Wilcox:

It’s interesting because I’ve seen them trying to, they’re making this transition into more of a coworking or flexible working space, let’s say.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

Moving away from all this fusty Regis brand that they’ve got and diversifying into some more trendy brands, like WeWork style stuff, where they’re offering more coworking spaces, but obviously it’s still owned by Regis. But I’ve seen them trialing that. And trying to implement that. Like you say, I think it is the way that things will go. Not for everybody, but it will unlock a large portion of the workforce that… well, it will offer a service to a large portion of the workforce as a big central effort, I think.

Mark Cherry:

Oh, definitely. And I think that there are companies in Manchester that I’ve been keeping an eye on and they’ve already been doing this well before the pandemic. I think Co-op’s a great example of an organization that had one of the biggest properties in Manchester city center at Co-op Tower. And they had a purpose built office, which I’m not 100% sure of, but I think it’s smaller than what they have. In terms of floor space, desks and everything else, because what they’ve actually done is they’ve made quite a large portion of that building hot desking, and they’ve made it a lot more flexible for people to use. So people working on the floor

Sam Wilcox:

Anybody can go in or is it like..?

Mark Cherry:

I don’t know about anybody. I know that a lot of Co-op workers will have this flexible working arrangement and they’ll work from home two days a week. And when they do go in, they don’t have their designated desk in the designated office in a designated section. It’s you go in and you find a desk and like hot desking. There are businesses that have been doing this for years. WeWork is a great example of an organization that really embraced this whole idea of flexible working and having that flexibility and offering it to people early on. There are fantastic examples of businesses that are doing it. What I think is interesting is seeing, like you were saying organizations like Regis that have been around so many years now and have that traditional mode of working and they know what works and what doesn’t

Sam Wilcox:

Serviced office mode. Yeah.

Mark Cherry:

Exactly. But they’re having to adapt and then they’re having to change their business model to accommodate this need, because that’s what it is. People want to work. That’s never going to change. People want to go into an office. People want to do meetings and face-to-face meetings. Obviously, we’ve not been able to do that recently. But people are going to want to do that moving forward. The difference is they’re going to want to do it closer to home. Yeah. They’re not going to want to spend an hour on the tube going into London every day and home every day. And they’re not going to want to spend… some people, I think the average commute time in the UK is something like, was 90 minutes across the whole country. 90 minutes a day, you’re spending commuting-

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, it’s too much, isn’t it?

Mark Cherry:

90 minutes, you could be spending doing a run. I would never like to run for 90 minutes. I think 30 minutes is far too much, but the idea of having 90 minutes more in your day where you can do stuff. Where you can, might sound a bit soppy, you can take your kids to school. You can go for a run, you can do a yoga lesson. You can have a massive breakfast. You can lie in, you can lie in-

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, you can spend it in bed. Yeah.

Mark Cherry:

You do whatever you want to do. You don’t have to be one of these overly productive people that does everything before the sun even rises. You can do whatever but that’s your time to use how you want to use it, is massively powerful. And empowering people to be able to have a lot more control over what they want to do and how they want to live their lives, it’s powerful.

Sam Wilcox:

I agree. I agree. Yeah. And I think that you’ll also get… just to round this topic off. I think what you’re saying now, which is another really good point, is from the flexible working perspective, it might be the case where you work for this company and Reading, but they’re based in Manchester. And half of the week you are working from home, in the home office, but they need you to have certain facilities. And you’ve got to have a couple of meetings per week. So they pay for one of these coworking spaces as part of the package so that you can enter and use that space as well… as just working from home. Because I think one of the cons of working from a home environment, and this is coming from somebody that’s done this for a long time, is that it gets… this is me personally. I’m not sure if this is for everybody, but for me personally, I benefit from working in different environments. So when you’re in an office-

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, I know what you mean.

Sam Wilcox:

You get that chance of moving around, even if it’s just moving from this side of the office, to that side of the office. There’s a bit more of an environment. Whereas when you work from home, you are in the same situation for most of the day. And then also, there’s this breaking of that work mode into home mode is also quite difficult as well, which has its pros and cons. But we could probably do a whole other show on that specific topic. So I think that building that co-working space into the model for businesses is definitely something that’s worth thinking about. Because moving to that fresh space and working from a fresh environment, it does increase productivity 100%. I know for a fact it does. So something to consider for anybody that’s thinking about doing this.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, an example was given during that same webinar I was on with Regis, I can’t remember the name of the business now, unfortunately. But they’ve done exactly what you just said. They stopped leasing office space and they bought every member of staff, and they had over 3,000 members of staff, every member of staff has been given a subscription to this new remote work. And these are people spread all over the world, all these different countries. And they’ve just said, “Yep, here’s your membership card. And we’ll cover the cost of it. When you want to work from home, you work from home. When you want to go into a co-working space, you go into a co-working space. And when you want to work in a coffee shop, you work in a coffee shop.” He’s giving people that autonomy to make a decision without having it thrust on them. “You have to work between these hours and these hours in this building.” Which is, I think that’s going to be the future now.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, I think you’re right. I think you’re right. And even talking about this, I couldn’t help but just pull up these coworking options from Regis, just in the background there. Just to have a look at what was included in the membership. I’ve been in this room for too long, get me out of it. All right, my friend. Well, as we look to wrap up the show, what we always do is, because we’re software nerds here at Tribecto, we’re always talking about different software tools and trying to share what is useful in your day-to-day life. I think it’d be an interesting one to hear from yourself because you’re going at it from a remote working angle. If you had to pick two, three tools that you use on a daily basis now to run the business or that’s helpful from a coworking perspective, what would be your top picks to share with the audience?

Mark Cherry:

Good question. My business is set up using Gmail or Google drive, I should say.

Sam Wilcox:

The G suite.

Mark Cherry:

The G Suite, that’s the word. Yeah. And apart from not knowing what it’s called, I do find that incredibly valuable-

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah. It’s overlooked, but it shouldn’t be because as a suite of tools and the price of it-

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, everybody looks at Microsoft. Yeah. Everybody’s always going on about Microsoft being the be all and end all. And don’t get me wrong, Microsoft is incredibly great, very powerful and very good. But personally, I set my business up, as I told you earlier, just and just trying to see what I could do. And not without spending an absolute fortune on things and in terms of the price and in terms of the way it works and the flexibility. But, if I’m out and about and get my emails through, I can send things into my Google Drive folder. I can access documents with ease. It’s been a phenomenal tool for me to use and I’ve really enjoyed it. So yeah, definitely that will be one of them.

Sam Wilcox:

Also from a remote working perspective as well, it’s very handy obviously just to collaboratively work on documents from different locations.

Mark Cherry:

Oh yeah. Yeah. And being able to share those with people and allow people to add comments, and make recommendations and chop and change things. The whole system itself has just been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed using it. In terms of other software that I’ve used, I still haven’t quite gotten my head around Slack yet. I do see the benefits of it. I’ve used it a few times, but I think this is actually one of the points I was going to talk to you about. I think so many people now are trying to go, “Right. Okay. So we’re going to have a remote team, we need this and we need this. And we can get this platform as well. And let’s get these ones too, because this is going to do that. And this is going to do that. And we’ll have our video meetings on Zoom and we’ll have our own document sharing through this folder.”

You end up with so many different platforms that you’re using, that people just get confused where the information is actually stored. If you can simplify things to have one platform and for me that is Google Suite, one platform where everything is on it, your email, your documents, your databases, your video chat, everything you need is there. It’s so-

Sam Wilcox:

Calendar.

Mark Cherry:

Calendar I even forgot about Calendar. But yeah, no, it’s so helpful to just have one platform that you can use without having to worry about all these different things that people don’t necessarily understand 

Sam Wilcox:

Overcomplicated.

Mark Cherry:

On how to use them.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Mark Cherry:

And one of the things I’m trying to adjust to doing consultancy, is being able to actually help people understand that you don’t need five platforms. You can get it all done on one. You don’t need to pay three different memberships and have a free trial running on something that you have to monitor. Because as soon as it finishes, it takes the money out of your account before you realize it. It’s about just using it as effectively as possible and getting the most out of the platform that you have without having to overindulge and have about 13 different things running at the same time. So yeah, Google suite for me is definitely up there.

Sam Wilcox:

G Suite, pick of the day, guys.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, I would say that.

Sam Wilcox:

You need a tool. Yeah. You need a tool like that in this day and age, especially if you’re going to be running some remote business or working with remote employees. But yeah, listen, Mark, it’s been a really good conversation, man. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. Me too, Sam. Thank you.

Sam Wilcox:

And sharing your insights into what the future of remote work looks like. I think it’s definitely an interesting topic. It will be a transition period over the course of the next 20 years, I think.

Mark Cherry:

I think 20 years is a bit of an over-exaggeration. I think you’re going to be quite impressed how quickly it goes.

Sam Wilcox:

Don’t get me wrong. What I mean by that is I think that it will be a fast transition for a lot of companies, but I think that within 20 years it will be fully expected, is my prediction.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah, I understand.

Sam Wilcox:

He understands, but he does not agree.

Mark Cherry:

No, I think this is the only thing that, I was chatting to a good friend of mine about how he was saying, five, 10 years. We think five, 10 years

Sam Wilcox:

Is bullish.

Mark Cherry:

You’re going to see so many businesses starting to adopt this. And when it gets momentum, it’s going to snowball, I think in 10 years’ time. If you’re going for a job that doesn’t offer flexible remote working, you’re not going to attend the job.

Sam Wilcox:

Interesting. Well, let’s check back in 10 years. Let’s jump back on and discuss

Mark Cherry:

I’ll make a note in my G Suite Calendar.

Sam Wilcox:

Thanks, man. That was good. Have you done any podcasts before?

Mark Cherry:

I’ve done a couple. But this is the first one in a while, I think. I just told my wife about it the other day and she was like, “That’s cool. You are going to prepare for it. Aren’t you?” And I was like, “Yes, I’m going to prepare for it. I’m not just going to pick up the phone and go. Right. What do you want to talk about? I’m going to do some-“

Sam Wilcox:

You know what you’re talking about. It’s all good. For me, I like to keep it casual. You’re easy to talk to, which is good. You know what I mean?

Mark Cherry:

Oh, thanks.

Sam Wilcox:

You know what you’re talking about. It’s easy to bounce back and forth and I suppose you get that from your recruitment days

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. Well, I’ve done a few public speaking gigs in the time

Sam Wilcox:

Have you?

Mark Cherry:

Yeah. To be honest with you, I’ve actually really enjoyed it. Same for yourself. It’s been really easy to just chat about it. And I do think the topic at the moment is getting a lot of traction and a lot of attention and every day on LinkedIn, there’s someone else putting a poll up going, “Do you think remote working is the future? Yes or no?” I’m like, “Yes, of course it is. Everybody’s talking about it.” But anyway, I think it’s now been going past the stage of, “Is it the future? Yes or no?” It’s obvious, yes. But it’s, “How is it going to… How is it going to be implemented? How’s it going to work? What are people actually going to do?” Because I do think there’s a lot of fear in the industry still. I think there’s a lot of people that are quite scared about the idea of remote working and how it’s going to look and what it’s

Sam Wilcox:

Depends on the size of business, I think. Because the smaller business you are, the easier it is to make agile changes. Whereas the larger companies or the medium to larger sized company, it’s a big deal. And changing the way that people work is a big effing deal for a lot of larger companies. So it costs a lot of money and there’s obviously a risk management situation that they need to figure out. And it changes insurances and workplace benefits. And it’s a big deal, isn’t it? Making a change for a big company.

Mark Cherry:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

All right, my friend. Well, thanks for joining me on this show-

Mark Cherry:

No. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Sam. Really nice to meet you.

Sam Wilcox:

You too, mate. Bye-bye.

Mark Cherry:

Bye.

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