Remote Interviews with Rebel + Connect

Charlie Birch, Rachel McGehee, Summer Weirich @ Rebel + Connect

 

 

The following transcription is edited and paraphrased. Hear the full interview above.

 

First and foremost, please tell me a brief background about yourself and one interesting fact.

 

Charlie: Hi I’m Charlie Birch, the Director of Program Development. My background is in mental health and personal development. After that, I had a freelance coaching practice, but it got pretty lonely socially since I’m an extrovert. Running a business takes a lot of work and I was turned off by the direction of the coaching business. A lot of it has become “Give me $5,000 and buy my PowerPoint presentation.” It had no personal relation. I wanted to find a way to create real-life experiences and relationship. That’s partially how I came to the idea of Rebel + Connect.

Interesting fact: I sang in a reggae band in my father’s restaurant.

letsworkremotely | Rebel + Connect

 

Rachel: Hi I’m Rachel McGehee, Director of Travel. I’m based in Atlanta and I have a pretty diverse background. I went to college with a degree in biology and photography. I ended up following my passion for working with kids, traveling and giving back. I was a ski instructor in Australia and other places around the globe. I love all things travel and how it connects people. I truly believe it is the way to world peace. When you experience other cultures, we begin to see that we are more the same than different. It is a beautiful thing. I also am heavily involved in philanthropy work and often merge that with my love for travel.

Interesting fact: I am an energy healer.

letsworkremotely | Rebel + Connect

 

Summer: Hi I’m Summer Weirich, Director of Events. I’m based in Colorado and one of the few remote workers who really work out in a rural area. I’ve done all types of events from nonprofits to golf, companies large and small. Part of the reason I love events is I can work from wherever I have Wi-Fi or a hotspot. The coolest place to work from would have to be Yellowstone National Park. I won’t go into full details but I did lose part of my thumb from a hatchet there and had to do a virtual meeting in a tent.

Interesting fact: I have hiked 5-10 of Colorado’s Fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 ft).

 

What is Rebel + Connect? What have you done, what are you doing now, and what are you doing in the future?

 

C: Rebel + Connect creates custom retreats for remote teams. We help find a way for remote teams to connect with each other, nature and the global community. Our 3 core packages are: retreat coaching, consulting, and project management.

 

R: Some of the things we have done: provide free content for remote teams, personal development, events all around the globe, destination reviews etc. Our podcast, Rebel + Connect Radio, interviews and connects people, places, and ideas on their remote retreat success. We also have a private Facebook community, Remote Leadership Think Tank, that connects thought leaders in the remote space.

 

S: We’re excited about our upcoming Remote Work Summit in Guatemala at Eagle’s Retreats geared towards leaders of remote teams. The summit will have team building sessions, remote work expert panels, cultural immersion excursions, networking events, and a lot of other awesome things. 100% of profits will go to NGOs in the area that is working to end malnutrition. Every speaker has donated their valuable time to give back to the community.

 

 

What does a typical retreat from Rebel + Connect look like?

 

C: We’re fully custom and white label but we always include certain elements to them. It could be giving back to the community or donating to a nonprofit. For example, we design a retreat for a team of developers and help them give back by teaching skills to the local youth. There’s usually an element of nature as well. That could be extreme skiing to just a beautiful outdoor venue. We use these retreats to bring value to companies and surrounding communities by doing more than just showing it on their website. Cultural immersion is another very important element in our custom remote retreats.

 

 

Is culture similar across remote companies? If so, how do remote companies stand out?

 

R: What we are finding out is that culture is often lacking across remote teams. In traditional companies, the culture comes together more naturally. The culture comes together without a label through water cooler conversations, grabbing coffee together, or going to happy hour after work. With remote, there has to be an intention to create that culture. Sometimes that’s difficult for remote teams to do if they don’t even know that culture is lacking.

 

S: Remote teams all have different structures so it really depends on how they’re built, either fully distributed, all contractors, or a combination of them. Transparency is huge in remote teams but it’s not being mentioned as much. When you’re remote, you have to be transparent. Remote companies that stand out are companies that want their team to grow and provide leadership, educational and development opportunities for your team and yourself.

 

C: With all the buzz around digital nomads and millennials pushing remote work, we sometimes forget that even though it is a trend right now, it is not a new thing. My parents have worked remotely their whole lives, but in the past, it was a privilege and a perk. More and more, it is becoming as a way of operating. There’s an increase in not just remote work, but home-based work because it is good for the family, health and if they want, be lifestyle travelers. Remote work is way more than just travel.

 

It has become more than no having to go to the office or just having a fun culture. It’s about having a culture that is kinder to our planet and have more diverse, inclusive teams. It’s a huge part of the conversation you have when you talk to people about their why. It’s almost always bigger than just wanting to be a digital nomad and travel.

 

The other important way to stand out is to have a culture of result focus, regardless if you have employees or contractors. Instead of a 40 hour week contract, use deliverables. There’s the fear of “Oh no, I won’t get to micromanage my people.”

 

That’s always worked out so well, right?

 

Remote work exposes what’s broken and fixes it faster instead of hiding behind the problem by dressing it up in a suit. People have to actually do the work so engagement rates and productivity goes up. Remote leaders who are finding success have trust in their people and processes, they have transparency, and a willingness to embrace change.

 

What are the remote leaders thinking? What are the biggest challenges they are going to face with this movement? How are they preparing themselves for it?

 

C: The biggest challenges are the 3 C’s: communication, culture, and collaboration.

 

S: If you expect moving back to an office is going to fix your problems, you’re missing the whole point. Problems will still exist, you just don’t see it as much. When you go remote, people can’t just be on autopilot so problems arise to the surface. I would never advise anyone to abandon remote work because they are having problems with remote work. You’re not more engaged in that conference room meeting as much as you are on a Zoom call.

 

In terms startups, it’s 50/50. Some eventually see themselves in an office because it is a symbol of success, some never intend to have an office, like us.

 

In terms of corporate, it’s more of an “Ok, I guess we have to do this.” It’s easier when you have already built a remote team, but in a large corporation where people already don’t know each other, it might be more difficult. Companies like Microsoft and Dell will be at our Remote Summit and cover issues like culture at scale.

 

We found that if you set your operations up to be remote friendly, it works for office people too, but not the other way around. Whether you want to have an office forever or two more years, still consider looking into remote work communication and management best practices. Even if you never have people working remotely, when shit hits the fan it can be really useful to have those systems.

 

R: Adding on to that, the qualities you possess as a remote leader or remote worker, those systems, skills, and techniques enhance those in office workers because you’re required to over-communicate. We misread things often so communicating better and being transparent carries over in an office.

 

Leaders who want to set up their teams for success are going to have the mindset that remote work isn’t going anywhere and approaching it like it is going to be the future.

 

Intention is also important. What’s intention behind going remote? Is it because everyone else is doing it? Or is it because it will make your team stronger, happier, and more successful?

 

 

Craziest travel experience ever?

 

C: Spontaneous trip to Costa Rica to go to a music festival.

 

R: Hitchhiking across Italy to go hear a band.

 

S: Getting lost in Austria on a ski trip.

 

Any final bits of advice for our audience wanting to work remotely or live the digital nomad lifestyle?

 

C: Keep in mind that all the exercise you are get going to and from a job is going away. Be sure to still build in activities or invest in a standing desk or sitting ball chair. I was a professional dancer before a remote worker and was shocked how sedentary I’ve become and how quickly it happened. There’s a lot more freedom of choices when you go remote, but make sure you still have a similar amount of structure in your remote life as you did in your normal life. Try avoid doing things like working on vacation.

 

R: Keep your why in front of you. Why do you want to work remotely?  Be flexible because why’s change. Always remember why you’re designing your life this way. Communicate with your family and friends. Unplug!

 

S: Create systems. As a business owner or gig economy worker, come up with a system to track your miles or keep track of your receipts. Keeping track of expenses can help you pay less in taxes or receive more in returns. Lead with love, don’t be a part of your computer. Use your computer as a tool to advance yourselves. Good luck!

 

Please share your bio, profile, social links, books, courses etc.

Rebel + Connect Website

Remote Summit Tickets

Remote Leadership Think Tank Facebook Group

Rebel + Connect Instagram

Charlie Birch

Rachel McGehee

Summer Weirich

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