You Run a VIRTUAL Company? What Does That Mean?

by Jeannie Walters

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I’ve been thinking a lot about culture lately. Maybe it’s the employee engagement projects we’ve been working on, maybe it’s the recent #culturecode Slideshare we released, or maybe it’s my travel schedule bringing me to new observations about locale and culture.

I get asked a lot  about how I run a virtual company. What does that mean? In the case of our company, it means our folks can work from wherever they desire. Coffee shop? Home? Coworking space? No problem. Just get a good connection and get ready for a few Google chat windows being open at any given time. Real estate is for other companies, not ours.

Virtual Company

The skeptics ask. These non-believers ask questions like “but how do people get to know each other?” or “how do you know they’re really working?”

The believers, the wanna-be’s and the future recruits ask different questions. They ask “do you love it?” or “what apps do you use?”

Virtual Company

Culture, in any organization, group or region, is based on who is there. The who matters more than the how or why or what, in my humble opinion.

So when I’m asked by the cynics how I know if my team and colleagues are “actually working” when I’m not there staring over their cubicles, I answer honestly. I don’t. I don’t know if they are working at every single moment. In fact, I hope they aren’t. I hope they are stretching their legs and researching ideas that interest them and eating lunch with a friend. I don’t care how they organize their day. I care about who they are. Our backgrounds are eclectic, to say the least, and our current situations cover a lot of ethnographic ground.

This is so much by design, and yet I get asked over and over about the  barriers of running a company this way.

The Secret Sauce

The magic, I believe, is about laying out expectations and then hiring right. Hiring right means a few things, but the number one thing it means to me is to trust my gut.

When researching a recent applicant, all signs pointed to a hire – great resume, strong references, good education – but my gut started screaming during the interview process. She was asking questions about process and procedure in ways that told me she wanted structure we couldn’t provide. She was asking about where and how to work in ways that told me she couldn’t think on her feet. I trusted my gut, politely declined, and was able to hire the right person who happened to live thousands of miles away. Geography be damned.


The people make the culture. The people make the company. The people make the experience.

Culture is all about values, and above all, we value people. Find the people who will reflect your mission and values. Find the people who will CREATE a great culture with you as a leader. Find the people. Culture will happen.

Image credits: Georgie Pauwels,  Martijn van Exel via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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