How to run a business… from two sides of the world
We funded Charlotte Cramer and Davide Russo, the creators of Glow Away - an innovative solution for children who are afraid of the dark. Simply read the storybook, say the magic spell, and hey presto – when you turn the lights out, the spell glows in the dark on the bedspread.
While Charlotte is based in London, Davide is based in New York. But they prove that, with the help of technology, you can build a successful business even when the co-founders aren’t geographically close. Here’s how you do it.
The main challenges
“Being in different time zones can be quite a challenge,” says Charlotte. “You wake up to 20 emails from the other, and you have to schedule your time carefully. But we try and look at it as a positive too! It means that if something needs doing urgently, there’s always someone there to handle it.
“Another challenge is more emotional. If there are exciting things going on that only one of us can be part of, you can feel a bit left out. For example, we recently had a really exciting meeting in New York, but because I was on Skype it didn’t feel the same as being in the same room, speaking face to face. You want to be there for every moment, whether it’s meeting new suppliers or meeting someone we’d love to work with, but it’s not always possible.
“There are also some times when it would be useful to have another person around, such as at trade shows. If both founders are there you can talk to more people and get more out of it.”
Communication, communication, communication
“As we don’t have the contact of working side by side in an office, we message CONSTANTLY through iMessage to keep up to date with the other, and then we FaceTime every night at 9pm GMT to catch up with what’s happened during the day, and make plans for the next day,” says Charlotte. “As both of us also have other work commitments, we do bits throughout the day in between other projects. We’ve just started to use Slack (a real-time instant messaging tool as well, and are hoping to migrate onto that fully.”
“As London and New York aren’t two dissimilar, switching between one or the other is quite easy,” says Charlotte. “I’ve been over a few times in the last couple of months – it’s good to catch up face to face. We’ve recently booked a trip to work in India for a couple of weeks – with technology nowadays you really can work anywhere, so if you can do it from somewhere more interesting, why not?”
Splitting the workload
“We worked together for years, so luckily we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well. Often it’s obvious who should be doing what; other times it depends on our respective workloads, or even just on who’s awake,” says Charlotte. “Having that familiarity with each other’s working style really helps.”
The right tools for the job
“The tools we use every day are Google Drive and Google Docs,” advises Charlotte. “They’re free, and incredibly useful for sharing and editing work. Both of us can access things any time, from anywhere. It’s essential for any collaborative work and it means we’re never caught out.”
“There’s no denying that having a presence in two countries is really useful,” says Charlotte. “You get insights into different markets, and you meet more people – we now have useful networking contacts in both countries. We can go to startup events in both cities rather than just attending the same ones together, meaning we can get twice the benefit in the same time – very efficient.”
“Running a business is hard enough when you’re in the same country – if you’re doing it from two different places, you have to know that you can work very well together,” advises Charlotte. “Communication is also vital. You need access to Skype or Facetime, because otherwise phone calls will get too expensive, and you need to communicate all the time.
“It also helps to have a supportive partner romantically as well, as running the business takes up so much of our time. Davide is the first person I text in the morning, and if you’re a startup founder you’re pretty much always on call. Having someone who understands that is invaluable!”