Building a 100% Remote Agency w/ Jimmy Daly
Today I sat down with Jimmy Daly of Superpath (formerly at Animalz) to talk about building remote agency teams.
Jimmy’s previous agency, Animalz, started in August 2015 and now has around 50 employees, all remote.
They’ve helped big brands like Google, Amazon and GoDaddy increase organic visibility through content marketing.
Jimmy and I chatted about how they grew Animalz into a fully remote content marketing agency powerhouse.
Let’s get into it!
- 2:53 – How did your agency go 100% remote?
- 5:39 – What type of changes took place to go from office to remote?
- 7:24 – How is your talent distributed geographically?
- 8:18 – At what point did you decide to hire remote-only?
- 10:27 – Any tips for hiring remote staff?
- 13:47 – Tell me more about your new venture, Superpath?
- 15:25 – Anything to know about hiring international with taxes, employment law, etc?
- 16:52 – What does your organizational structure look like?
- 19:06 – What do you look for in a new hire?
- 22:11 – How do you measure content quality?
- 26:41 – How do you measure content results?
- 28:37 – Organic traffic vs paid for content…thought?
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2:53 – How did your agency go 100% remote?
When Walter started the company in the summer of 2015 he was anti remote. He wanted people in an office and that’s how Animalz existed for probably seven or eight months.
Then there was an employee who wanted to support his wife who was working out of NYC. So we allowed him to go remote. Then for a while, it was hybrid. Anyone who lived in New York was expected to be in the office and then slowly we started hiring remote talent and it grew from there.
5:39 – What type of changes took place to go from office to remote?
My partner was hesitant about it and I think he could see that it was inevitable over time. At that time there was much-needed feedback that was happening in the office for a young company like ours. We were concerned about how it would all work out when we go remote.
Then we just figured out the how part. Now there are team leads and editors that we trust. There are things in place to make sure that people have good resources so they can do really good remote work.
7:24 – How is your talent distributed geographically?
We are a 100% remote agency with 52 employees. 70% of our talent is US based and the rest is from Europe.
As our customers were spread across the world it made a lot more sense to have people particularly in Europe like
We had several customers from Europe so it made sense to hire talent from there to provide good service to our European clientage.
8:18 – At what point did you decide to hire remote-only?
It was a slow burn. We had a couple of remote folks early on who were really good and bringing on experienced talent who has worked remotely before made it a lot easier.
We hired young people who recently graduated from Ivy League schools but then we also got experienced remote talent to manage high-level stuff and that approach made it all work.
10:27 – Any tips for hiring remote staff?
We look more for potential than experience. We are also always analyzing writing samples. There are things you can look for in a writing sample that would identify good potential.
We also want them to interact with customers and have an intelligent conversation. So we look for that as well.
13:47 Tell me about your new company, Superpath?
There’s a bunch of stuff for content marketers in there. There will be resources for you to make use of. We are also working on building a community, courses, blog, podcast, newsletter, and all that good stuff.
Another piece of it is helping fill content roles for companies. The biggest thing I’m trying to do is help people self-select for the roles so that companies can get really good people without having to sift through a thousand resumes.
15:25 – Anything to know about hiring international with taxes, employment law, etc?
We solved the time zone thing issue by grouping people in pods. So you have a handful of team leads working with a group of 3 – 5 people and it’s that pod’s responsibility to figure out how they’re gonna deal with their very specific time zone problems.
Regarding the tax and other related issues, we have someone on our team who handles that.
16:52 – What does your organizational structure look like?
Our core business is content strategy and content creation.
Our content managers create the content and they’re also involved in the strategy and account management but their primary responsibility is content creation.
Each of those folks would report to a strategist. A strategist is the leader of a pod and is likely to have worked for Animalz for a while. They are responsible for creating the strategy for their customers, managing the communications between the customer and Animalz as well as managing their teams.
19:06 – What do you look for in a new hire?
It’s kind of a little bit of both. I can think of a couple of people we hired that had pretty good marketing skills but were not fantastic writers.
Sometimes those people turned out to be really good strategists because they could speak the language.
I can also think of a few other folks who came in as writers and that was what they wanted to do but once they got their foot in the door they blossomed and thrived as strategists.
22:11 – How do you measure content quality?
It depends on the client mostly. Every client has different expectations and constraints. For the most part, though they want performance. They might not be nitpicking your grammar but they will care about the organic traffic and that is what we aim for.
26:41 – How do you measure content results?
We believe in coming up with high-concept content. If you can come up with a high-concept idea the blog post simply writes itself.
28:37 – Organic traffic vs paid for content…thought?
Animalz is a low volume business. SEO doesn’t really matter that much for us. To grow we have to have high-concept ideas written for people who work in senior-level content roles. If we can’t address the concerns of our core market it doesn’t matter how much traffic we get.
Our strategy drives a shitload of leads for us even though we get very little organic traffic.
But we understand that it might be different for a SAAS business. They need volume because they have to get a thousand free trials a month and they have to reach a broader audience.
With time we also realized that it’s a lot easier to build links to pieces like a high-concept piece of content. So we need to create a strategy keeping in mind the needs of our clients.