Vault Interview: Are Fully Remote Teams More Productive and Profitable?

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Larry English is the president and cofounder of Centric Consulting, a 1,000-person tech and strategy consulting firm that has operated fully remotely since its founding 20 years ago. In June, English published Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture with Virtual Teams, which offers a step-by-step guide to creating strong virtual cultures. Office Optional includes practical lessons, specific tactics, and detailed examples of virtual protocols that bond, inform, and keep employees happy, engaged, and productive.

Recently, we spoke with English via email about his firm, his book, his experience managing virtual teams, and the advice he has for employees and managers working in this increasingly remote environment. Below is an excerpt of that conversation.

Vault: First of all, how are you doing? How have you been managing in these uncertain times?

English: I’m grateful for many reasons, but especially because I have a strong support system in my coworkers. Centric has managed through this pandemic so far with no layoffs, furloughs, or salary reductions. But more importantly, having great personal relationships has allowed us to lean on each other because emotional well-being has been elusive for everyone. Two of my four sons have had Covid-19, and several of our employees have lost loved ones. Now more than ever, we need to demonstrate extra patience and support for each other.

Can you talk about what led to you found Centric Consulting and about the decision to make it a fully remote firm?

Right out of college, I worked 80- to 100-hour weeks at one of the big international consulting companies and ended up having a midlife crisis at 25. After a year traveling around the world with my wife, I realized I wanted to build a company culture that didn’t operate off of politics and killing people for profit. My cofounders and I wanted everyone at our company to have better balance in their lives and the ability to spend time doing the things they love outside of work. We chose to operate as a remote company not to save money on office space (which we have) but rather to create and sustain a happier workforce. Many companies are now learning about the surprising benefits of remote work that we’ve known for a long time.

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