This week we’re excited to share our conversation with Matteo Grassi. Matteo is the COO at Eli-Z group, an ecommerce accelerator that uses innovative marketing strategies to turn small start-ups into multi-million dollar businesses.
Matteo has a long history of working remotely, beginning his distributed work journey at Shopify before taking the lessons learned there and applying them to Eli-Z group. Matteo began as a marketer in the company, and now overseas all departments in his role as Chief Operations Officer.
One of the areas that I found interesting was Matteo’s approach to work life balance and how he keeps a pulse on how his employees are feeling in work and in life. With his background in Psychology, Matteo is particularly in tune with the nuances of a distributed workforce and its effect on employees well-being. This conversation will be particularly valuable for managers of a distributed work force! Please enjoy!
Be sure to go to: https://www.elizeta.com/ for more information about their business and how they help e-commerce businesses.
Find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/EliZGroup.Page/
Matteo’s book he’d force everyone to read: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
Matt H: 00:07 Hello everyone. My name is Matt Hollingsworth, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work, entrepreneurship, business, technology, and much more.
Matt H: 00:17 Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you, as always, by We Work Remotely. The largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220 thousand unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.
Matt H: 00:27 My guest on today's show is
Matteo Grassi:. Mateo is the COO of Eli Z Group, an E-commerce accelerator that aims to disrupt E-commerce through the use of innovative digital marketing strategies.
Matt H: 00:41 Matteo has been working remotely for many years, beginning his journey at Shopify before coming on to Eli Z, and helping them expand to a company of over 50 employees, in over 20 countries.
Matt H: 00:52 Matteo also has an interesting educational background, studying psychology before working remotely for online businesses. Check out Elizeta. That's E-L-I-Z-E-T-A dot com, and make sure to follow Matteo on all social platforms.
Matt H: 01:07 All right, Matteo thanks so much for coming on the podcast man, really appreciate it.
Matteo Grassi:: 01:10 Thank you Matt, it's a pleasure to be here.
Matt H: 01:12 Sweet. So, I think an interesting place that we can begin, and I've done this a few times in the past is, where are you working from physically? If you have offices there, then where you are? Maybe talk a little bit about if someone should go to where you are, what they should see while they're there.
Matteo Grassi:: 01:30 Okay, well, I'm actually in Italy, which is my home country. I've been here, for the month of August, I just come back here to visit my parents at this time. Because in Italy everyone takes Holidays during the month of August.
Matteo Grassi:: 01:43 Typically, I live in Ireland about 10 to 15 days a month and the rest of the time I am traveling around. I try to have the digital nomad lifestyle. If you end up being where I am right now, I am actually, maybe 30 minutes from Venice, and an hour from Bologna, which are two beautiful cities. So I invite your guests to see Venice, or see Bologna. Which are two beautiful Italian cities with a lot of history.
Matteo Grassi:: 02:14 In Venice at the moment there is a Biennale of Arte. If you are into art, which happens every two years, so it's a very important event. I invite you to come here and see it.
Matt H: 02:23 Nice. See that's why this is so great, because I didn't know that you were there. That's super interesting. I would love to go there, I haven't been there myself. One day I'll get there and maybe we'll be in touch.
Matteo Grassi:: 02:36 Yeah of course, yeah. It's a big country and it's very diverse. When people ask me, “Where should I go in Italy?” My answer is usually what do you want to see? Do you want to see nature? Do you want to see history? Do you want to be in the snow? Do you want to be in the beach? Because you can get both any time of the year.
Matt H: 02:51 Fantastic, yeah. It's kind of like Canada in that way, although it's obviously a lot bigger. But that's one of the beautiful things about being in this sort of climate. You get to kind of pick and choose what you enjoy doing, and there's lots of options.
Matt H: 03:02 So, I actually would be curious to hear as well, this is again the transition into talking a little bit about what you do in your work. So what is your title? Maybe explain a little bit about what your responsibilities are.
Matteo Grassi:: 03:19 So my role is I'm the head of operations. So, COO, Chief of Operation Officer, head of operations of the company. Which means I'm the glue basically, to keep all of our top level managers that are in charge of the main department of the company, to make sure they are performing right. As often I say to my manager, I'm basically working for them. So that's what I try to say to my travel manager or to my HR manager, my finance manager. I say, I'm your guy, basically.
Matteo Grassi:: 03:48 If you need something, if you need to bring the department to the next level and you need my help, I'm there for you. That's the role that I have. At the same time I run also a little bit of the marketing side of things. I actually started mainly running operations and marketing at the same time together with the CEO.
Matteo Grassi:: 04:08 But in the last year we decided to step back a little bit and to try to concentrate more on our main roles. So while the CEO now is trying to get meetings with different people, connecting with other CEO's and bringing new business as well into the company, I am now fully devoted to operations of the company.
Matt H: 04:30 Nice. Yeah, that's interesting. I've talked to a few people in roles that are similar. My title, for people who don't know as well, is head of operations in the same sort of way. I'm always curious to hear about how people in operations roles typically spend their time, and what the main focus is. If there is a main focus? What do you spend your time doing in your role, and what do you consider to be most important about what you do?
Matteo Grassi:: 04:53 Well, we created a pretty standardized structure in the way we make strategic decisions for every department. The way also we wanted to task, and also the way we monitor KPI's. My role is to define the objectives, which is the most important thing in the different department of the company, there being product department or marketing department. We define the objectives together, and then we define the KPI that would be used to measure those objectives.
Matteo Grassi:: 05:24 If we arrived, where do we want to arrive? That's kind of the main thing that I do. The reason why I do these all the time is because I have a general vision of the company, which my product manager for instance, might not have.
Matteo Grassi:: 05:38 Because I am in every single department and I overlook every single department. I'm making sure that the goals of the products are in line with the goals of marketing. Because even though they are not currently speaking every day to each other, I am the glue that brings them together.
Matt H: 05:56 How do you define that in terms of the skill that you would need to have to be very good at your job? Is there one or maybe a few skills, that are priorities to be good at what you do?
Matteo Grassi:: 06:08 I think the main reason why I became COO was because I have knowledge of every single department of the company. In the past, I worked in customer service and also I worked in marketing, and I worked in product and branding. So I built this company as well with the other partners from the ground up. I have the full knowledge of what the marketing processing is and what the marketing pros of the marketing manager for this [inaudible 00:06:39]. Because I've delegated those tasks in the past.
Matteo Grassi:: 06:44 This is from more the operational level. On the other side, which is more like the culture and the personal touch, is I have a degree in psychology and I've actually mastered in psychology, so when I got this role I was very keen to try to get to a point where I was able to use my skills as well, for improving the lives of my work force, of the people around me.
Matteo Grassi:: 07:09 The challenge was to do this in a remote environment. Which that's something that I'm very interested in and I've tried to kind of study, and to connect as well with other remote leaders like me. To understand what do they do to bring the culture to the next level? How we can keep the boundaries closer? What are the main challenges that they face when they manage remote work forces?
Matt H: 07:33 Yeah. That's what we try to do here. I think my role in this podcast is try to pull out useful tools and strategies and ideas from different other remote companies to get a sense for what they do. Maybe that could give somebody else, maybe a framework, to understand how they should be operating as well.
Matt H: 07:52 It's a fascinating subject. I'd be curious to hear how much of your studies and how much of the psychology background that you have applies to trying to get an understanding of remote work and culture in a remote team.
Matteo Grassi:: 08:06 Well, not really the studies that I'm made, but the experience that I had while I was on the field with psychology. The experience that I had with people, and I had to deal with some sort of mild diseases, like one of them to be depression, or even burnout, working burnout.
Matteo Grassi:: 08:21 I'm able to recognize the symptoms by speaking to people straight away. That's because I've seen them before. A professor of mine said to me something that always stick to me, she said, “You don't have to think about mental illness in the terms of quality, but just in the terms of quantity.” Which means that whenever you deal with mental illness, or problems in psychology, it's just that some people have more than others. That's why we classify them as autistic, depression, or schizophrenia, or things like that. It doesn't mean they're different from what normal people can experience every day.
Matteo Grassi:: 08:56 Which means that everyone goes through stages of autism. Everyone goes through stages of depression. It's not different from the things that affect people on a higher level. They're just the same, they just have less.
Matteo Grassi:: 09:10 So once you detach yourself from the idea and the stigma of, "Oh, you're depressed or its suffering from autism." Then you can start using the knowledge they have in those particular conditions, to recognize a state that the people that work for me, my collaborators, might experience in the particular level. And I'm able to counteract that.
Matteo Grassi:: 09:32 Autism has a lot to do with isolation, with also you're kind of closed in your own world, you're pushing the boundaries away, you kind of notice others. I see a lot of that sometimes happening in remote work. It's something that I try to breaking the barriers. It's something that I try to work on a digital level with my managers.
Matt H: 09:54 Yeah. That's a fascinating topic and I'm glad that you brought it up because it is something that I think everybody should be aware of and cognizant of and have the conversations. Maybe remove some of the stigma and practice things that will allow for people to be healthier mentally and physically in their work.
Matt H: 10:13 How much does the conversation piece of it and the talk about the isolation and the psychological piece of it, how much of that conversation is being had within your team? How important do you think that is on a regular basis?
Matteo Grassi:: 10:25 It's important because the fact is, I don't know if someone is going through a hard time at work, just by chatting them on Slack or whatever tool we're using to communicate to each other, unless we meet in person. Obviously, if you are in an office, someone comes in, you see them straight away, you see the posture, you see the way they speak, you start to see that maybe something is not right in them. It's much more complicated when you're doing, even through a video chat, there is some energy that cannot be exchanged.
Matteo Grassi:: 10:58 So, what I find is that first of all, trying to get the trust, that's very important, of the people that work for me. Once you have the trust I can ask also the tough questions. Then we can talk about as well something that is going on personally in their lives.
Matteo Grassi:: 11:18 I make sure during the topic of my one-to-ones, I always ask them how everything is going? How do you find the remote work? What are your challenges? Are you doing okay? Have you seen your performance increasing in the last month? Just not being scared of asking direct questions. Just a simple, "Are you okay in your personal life? Is everything fine?" If people trust you, they will open up to you.
Matt H: 11:46 Can you give me an example of what those questions are specifically? Because I think this is super valuable. I know that those kinds of conversations are encouraged within lots of companies, but the specifics would be, I think, valuable for our listeners.
Matteo Grassi:: 11:58 Yeah. I don't have specific question, but I found that during my one-to-one, I always dedicate some time to, we talk about the projects, usually, and the goals of one of the managers, for instance. One thing that I always break down to three main topics.
Matteo Grassi:: 12:16 So the first part of the conversation is always about their goals within the company. So, what you're doing and how are you achieving your target? I would match the KPI's, et cetera.
Matteo Grassi:: 12:28 Then the second part, we always talk about learning. So, what have you been learning? What are things that you're interested in learning?
Matteo Grassi:: 12:34 The third part of the conversation is your personal goals. We use a very similar way to track the work goals, then to track your personal goals.
Matteo Grassi:: 12:45 One of my managers now that she's getting married, she's been organizing the wedding, and there's been a lot going on. We've been talking in our one-to-ones about what can we use for our technology, for instance, our project management tool, to get her wedding off the ground and to make everything organized.
Matteo Grassi:: 13:04 Now within that conversation, the shift from work level to a personal level, then I can already start to see if someone is experiencing some sort of stress. For instance, she was fairly stressed because she couldn't organize her wedding properly and she couldn't find the right way to get things off the ground.
Matteo Grassi:: 13:22 In that moment I can then ask the question, "Is everything okay? Are you finding it tough with your work life balance? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you doing anything outside of work, which is yoga or running or going to the cinema?"
Matteo Grassi:: 13:38 I always try to let them talk about their personal life outside of work. If someone has activities and is engaged with the conversation, I can see that everything's usually running smoothly.
Matt H: 13:52 Do you have a frame work for if the person responds negatively, or you can sense that there's something wrong? What are the steps that you would go through? Obviously it depends on what is really the matter and obviously what the problem is. If it is, let's say, the work life balance is an issue, do you encourage people to either take time off in that case? Or do you find that the conversation itself is enough for somebody to react positively and maybe help the situation a little bit?
Matteo Grassi:: 14:20 Yes. The conversation will help the situation, but it will not solve the problem. Usually I try to focus on problems and not the symptoms. So, if the person is not engaged in the conversation, or I can see that her performance is decreasing, that's just symptoms. The symptoms of a problem.
Matteo Grassi:: 14:40 My goal is to try to define what is the cause at the bottom. Trying to work with her or him to find a possible solution and see how the company can help to do that. If it's like getting extra time off. I think remote work is brilliant because it gives us the possibility to be flexible, especially in working hours. So while in a normal company, sometimes even though an employee is getting through a tough time, a normal company cannot give the proper flexibility to address that. In our situation we can.
Matteo Grassi:: 15:17 One of the goals of the company now, as the company, is to try to bring down the work hours, five to six hours per day. We're at an eight hour work day, and we want to bring that down to five to six. That's our goal within this year.
Matteo Grassi:: 15:32 Now it doesn't mean that people will not work eight hours a day. I actually, I think that most of my mangers will work eight to ten hours a day everyday anyways. But what I told them is, if you can bring your productivity down to five hours per day, and then spend the rest of the time in doing something else. That can be mindful meditation, or it can be reading, or it can be learning something new for yourself. Go for it. That's kind of our goal this year, actually.
Matt H: 16:02 So do you have anything, and I think the reason I keep asking about this, is because I think it's really valuable to our listeners to get a sense of what you do. Maybe alleviate some of these stresses that people have doing remote work. So I'm going to keep asking about it if that's okay.
Matteo Grassi:: 16:17 Yeah of course.
Matt H: 16:19 So do you do anything preemptive to maybe stop these sort of things before they happen? So for example, if somebody is feeling stressed or whatever, is there anything that you do to stop that from happening in the first place?
Matteo Grassi:: 16:30 Kind of hard to answer everything, but I do find that if I have my one-to-ones with my managers, and I have them weekly, I can keep things under control.
Matteo Grassi:: 16:39 Also, we try to meet every two to three months for the company meeting with the managers every three months. And then we have the micro-meetings, which we call them off-sites. Another [inaudible 00:16:50], which means that every three months we would meet all the managers of the company. Then, let's say, the marketing manger would have a meeting just with the marketing team, every three months.
Matteo Grassi:: 17:02 Also, we try to keep employing people close to each other. Like UK, or Ukraine, or the Philippines, for instance. Or Brazil. We have [inaudible 00:17:14] team, but we try to keep them within the same city as well. So they have the chance to meet each other.
Matteo Grassi:: 17:20 We encourage that too, so if someone wants to met someone, as in a dinner, we pay for the dinner for them to go out, to have some fun, and chatting about work or their personal lives, it doesn't matter. This is how we're trying to keep the remote company, but also to give a local feeling to it.
Matt H: 17:41 Yeah, that is really interesting. Is there anything that you've used from outside of your company itself, as a frame work for understanding these sort of things? Or is these ideas just internal, just organic? This is what we're going to try and we'll see how it works kind of thing? Or is there anything that you've sort of copied from other companies?
Matteo Grassi:: 17:59 Yeah, I did. Not that I copied, but I took inspiration a lot from my experience in Shopify. That was my real remote work experience in a big company. I always work remote, but I was more on my own and it was more routines.
Matteo Grassi:: 18:14 Shopify was the first big organization that had organized structure for remote work. I was based in Ireland. I was the first merchant success manager for Shopify Plus in Europe.
Matteo Grassi:: 18:28 So my team was in Canada, most of them, everyone, actually. I was fully remote. While they were very close to each other, I was basically the only one in a different time zone as well. Shopify in Ireland a lot of support team. But for Shopify regular. But for Shopify Plus, I was actually the only ... the first one. By the time I left, now they have about 25 people. So there was a full on team built [inaudible 00:18:57].
Matt H: 18:59 So, I think it would be interesting to talk a little bit about the company that you work for and just what you're trying to accomplish there. What value you're adding to your customers and that sort of thing.
Matt H: 19:08 And also with that, I would love to talk about the size of your team and the growth and that sort of thing. Can you give me a bit of an overview of what your company does, and what problem you're looking to solve?
Matteo Grassi:: 19:18 Yes. So we started as an E-commerce business about three years ago. Then we saw a gap in the market. We saw that there was a lot of people with great ideas, and with lots of knowledge and great products, but no means to scale this product and bring them to the next level on an E-commerce perspective.
Matteo Grassi:: 19:38 We decided to build this E-commerce accelerator, where we take project with high potential. Usually they are stores that are already performing, maybe in their country, maybe they're selling just to bring in enough money to run it, like a family run business. But they cannot scale it to the next level.
Matteo Grassi:: 19:59 So that's what we do. We take them in and then we give them our full stock of tools, and also the company organization. From product finance, marketing, translation, et cetera. We then call on the project together, and then they are the expert, we call them partners. We build a store together, and then we scale that store. We work in different back ups like fashion, nutraceuticals. It doesn't really matter what kind of project you are, as long as it has to do with E-commerce.
Matt H: 20:31 Wow, nice. And how has that grown since you've been there? And how has the business changed since you first came on, or has it at all?
Matteo Grassi:: 20:39 So the company was started by Nico Nuzzi, which is the CEO of the company. He started with ... was very successful with bunch of stores, about four or five E-commerce stores. Honestly, he started on his own. One man operation. Then he got a supply chain manager.
Matteo Grassi:: 21:07 I joined after. Then when I joined, I started to bring what I learned in Shopify to scale the company and try to bring the company to the next level. Start more stores, and hiring actually, remotely as well.
Matteo Grassi:: 21:23 Not just people that were completing tasks, but also people that will be able to make decisions. I guess my role within the company was bringing what I learned in Shopify remotely, and to try to scale this company remotely.
Matteo Grassi:: 21:38 Which is something that I've been talking about with a few people. That to me, from a business perspective, running a remote organization allows the company to scale much quicker than a non-remote organization.
Matt H: 22:07 So what about remote work does that allow for? Why does remote work allow that for you? Is it hiring? What is it specifically that remote work allows you to do?
Matteo Grassi:: 22:17 It's because, first of all, you can get talent from anywhere in the world. I think that's a main problem that you might have. Not if you are in a big city, or in Italy or Canada, or wherever you are. But if you are in a village somewhere, or you are in a small town, and you don't have a remote operation, you are forced to hire people in your area. If you are not close to a university, then you cannot find talent.
Matteo Grassi:: 22:42 Also operation costs as well. The first job that I had, and I give this example often, The first job that I had in marketing, after my degree in psychology, was brand strategies in a branding agency. One of the biggest branding agency in Milan. I remember my boss at the time, he said, "I'm sorry, but I cannot hire you, and I can't put you on a contract, because if I put you on a contract then my company goes from 49 people to 50 people. Once I go from 49 people to 50 people, I enter in a different bracket for company formation. As this company in Italy, for every 50 people I hire, I have to hire someone with disability. Now the building that I bought and I have the office, doesn't allow people with disabilities, which means that I will have to move to a different building. What am I going to do with my building?"
Matteo Grassi:: 23:36 Now, this is a funny story. You might laugh at it, but it's kind of an example of, he wanted to scale and he wanted to hire, but the bureaucracy didn't allow him to do so. Because in the country that he was, with the office facilities that he had, he couldn't have more people.
Matteo Grassi:: 23:54 This is, I think, one of the main thing that from a business perspective, you can do with remote work, you can hire talent. You can get talent from anywhere in the world. You can also expand internationally, which is something that American and Canadian companies are not looking at. But we are not a Canadian company, we are a European company. We are currently selling in over 25 countries.
Matteo Grassi:: 24:16 We are able to do that because we are under remote operation. We're very successful in countries like Brazil. We expanded in Italy, we expanded in Spain, we expanded in Germany. I'm talking about when we start a project in Germany, we have a full German store, German team, German content creation team, translator, customer service, all of that. This is something that you can do if you run a remote operation.
Matt H: 24:42 It's interesting to hear the logistical component of it too. Because obviously, there are things that pop up when you're scaling a team, that either the government or local government can potentially get in the way of, or try to make things more complicated or whatever.
Matt H: 24:57 Have you found that the logistics and the complications of scaling a team in a company, have you found that to be difficult with a remote team where you are or how does that work being a Italian based company? I that difficult or is that easy?
Matteo Grassi:: 25:11 Luckily, we are not Italian based. The company is based in Spain, legally.
Matteo Grassi:: 26:21 So I think that's the beauty of remote work. The ability to be flexible and also not be confined within the borders. Because to me the borders at the end of the day are just military consequences of wars that have been happening between different countries. It's nothing more than that.
Matt H: 26:41 Yeah, it's interesting. Why I ask, because I haven't talked to very many companies and people in your position that are scaling in countries like Spain and Italy. It's always interesting to me to hear how that works logistically and what needs to be done to be able to scale effectively.
Matt H: 26:57 The Estonia example is actually a really good one. I think everybody should check them out. There's been a lot of companies that I've talked too, just in my work here at We Work Remotely, that are based in Estonia. The systems that they have make it so easy for being people to have a digital presence there and be able to work in these ways. It's a really fascinating case study, I think, of a country that's doing it really well.
Matteo Grassi:: 27:18 Yeah it's true. Actually, I think American companies, Canadian companies, they have it probably worse than European countries. I think in Europe, because Europe, it's an array of countries, a conglomerate of countries. But each country has it's own legislation, from a tax perspective and legislation from hiring, and stuff like this.
Matt H: 28:10 The compliance piece, I think, for a lot of people, and a lot of companies is one that kind of gets on the back burner and then can really bite you if you're doing things wrong. Especially if you're growing and you're revenues growing, and everything's great.
Matt H: 28:22 I encourage people to make sure that they are checking off all the correct boxes in the compliance aspect of growing a business. There are pretty severe consequences if you don't do so, so make sure that you do that.
Matt H: 28:34 As well there are tools out there that you can use that might be able to help you and we'll link to some of those tools as well. It's a very important piece and I'm glad you brought it up.
Matteo Grassi:: 28:45 The compliance is very important. We have a full team that just works on that. A few people that work in our company with making sure the work complied. Because the European laws, yes you can leverage them in the right way, but it is actually a lot to learn and a lot to find out and especially when things change quite quickly as well.
Matteo Grassi:: 29:01 Like for instance, I'll give you an example now. Brexit is going to change a lot of things, so we as a company, we have to be Brexit ready as well because obviously we have some people in the UK so we are currently starting what the consequences are. The good side of being located in Europe is that if you do things right you can run a remote operation correctly. The down side is that when things change, it's constant work. You cannot just... Once the company's set up, everything's going to run smoothly. It's not like that, it's a constant job.
Matt H: 29:35 Yeah, for sure, for sure. We'll link to a few of the resources as well that might be able to help those out there that don't know where to start. I'm certainly glad you brought that up.
Matt H: 29:45 I had a couple of questions for you actually about ... You mentioned early when you were talking about where you are and where the company's based. You mentioned the idea of digital nomad and how you are trying to do that moving around a little bit. Have you found it hard to maintain the level of productivity and maintain a healthy work life balance in all the things that we discussed about mental wellness and things like that? Is it harder to do as a digital nomad, in your experience?
Matteo Grassi:: 30:15 Yeah, it is hard if you travel too often. I find that being a digital nomad on a three month, four month stretches, it's okay. Being a digital nomad on a 2 weeks, three weeks stretches, it's very complicated. It decrease the productivity a lot. I found that quite a bit.
Matteo Grassi:: 30:36 So I try to go away three months, staying in a place for three months, or four months. If you go like, two weeks and come back, and two weeks and come back, three weeks and moving around, like traveling. Unless you're working three hours a day, four hours a day. If you work four hours a day, then fine. You log in in the morning maybe or the afternoon. But if you have a full on day, it's fairly complicated.
Matteo Grassi:: 30:59 Also depends on the position. In my position, it's complicated because I have fixed times with my team. I have to be, as I said, the glue between everyone. I see people that work in my team, the digital nomads, and they travel a lot and they're very happy. But they're very different work than I have.
Matteo Grassi:: 31:16 One of them is a copywriter, for instance. Or a graphic designer. It's easy for them. They sit down in front of the computer, they write the article. It's not really an organization team infraction job. They're not managers. But if you are a manager, it starts to be complicated.
Matt H: 31:34 Yeah. Like you said there, you kind of touched on it a bit, do you have any specific rules or guidelines around being a digital nomad within your company? Or does it depend largely on the role and just, if they can get their work done? Is that more important?
Matteo Grassi:: 31:46 Yeah, the way things work in our company is that, we focus on goals instead of tasks, first of all. That kind of solves a lot of things. I don't really care what people do hour by hour, but I care that they reach their goals.
Matteo Grassi:: 32:01 I ask my team to have the hours that they work, and we all know the hours that they work. We all work in London time zone. Even though you are, you're traveling around in a different time zone, I would expect you to make an effort and try to work. To be online when your team is online. Obviously we try to be flexible. If someone wants to move to Australia for instance, we can find a way to make sure that the team that you're working with are not suffering in their work.
Matteo Grassi:: 32:34 As long as the work is done I'm happy. Now, things change a little bit when we put people in performance reviews. Whenever we see that there is a lack of performance or things are not going as they should, then things start to get a little bit more strict. Then we start to focus on task instead of goals.
Matteo Grassi:: 32:53 We try to find out what people are doing, kind of hour by hour then. To see where is the lack is coming from. So what I'm trying to say, things re flexible as long as everything is okay. When things then start to not to be okay, they stop to be flexible and they get more to the point.
Matt H: 33:10 Right. So kind of on that a little bit, I'd be curious to hear about the hiring at your company and how you approach hiring and bringing on remote workers specifically. Do you find that there are different things that you look for or different skills that you test for when bringing on a remote worker? Or is that as compared to companies that aren't remote? Do you find that there are skills they need to be identified before bringing on a remote worker in your experience?
Matteo Grassi:: 33:36 No not really skills of bringing in a remote worker. The first interview usually, it's called life story interview. It's an interview where we don't speak about what you do or what you're experience is or your skills. I try to understain who they are. We've noticed that we want people that they had a sense of adaptability in their life.
Matteo Grassi:: 34:04 Usually the people that work for us, they never have a kind of stable lifestyle. They just went in a little bit of [inaudible 00:34:15], let's say. You know maybe they quit college and they went back to college and they changed job. That gives me an idea that the person is able to adapt. Because even through they have never worked remote, I know that they're going to be able to adapt. They take challenges and change and they embrace change. One of the things in our company is that we push people to thrive on change. We also do change up. That's fun.
Matt H: 34:39 That's interesting. It's not one that I've heard before either so it's interesting that you look for that specifically. Is that about life experience or is it just about being able to be comfortable in times of discomfort if that makes sense?
Matteo Grassi:: 34:52 Yeah the second one yeah. To be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I know that in that kind of situation if the person never worked remote then I know that whatever issues may arise they will be okay with it and they will not be scared.
Matteo Grassi:: 35:08 We actually find that the best performing people being people that come from ... We had a guy who was working for us. He used to be a policeman. He had a passion for marketing all his life and he was actually working in anti-terrorist division in the police force.
Matteo Grassi:: 35:25 People that have this kind of steady job, I'm going to work there all my life, and I have the pay and the pension and all of this. They decided no, this is not or me. I'm going to leave all of that behind and just embrace something completely crazy and completely different. They are the best performance.
Matteo Grassi:: 35:44 Because they took a risk. They took a very big risk and they went out to their comfort zone to the max. Made some [inaudible 00:35:52] against the family, against everything that the society tells you, this you should do, they said no. I don't want to do this. I'm going to go. That's a good sign usually.
Matt H: 36:01 Yeah, that's interesting. Do you find that is related to just being able to be self directs and self motivated as well? Because with people that go through the nine to five regular life, they don't necessary have the drive. I don't want to say that's always the case, obviously, I'm making generalizations. But the people that move out of those roles and into something that is more uncertain, that level of uncertainty requires a certain amount of drive and just that mentality of I'm going to go and produce something of value rather than just let things come to me. I'm sure that that is also one of the reasons why those kinds of people excel in your company and remote in general.
Matteo Grassi:: 36:41 Well I think that because they have the best of both worlds. So they have that, but they also have the nine to five life. Which I think its very important to have when you come into any sort of company. I find that people that had the nine to five life for a while, maybe they hated it and maybe they wanted to stick to it. But they have a very strict discipline when it comes to work. Discipline is very important because no matter what you do, operation. that can be designed or anything. 80% of the work that is done, it's usually kind of boring, repetitive, and that's where the best work is done.
Matteo Grassi:: 37:18 Especially when you run a company. It can't just be, I'm just thinking about things, and doing cool things. 70% of the work is just doing work. If you are used to that it's good to bring it to a company. I find that people that never worked for a company before and didn't do the nine to five, it's hard to work with them. The people that did the nine to five and worked for a big company, had to have the structure, even if it was boring, whenever they have a job they are always on time, and the deadlines are respected, and the processes are respected.
Matt H: 37:50 That is true. You can definitely tell, I think, when somebody hasn't done that or hasn't worked a typical job and hasn't worked for somebody else. Doesn't have the responsibility that comes with being on time and doping your work and just working within a team. I think it's quite easy to pick those people out from a crowd. It is a good experience for people to have.
Matt H: 38:07 If nothing else, to maybe motivate you to do something else, if that's something you don't like to do. I think it's interesting.
Matt H: 38:13 I wanted to talk a little bit too, about you and your daily structure, your weekly structure. Maybe we can talk a little bit about how you maintained your quirk life balance being as busy as you are and making sure that everything is running smoothly and that sort of thing.
Matt H: 38:29 Do you find that you do things regularly and consistently to make sure that you are in a good state of mine that your work life balance is structured properly? What do you do, I guess, on a daily and weekly basis to make sure that everything's maintained?
Matteo Grassi:: 38:42 It's kind of a challenge for me because I love my job and to be honest with you, one small thing that I did, I got rid of my laptop when I work. I'm working just from a big computer. That's something that's important too, because I find that when I had my laptop I was working all the time.
Matteo Grassi:: 38:59 It's something that changed things around a little bit. It means that whenever I go on a PC computer, I have to sit down, turn on my computer. I'm not in my couch, or something lie that. Before I kind of felt that when I had that I was working all the time. Even though it's like you have your laptop and you check something, then you get a notification in your inbox and then you read the message and then your already in work mode. I think it's important to find time away from the computer. That's kind of a challenge, yes.
Matt H: 39:33 Yeah, no it is, it's definitely a challenge. Do you find that you don't have work things on your phone, is that the case for you?
Matteo Grassi:: 39:40 No I have work things on my phone but I try to silence the notifications after a certain time. I find the phone very useful as well because it gives me the opportunity to, going around, and if someone needs me I can check an email and stuff. But it's always during working hours. I try to then, switch off the phone, off the working hours. But that's the main challenge for me. It's something that I've been trying to figure out along the way. How can I really switch off if my phone has all this information and I feel I need to switch off more from the technology.
Matt H: 40:11 Do you do anything to encourage that within your team as well? How do you approach that to make sure that people do have those work life balance structured properly?
Matteo Grassi:: 40:19 I usually give out to them if they're online [inaudible 00:40:22] hours that they're not allowed. They're not meant to be online. I kind of test them sometimes, I send a message, like it's 10:30, on a Saturday and stuff, and see if they reply. If they reply, it was like a trick. I say don't do that anymore.
Matteo Grassi:: 40:37 I told them, I said, it's a remote job, it's flexible and everything. These are your working hours. They communicate to me their working hours, so we work on the preferred working hours. I say I will expect you to be online on those working hours and I will expect you not to be online not on those working hours, that's all.
Matteo Grassi:: 40:55 In the same time, when you going on holidays and stuff, you don't reply to emails. I don't want you to look at your phone.
Matteo Grassi:: 41:01 I have to be a little bit strict and if they feel like it's strange for me to be like, strict, or to be pissed off, or angry about it. If they do, because they think, oh you should be happy that I'm available all the time. But to me I'm actually take it quite seriously when they don't do it. Because it's consequences as well.
Matt H: 41:19 When somebody is online and they're within those working hours and they're in a role that requires them to focus intently on something specific what is the expectation around the response rate and things like that? The reason I ask is because it maybe is a small thing and not an issue for some people. But I find that for myself when somebody responds or somebody reaches out to me during regular working hours and I'm in the middle of something. I get drawn away from what I'm doing and then I respond to them and then I go back to what I'm doing. Do you do anything to encourage deep, focused work on a specific thing without interruption or is that something that you've thought about at all?
Matteo Grassi:: 41:54 It is a big topic because I've been working in the last few months to synchronize communication. We solved this by starting to use our project management tool, which we use Monday by the way, the project management tool, to communicate more as a communication tool.
Matteo Grassi:: 42:11 So while we used Slack for one-to-one conversation that require an immediate response, were trying to use Monday as a communication tool for projects. I will expect a very quick answer on Slack, almost immediate. But on Monday, where we have deadlines and everything, I will not expect something between three or four hours. Depending on the deadline to be honest.
Matteo Grassi:: 42:35 So this is kind of a way we solved things. I want to run a test next month in speaking to my team about it. I would like to switch off slack for a week and see what happens. Just use the project management tool and there is any emergency to use like WhatsApp or Telegram. But I want to test it for three or four days and see what changes.
Matt H: 42:54 I would love to hear about it because, I think that's big topic and I think when it comes to communication, Slack has allowed for a lot of things. I love Slack, don't get me wrong, we use it here and I use it frequently for just life in general too.
Matt H: 43:06 But I think there is a negative component of it in that it does seem to draw your attention away from things that might require more focus and deep attention. I don't know if that's always a good thing. I think you have to be deliberate and you have to be really careful that it doesn't intrude on your life in too much of way. It's a constant question that I think about myself and I think it's valuable one for people to talk about with their teams. I don't think I have a good answer for it. I'm always curious to hear how other people deal with this sort of thing
Matteo Grassi:: 43:38 I try to encourage people to talk to each other a little bit more. Personally I don't like chatting too much on the chat, especially when the conversation gets too long. I invite people that if they have a long conversation to jump on a call as if you would if you were in an office. So that's kind of the advice I give. If you have a lot to say, jump on a call. We have so many tools now, we use Zoom, we use Uber meet. Why not jump on a call? Why you have to chat, chat, chat and writing. It's also tiring as well, mentally tiring as well. Sometimes speaking is much quicker.
Matt H: 44:15 Let us know how that non-Slack project goes I'm curious about it.
Matteo Grassi:: 44:18 Yeah, I will.
Matt H: 44:18 So this is actually one of the questions I typically ask at the beginning of podcast, but I think it's a valuable one no matter what. What have you learned along the way in your career that you wish that you knew when you first started after your education? Is there anything that comes to mind?
Matteo Grassi:: 44:33 Yeah, I've been thinking about it actually the other day. I said, the main thing that I wish I knew was that I need be patient. Patience is that important and that you always get what you want in life. If you really want it, if you really stay on it and if you don't give up, you always get what you want. But you're not going to get it in the time that you think you're going to get it. That's been my life for everything.
Matteo Grassi:: 45:01 I realized that I've actually got everything that I wanted, but it just didn't arrive at the time. It might have arrived three, four years later than I expected it to, but it did. My personal life too. One thing that I realized is that I never stopped and never gave up. I really never gave up on everything I wanted and eventually I got them. The things that I didn't really want and that I gave up, then they didn't happen. It's just because I decided to.
Matteo Grassi:: 45:31 There's no such word, I can't. I think my mom use to tell me when I was a kid and I was like saying, "Oh mom I can't. I can't." She was like, "Well you don't want to. It's not that you can't, you just don't want to. Which is fine, but just say I don't want to, not I can't."
Matt H: 45:46 That's a great one. I think people do that often, is they confuse I can't for I don't really want to. I think that's really good advice. Have you found that, this is kind of a tangent or a rabbit hole, but have you found that the things that you want when you say they don't happen in the time that you want them, do they happen within the time frame that they still ... When they do happen do you find that those priorities have changed and you want something different now? I found that in my own life.
Matteo Grassi:: 46:14 Yeah sometimes I do. For the big things, for the bigger picture things, no they don't. Because there is something that I aim in my life in general no matter what. One of them was I wanted to be remote. I got a degree in psychology and to me when I got a degree in 2002, I never thought I was going to work remote.
Matteo Grassi:: 46:39 I remember around those times, some of my friends were web designers. They were starting to work remotely and I thought I really want this. I really want this for myself. One day I will. It's a shame that I do not make websites because to me it was the only option out there. But I said, "I want to be location independent. I want to be able to travel and I want to be free."
Matteo Grassi:: 47:07 That was the bigger picture. I wanted to be free. I didn't want to be a linked to a particular state or country to be able to make money. I want to be able to make money anywhere I want. That happened about 9 years after, but it happened
Matt H: 47:26 Those are great. I think the question becomes what is it that you really want and thinking hard about that. I think that's the most important part.
Matteo Grassi:: 47:32 Yeah, I had a seminar with someone and they said to me that, "What you should aim in life is your big why. You have to aim to unachievable goals." It kind of stick to me. Like money, for instance, is an achievable goal. If you want money, you can always make more money.
Matteo Grassi:: 47:51 By the way, money is also means to something else. It's never the final goal. You should find what makes you happy and usually something that can never be achieved. You should aim to get that. For me was helping others by doing [inaudible 00:48:07]. That was my big why I guess.
Matteo Grassi:: 48:10 No matter what they do in life, that is managing a remote team or whatever I'm going to do in my life, if I'm helping people to achieve their goals by doing something good for them for their life and improving their lives and the life of others that means I'm fulfilling my destiny, I guess.
Matt H: 48:27 Yeah that's a great one. So Matteo you've been so generous with your time. I think we covered a lot of really important things here with this conversation and I'd love to talk to you again at some other time. I have a couple of closing questions for you. If you weren't involved in marketing technology and what your doing now in terms of the operations work for the company you currently work for, what do you think you'd be doing?
Matteo Grassi:: 48:51 I've been thinking about this. I would coach people I think. I would be a coach. I'm not saying a life coach but I would be helping people to achieve their dreams or to get closer to their dreams. To give them the necessity skills to achieve their dreams.
Matteo Grassi:: 49:07 I think it's maybe now because I'm going towards 40 years old. I guess it's something that I feel I have enough knowledge to share. If you had asked me this maybe 10 years ago, I would have told you I want to be musician, travel the world. It kind of change and maybe will change again in 10 years or so.
Matt H: 49:26 Yeah we'll have to check in and I think that's a great answer. I think it's an admirable and valuable and probably very fulfilling life to lead when you teaching people and your coaching people to lead better lives themselves. I think that's a great one. Next question here is if you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be and why?
Matteo Grassi:: 49:47 So I think it would be The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, have you heard of this author?
Matt H: 49:55 Yeah I've actually read the book.
Matteo Grassi:: 49:57 Oh you've read the book. I think it's just because it's a book about no matter what you do, make sure that you do it. It is what your heart and your soul want. It's about fulfilling what you really want, follow your heart, don't give up. Also failures are not failures, it's just a chance to get better. I think there's one quote in the book that said, "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."
Matteo Grassi:: 50:20 It's interesting because we are very blessed as human beings to be able to dream. We are the only creatures in the world that are able to dream. Imagination is the most powerful thing that we have. It's the only thing that make a different between us and other animals. It's not intelligence, it's not that. There is animals that have an intelligence of a four, five, six year old. Way more than my daughter, for instance.
Matteo Grassi:: 50:47 The fact is that my daughter has the ability to imagine things and to want things that are not there. I think as human being we have to value our ability to want something more and the possibility of training. In business as well in whatever we do. I'm sure a lot of people that listen to this podcast that are in the same field that we have, we are all here because we all have a dream and we all want to achieve something .
Matt H: 51:15 Interestingly, it's a mandatory reading in the school system where I grew up. We had to read that and I'm glad that we were able to do that because it was a good book.
Matteo Grassi:: 51:23 Oh really? That's amazing. It's very new age so I'm glad it's a mandatory book in Canada.
Matt H: 51:32 One more question here before we let you go. You've touched on it a little bit but, what is the best advice you've ever been given?
Matteo Grassi:: 51:39 Actually, it's my mom. She told me this since I was young. She told me, "Be kinda and be brave." It's very simple, it's not that big of advice. I realized that those two simple things that can really get you anywhere you want in life. By being kind to others people will open up to you. When people open up to you you're able to get the knowledge and get the trust. If you get the knowledge and get the trust you are able to grow.
Matteo Grassi:: 52:08 At the same time on other one, being fearless and being brave, will enable to thriving on change and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, to fulfill your dreams and don't be afraid of failing. Also when you fail don't be afraid of trying again. So I think in this very simple, short, advice there is everything that you need to lead a fulfilling life. Because of all the consequences that will happen when you try to put those two advices into action.
Matt H: 52:41 One of those great pieces of advice that may be simple but certainly aren't easy to implement. A lot to think about there and I think that's a great one.
Matt H: 52:51 Matteo, I can't thank you enough for being on the show, we really appreciate it. A lot to unpack with this one. I think our listeners will be able to get a lot out of it.
Matt H: 52:59 Before we do let you go though, where should we be sending people to learn a little bit about what you do and what your company does? Where should we be sending people?
Matteo Grassi:: 53:09 Well our web site is www.elizeta.com, so it's E-L-I-Z-E-T-A dot com. You can find all information about it as well. What we do and applications. We also accept free application. We are expanding a lot at the moment. We are always open to hear about people that want to work for us but also were open to new projects as well. As we said we are an E-commerce accelerator so we are currently, not now, but within two months were going to onboard the new set of the projects and E-commerce that were going to accelerate. If you have an idea that has high potential please reach out to us and we'll see what we can do.
Matt H: 54:04 Awesome. That sounds great we'll make sure to link to everything that we talked about here including the website and anything else that comes up before we release. But Matteo, again, I can't thank you enough. I really appreciate your time and maybe we can talk to you again sometime in the future.
Matteo Grassi:: 54:21 Sure. Thank you so much Matt.
Matt H: 54:22 All right thanks. That's so much again for listening to the show. Be sure to check out weworkremotly.com for the latest remote jobs. If you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so.
Matt H: 54:32 As always if you have someone that we should talk to, any advise you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com. Thanks so much again for listening and we'll talk to you next time.