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Managing From Afar: Formstack's Chris Byers on Leading a Remote Workforce

By
Chad Brooks
,
business.com writer
|
Sep 19, 2017
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As Business.com's latest guest expert, Byers answers questions on managing remote workers

When you're running a company with remote employees working all over the world, making sure that everyone feels part of the team can be a tough task. Few know that challenge better than Chris Byers, CEO of the lead conversion and attribution platform Formstack.

As CEO, Byers has led the company and its over 100 employees since 2010. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Byers is in charge of the company's day-to-day operations and managing a remote workforce that is distributed around the world.

In just over 10 years, Formstack has evolved from a simple data capture solution to a robust platform that gives organizations of all sizes the ability to create and use online forms. The platform, which now has more than 650,000 users worldwide, lets users embed forms directly into their websites and social media profiles to capture leads, collect payments, gather feedback and streamline internal workflows.

Prior to joining Formstack, Byers served as the president of Blue Door Ministries, vice president of finance and investor relations for Foundation Surgery Affiliates, a financial advisor for USB Financial Services, and a principal at Bottled Software. Byers is also the co-founder of Jell, a project management platform.

We recently spoke with Byers about managing a remote workforce and running a successful company.

Q. How are businesses using Formstack to improve their operations?  

A. Businesses are always looking for ways to streamline their processes. Formstack solves this problem by offering the ability to use one tool across the board for every department while still allowing unique versatility to each area. HR can streamline onboarding, finance can simplify reimbursements, and marketing can capture more leads.   

Q. Why is Formstack a business that is succeeding in today's marketplace?  

A. You can capture data online via many systems, but our focus is on building a powerful tool and continuously improving and enhancing unique features and integrations, which, in turn, enables our customers to build their own relationships with their clients.  

We can connect to over 40 applications, improve internal workflows and integrate with Salesforce, all while providing customers with award-winning support. We make people's lives easier while saving them time and achieving measurable growth.   

Q. What is the most challenging aspect of running a business with employees located across the country?   

A. Ensuring that everyone still feels connected will always be a challenge. To solve that, we focus heavily on engagement through relationships. 

At Formstack, "relationships matter" is a pillar of our culture code and values. With today's technology, we are no longer bound to in-person meetings. By allowing individuals the flexibility and freedom to customize their own Formstack experience while working remotely, we are able to engage in a way that brings us together. Our remote workforce knows we are here for them, that they are a part of a bigger picture and that they matter.

Q. What is the biggest benefit of having a remote workforce?  

A. When you can reach across the globe to find the right candidates, you’re able to build a more strong and diverse workforce, which delivers the best possible service and experience to the customer.

Q. How do you make sure all of your remote employees feel like part of the team?  

A. Just as there are the traditional relationship-building exercises in which many companies participate, there are creative ways remote employees can engage in similar activities.  

We have unique ways of communicating with each other here at Formstack, which builds onto our fundamental "Formstack quirkiness," such as using Slack to share never ending GIFs and memes. We also hold remote scavenger hunts and lip sync battles where all employees really engage with each other. Technology provides us unlimited ways not only to work hard but to enjoy ourselves along the way.

Q. What do you know now about running a business that you wish you knew when you were just starting?  

A. Internal, company-wide relationships matter as much as your relationships with customers. Building a culture where employees feel valued, respected, engaged and trusted results in people removing boundaries and titles, and replacing them with a strong dedication to the company and its values. From there, you have the foundation for a great start.

Q. While running Formstack, you launched a new company, Jell. What advice do you have for others who are trying to launch a startup while working another job?

A. The key here is the right entrepreneurial leader. Realistically, it was Ade Olonoh, the CEO of Jell who crafted the vision, cultivated it over the past few years and has grown it to thousands of users

Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer with more than 20 years of media experience. A graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff as a senior writer. Currently, Chad covers a wide range of B2B products and services, including business phone systems, time and attendance systems, payroll services, and conference call services. Before joining Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago. Chad's first book, "How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business," was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.
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