Meet Me in St. Louis: Maintaining Team Cohesion Between the Midwest and the Middle East

Globalism has changed so much, including how we conduct business every day.

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When my company Atomation, a local Internet of Things (IoT) firm, split its team in two geographically – leaving R&D in Tel Aviv and opening headquarters in St. Louis – we knew the move would cause us to rethink how we communicated and worked together as a cohesive unit.

Language barriers and the eight-hour time difference between St. Louis and Tel Aviv compounded the challenges of being split in two. Atomation’s status as a latter-stage startup, poised for rapid growth, didn’t help either. As anyone who’s moved a tech company from startup to maturity knows, things evolve quickly and the entire team must be willing and able to be nimble and flexible.

4 Tactics to Creating a Cohesive Global Team

Weekly meetings to help keep the team intact and ensure that everyone is up-to-date on all project progress go a long way toward making a global team feel more local. Atomation’s team members also regularly travel to and from St. Louis and Tel Aviv, and we make sure everyone who wants a chance to visit the other office can do so. Additionally, the following tactics help keep our offices feeling and operating seamlessly as a unit:

Designate a digital headquarters.

The simplicity of Google Docs works for Atomation, but other businesses may opt for Basecamp or similar project management platforms. Regardless of what tool is used, establishing a digital headquarters makes it easy for all team members to see what’s going on around the clock.

Build in cultural awareness.

It’s important that your remote team doesn’t feel like a forgotten outpost. With half the team in Israel, Atomation leadership makes sure Jewish holidays and Israeli working holidays are acknowledged. We sync our calendars so there are no surprises and do appropriate cultural things for each other so we feel more like one family rather than far-flung worker bees.

Fill offices with local talent.

Atomation prefers to hire local leaders who have rich networks, deep knowledge of how the business community operates and are invested in the local community. If you have two candidates – one local and one nonlocal – with equal experience level, the local person will likely bring much more to the table and will easily integrate into your existing team.

We didn’t have to look outside St. Louis to find great talent. For example, we recently added three local power hitters to our team: international attorney Richard Wolkowitz, technology leader Steve Hassell and finance leader Peter Benoist Jr.

Make each office feel like home.

When our colleagues from Tel Aviv are in town, we take time to do fun activities with them, such as attending a Cardinals or Blues game, and visiting the Gateway Arch or the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

As we prepare to move from Cortex to a new space in Husch Blackwell’s building, we’re brainstorming ways to make our new St. Louis office feel like home to our visiting Israeli teammates. For example, we plan to put in a mural that will include the skylines of both Tel Aviv and St. Louis. We’ll also create a dedicated space for our Tel Aviv team so they never feel like an intruder in our office.

Share the glory!

Any time Atomation is interviewed by a reporter, we make sure to include our colleagues in Tel Aviv when talking about the company. For instance, although I’m CEO of Atomation, our success simply wouldn’t be possible without co-founder and CTO Eran Keshet.

Eran may be in Tel Aviv, but he’s always top-of-mind when I get to brag on Atomation’s growth. So, when we share published articles on LinkedIn or Facebook, we make sure to tag our Israeli colleagues so they can share in the excitement.

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Guy Weitzman is the CEO and co-founder of Atomation. He served for eight years in intelligence operations and technology with one of the Israeli’s intelligence units. Prior to founding Atomation, Guy spent time in R&D and operations roles for internet, mobile and cellular companies. He also managed M&A and investment deals for Mail.RU, an international internet company. Overall, he has more than 12 years of experience in product, operations and business development in technology, internet and mobile fields.