Strategies of Leading a Remote Team with Matt Mugar at Boa Logistics
Every company has a challenge in figuring out how to gather or not gather as we get back to the office. One skill you have to master is leading a remote team. Your leadership capacity will be determined by your ability to learn this skill. Today’s guest is Matt Mugar , co-founder at Boa Logistics. Inc Magazine ranked his company #4267 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Boa Logistics has made the Inc List six consecutive times. They are a logistics company that specializes in transportation services in the United States and Canada. Matt shares his perspective of leading a remote team. In today’s new world of work, you have to understand the new rules of leading a remote team.
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Matthew Mugar: The Transcript
About: Born and raised in Los Angeles, Matthew earned a BA in Communication Studies from California State University Northridge. While he originally discovered the world of logistics purely by chance, his passion and dedication to the industry is unparalleled. With 11 years working with well-known freight companies like Diversified Transportation Services, Landstar and Covenant Solutions, Matthew has experience in almost all areas of US and Canada freight. By the time Matthew and Walter started Boa in 2010, the two knew exactly which direction they wanted to take it in. As with anything new, there are always obstacles to overcome but thanks to a strong partnership and shared vision, Boa is able to make shipping freight easier and more accessible to many clients.
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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Matthew Mugar: Culture is dynamic. You might have a team of, let’s say 20 people in the office. One person leaves, one manager leaves and you add someone else. And that could change the dynamic of that culture. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s something that’s always changing, always evolving as one manager or one CEO or someone takes on more experience with, with work and life that also helps affect how a culture grows. Right? It’s not always going to be who we were 10 years ago, young guys with young staff just going for it. And just like Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah, it’s different, because now we’ve got over 50 employees that are full-time and benefits. So we have, we have to actually work with, and we have, a large, vast diversity with different types of people, different languages, different cultures, different ages groups and what happens is now instead of this small little team with just, you know, young people going for it. Now, we’ve got all sorts of different experiences.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insights from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Leading a remote team requires new skills of all leaders. And we really have to get intentional about what does it take to create the kind of engagement, the culture, and all of the things necessary for us to keep the company’s growing. When you think about your job as a leader, you think about as just to get the work done, or do you think about it’s about really connecting people and really taking care of the culture and creating a space for people to do their best work? My hope is that it’s more than just getting the work done. So today we talk about strategies of leading a remote team. Our special guest is a co-founder of Boa Logistics. There is six time Inc company. We’re talking with Matt Mugar Matt, really shares some of the details that he’s had to learn as a leading his remote team. He wasn’t originally remote. He was a hundred percent in the office until everything shifted. And now, as things are starting to get back to work. He talks about what is necessary for him to create the kind of space to continue growing the company, what he’s learned, and leading a remote team. And we share all those inside today’s episode.
Now, when you think about your job as a leader is not just to get the word out. It’s not just execute. You have to be the leader that your team deserves. If you want to know what other leaders are doing, make sure you check out all the free content that we have on the podcast Growth Think Tank. We’re here to serve you to be an extraordinary leader. Now here’s the interview with Matt.
Matthew, how are you?
Matthew Mugar: Hey, I’m doing great.
Gene Hammett: I’m excited to have you on the Growth Think Tank Podcast.
Matthew Mugar: Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here too.
Gene Hammett: Well, I know that your company has had tremendous success and you’ve also overcome some big challenges in this journey. Six-time Inc company. Tell us a little bit about Boa Logistics.
Matthew Mugar: Great. Thank you so much for that’s for the introduction Boa Logistics, you know, started about 11 years ago, 10 years officially back at, you know, the throws of 2010. And I just totally remember, when we started the company and what we do is Boa Logistics is a freight logistics company. We work with manufacturers and distributors getting their products across the country. And when we started the business 10 years ago, we literally left our really nice cushy jobs. , my partner and I, and, we ended up renting a room in my mother’s house, my old bedroom, and we created two desks, a fax machine, and our two cell phones. And that’s basically how we started, you know, I remember when we started, I would buy the INC magazines as a form of inspiration, right? Yeah. I used to kind of fantasize and kind of tell myself maybe one day we’ll make it here. And then three years into our business. I said, oh shoot, we’re actually hitting some trajectory here.
Maybe I should apply. The first year we got, it was in 2013 – 14. And I just remember telling my partner, we had a very small team. Wow. It was great. We made it this one time, but I wonder if there are these guys that have made it five years in a row. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do this. Right. You know, we kind of joked about it, but you know, six years later we’ve made it every year, with constant growth. So that’s basically us in a nutshell.
Gene Hammett: Well, it’s a very hard thing to do. Anyone who understands math, if you’re looking at revenue growth, it gets harder and harder every year. And. You know, that’s one reason why you guys were, what 167, when you first made it. Now, now you’re at the back end of the list, but if you have the kind of growth that you’ve probably had over the last few years, then you’ll probably continue to be on there is that fair to say?
Matthew Mugar: I, I that’s completely fair. And I get that, you know, for me to jump from, you know, one number 167 as one of the, you know, the Inc 500 top 10% of the 5,000 was amazing. We always knew that our goal was to stay on the list. Right. Which means we always have to keep growing, but you’re totally right. We’re towards the back end of the list this year, but you know what, hopefully, next year, based on a couple of things we’re doing, we’re going to jump back towards the middle of that pack. So that’s kind of where we’re at right now.
Gene Hammett: I love that Matt, when we talk about, you know, getting to a level of success, to me, it always comes back to the people. And one of the things my team has been able to research about what you guys have been able to do is to actually make this transition from in-house working in the office, kind of working to virtual teams. Tell us a little bit about why that transition was necessary. Of course, we know the pandemic was the catalyst behind this, but tell me a little bit about that process?
Matthew Mugar: Great question and interesting enough a year ago, maybe even 13 months ago, if you were to ask me, Matt, would you, would you allow people to work remotely? And I would have easily said, heck no, there is no way we would have been able to do what we were doing without being in person because a lot of ours. Our roles are, are in-person-like, for example, the way we have our office set up is, is, is based on transparency. We have all glass windows and everyone sits in community bays. So that like, I might be talking to you right now, but I might give a hand signal, like book it, go get it right now because we need to be held this nonverbal and verbal communication happening as we’re brokering. And we’re connecting deals when the actual pandemic happened and they’ve just basically shut down work. We had to transform into a virtual team. Right. And I think luckily we, as a team had already six months before that already started working on remote desktops. And because we wanted the ability to move team members quickly.
So the transition to going virtual. Because we had planned for something, not on that level, but plan for a more mobile team allowed us to switch that on right away. Right. And, so when the pandemic. We went all, you know, everyone, including myself and my partner and everyone, we had a big business building here. It was completely empty and we were all working remotely. I don’t know if you want me to go into kind of like what we did after that, how we, how we transition and what our struggles were.
Gene Hammett: I want to kind of go into today because we all went through a very difficult transition, but how have you decided to work with your team today?
Matthew Mugar: Interestingly enough, you know, now that our, our. The city is coming back. , according to the CDC guidelines, they’re coming back to allowing people to go back to school, belong, people, to come back to their offices. We’re still partially remote currently. Right. But we are slowly going to set a date. We were actually w we’re going to set a date for next month on when we plan to reintroduce the workforce back into the office. But it’s important because we’ve, we’re working with certain individuals. Certain families that have families and kids, you know, we’re all trying to accommodate everyone’s schedule, but at the same time, we’re also trying to make sure that we prioritize our business and our goals. Right. And we give enough people time to plan for it. Right. And you know, for us having a mobile team. And the remote team, it was extremely difficult to transition from completely being in the office then becoming virtual and then working on a virtual culture. , I don’t know if that makes sense, but you know, we have, we have a very distinct company culture here, you know when people are here when they’re talking to me and were like bleeding and digging the ditches together.
But virtually, you know, when you. Someone that’s living at home with their kids and you know, and we did this for a month, right. Almost a year. We had to figure out a way to. Get everyone’s buy-in to redevelop the company culture and also have it be possible that it’s happening virtually. Right. So now coming back, we’re at this position right now where we want to bring back everyone and recreate a new culture because now there’s even new team members. We hired new people while we were in COVID. Right. So it’s definitely interesting.
Gene Hammett: Are you planning to be, fully back in the office or are you planning a hybrid kind of approach to your work environment.
Matthew Mugar: I think we’re going to do both, right. We’re going to first start with asking, taking a poll and who wants to come back in. Okay. Because we’ve already invested in, you know, making everything code safe by investing in a cleaner, as well as we isolated all the desks with partitions. Right. We’ve created different, , zones and whatnot, but we have enough space here. , we’re going to do a hybrid situation for now and based on what people’s wants are, and as more people get vaccinated and people feel more comfortable with how things are going to pandemic. Cause at this point I’ve got 80% of my staff vaccinated already. So that 80% want to come back. They want to come back. And I think the ones that are on the fence are the ones with families that we’re working on, trying to figure it out. Schooling and pick up and all that. So, but we, we are, we are, we are currently at a hybrid situation.
Gene Hammett: You mentioned culture before. And I think a lot of leaders have struggled with how do we create and shape culture and this new virtual kind of things. What are the things you’ve learned that have worked well inside of your culture?
Matthew Mugar: Big question as you, and I know culture is dynamic, you might have a team of, let’s say 20 people in the office. One person leaves, one manager leaves. And you add someone else in that could change the dynamic of that culture. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s something that’s always changing, always evolving as one manager or one CEO or someone takes on more experience with, with work and life. That also helps affect how a culture grows. Right. It’s not always going to be who we were 10 years ago, young guys with young staff just going for it. And just like who Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah, its different. Because now we’ve got over 50 employees that are full-time with benefits. So we have, we have to actually work with, and we have a. A large, vast diversity with, with different types of people, different languages, different cultures, different age groups. And what happens is now instead of this small little team with just, you know, young people going for it now we’ve got all sorts of different experiences. So when we actually went virtual.
One of the things that we felt we were losing was our, our, our touch in terms of communication. We have some rules here at our office where we have, you know, a five-minute email rule with a two-ring pickup. There are, there are protocols on being polite there’s protocols and developing relationships, but when you go full virtual. Right. When most of your vendors and your clients are also in the same position, I thought I was starting to see that we were getting less engagement with our staff because they weren’t with each other and they were having short instant messengers. Right. Well, and you would see that come out in their emails, you’d see it in their communication. You’d see it in the way that your clients or someone would misinterpret that we had to first start by getting everyone back into a room, whether it was in-person. But it was a virtual room. So one of the things that really stuck out for us at work was we created a weekly, entire off office meeting where we kind of did kind of like a company newsletter, things that were going well, things that we needed to work on as a company and just real quick check-in so that everyone.
During this time of fear, because you know, back at last March and April, especially here in Los Angeles, there was a lot of fear going around with this pandemic. So people were feeling scared. People were in had anxiety. So by, by people seeing each other like clockwork every week, I would get interesting saying. You know, Matt, I look forward to Monday meetings because I actually get dressed up. You know what I mean? Where, you know, you’re not just sitting in sweats all day and obviously they would never admit that to me, you know, during the day, but everyone got dressed up, everyone looked, you know, fixed their hair because they knew they were going to be seen. And what we found was as we, you know, because, for the first three or four weeks, We didn’t do that. And we saw a negative effects. Then six weeks into, we started doing this every month, all throughout the summer, every week we’d have our weekly check-ins. And we found that the level of engagement rose with our staff virtually and the level of accountability also raised that’s one of the things that we did to breed a good culture was by virtually meeting. And while we were there listening to everyone, having everyone greet each other, Reminding them of what our purpose was during this time, because we were an essential business and that our work was substantial. And I think that really made a big difference for our staff was that they knew that we were an essential business being in logistics.
They knew we were bringing at the time it was toilet paper, right. It was, sanitizing wipes. Right. Then it was groceries and it was all sorts of different things. So in the end, we, we figured out that in order. To survive this virtual office space, we needed to act like it was a real office.
Commentary: Matt just talked about the weekly check-in newsletter. It really is an interesting way to create connections across the company. Now, most people are not going to read a newsletter if you put it out, just speaking honestly, but what about doing something virtually? What about creating space for you to create communication channels and to update the office? Th the people about what’s going on, what’s expected of them, what they can do to connect together, and all of the opportunities available to them inside this. Matt really talks about the power of this and he will probably continue doing this after everyone comes back to work in the office. My hope is that you’ll learn from these strategies. You’ll decide what works for you. And you’ll execute with precision now back to Matt.
Gene Hammett: And what is zero in on something that specific to you as a leader? So we leaders have had to learn a different way of engaging one-on-one and in small groups, how have you done that successfully? And maybe there’s even mistakes that you made in that journey that you can share with us?
Matthew Mugar: Yes. You know, one of the things that have been very difficult was understanding what your level of expectations were, especially during this particular time, right? If you had a sense of accuracy, a sense of, service that you were expecting, but things started to fall through because now people are at home. Now people are, are not in the right place, right. In regards to, you know, timing for us. And especially for me, what I’ve learned. It’s hard to expect things from people where there were never any rules or expectations that, that existed before. So someone made a mistake or someone didn’t know how to deal with a certain situation. What we found was that it was during this time that we had to focus more. If there was. On training. So we doubled down on coaching and training and breakout sessions to make sure that, you know, my partner and myself was working with our executive team. Our executive team was then working with their pods. Right. And I think during this time we actually decided to roll out, a specific type of executive, execution training, and basically what we did. We had to really narrow down what was important for our companies. Right. And for us, it was about accuracy and growth because we were not going to take this situation with the pandemic as an excuse, not to grow.
We said this, that we were going to grow regardless of the situation. And back in last March, we had no idea what we’re going to go down. We were already down 40, 50%, and due to everything shutting down. So we made it, these, we, we wanted to have global goals for the company and we want to make sure that everyone knew what they were now a year ago. And some change. If I were to ask. An employee in the trucking operations versus an employee in the accounting operations versus the employee and customer service. What are Boa Logistics’ goals? All three of them would have said three different answers. So we knew we had to actually change that. We needed to have a global understanding of what we’re trying to do as a company. And the two things that we wanted from each of the departments, all of the pods was that they need to understand that we needed one. We want an accuracy. We knew we were going to be working virtually and that means more mistakes could happen without supervision. So if we could rate the KPIs based on accuracy, which we can, right.
And we let everyone know we’re expecting a 98% accuracy on everything that you do. Because nothing’s perfect. Right. But we want to show whether it’s from checking on the pickup boards or building loads or accuracy on pricing. Every department knew that they had a 98% accuracy level. And then the last was growth. We wanted a minimum level of growth and we needed to show each department on how they’re connected with growth. Now, this is easy with operations and sales, but how do you do that with a county? How do you let someone know? I’m working in accounts receivable, but how do I participate in this growth? So this is how this is where some of the challenging parts came because we needed to figure out how we could motivate and push every department. So they hit those two different, different types of goals. And it’s interesting because it took months of planning. And then when we executed and rolled it out, we had a slow start and slow buy-in, but now we’re, we’re up and running. Now. Now we’re meeting every single week before we even got on a call.
I was at the warehouse and we do our weekly standing call with the executive team for 30 minutes. And then after that, those 30 team, those members break out into their department pods, and then they do 30 minutes so that we’re always pushing the envelope on accuracy or growth. So, what I’ve learned in this situation, If you don’t have the buy-in from your entire team and if they’re blind and by the way, the first few years of us in business, all the businesses for most CEOs are here, right? It’s all up in our heads. We’re also struggling and trying to figure things out as ourselves, you know, things change on a day-to-day basis. But what happens is sometimes your employees follow you along the road, but they don’t even know why they’re following along. So what we found is in this next decade was we needed to have the complete buy-in from our staff. So now if you ask anyone in our team, What are the global goals of our company? Every single one of them will know it, so they know, Hey, if I’m building a load, I need to be accurate. Or if I’m dealing with a client, I need to be respectful because we need retention. Right. I need to take care of the vendor because, without the vendor profit for the client, all of this is being disseminated through the troops and what I’ve found, where.
What I found was the hardest part for us was trying to get the buy-in from, because you have employees that are, that see the world with a glass, half empty and half full. Do you know what I’m saying? And the guys that were half empty, right. We need to get them more half full. Right. And the guys that are completely. Let’s go, who re RA we needed them to also understand why these guys were, were, were a little bit, you know, wary. So we kind of married both sides together and, and it took a while, took maybe three months, but now we’ve got some momentum. So it’s, it’s been really great lately.
Commentary: Hold on for a second. Matt just talked about the need to focus on training and coaching across the company. He looked at everything going on with remote teams to create space for training and coaching that they needed to grow as leaders and to grow as frontline employees. Now, when you think about what’s available for you right now, where are you missing out on the opportunity to train and coach your people? Because when you invest in. Training and coaching, you get this powerful effect that really does allow you to connect with your employees in a very different level than just training alone. You want to make sure that they are getting the coaching and which means the conversations they need to lock any new training that you have available. One of the things we’ve. People through is how to communicate more effectively through this whole time of coronavirus. Now, this required them to learn how to listen. This required them to learn how to really understand how to ask questions and connect and engage. And all of this was very powerful for those teams. I’m not saying that you need to do the exact same thing, but I’m just putting a spotlight on this opportunity to where’s the training and coaching that’s necessary for you. Keep your team going in the right direction. Back to Matt
Gene Hammett: Matthew. I really appreciate you sharing your experience with, you know, how you’ve developed this virtual team in this new world. And I would imagine if I could really be bold enough to say some of the things you’ve learned to this will help you be a better team, even when you come back together. So I hope that you don’t lose some of these, these new rituals.
Matthew Mugar: No, you’re totally right. And it’s actually, we call it part of the whirlwind now. So all the things that we’re doing, you know, and I it’s about continuing them and just making it part of our everyday process, you know? And, and if I can share something with, you know, your viewers, it’s when you’re young and you’re starting your business and you’re trying to serve. You might say yes to everything and you might just start grabbing on to things. But what I’ve found personally is if you focus on one or two things, And just really become really good at it and build that base and that foundation, the other things that are going to come, you don’t want to get distracted by doing too many things at once. That’s why the, we only, we’re only focusing on two global goals right now, and anything related to that. And sooner than later, everything else will be touched and you’re right. We are going to bring all that back and keep it while when we bring everyone back the office.
Gene Hammett: Matthew, thanks for being here on the podcast, sharing your wisdom about leadership.
Matthew Mugar: Thank you very much.
Gene Hammett: Well, I wanted to wrap up here because what you have been hearing in. Matt has shared with you. Some of the things they’ve went through as they have transitioned to a virtual team that you’ve probably been through a lot of these challenges yourself, what are the things that you really want to pick up on is being very intentional about the global glow goals that are part of your company and how can everyone answer those questions? And this is a really big idea for your culture. If they can’t answer that simple question of what are we here to do? Then they’re not going to be aligned together. So your job as a leader is to make sure they do that. And one of the tools behind that is that weekly stand-up meetings that Matt’s been talking about.
All of this is about you being the best leader you can be. If you’re concerned about what your next step is, where you need to focus and how you need to close the skill gaps to be the best leader you can. I want to make sure you check out the fast-growth boardroom. It is a community of fast growth leaders. They’re coming together to be an extraordinary leader, to learn from each other, to be challenged by me as their executive coach, but also to have fun together.
Fast-growth boardroom is a place where you can evolve and you can create growth and be the best leader you could possibly be. Just check it out fastgrowthboardroom.com. When you think of leadership and you think of growth, think of Growth Think Tank as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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