Keeping employees motivated, accountable and on track.
As a part of our series about the things you need to successfully work remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Waleed Nasir — “The Rainmaker”.
Waleed Nasir got into fame as the ‘Rainmaker’ due to his love for helping entrepreneurs build and scale their business through the art of programmatic and using no-code systems
He currently manages a large global team (100+ designers, software engineers, growth hackers, social media marketers etc.) and dedicates 20% of his resources for pro-bono work and helping entrepreneurs get off the ground. Some of his engagements took off really well and hence his nickname as the Rainmaker!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
I studied computer science at University of Michigan — Ann Arbor and then graduated from Yale with an MBA with a focus on Marketing. I have been fortunate to be able to leverage my life long learnings for the benefit of others and in making an impact during this pandemic.
My most recent project deals with the eviction crisis. Over 14M Million American are at risk of eviction which inspired me to create a conversational-AI based application processing and program management system for the local authorities to rapidly process the rent relief.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When the pandemic hit, the entire world (especially New York City) went into a complete lockdown. I took a break from my day to day and dived into creating alternate business solutions for the impacted businesses. The most successful one was a PPP (Paycheck Protection Plan) Loan Forgiveness system. I ended up selling it to over 35+ banks in a matter of 3 months! In a traditional world, it would have taken several years to gain that kind of traction.
But what really gave me the greatest satisfaction was that that system has processed over 900 Million dollars+ worth of PPP loans towards forgiveness for small businesses like restaurants and nail salons.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started my career in consulting, I used to get really excited when people showed interest in the services I had to offer. One time, I even planned an entire vacation when a client asked for a proposal. ‘The deal is in the bag’, I thought, but then prospect bailed last minute.
I learned to level-set my emotions and get used to facing rejections. I spoke with over 300 sales executives for advice and mentoring, read all the books I could find, learned about the latest tools and systems on the market and even built some of my own that I currently use.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
It’s all about having the right systems in place! You can’t accomplish ANYTHING meaningful at scale without having the right systems in place. Make sure you and your employees have the right tools and resources to carry out the day-to-day tasks and activities.
I highly recommend to automate or outsource the ‘boring part’ of the business. Let your employees take an active role in the growth of the company, have them focus on the customers, building partnership, and bringing new ideas in the door. People don’t feel burned out when they’re passionate about their work, and when their creativity and effort is recognized.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
The modalities of the business world have definitely transformed in the last year or so. It has become increasingly easier (albeit more competitive) to start a new business and setup a remote team. You don’t have to spend on real estate setting up an office for example. Furthermore, customers are more receptive to conducting business online today than ever before.
The most important thing businesses can do in this situation is invest in the IT/ Automation and digital workplace tools. Because if you don’t, you run the risk of becoming obsolete.
We live in a world where a more digitally savvy competitor would eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Companies these days are using techniques like conversational AI to provide concierge services to their customers while reducing overhead. Direct to consumer brands are using advanced programmatic advertising to reach their target audience through various channels. Without these techniques, tools and systems, businesses simply cannot get ahead of the curve.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
Here are the top 5 challenges I see businesses dealing with regards to remote work:
- Acquiring and retaining customers using remote interactions
- Doing business development in absence of conferences/ networking events
- Helping employees balance their personal and professional life
- Keeping employees motivated, accountable and on track
- Recruiting and building rapport with new team members and getting them trained
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
Here are a few areas that come to mind where there’s been a paradigm shift with recommended approaches:
- Employ Sales & Marketing Automation — The traditional methods of finding business like conferences and networking events have gotten restricted. The customer perception and inclination to interact with the brands has also changed. I’ve literally had to write scripts to run on top of Linkedin for automating outreach and follow ups.
- Deploy People Analytics — If you have a large remote workforce, you must have people analytics system in place that monitors performance of your employees and provides meaningful insights into their work habits, responsiveness and focus.
- Proactive Program and Project Management — Driving large projects in a remote setup can be particularly challenging. Adding agile coaches/ program managers to the team might be needed to ensure timeliness of various initiatives.
- 2 Pizza teams — I recommend keeping the team sizes limited to a number that can be fed with 2 pizzas
- Team Building and Training Activities — Several gamified platforms are available to create virtual / online team building experiences, ranging from online scavenger hunts to virtual reality-based environments. Use them!
- Inspire Tech — Remote work has resulted into a new discipline — coaching, tools and processes that keep remote employees inspired and on-track with their and company’s objectives.
Do you have any suggestions specifically for people who work at home? What are a few ways to be most productive when you work at home?
Everyone has their own way of disciplining themselves around work. Remote work can be a beautiful thing as it brings so much flexibility, but it has its perils too. Make sure you don’t have a routine!
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
I highly recommend a digital workplace bootcamp plus adopting systems that make remote work easier for the employees as well as the business owners.
What do you suggest can be done to create an empowering work culture and team culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
My workshop on remote work would be a great start! 😊
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m currently working on the emergency rental assistance program. My goal is to enable as many people who are in need of rental assistance to get the necessary aide on time and avoid getting evicted. Over 14 million Americans are at the risk of getting evicted. My software uses conversational AI to rapidly process the rent relief in an automated manner– a task that current portals at housing authorities are not capable of carrying out as the case managers are swamped due to the unprecedented number of applications received. Here’s the website — warp-relief.us
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Life’s goal is to acquire a special gift, Life’s purpose is to spread that gift to others.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.