Cloud-based businesses like Rouge24 a growing trend
It’s safe to say that remote work is here to stay. While estimates of how widespread the practice is vary depending on the definition and source, results from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest American Time Use Survey indicate that in 2014, on days they worked, 23 percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home. And the trend is gaining ground. In 2003, the first year comparable data was available, 19 percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home.
The practice of allowing employees to telecommute, at least part of the time, has become a growing trend at major corporate players like Kaplan, Aetna, Intuit, GE, Apple and Salesforce. Taking remote work to the next level, however, are an increasing number of entirely “virtual” companies made up of completely remote workforces. Rouge24, for example, is a totally cloud-based boutique branding and packaging agency specializing in private brand work, with employees located across the country. “I didn’t set out with this vision,” says Ann Macdonald, Rouge24 president and CEO. “It was a natural progression that developed as my business expanded.” After working in a traditional Manhattan corporate environment for a number of years, Macdonald decided to go out on her own in 2009. Soon after, she signed her first big client, Walmart. She began working for Walmart remotely, tapping contacts from New York to California to assist her as workload and client list grew. “We’ve been able to find a higher level of talent—whether they’re creatives, project managers, writers, proofreaders or photographers—by opening up our search and expanding our scope geographically,” Macdonald says.
From the employee perspective, remote work offers a number of benefits, from reduced stress and a better work/life balance to avoiding traffic and saving on gas. It also benefits employers—potentially increasing worker productivity and reducing overhead expenses and turnover—as well as clients. “For our clients, I think one of our biggest advantages is that we have expanded work hours,” Macdonald says. “We generally start our day at 8 a.m. Eastern and wrap up at 6 p.m. Pacific.”
The reason this new work paradigm is possible for companies like Rouge24 is twofold, according to Macdonald. “The evolution of technology has certainly been vital,” she says. Indeed, from video conferencing and instant messaging to cloud-based project management systems and document sharing solutions, there are now countless tools available to enable remote workers to stay connected to each other and their customers and clients. The other factor that’s been key to Rouge24’s success at maintaining a remote workforce, however, is perhaps less apparent. “With a remote workforce, corporate culture is as important—if not more important—than it is at a brick and mortar business,” Macdonald says. “We take our corporate culture very seriously to make sure each person we hire is really contributing, and they are truly functioning as a team.”
Since 2011, Rouge24’s business has grown 675 percent, and last year, the brands the company serviced accounted for $7.6 billion of the private label market. The company has also become adept at operating in a cloud-based environment. “When I first started this, people thought I was crazy,” Macdonald says. “They told me, ‘Once you’re a real agency, you’ll have to get an office.’ Now the response I get is 180 degrees different. They want to know how I’ve cracked the code. This is the direction a lot of companies are starting to move.”