Remote Team-Building and the AI Revolution

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Sully Chaudhary

In the wake of the pandemic, many wondered if the radical workplace changes we saw would last, or if they would fade away as the world returned to normal. Now, three years on, we know for certain – many of these changes are here to stay.

Employees and organizations have new priorities, new values, and a stronger sense of what they’re looking for in a workplace. Workers want more freedom, more organizational trust, and fair benefits and compensation.

Today we chat with WriterArmy founder Sully Chaudhary, who has been embracing those ideals for the past decade, working to build a culture, an environment, and an engaging virtual office that allows team members to thrive from anywhere in the world.

Learn more about WriterArmy here:

Key Points

  • How to create thriving remote workspaces
  • The AI revolution and content creation – how to deal with it?

**In a post-pandemic world, workers want to retain their flexibility and have the best of both worlds: an office to meet and collaborate in, and the freedom to work remotely. The new norm is “hybrid,” but what does this mean in practice? What are the challenges and opportunities of this form of working, and how can leaders rethink collaboration formats and decision-making?

To answer these and many more questions, we have created a module on remote and hybrid collaboration. To learn more and find upcoming workshop dates, visit


*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.

[00:00:00] In the wake of the pandemic, many wondered if the radical workplace changes would last or if they would fade away as the world returned to normal. Now, three years on, we know for certain. Many of these changes are here to stay. Employees and organizations have new priorities, new values, and a stronger sense of what they’re looking for in the workplace.

Workers want more freedom, more organizational trust and fair benefits in compensation. Today we speak with a business founder and CEO, who has been embracing those ideals for the past decade. Building a culture, and environment, and an engaging virtual office that meets the needs of today’s workforce and allows them to thrive from [00:01:00] anywhere in the world.

Before we dive in, you are listening to The Happiness At Work Podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness.

I’m your host, Elisa Tuijnder, happiness Enthusiast and Management 3.0 team member. In this podcast, we share insights from this industry, experts, influencers, and thought leaders about what it takes to be happy, motivated, and productive at work, so that loving your job becomes the norm and not the exception. We will be publishing every fortnight on Friday, so be sure to tune in and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Our guest today is Sully Chaudary founder and [00:02:00] CEO of Writer Army, a global content writing and marketing agency that allows businesses to fully automate their content production and distribution and compete at the forefront of their industries. Hey, thank you so much for joining us today, Sully.

Thanks for having me. Great. Hey, so we’ll get into your work and your unique approach to this global and remote workplace that you’ve created in just a moment, but. Here on the podcast, we always start with the same question, and that is, what does happiness mean to you? Oh, that’s a good question. It’s tough.

Yeah. To me, happiness is probably having a lot of freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it. Not always possible with work, but that’s something that I truly believe in. A big part of it is freedom, for sure.

Yeah, it’s a fan favorite for a lot of people I interview.

I’m wondering whether that has something to do with the kind of people we interview, or, Hey. So for those who are not familiar with Writer [00:03:00] Army, could you tell us a little bit about it? How did it start? How has it grown over the years and you know how did you come up with this? Sure. So I basically started my career off as a copywriter.

I did some affiliate marketing as well, and then around 2010 ish I worked for a startup in Seattle called a ACLS certification, and they do they, they do and did medical certification for doctors and nurses. So I moved up quickly into a VP of marketing type role there, and I was handling.

Everything from paid media to copywriting to SEO and we took the company from zero from just an idea to I was making over seven figures by the time that I left and basically I left to start my own thing. So I was getting some great experience on the executive level and left to start my own thing in 2013.

I didn’t [00:04:00] know exactly what I wanted it to be and it. It was between writer and writer, and I thought Writer Army’s more catchy and it’s just been a lot of different iterations over the years. We started off trying to create a platform and then we converted it to an agency, and it’s been an agency for a while now.

And hopefully we’re going to have a platform soon. We have an app in development now, so it’s gone through a lot of iterations, but the kind of core value proposition has been there, which has been amazing content at a scalable price with, great American and Canadian writers. Most all of our writers are based there for now, and then a global marketing team.

We have a global, awesome, very highly talented, skilled marketing team. Yeah, that’s really cool. And I think that’s really one of the reasons why, we had you ha we’re [00:05:00] having you on the podcast and that we want to talk about is that workforce, right? Because you’ve been, if I if I’m correct, you’ve been remote from the start with some of these and it’s grown and it’s now very sizable.

So could you tell us a little bit about that workforce and the decision to be remote because, you started in 2013, Yeah, I mean it was a easy decision cuz we had no choice. We didn’t have an office in 2000. We still just have local space. But we just made the decision because actually when I started my career, I worked remote even at the company that, that startup that I joined and then, I thought that I wanted to encourage remote work in our business.

We wanted to have flexible work. A lot of our writers are, they have multiple gigs, multiple jobs that they’re juggling. So it was really convenient for, we had stay-at-home moms that worked for us. We had we still do of course and stay-at-home parents [00:06:00] stay-at-home dads and stuff that just need flexible work that they don’t have to commute for.

And it appealed to a lot of them, so we just found it. It worked for them. It worked for us. And that’s why we started it that way. And that’s why we were ready for this ship to global, basically for remote work. We were already ready for it from the beginning basically. Yeah. Yeah.

Fantastic. Hey, so one of the things that people and especially cuz you were in the infancy of this fully remote work, I’m sure there were other companies doing it, it wasn’t as common as it is now. People tend to sometimes struggle with either culture, maintaining that in a remote team, and also managing and retaining remote employees.

Is there anything that you can share with our listeners that you are, have as a practice in Writer Army and that you employ in this, in the recruitment hiring and all of these kind of things to stay connected and stay engaged and create a culture that is unique? To Writer Army. Yeah we try to have [00:07:00] as many regular meetings, audio and video as possible, because that’s important for building team camaraderie.

I meet with individual team members quite a bit. I’m a very like, engaging type of manager, and I want to. Give them the opportunity to air out their concerns to speak with me directly. A lot of times our team members are very comfortable approaching me, and I think that’s very important because I want them to be free to express themselves and not feel fear of any kind of repercussions.

I think that’s important to be open about allowing team members, especially if we have a young team, especially nowadays. So our team just, they care about being able to express themselves. They care about mental health. They care about flexibility of work and not being micromanaged. And I believe in, in, all those things.

Encouraging them to even take on leadership roles if they want. We have that option for them to move up in the [00:08:00] organization. All those things are pretty important for attracting really great talent and retaining them. Yeah. Hey, you mentioned. Mental wellbeing and it’s obviously we are happiness at work.

And that is also one of the things, that employee happiness where mental wellbeing is also a big part of how do you approach that? The happiness and the employee wellbeing part as the captain? I think it’s important to be aware that your contractors, your employees are going through different personal things and there may be things they don’t tell you about and there may be things they are comfortable telling you about if you’re open with them.

And allow them to express themselves. I had a great conversation with one employee just recently and they were able to really open up and I encouraged that about the things they were going through and with no fear of any kind of repercussions. I think that’s so important that the stigma is taken away from that so that people can [00:09:00] express themselves because if they feel supported by their employer, They’re gonna be a lot more empowered to deal with whatever they’re dealing with and they’re gonna be more productive, I think.

So we encourage it, and we’re looking into providing things like a wellness benefit in the future. But it’s an important area for us. We want to acknowledge that everyone goes through personal struggles at times, and we wanna foster a workplace that supports our employees and doesn’t stigmatize anybody if they’re struggling, yep. So we’re looking into having a counselor just available cuz we don’t have one at the moment. But we are also providing resources in terms of they need to reach out to someone at the company, they’ve trusted person they can talk to. If it’s not myself, then somebody in HR. And yeah, that’s basically what we’re looking at doing.

We’re also. Providing some information on like worker burnout. That’s a [00:10:00] big one. We try to help them avoid taking on too much cuz it’s our best people are also taking on a lot. We want to encourage them to take personal time and that’s really important as well, to have the flexibility, if they need a week off and that type of thing.

We, we give them a lot of that flexibility, which I think is so key for them. Because yeah, there, there are things that come up in their lives and they just want to have that freedom to not be concerned about losing their job if they take some leave or whatever. So yeah, there’s that word freedom again.

Exactly. Super important. Yeah. How are you guys actually structured and organized? Are you working within with departments, in teams? Yeah, just trying to make a picture of how you guys work remotely together. Yeah we have department heads, so we have different department heads for operations, for sales, for marketing, and they’re [00:11:00] leading their division from wherever they are.

And then we have a team of independent contractors, the writers that are working in the operation. So they’re involved with, we have I think over a hundred writers in our pool and they’re working with the marketing team and the operations team. It’s a very chaotic but controlled valet because there’s just always moving parts and there’s, it’s all managed with Slack and with Asana we use Asana.

We also are building an app for managing the writers which we use right now internally, and we have. We have other tools that we utilize for managing our team, but basically it’s ordered in a divisional way and I’m at the top, but we have these divisional owners. How do you manage the time zones?

Cuz you said now you’re going global and you’re getting more and more of these. Are you working a lot of [00:12:00] asynchronous or do people have to be online at a certain time? How does that get managed? It’s A lot of it is asynchronous, but we we get a lot of local clients that are marketing clients, and they need to have synchronous people.

So the more that division of the business grows and we have to recruit more local people because we’ve struggled with sometimes with teams in India or the Philippines because of the time zone difference. Because if we need synchronous work and it’s. 9:00 AM our time, but it’s 9:00 PM their time or 1:00 AM their time.

It’s just no matter how good you are as a worker, it’s still so difficult to coordinate that. It goes, it almost goes against your human biology, so you have to trick your body into working at 9:00 PM or it has to be asynchronous, we found for the synchronous work, it’s best for us to work with our team in Latin [00:13:00] America, actually.

And if we’re gonna go outside the US we go to Latin America for that synchronous work and for the asynchronous work. The contractors or employees, they could be from anywhere. Yeah. That does sound like a whole big organization. I believe you guys also have a virtual office. I think you guys have a gather town.

Do you wanna explain a little bit how that works in Writer Army? Yeah. Or what it is as well? Cause maybe some of our listeners don’t know what Gather Town is. Yeah I suggest everyone checks Gather Town out. So it’s this kind of funny little gamification thing where you can create a character for everyone in the organization.

And there’s a virtual office online. It’s like a, it’s 2d, pixelated reminds me of like pixel art. And the characters are running around and they have each one, everybody has their own desk and there’s a game area. There’s meeting rooms and there’s boards that you can put data up on, like spreadsheets and stuff like that.

And it’s [00:14:00] just a, it’s a fun way, like the younger group. They like it a lot. I liked it. We used it for a bit and it was going pretty well, but we ran into some technical issues with the video conferencing, unfortunately. We’re not using it as much anymore, but, I do think gamification is very important for a lot of things, for productivity, for encouraging people to have fun at work.

And we did using it when we used it, it was a good move. I highly suggest checking it out cuz it’s still free, I think. Yeah. I love Gather Town. I love how it works. I also love Topia still similar, all of the you have 2D, basic animations that you could put in it and you can make it your own and that’s great.

Are there, so you talked about gamification. Do you wanna expand a little bit on how you see that? And what, are there any other things that you guys are doing in that [00:15:00] area at the moment? Yeah, we are so we’re building apps along with Writer Army and we’re building an app for sales gamification.

Cool separate app. It’s a separate idea where we’re gonna have, it’ll integrate with HubSpot and basically, gamify sales because we haven’t found a lot of good solutions for that. And so it’s something that we were looking to do. Because sales is, we wanna make sales fun. Not just that’s a hard job.

Yeah. And it’s hard because it’s a hard job. It’s, it can be discouraging at times, but if you’re encouraged, if you can see your progress and work towards kinda like short term rewards and be rewarded by seeing your, visualizing your progress, seeing a scoreboard and that type of thing.

Then it becomes more fun. And so this is the future. I really think that is the future for not just sales, but organizational productivity in general. [00:16:00] And we wanna also, gamify a lot of parts of our business, not just the sales side, but it makes sense to start with sales because. A lot of organizations need that, and they don’t have it yet and they’re interested in it.

There are some solutions out there now, but there’s nothing that worked for us quite yet. I think just motivationally that’s, it’s just very powerful and you can definitely not just improving productivity, but I think employee happiness improves with the use. We’ve seen that just a very positive open response to it.

Yeah. Sales can be, Quite dry at times, depending on, in whether you’re doing B2B or B2C. But yes, it’s not my bag as well. But yeah, maybe if I could get some gamification in it, I might get B2B more motivated, the more boring thing ever. So yeah, I think if you can make it a little fun at least, then you’re doing some good.[00:17:00]

In a post pandemic world workers want to retain their flexibility and have the best of both worlds, an office to meet and collaborate in while flexibly working outside the office. The new norm is hybrid, but what does this mean in practice? What are the challenges and opportunities of this form of working, and how do leaders rethink collaboration formats and decision making?

To answer these questions and many more, we have created a module on remote and hybrid collaboration. To learn more and find upcoming workshop dates, visit[00:18:00]

Hey I also always wanna talk to people who have big remote teams and a company. I always wanna ask about, one of the big things, which is salary and benefits and promotions, et cetera, because how do you keep it ethical? How do you keep it fair? How do you guys at Writer Army approach this?

Yeah, so of course like every region has different expectations for salary and everything, so we just allow people to have a lot of freedom in the negotiation table, and that’s really important. There’s, everyone has different expectations based on their role. It gets to be complex at times, but I found that if you give.

If you encourage them and give them the empowerment to, suggest what they want in terms of salary and benefits and other things that’s always helpful for making them happier with the offer. Sometimes, of course you can, sometimes there’s a budget or there’s a limit. Other [00:19:00] times when you can be flexible and offer that, then that ends up being great for retention.

And then we’re always looking for benefits to offer. We’re gonna start to offer stock options and stuff like that. So on top of whatever you negotiate with your contractors, I think you have to also look for ways to offer additional benefits, like if you can offer discounts on certain things that typical employees have that maybe your contractors are interested in, or discounts or opportunities for insurance, reimbursements for travel paid leave for the people who you know in your organization who would qualify for that or also of course raises for performance, that type of thing. And then stock, I think equity is really important to offer. I really think it’s important to give your people who’ve really earned it a piece of the organization. Yeah. Yeah. How do you deal with digital nomads in, in, in that respect?

Cuz I [00:20:00] saw this one of, one of the interesting ones cuz those, they move around a lot to you. Kind of base their salaries on where they’re paying tax or where they are? How does that work? Yeah, they move around quite a bit. So they a lot of times, depending on. They’ll let you know what their salary expectations are.

And so they know better than I think I know what their situation is. So yeah, we work with ’em all the time, but they they usually come to me with salary expectations and then we, that’s how we start that negotiation. But then usually they have, usually they’re a contractor and they may have their own business and they handle how they deal with.

Witthat side of it, but we still allow them to we still have them on a contract and we, negotiate based on what they expect with the hourly rate. Yeah. Oh. Hey, so you were already working remotely when the pandemic hit, so that [00:21:00] was probably already a plus, but I’m sure content production was also impacted in various ways.

Was that the case or were you guys business as usual except for the fact that your digital nomads had to stay put? Everyone had to freeze and not do anything. Yeah. I travel a little throughout Mexico and stuff, but it wasn’t easy. But yeah, so basically in the pandemic happened, everyone went remote, so we didn’t have a major downturn in business.

Actually, the one thing that did I wouldn’t say slowed things down, but it increased the sales cycle was AI. So it was more recent that, AI was, people were debating, should we do our own content, should we use ai? It’s still a huge debate, right? I can get into that all day, but Yeah, that was gonna be my next question.

Your bid. Ok. The bigger, a bigger wave coming your way. Yeah, exactly. That’s a huge thing that we actually also didn’t expect. Yeah. Yeah. But during the [00:22:00] pandemic, we didn’t see a slowdown. Actually. We had a little bit of an increase and it just we had to pivot a little bit, but the major pivots happened more recently.

Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your, how Writer Army is positioning themselves in this massive AI turmoil that is coming our way? Yeah, so this is huge. This is a, this was a big question, like what is our future as Because AI came about and changed the whole world and people are using it now and marketing daily.

So we had to adopt it because we, I was debating, okay, is this thing going to really displace content and displaced writing. And it has, and it’s the future and it’s, the AI gets more and more sophisticated, it gets better and better. But right now, I think I still believe that AI needs to augment human work.

It doesn’t replace humans, of course. And un unfortunately, in some cases it will [00:23:00] replace people for certain fields and areas, but I think the best. Circumstance, ideally is when it augments human creativity and What we did at Writer Army, what we’re doing is launching an app where our clients can order AI content and it will be less expensive than the human content, but we will have human editors so we’ll we’ll be able to provide our writers work for editing and give them that opportunity to refine the content that the app produces. And that’s our pivot. That’s our pivot. That’s the way that we’re responding to it. And it’s been a lot of work, but we’re very close to launching this app, which will give clients the best of both worlds, like the scalability of ai.

But you still don’t have a perfect piece of content with ai. You still have to edit it, you still have to refine it. You still have to add your brand and fact check it. And fact check it. Yeah. Sometimes it’s actually incorrect. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. It’s crazy how. [00:24:00] Since November for me, cuz that’s when most of the world got to know this really powerful tool and how things have changed, it’s, I saw somebody describe it as what if the internet and the iPhone were invented at the same year.

And I was like, Yeah, that might be like, and what’s to come is even more mind boggling, yeah. What does the future hold forWriter Army? Where are you guys going? Where do you see the company going? I know that it might be more things, more, more Weird things on our path that we didn’t fully expect.

But yeah, we’re in a good position right now. We’re gonna continue to offer content marketing and SEO services. So we have two, really two divisions of the business really. One is focused on the app and we’re gonna use it, continue to use it internally until. We release it for public use and beta test it and make a really good, awesome content app that’ll just be focused primarily on content [00:25:00] generation.

But then we have the agency side, which is, we have growth happening there with s e o, with content marketing, email marketing. And that’s the future is both of those divisions moving at full speed which they are right now. Amazing. Sounds good. Hey, so here on the podcast, we’re super big fans of tangible practices, things our listeners can start implementing tomorrow.

So in addition to what we’ve already discussed, do you wanna leave us with any practical tips or recommendations that we can offer our listeners that want to either recruit, retain high quality remote teams or high quality remote workers? Yeah, I think definitely I. Some of the things that I mentioned with giving them the flexibility on the negotiation table and things like equity, I think you have to consider it.

I know that’s something that’s difficult to set up sometimes, but we’re going through the whole [00:26:00] process of doing it because now nowadays, a lot of. Even everybody is interested in it. And if you have a growing organization and you have a potential sale in the future, or you have a potential acquisition potential future rounds of investment it’s great to give your employees that extra bonus and incentive to work with you and to stay on and retain them.

With stock options. That’s a key one as well. And then offering. Some wellness is so important. I think you have to definitely prioritize that, encourage that, encourage employees and contractors to be open with you and HR to express themselves and to be able to have the flexibility for personal time.

And the agency, we call it like the empower, empower them. To work the way they wanna work. Cause you’ll get you’ll see more productivity if you’re rather than trying to micromanage, which never works well even [00:27:00] remotely or in person. That’s what I think creates a lot of dissatisfaction. Of course, you’re managing, but you do it in a way that gives them some agency so that they have more creativity, more control, foster leadership, tho those things really help for.

For retention and attracting some great talent. Yeah, we started with freedom and we circled back exactly to it. Super important. Hey Sully, thank you for taking the time out of your, what I assume is a very busy day to talk to us about this. I really appreciate it time and I wish you the best of luck with the future of Writer Army and, we’ll see what the future brings for content production. Yes, it is. Yeah it’s an interesting time. Interesting time. Things are changing. But thanks for having me on. I appreciate it, Elisa. Fantastic. Thanks Sully. Thanks.[00:28:00]

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