What Canadian public companies can learn from GitLab

The remote work model is transforming businesses around the world by improving organizational productivity.

Just take DevOps unicorn GitLab for example; although based in San Francisco, GitLab is an all-remote company with over 1000 employees across 65 countries. This September, GitLab was ranked #32 on Forbes' "Top 100 Private Cloud Companies in the World."

While remote work naturally lends itself to programming companies, there are numerous lessons that public companies—especially Canadian public companies—can learn from GitLab's trailblazing, all-remote work model.

Use technology to bring order to chaos

With investment partners and satellite offices located in different provinces and sometimes even countries, most Canadian public companies are inherently fragmented to some extent. While conference calls and e-mail chains can do the trick in some cases, phone calls can become too difficult to schedule and email chains overwhelming to sort through as time goes on. One solution to this problem (as espoused by GitLab and numerous other Fortune 500 companies) is to simply use a project communication app such as Slack.

The solution seems painfully obvious, yet I'm constantly surprised by the amount of small Canadian public companies (even those in tech) that are unfamiliar with project communication solutions designed to increase productivity. In comparison, almost every U.S. startup I've been involved with has had an intimate understanding of today's latest productivity technologies. This contrast in technological sophistication is concerning, to say the least.

Underlying this discrepancy between Canada and the United States is a 2016 report by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the findings of which were surmised by the Edmonton Journal,

“Canadian businesses spend far less on productivity-boosting information and communications technology as U.S. firms do. The BDC study found that the level of investment in Canada is just over half (56 per cent) that in the U.S.”

Canadian public companies need to invest in modern productivity tools—whether it's Slack, Asana, or more advanced platforms specific to their industry—if they plan on keeping up with their southern neighbours. Being a Canadian public company means competing for investment dollars, oftentimes on a continental, even global level.

Talent is going mobile

With the growing acceptance of the remote work model, talented professionals now have the freedom to work from virtually anywhere in the world. I myself have contractors based in Western Canada, Europe, and the U.S. This newfound optionality has the potential to drastically change how organizations, both public and private, operate in the future.

Via Forbes,

"Businesses across public and private sector increasingly recognize the benefits of hiring and retaining remote workers. Societal trends with millennials and Gen Z also push more businesses towards adopting more flexible working policies and allowing at least partial telecommute."

If Canadian public companies wish to remain competitive and garner international investment on a large scale, they'll need to continue attracting top talent—and that may mean hiring a CTO in Boulder, Colorado for a Toronto-based tech startup.

Canadian Public Companies Must Embrace Change

Although remote work is still viewed by many as a nontraditional—perhaps even too casual—approach to business, many Canadian public companies are already operating under a hybrid remote work model given the geographical dispersion of their partners and employees. In order to remain competitive in the new economy, Canadian public companies must not only invest in the latest productivity technologies, but also embrace the growing remote work trend… the former being a requirement of successfully executing on the latter.

Aaron Hoddinott

Investor and marketer willing to take big swings at bold ideas.

Aaron Hoddinott

Investor and marketer willing to take big swings at bold ideas.