Published on:

4th Feb 2021

265: Transitioning From Conventional Business Model in Private Practice in 2021 And Beyond with Brant Thomsen, LICSW

Many of us are wondering what our careers are going to look like in 2021 and beyond. We know the therapy model of 2019 as we knew it is not coming back. How do we pivot and move forward? We are answering this question in today’s show.

Our Featured Guest

Brant Thomsen

Brant Thomsen is a therapist in private practice in the twin cities area of MN. He has an interesting life and career because he became a social worker after training at a music school in high-level piano performance. He is now making the move into less therapy and more coaching. Through interesting and unexpected circumstances, Brant was forced to make a quick transition to telehealth during the early days of the 2020 pandemic. He’s here to share what he considered and what he encountered, along with three lessons learned during the transition.

Connect with Brant: Online Practice Builder  

You’ll Learn:

●     How 2020 played out for Brant when he was abruptly quarantined because of a client’s positive exposure

●     How Brant transitioned smoothly to telehealth in 48 hours’ time

●     What it was like to quarantine in his room for two weeks, and why Brant calls it a focused, peaceful, almost monastic experience that brought increased connection with clients and colleagues

●     How Brant’s diverse range of careers helped prepare him mentally for his transition

●     How Brant navigated the struggle to be authentic in his online presence and realize what he can give to others

●     Three life lessons learned in Brant’s transition to online therapy:

●   “I realized how much passion, focus, and readiness I have in supporting other therapists in a coaching role.”

●   “I realized the importance of staying connected to the natural environment around me.”

●    “I realized the lack of permanence in our lives and that what we give each other is temporary.”

●     How Brant is handling the day-to-day stress of the pandemic


Hushmail: Hushmail is a secure, HIPAA-compliant way to communicate with clients via email and to fill out clinical forms like intake packets securely.

Please visit sellingthecouch.com/hushmail and let them know that Mel sent you =).



Hello, welcome to

session 265 of Selling the Couch, I hope that you are having a wonderful day

I'm actually recording this at the very tail end of December; December 30. I

know how difficult Well, I don't know, the individual stories, but on the collective

whole, I know how hard of a year 2020 has been for so many of us. And I know

that many of us are ready to make this transition into 2021. So I hope that

when this session airs that you are doing well, that you are making this

transition and we have more clarity with regard to vaccines and all of those

different things.

Today’s conversation

is with Brant Thomsen from onlinepracticebuilder.com. Brant is actually a

therapist in private practice in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. And Brant has a

pretty interesting life career. So he's a social worker, but his original major

in college was high level like piano performance, and so he actually went to a

music school and was going to become a professional musician and then decided

to make this transition into social work and has done some pretty amazing stuff

throughout his career.

But I wanted to

have Brant on the podcast, we've been friends for a number of years and Brant

decided as for many of us who have made this transition this past year to Telehealth,

Brant had a pretty crazy situation, which you'll hear on the podcast about just

how real this became. In short, he had to make a really quick transition into


And here in

today's session where we're planning on just talking about that, what are some

of the things that he had to consider? What are the struggles that he had? And

then wrapping up with what are three of the business or life lessons that Brant

learned during this transition?

I wanted to have

Brant on because many of us are in this season, where we might be thinking,

what is our career going to look like in 2021 and beyond? And I mentioned this

on the podcast interview. But it's therapy and private practice. As we know it,

the 2019 version of this is not coming back. There's just too many changes too

many things now to factor.

And so what does

this look like and how do we honour that part of ourselves that desires to make

that transition and not listen to fears and all of those different things.

Before we get to today's podcast session, just wanted to take a moment to thank

the team over at Hushmail for supporting this month's podcast sessions. I know

that you guys know a lot about Hushmail, but if you don't know about Hushmail,

Hushmail basically allows you to send and receive private encrypted email and then

also allows you to get your forms completed and signed faster.

So for example,

your initial documentation for clients and things, it allows you to do that in

an encrypted way and you can actually put forms and things like that on your

website. So clients can fill that out through the website instead of kind of

going back and forth and just generally not being efficient.

You can learn more

about Hushmail over at sellingthecouch.com/hushmail. So we'll get right to

today's podcast session. Here is my conversation with Brant Thompson, from


Hey Brant, welcome

to Selling the Couch.


Thank you, Melvin.

It is great to be here.


It's been really

nice. I think we've known each other a couple of years now.


I think so we

first made contact a couple of years ago, although I first became familiar with

your podcast, as it was beginning around four years ago for myself.


Wow, I didn't

realize that it had been that long. One, I'm sorry that it took so long to

reach out. But I really am grateful for this conversation because I know this

is something that many of us have done in the field, which is make this

transition to telehealth and more specifically even thinking through what this

means for our businesses going forward. So I really am just grateful for this



Great! Myself as



I was trying to

think about where to even start this conversation. And I think that question

that I wanted to ask you was, tell us a little bit about what was happening for

you as you transition to talk therapy, especially in the start of 2020 as this

pandemic as we were learning more, and all of those different things.


For me, things

changed quite abruptly. My last in person client here, I am actually in my

office, although I do telehealth entirely, had an exposure and he informed me

the next day. And we just did not know enough about COVID its features etc. There

were not even masks for health care providers and putting that out there as a

context, and it meant for me quarantining immediately. We have a day-care in

our home and to keep those kiddos and families safe, and because we knew so

little about COVID, I ended up quarantined in my own bedroom for two or three



Oh, my Gosh, you

know what I didn't even realize that had happened. Talk about like, something

that is abstract and happening somewhere else, and then becoming very real in

just the course one session.


So within a matter

of 48 hours, I had everything set up and ready to go my computer, my laptop, my

bed, my bedside table, a chair, and brought a table in, and I was figuratively

and literally in business and quite smoothly, virtually missed no sessions with

my clients.


How did you I

guess, communicate with the remainder of your clients about this transition and

potential exposure? Like how much I guess disclosure did you have with that?


Yeah, thank you.

Good question. I tend to do long term work with my clients. So about 80% of my

clients have been with me for more than two years approach being psychodynamic

primarily, and in those cases, it was fairly easy, we have a fairly close

relationship and of course, with boundaries. What I found was, it was nice was

there really was a lot of parallel process happening with my clients, many of

them are professional, and supporting them in the transition from being at work

to needing to be at home, while the same thing was happening to me. Self-disclosure

was actually a wonderful thing that we could do that, because I already had

such strong relationships with those clients.


And I think

there's something just so unique about this pandemic. We were all in this and

dealing with it. So it's not like some abstract thing. For example, if you were

to tell a client, significant person in your life passed away, and I need to do

something or I need it; we were all dealing with it. So you made this

transition set up the office. Even take us into that moment, were you scared,

like uncertain or it was more like, you know what, this is what we have to do,

it kind of just went into like, okay, this is the next logical step.


So a five second

narrative, and then how it felt, I went in the back door, I was required to buy

my family, took off any potential laundry, shoes, etc, showered, and was

basically forced by my family with a smile, to go up into my room and stay

there. And I did not come out for about two weeks. But for me, setting up there

was a level of focus. It was almost a monastic experience. It was very


Although there was

isolation, on a deeper spiritual level and emotional level, there was increased

connection with the people who I could not see in person, family, clients,

professional colleagues, networks, long term relationships I've had with people

were no longer in person. And what I would add to that is there also was some

fun. I had times where I literally would go out my window onto my porch roof

with a pizza and social distance, 100 yards from people walking by and have my

pizza and wave of people walking by playing Yahtzee with a friend in Maryland,

while I'm here in Minnesota. So we made some good, positive experience out of

what really was a true quarantine.


Yeah, it is

amazing that you took something that's so startling and sudden and just being

able to see things like almost a spiritual experience and then to even like reframe

that, and not just in your mind, but actually that it translates into tangible

action. These are opportunities where I can now connect with different people

where I can see the world differently and all of those things.

I'm really curious

because I know a little bit more about your past history, careers and all of

these different things that then listeners might know. But so I wanted to ask

you that you've had a diverse range of careers and I know like you were even a

high level performer in music, right. I was just really curious, how do you

think that if, if you think it did, how do you think that affected just sort of

your mentality in that moment?


If you were to ask

people who know me the best they would say I'm creative, I have a quiet

emotional intensity and I think that carries across areas of who a person is,

as well as what they do with it professionally. So I went to New England

Conservatory piano performance major, realized that was not what I wanted

professionally, became a social worker realized that frontline, straight social

work was not just what I wanted, I became a clinical social worker, worked in

the schools for almost 15 years. As the role of clinical social work and

therapy, school base changed, I no longer felt like I was a good fit in the

school setting and I opened my own practice.

It literally was a

leap, I left, let everything go and jumped right into my practice. And as a

therapist, in practice, it was very scary, discerning, what is my niche? Where

do I want to work? Who am I, as a therapist? What do I feel like? What clinical

skills and information do I bring to the table? It has now moved forward even

further to Who am I as a creative, as someone with clinical knowledge and

skills in front of a computer screen? Who am I? What do I do? How do I engage

with people over the computer screen? Whether it's personally or



I love how you're

saying this because truthfully, this is a struggle that I have. I consider I'm

a psychologist, I'm a licensed psychologist, but I'm also I think that title of

creator is sort of how I would think of myself in this space. I love building

things, creating things, creating videos, doing podcasts, all of these things.

And truthfully,

it's something that I've struggled with even very recently, which is, I feel

like intuitively, and creatively, I want to do all of these things. But I do in

some ways, feel that tension of needing to confine myself, I guess, maybe to

traditional talk therapy. I don't know if that makes sense. But I wonder if

you've ever struggled with that because I think a lot of folks listening have

that tension and do you sort of navigate that?


That's a nice way

to think about who we are as therapists, but also who we are in person compared

to online because ultimately, that is the question that is the reality that

we're living in. So discovering who I am, and going through processes

internally, spiritually, with people who know me well, of self-exploration has

been very important and it has changed since the quarantine I had in March.

I was again

quarantined with my daughter who's a young adult who works at the hospital, she

was at bedside of two people who died from COVID on the same day, and she

needed her dad. So when she got home that night, I gave her a hug and I knew it

would mean a couple more weeks of quarantine. But I was okay with that. It

wasn't necessarily a problem. So I brought my family, my daughter and I closer

and it made me realize that I have much to give other people in addition to


So during that

time, I have literally taken more than 150 hours of courses on becoming a

professional coach on what does different aspects of therapy look like online?

On what does it mean to be a business person online? And I had not thought

about that in such clarity until this time.


I think that thing

that I often struggle with is, especially in this online space, especially in

like a lot of these professional communities of therapists, we see this one

side. This is the niche that I work with. This is my training. But yeah, we're

all hold people and how do we sort of integrate all those parts of ourselves?

Because I don't know, at least for me, that's such a big part of small business

ownership is that we get to create something that I guess honours that creative

spark, you know?




I also just wanted

to say I resonate as a fellow girl dad. So yeah it’s wonderful. I wanted to

just transition and kind of dive a little bit deeper into a couple of things.

So I think I'd asked you Brant, would you mind just thinking about like, three

life or business realizations that you've had as a result of transitioning to

teletherapy and making this transition now to 100% online, what would those

three be and maybe what we can do is just kind of take one at a time and dive

deep in?


Sure. The first

one would be that I realized how much passion and focus and readiness I have to

be supporting other therapists in a coaching role. I had not realized that

before I began noticing and realizing that I was increasing my contact with

other therapists. They were having anxieties like I was. So we were having a

common experience.

But I found myself

wanting to reach to provide information to support and challenge accountability

to my colleagues who are also therapists. So for me, that has meant a real

business change, I'm intentionally allowing my own therapy practice, to

gradually decrease in numbers just on its own, not accepting new clients making

referrals out, and I'm increasing the number of professionals to whom I provide

business coaching, including therapists, and I could not have seen this coming

10 months ago.


It's amazing, what

is it like to slowly let go of the therapy practice?


Letting go of the

therapy practice slowly on two levels has a level of sadness to it. Because it

means knowing that I'm letting go of my clients who I have supported for long

periods of time, it's nice that I have the option of doing that gradually.

That's very, very nice. But it also means a change in identity. I'm a very

visual person, a very physical person and experiencing an environment when I

walk into a room, into a space, feeling the energy of that space, I will have

to give up my office, I will have to transition into a new space, which is my home,

and create that new space and there's some sadness in that.


Yeah, which is

completely understandable; how do you make space, I guess, for that new

identity, and emotionally and all of those things?


Relationship, so

influence of other people asking others, what do you think? Or how does it feel

if the wall is this color, or some funk tray, and actually getting the input of

other people, and then I'm not so alone in making the change, and I have

influence of others and it also can become somewhat of a common energy.

So right now in my

home, creating a new space, that will be my office, both for therapy for

business coaching, but also in my home, I have my girls, my wife and a couple

of friends over zoom, helping me pick the colors, or what kind of furniture should

I have there. And I have colleagues here in this building, supporting me as I

transition to leaving this office and releasing it to the next person.


You said something

just so beautiful, and I just wanted to like, make sure we really highlight it,

which is I feel like for many of us, when we make transitions from one identity

to another, or from one business to another, is really easy to hold it to ourselves.

I got to figure this out before I let everybody else know.

But you've done

something which is so beautiful, and I can tell just how intentional you've

been with it, which is you've actually let in the people that know you love you

care about you. And you've let them walk alongside of you. And even to some

degree, I think, like hold you and carry you right, I imagine through some of

this. And I just wanted to say it like that's just a beautiful way of doing it.


Yeah, thank you.

And the aspect of that, that is a compliment. Thank you. And it also is a

blessing. It's an opportunity that's been given. And I've been fortunate in



Yeah. I mean,

that's such a great way also of looking at it. I mean, seeing opportunities as

blessings and seeing that as New Seasons of life. You said it so well, like

there's a I would imagine like a simultaneous sadness plus excitement. And like

holding both of those and navigating and moving through both of those.


The word

excitement is exactly what I was thinking as you spoke the word.


We’re very much in

sync today.


Yeah, I think so.


So the first one

was just realizing how much of a passion you had and a readiness to help

therapists and to transition to like business, mentorship coaching, you said

you invested almost 150 hours like learning and figuring this out, just offhand

any, like resources that were particularly helpful.


This may surprise

and this may not surprise others, but literally Udemy and then finding

instructors on Udemy, but then contacting them, and asking for individual or

small group coaching. So right now I literally have four of my own coaches. One

is video technology.


What do they help



Video and

technology business, self-care, and as different from therapy, self-care,

coaching on self-care and then coaching around how to be a therapist; and it's

not supervision. It's not clinical consultation; it's coaching on how to be a

good therapist.

It's challenge,

it's accountability. And when I integrate all those things and continue to,

right now I'm receiving 10 to 15 hours of coaching, I'm passing forward, the

skills, the information, the experience I'm having with my own coaches, I’m

passing that forward to the people who I am beginning to coach.


It's such a good

way of looking at it. So I wanted to ask you something really random, you have

been in the field for a number of years, you've been a business owner for a

number of years. And I was actually watching this, and I'm going to probably

butcher it, but I was watching this TED talk the other day.

And they were

saying, one of the challenges of a, but they were referring to like companies,

one of the challenges of companies that are like long lasting is that they can

get almost stagnant, or they get so rigid and believe that they know what

they're doing. But you had the foresight to say, you know what, I got to figure

this out. And I need help. Take us inside that mindset shift of asking for

help, when you have been a business owner for such a long time,


I have a friend

who is a clinical social worker, and she and I worked together in a residential

program. And at that point, this would have been seven or eight years ago, she

was saying, “Brant, you need to get out of this setting and be a therapist.”

And I did not listen to her. So this transition time, I called her, and I said,

“Okay, you knew me well, you challenged me, I want you to support me here.” And

with her support and accountability, I keep going back to that word; I think

accountability is very important. I made the shift and this changed very

quickly because I knew that I had to. There was there is no waiting.

I had the

opportunity in quarantine to really make this change, although quickly in a way

that internally was very paced, steady, with a sense of calm, but I knew that I

was going to need to move forward and scale beyond being a therapist, because

the whole nature of what therapy is what it means as a profession is changing.

We don't know just what it will look like in a year in five years. And I knew

that by adding coaching, and by adding online instruction, I was going to be

diversifying my income. And I chose to do it very quickly.


Yeah, you just hit

the nail on the head. I mean, how we understood therapy and private practice,

the 2019 version is not coming back.


I really believe

it is not coming back.


Yeah, it's not, I

think just too many changes that have happened. And yeah, I do feel like those

of us that have the flexibility and sort of the ability to think outside the

box, despite fear are the ones that I think will ultimately I think create

businesses that are not just like financially stable, but like fulfilling like

personally fulfilling as well. What about the second sort of insight that

you've learned?


The second insight

I learned was the importance of staying connected to the natural environment

around us. It was so easy to become disconnected from the air, rain, clouds,

sunlight, and the importance of staying connected to the natural world, and how

critical that is for us. And for me, personally, I was thankful that over the

summer, kayaking down river equals social distancing. And I say that with a

sense of humor, but I took my kayak down seven different rivers or lakes over

the last summer, and I'm thankful for that connection to nature as being a socially

safe thing, but also a very beautiful thing that I had not recognized before my

time alone, secluded in one room.


Yeah, that's

awesome. I share a personal element of this, my favorite Park that I often walk

probably four times a week; it's a nice little to two and a half mile loop

through the woods. It's five minutes away. And when this pandemic started, I

think because we didn't know so much about it, the county closed down that park

for about three months. And yeah, I quickly realized, like how vital nature is especially

to the work that we do, just to be able to reconnect and re-center and all of

those things. What about the third thing?


The third thing

for me is the lack of permanence that we have. I realized that I think I'm more

of a profound or spiritual level. And that is critical, I think to anyone's

health or well-being, whether it's on a conscious level or not. But putting it

out there on a conscious level, giving an example I think of my parents in

Rhode Island who are both, thankfully still here. I think of my teachers from

high school in Providence, I grew up in Rhode Island, one of whom is still

alive and my connection to him.

When I think about

the fact that we are not permanent, what we're able to give one another, what

we're able to do for one another is temporary. It's a onetime thing. And when I

listened to that sense that I have inside, I know 100% that it is my time to be

supporting other therapists and other small business owners, simply forwarding

the skill and the knowledge that I have gained professionally, but also

personally from how I have responded to this pandemic.


Yeah, absolutely,

I think I used to have an old mentor he used to tell me like Melvin, hold your

position loosely.


Oh, yes. Hold your

position loosely. Wow.


Yeah. And I don't

know when you were saying that's what it reminded me of because if there's ever

a time to hold that, it's is now. A really random last question before we kind

of wrap up, you said you take a very spiritual orientation I think to life. How

do you handle like, the day to day as this pandemic unfolds? One day there's

vaccines coming out, the next day; there are issues with getting the vaccines

to places, all of these different things. So how do you handle all of that?


There’s a degree

to which I just don't, there is so much anxiety around this. And this is where

I go to the personal side, when I think of my family or close friends or my

neighbors, or my pets, that impermanence, for me is a lot of anxiety around

vaccine,  around what will things look

like in a year? What will things look like microbiologically in five years, I

do think that way. But listening to and hearing others and their perspectives

and how they're responding in the present, to that anxiety that I think we

share is something I'm doing quite readily.

I think, for me,

it's natural; part of it is also just playing the skill we have as therapists,

the ability to listen. But part of how I'm responding to the reality of how

little we really know about the long term in my perspective, is to acknowledge

that anxiety, and join others who share that anxiety.


Really well said.

Brant, I'm really grateful for you, grateful for our friendship, please tell us

a little bit more about the new business and how we can touch base with you.


Thank you. And

likewise, maintaining this connection with you Melvin is very meaningful. Thank

you. My business as it moves and transitions has a program that I am branding

as Online Practice Builder. So it is one of many programs that can help a

therapist transition to private practice or strengthen an existing private

practice, or move to private practice for the first time. And what's unique

about this one is that key word online. What does it mean to be online as a


 What does it mean to have someone point out

the questions you cannot afford not to ask? What does it mean to be online? It

is not as simple as let's open up my laptop and find a chair and a table. It's

much more complex than that. So to provide a program that helps people think

through those things methodically and in depth, so that by the time they get

through my programming, they have a solid practice building plan in place

online. So I have rolling beta groups. And I think in this case, I know I will

have a #STC, access to my rolling beta group at a discount. So I'll ask anyone

who hears this from STC, look for that hashtag on one of my websites, and give

me a call. And we'll talk about one of my rolling beta groups, which I'm very,

very excited to be able to offer to different people.


Perfect. Brant, I

really do appreciate you doing that for our community. And I can't wait to see

and see you and experience you as you step into this new role.


Thank you. This

has been wonderful. Thanks so much Melvin.


You're welcome.

Have a great rest of your day.


You as well.


Bye. Hey there,

hope you enjoyed my conversation with Brant. And especially if you are in a

season where you are trying to figure out where's my career going and what are

the pieces of myself that I want to honor and what kind of products and

services do I want to launch? What do I want my future career to look like? Any

of those questions? I hope that today's podcast session has been really helpful

for you.

I think one of the

most biggest lessons that I took away from this conversation is just being able

to take a step back and really being attuned to where you are in life and what

intuitively is bringing you joy and passion. I feel like we are all gifted in

different ways. And we're all meant to do different things in the world. And

one of the most honoring things that we can do is to listen to that intuitive


Show notes to

today's episode, which is basically a summary of everything that Brant talked

about, can be found on the selling the couch blog, which is over at sellingthecouch.com/session265.

As we wrap up, I just wanted to take a moment again to thank the team over at

Hushmail for supporting today's podcast session. Hushmail is a great way to

communicate with clients, but do it in an encrypted and in a safe and secure


Now one of the

most important things and one of the questions that I often wonder is, “You

know what, if I sign up for Hushmail, Am I going to have to like go on Hushmail

site and all of those different things and try to navigate all of that?” The

really cool thing is you can actually send and receive encrypted email either

through a website or through something like your iPhone. And then you can

actually access that account through either Outlook or Apple Mail as well.

And the really

neat thing is you can actually use your domain name. So for example, you could

have, mail@melvinvarghese.com

or hello@melvinvarghese.com.

So you don't have this like crazy URL that clients and things would have to

remember. You can learn more about Hushmail and the services that they provide

over at sellingthecouch.com/Hushmail. Have a great rest of your day and I will

see you next time. Bye.

Thanks for

listening to the Selling the Couch Podcast; for more great content and to stay

up to date, visit Selling The Couch


Disclosures: Please note that all opinions are my own and based on my personal experience. Sponsors are acknowledged. Some links in the description are affiliate links where if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission at no additional cost to you. I use these funds to continue to create helpful content to serve our field. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

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Hi. I'm Melvin. I'm a psychologist (PhD), entrepreneur, and online creator living in Philadelphia, PA.

In 2014, I began to think about how to use the therapy skills we learn in grad school, and in our clinical work into different realms (e.g., podcasting, consulting, online course creation, etc).

This allows us to serve others on larger scales while diversifying our income beyond 1 to 1 work.

I make podcasts and videos about business, tech, productivity, and lessons I'm learning from becoming the CEO of a lean, mean 5 person 100% remote team (we're not really mean..it just rhymed =P).

Show artwork for Selling the Couch

About the Podcast

Selling the Couch
Impact + Income Beyond The Therapy Room
With over 1.2 million downloads, Selling the Couch is a top podcast for current and future mental health private practitioners.

Psychologist Melvin Varghese interviews successful therapists in private practice about how they've built their businesses + diversified their income in/beyond the therapy room as well as top entrepreneurs, business/marketing, productivity, and social media experts.

You'll learn how successful business owners get referrals, make money, work through fears, and how they've stopped "trading time for income."

Melvin also shares the lessons as he grows his impact and diversifies his income beyond the therapy room (podcasting, video, online courses, membership sites, group masterminds, investing, etc) and the tips, tools, and tech he uses to grow STC from a single-person business to the CEO of a 5-person 100% remote team.

What you get are bite-sized and highly actionable tips to guide your private practice and entrepreneurial journey.

The best way to get started is to check out https://sellingthecouch.com/start . =)
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Profile picture for Melvin Varghese, PhD

Melvin Varghese, PhD

Hi. I'm Melvin. I'm a Vanderbilt-trained psychologist, entrepreneur, and online creator living in Philadelphia, PA.

In 2014, I began to think about how to use the therapy skills we learn in grad school, and in our clinical work into different realms (e.g., podcasting, consulting, online course creation, etc).

This allows us to serve others on larger scales while diversifying our income beyond 1 to 1 work.

I make podcasts and videos about business, tech, productivity, and lessons I'm learning from becoming the CEO of a lean, mean 5 person 100% remote team (we're not really mean..it just rhymed =P).