As an entrepreneur behind a new business startup, or the manager of an SME, you probably find yourself firefighting every day. There are so many issues to overcome and you quickly become adept at finding smart solutions, or quickly go under.
When funds are limited or location is awkward one of the easiest ways to fight multiple fires is working through the cloud. While the concept of recruiting virtually is still anathema to many of the old-school business types – imagine trusting someone you’ve never met to get a job done! – the reality is that virtual employees provide a fast, efficient and cost-effective means to moving your business forward.
You just need to know how to manage your e-team successfully.
I’m someone who practises what they preach. As the founder of the UK’s leading freelance marketplace, PeoplePerHour (PPH), I’m obviously going to extol the virtues of virtual working. However, although I began with a core team of local staff, without an additional coterie of competent freelance professionals, PPH would never have got off the ground. That was 10 years ago now and the current tranche of startups and SMEs have a host of tools available to not only help find the very best portfolio professionals for their needs, but to proficiently manage them with the minimum effort.
If I was starting again from scratch right now, this is how I would set about building an effective team using the cloud.
1. Strengthen your core
If you’re just starting out, the core of your business might just be you, but as you grow you will have other key positions which you may need to keep in-house. Identify these and recruit strongly, looking for adaptable personnel who are willing to collaborate with partners on various platforms, including the virtual.
Some people will still be uncomfortable with the concept; that’s of no use to you, so make sure that your new team are as willing to work flexibly as you are… Not forgetting that it’s even possible to cloud recruit managers.
2. Identify areas easily outsourced
Some positions simply lend themselves to remote working. These will vary according to your business’ needs, but are likely to include: bookkeeping, PA, web design, copywriting, social media management, PR, photography/videography, graphic design and possibly project/event/recruitment/operations management.
3. Find your e-team
It is now easier than ever before to find a strong team of virtual workers, but how do you know that the person you’re trusting to get the job done is actually worthy of that trust? The simple answer is to use a reliable virtual marketplace where genuine work is rewarded with a genuine rating.
It goes without saying that PeoplePerHour would be my first port of call – it’s impossible to falsify your ratings and reviews, so I know that if a freelancer is in the top rank they really deserve to be there – but there are other sites to choose from. You could also head-hunt, through social media sites, such as LinkedIn.
Once you’ve found your team you need to make sure that you’ve all got your head in the same cloud, for this, communication is essential. Holding online conference calls via Skype, Google+ Hangouts or FaceTime can be incredibly useful when it comes to setting the tone, but don’t forget to back everything up in writing so all of your team – both local and virtual – have a point of reference to return to.
Reinforcing every project issued with feedback – positive or negative – is one of the fastest ways to ensure that your team know what you need from them. And if you’re looking to foster a sense of team cohesion, new interface, Sqwiggle provides something akin to a virtual staff room where global team members can meet up and chat, as well as work on projects.
5. Project management
Keeping track of a local team can be difficult; if you’re outsourcing to a large number of freelancers the problem can be multiplied. This is where project management websites and software come into their own.
If you don’t want to recruit someone to manage your freelance manpower, then tools such as BaseCamp and Trello, which provide at-a-glance task allocation and tracking schedules with multi-person interaction, calendars and file sharing, are invaluable. Evernote is also an incredibly useful way of making sure that all the data you regularly need is accessible from every device you own – PC, laptop, tablet, phone – so you’re never caught short at crucial moments.
Cloud management helps SMEs to access a vast number of niche – and not so niche – professionals from around the globe, enabling them to find the very best person for any given job, without being tied to the overheads of permanent recruitment. It’s a growing trend, and any fool can see why.