Being a location independent entrepreneur has never been easier than it is right now. There are several SaaS services and other online/mobile tools to make a remote work environment a reality. This opens up the door to numerous benefits and negates a lot of the struggles entrepreneurs once faced, such as access to a limited skilled workforce, and time zone issues that interrupt both inter-company communication and customer service.
Both communication and service levels can go through the roof when a skilled virtual workforce is employed. That isn’t to say it will make all the challenges of running and growing a business disappear. Far from it, actually. However, when you find the right team members and lay the proper groundwork for managing a virtual team, you’ll actually grow your business faster and enjoy a better work/life balance as you travel from one exotic locale to the next!
Here’s a few tips for getting it done…
Schedule pre-arranged virtual meetings that are convenient for everyone
This is likely one of the most painful aspects of running a virtual team. Trying to manage people in different time zones is a huge challenge. When you’re sleeping, they’re wide awake and presumably working hard to keep your business running while you rest. Then, you can’t expect them to get up three hours early, or stay up past their bedtime to get feedback and instructions either.
Remember, there are always common times when you and your team members can jump on your favorite collaboration software for a quick chat every day, or on pre-determined meeting days. It’s up to you to make these times convenient for all involved, so direct communication takes place and you’re all on the same page with workflows, deadlines, etc.
Don’t let mistakes go unaddressed
Mistakes tend to either just happen occasionally due to a communication error or unexpected distraction, or they eventually compound and snowball into an avalanche. Regardless if they’re a once-in-awhile type of situation or common occurance, addressing them as soon as they happen is critical to managing a virtual team. If you let things slide, you and your team will only suffer when one mistake turns into many.
Worse, when mistakes aren’t communicated to your team, the aforementioned snowball effect that can take place only leads to frustration and eventual bitterness. It’s very easy for a virtual worker to pick up and move on when they’re not happy, meaning location independent entrepreneurs need to work even harder to keep them happy.
Set up an answering/reception service to make sure calls are answered and transferred properly
If your business takes a lot of phone calls, things will go a lot more smoothly for you if you have a virtual receptionist to take and forward calls, as well as take messages when you or other team members aren’t available. Over 80 percent of sales prospects won’t call back when a business doesn’t answer their phone. Few clients will stick around if their calls are never answered or frequently sent to voicemail either.
Also, if you have staff dedicated to specific areas of the business such as admin, sales, marketing, etcetera; a virtual receptionist or reception service offers the convenience of having calls forwarded to that team member through a centralized business phone number. This not only increases efficiency, but equally makes your business more professional looking to prospects and customers.
Make sure the staff have all the tools needed for the job
It’s a given that you’ll require staff members come to the job with a reliable Internet access, a place to work undisturbed, and a PC/laptop, etc. However, things like premium collaboration tools and any industry specific software tools need to be made available to them free of charge. Also, don’t force employees to incur international mobile charges or other expenses that fall outside the scope of remote virtual work without reimbursing them.
Basically, be fair and reasonable and give your team access to the best tools available without the expectation that they should pay for software or expensive equipment. When you find reliable people, consider offering benefits like a yearly computer maintenance allowance, or an extra few dollars added to their monthly pay for Internet or mobile data charges incurred while performing their duties.
Make your virtual team engage with each other (even when they’re thousands of miles apart!)
Collaboration software is so valuable for making remote workers feel less isolated from their team. Everything from Google Hangouts, to more sophisticated options offered by SaaS tools like SalesForce, Wrike, and virtual office services will work just fine for most company’s needs. Give the gang a place to meet up and hangout, chat, share documents, brainstorm, and receive help from each other.
The greatest benefit to encouraging collaboration among team members might seem like it’s for the employees only. However, this benefits you just as much, as common problems and FAQs get taken care of without the need for you to intervene. This leaves you with less aggravation, and the team with a greater sense they’re working together toward a common goal.
Understand that you need to be available 24/7 for emergencies
Finally, as the business owner, you’ll need to allow for contact at all hours of the day and week when emergencies occur. If your business size allows, you may want to assign team leaders to take care of the majority of emergency situations that arise. However, that doesn’t mean you can turn your back on your business completely at any given time.
This is the price of entry into location independent entrepreneurship. It’s necessary for all of us to go off-grid now and again, but when you’re running a virtual team, you do so at your business’s peril. Make your preferred availability well-known among your team members, and set firm rules for how and why workers can get in touch with you during your daily downtime or pre-arranged vacation days.
Location independent entrepreneurship is very rewarding and reduces a lot of stress by allowing you to run your business from wherever in the world you wish to be at any given time. Keep the above tips in mind and you’ll have no problems running a remote workforce effectively.