With modern technology there is less and less dependence on physical office space. Many businesses are being formed in a way that lets the staff work from home offices – or anywhere they have a laptop and an Internet connection (like the beach!)
Here are three things that are essential to running your business remotely – successfully. These aren’t the only things, but these three points are key.
1. Online customer and financial software. SaaS (software as a service) means having a specific software running online and accessed via the Internet. One of many advantages of this type solution is that you can access the software from anywhere you have a compute and an Internet connection – and many solutions even offer a responsive/mobile interface to allow access from your smartphone!
You want to be able to access customer information on-demand, and of course you (and bookkeeper and finance team if you have them) will need access to financial systems. It would probably be unpleasant to be sitting on a beach Friday afternoon and remembering that you forgot to run the week’s payroll cycle before you left the office – yikes! But if you can easily access your software remotely, no problem, log on and take care of it wherever you are.
2. A solid virtual phone system. You and your team being available, while also looking professional, will be very important to your clients. VOIP (voice-over-IP) solutions now allow routing of standard phone calls over the Internet. Some of these solutions are fairly basic and will forward calls from a primary/business number to a designated number of your choice (like your mobile phone). Others are much more feature-rich and include things like designated extensions for staff, conference calling, voicemail and transcription, and automated “phone tree” features to direct callers to the correct destination.
Decide what features you need, and be careful not to allow too much feature creep (the solution can get expensive quickly with features you may not really need). Then go shop around because there are a good number of options out there – find the best match for you specifically.
3. Communication. This isn’t a technical issue, but can certainly be addressed with some technical solutions. Know that this *is* the most important of the three though, and it is also the most commonly overlooked.
When your team aren’t all in the same physical office space, you need to make a purposeful effort so they all feel part of a cohesive group. Some things to help with this are regular group conference calls that not only touch on work topics, but also have a portion that is of personal nature. You want the team to “know each other” even if they don’t see each other. Trust me this is huge and will go a long way.
You also need to be available and respond quickly. Since a team member won’t be able to just walk to your office when something is pressing, they need a way to reach you and communicate criticality when something is important. You need to be very aware of incoming emails (and/or set up some rules so emails tagged a certain way get your attention quickly). You should also have systems in place that will allow multiple communication options for immediate-need situations – like chat/instant-messaging and, as mentioned above, phone availability.
I can’t over-stress how important communication is when you don’t see your teammates face to face every day. Working remotely is AWESOME and I encourage you to at least consider if this can work for you business, but it definitely takes purpose, effort, and strong systems.
With these three tips you’ll definitely start out ahead of the game and save yourself some headache and problems by avoiding what I’ve seen as the most common remote-working challenges.