Virtual Office: Long-Distance Managing
BY Donna Fenn
A clothing retailer explains how she is saving expenses by using managers that are not working in her New York office.
Caroline Davis has surrounded herself with a stellar management team. Well, not literally. Davis, president of the Worth Collection, a $25-million women's clothing company, is based in New York City, but her four vice-presidents are in Indiana, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida. Why? "I've always looked for the right person, regardless of location," says Davis. Moving key executives to pricey Manhattan would have cost Davis a small fortune, so she decided to make long-distance managing work. Here's how she does it:
· Hiring. "I hire people who work well independently and don't need constant supervision," says Davis. As part of the hiring process, she uses a written "personal profile" test for insight into prospective hires' work habits.
· Communication. "Everyone is connected by electronic mail, voice mail, and fax so that communication flows much as it would in a single location," she says. "There's also a weekly conference call with just the vice-presidents and me." Recently, for instance, the group discussed plans for a national sales meeting and a major marketing survey. Managers come to New York every six to eight weeks for more long-term strategic planning.
· Culture. "We pay more attention to our corporate culture than if everyone were in one place and we took it for granted," says Davis. Over the phone, "sometimes we'll discuss a book -- most recently Warren Bennis's OnBecoming a Leader -- or I'll send out a magazine article and ask for opinions on how it might relate to our own strategic planning." She adds, "Every week, I put out a newsletter that goes to everyone in the company. It contains everything from motivational pieces to corporate stories to letters we get from customers."