Chuck Longanecker, founder and CEO of Digital Telepathy San Diego:
My Web-design company is based in San Diego, but I work more than 500 miles away in San Francisco. To keep track of what's going on with my employees, I use a Web app called 15Five.
15Five generates weekly reports that take my employees less than 15 minutes to complete and five minutes for me to read. You enter the questions you want to include, like "What challenges are you experiencing at work?" or "What are your sales projections for next month?" Every Friday, employees get an e-mail reminder with a link that takes them directly to the online form.
I have my first-level employees send the reports to their managers on Friday, and the managers send me their reports on Monday. By Tuesday, I have all the reports consolidated into one form.
My favorite thing about 15Five is that it lets managers easily escalate an idea or a concern from an employee's report and include it on their own report by clicking a button next to the response. Then we can have a conversation right on the report, and the manager or employee gets an e-mail notification every time I comment on one of his or her responses.
The service costs $99 a month for up to 20 employees. Even if I visit the office just once a quarter, I have a clear vision of what's happening.