Over the past 25 years, I have built five multimillion-dollar companies, all without ever having a physical office. I worked remotely before we had tools like Zoom or Slack. I kept in touch with my team members through conference calls and emails. And while the tools and technology have changed greatly through the years, the secrets to running a business remotely are fundamentally still the same.
Business owners across the country are having to adapt to a different way of doing business. The majority of us are under orders from the government to either "shelter-in-place" or "stay safe at home" and with that comes a new (and unique) set of challenges. So I wanted to share my tips for running a business with a remote workforce.
1. Keep the Goal in Mind
Whether your staff is working a cubicle away or across town (or the country), the goal for any business is still the same. You want everyone to do a good job. You want them to have the tools and information necessary to service your customers and help grow your business. With that in mind, it's imperative that you take the time to define the role and the expectations for each team member who is now going to be working from home during a shelter-in-place order.
For my team, that means weekly and monthly scorecards and reports measuring KPIs, end-of-week (otherwise known as Big Rock) reports, and regularly scheduled calls or Zoom meetings to touch base on key projects. For you and your business, it might look like something different. The key is to stay connected and make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as reporting and expectations.
2. Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Brainstorm Session
When you have the luxury of being in the same office together, brainstorming happens organically throughout the day. Susan goes to Jim's office to discuss the latest marketing campaign, Larry goes to lunch with Raul to talk about the technology projects they need to work on for the week, and so on. But when you are forced to work from home, it can be a bit challenging at first to find those brainstorming moments throughout your day.
Our executive team gets together every other week and once per quarter to look at where we are as a company, where we want to be, and how to best get our quarterly action plans accomplished. We block out all other distractions, turn off our cell phones and email programs, and focus on the task at hand.
Within your own business, don't be afraid to set up a Zoom call or conference call if you need to hash out the details about a particular project or situation. As long as the meeting creates value, it's a worthy endeavor.
3. Invest in Project Management Software
Everyone always asks me, "What's the perfect project management software?" And while I have my favorites, what works for me doesn't work for all my business coaching clients. All of them have strengths and weaknesses. The key is to choose one that's a known winner and then run with it.
The biggest risk with any software is that you spend time and energy on a project-management tool--learning how to use it, setting it up your way, putting tons of information in there--and then realize it doesn't really fit your needs. Or it's not very popular and the developers stop updating or supporting the software a year down the road.
We use Zoho. But there are others like Slack, Asana, Trello, etc.
The key is to commit to a program, and then help your team buy into the program so that it gets used on a consistent basis.