In 2018, running a remote company is not as difficult as it may seem--and it is quickly becoming a necessity. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, 22 percent of employees work at least partially in a remote environment and the number--as well as the demand for remote positions--continues to increase. As the market shifts to accommodate this new style of work, it is crucial for businesses to understand how to operate successfully in an online environment.

The key is having the right tools...and knowing how to use them. After testing dozens of platforms with my fully-remote company, these are the select few that have stood the test of time.

1. Trello

Trello CEO Michael Pryor uses an analogy to describe what his product does: If you go camping in the forest, you need a map to navigate out of the forest and a walkie-talkie to communicate with your team.

Trello is designed to be your map. It is a project management tool that is simple in its workflow and user interface--it allows you to lay out tasks and clearly document what needs to get done, who is doing it, and what the current status is. Although simple in nature, Trello offers a tremendous amount of flexibility with integrations, Power-Ups, and customization via their API.

2. Slack

Communication is essential when running any company, and without a physical office, communication can be infinitely more difficult. Slack is your walkie-talkie.

Slack helps build team culture in a remote environment by providing streamlined, instant communication with your entire team. Beyond just communicating, it integrates with Zapier and hundreds of other apps to do everything from scheduling automated reminders to increasing morale with animated GIFs. At Leverage, we have automated reminders for team meetings and notifications that remind a contractor that they need to follow up with a client. A handful of Slack apps add another layer of functionality and help our remote team feel like a real community.

There is a key distinction between Trello and Slack. Trello is a project management software for "to-dos" while Slack is for communication. While you can communicate via comments in Trello, the purpose is to use these comments to facilitate work on a specific project, not simple day-to-day conversations. Pro tip: Slack is for internal communication, email is for external.

3. Zoom

Even with Slack, there is still an important communication component that is missing: the classic conference-room-style meetings. For that, we use Zoom.

Zoom is a simple video conferencing program that can handle everything from huge team meetings to small one-on-ones. The simplicity lies in the way that it ties URLs to meeting rooms. You can easily send a meeting URL to your team to get everyone in the same place at the same time. Each individual account also has its own designated meeting URL--add in a custom domain like "meetwithXXX.com" and conducting conference-style meetings is a breeze.

Zoom allows for recordings, and is also a fantastic webinar platform. It also has an app that lets you take your video conferencing on the go.

4. Process Street

Every successful company--no matter how big or small--has processes in place to keep things running smoothly. It is incredibly important to document all of the processes within your company so that if an employee is sick or leaves unexpectedly, another team member can easily complete their tasks. Process Street can be used to document anything from the simplest three-step process to the largest, most complex process you can dream up. It can also integrate with Zapier, so you can automate entire checklists or various parts of a process. At Leverage, between Zapier and Process Street we have completely automated many core processes--like our hiring system, for example.

It's not just having the tools, it's how you use them.

The most important part of any tool is how you use it--if you're not using best practices when it comes to these four tools, you may be actually hurting your business.

  • With Slack, it is important to set up proper channels with the right people. Too many unnecessary people in one channel? You've got too many cooks in the kitchen and a bunch of people getting notifications--distractions--they don't need.

  • Trello is invaluable for organizing large projects, but if you aren't using it correctly it can do the exact opposite. Knowing when to separate a project into multiple cards and limiting boards to a minimal number of lists is essential to keeping things clean, simple, and organized.

  • Zoom is a great tool for talking face-to-face, but it should only be used when a face-to-face meeting is absolutely necessary. A remote team has the benefit of eliminating the distractions of a physical office--so keep distractions to a minimum by using these meetings strategically.

  • Process Street can offer more than just documentation. By having other team members review documented processes you can easily pave the way for innovative breakthroughs. As a rule in our company, anyone who works on a recurring process must have another team member rotate in once per month. That way, we have a second set of eyes looking at every process within our company and pointing out any faults or inefficiencies that others may have missed.

Published on: Jan 31, 2018