What goes into running a successful virtual business?
Would the virtual business model be a smart and effective way to run your established start-up?
The term “virtual business” may not be one that everyone is completely familiar with, but more than likely one or more areas of your business may already have achieved virtual status.
Let’s take a look.
Why a Virtual Business is the Right Choice for You
A successful virtual business is one that uses technology as a way to effectively promote and transact business.
It embraces the concept of working remotely and has an infrastructure in place that creates a cohesive atmosphere among employees.
A well thought out virtual management team establishes trust, sets clear goals, manages expectations, and rewards productivity of remote employees.
The benefits can be substantial.
For starters, setting up a network of ambitious and focused remote employees allows a company to tap into a broader talent pool, as well as to spread its influence and market share geographically in different time zones.
No longer are interviews limited to a five- or 10-mile radius.
Why not hire that guy in Seattle who is a whiz with computer code? Or what about that talented woman in Arlington, Virginia who knows all there is to know about the science of Internet marketing?
With a virtual business team, geographic boundaries evaporate into thin air.
Hiring the right virtual team members in different areas also allows a company to better capture local market share.
Saving money on rent is another big factor. Small and mid-size companies can often save tens of thousands of dollars or more per year simply by hiring a remote workforce.
What could your business do if you were able to reinvest an extra $50,000 per year into it?
Planning Virtually, the Right Way
Effective team leadership is key to establishing a well-organized virtual business.
To achieve virtual stardom, a company needs not only to hire a highly self-motivated and focused remote workforce, but also must work hard at keeping these virtual team members highly interested and involved.
Virtual business teams are more loosely structured than conventional ones, and lack the hierarchy and camaraderie typical of physical office environments.
Company-wide goals and objectives can also be more elusive to employees.
For these reasons, virtual team leaders need to focus more on training and team building exercises that encourage cooperation and teamwork.
By simply creating ways for team members to communicate with one another via IM, Skype, Google+, or other types of communal chat environments, team leaders can begin to construct a stable and supportive communications infrastructure that can withstand the test of time.
Online meeting software such as GoToMeeting and Join.Me can also be extremely beneficial by allowing for monthly, weekly, or even daily meetings with entire virtual teams to discuss goals, agendas, and company news.
These drives are a great place to hold and update company resources for everyone to see.
Team members can create and share documents with one another, and even chat within the documents.
Another tool, Trello, is an important one because it is a web-management tool that allows team members to create project to-do lists, where each project is represented on a separate board with various lists and individual “cards” comprising each list.
Virtual team members can share lists, cards, and even entire boards with others. Plus, team leaders can create to-do lists for each of their remote team members and see how rapidly tasks are being checked off.
For us, this has been a great way to organize and manage our remote workforce, as well as our own daily tasks and agendas.
You can even create personal boards for hobbies, personal goals, and time management.
Anticipate the Challenges and Ye Shall Succeed
Identify the challenges associated with running your virtual business, and determine how you’ll meet each one of these challenges before they occur to improve your chances of success.
The examples above aim to provide some solutions, but each virtual business is different and will face it’s own unique set of challenges:
- Do you have the proper communications infrastructure in place?
- How long will it take your virtual employees to settle into the habit of working from home?
- When you close your physical office, will your customers and competitors think that you went out of business?
- Will there be tax implications for operating in different states?
These challenges could be just a few of many that are unique to your business—but with the right virtual planning methods in place, you may very well find that the ends more than justify the means.