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Virtual Company - Keep the Team

Discussion in 'General Entrepreneur Discussion' started by AroundTheWorld, Sep 16, 2007.

  1. AroundTheWorld
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    AroundTheWorld Be in the Moment Speedway Pass

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    Diane made reference in a different post that she made a decision to make her company virtual.

    I used to have a biz that was semi-virtual and when I sold - the buyer took the company a few huge leaps forward in terms of being virtual. I was impressed. (I am pretty tech impaired.

    I am curious to hear from Diane and others that have done it how you manage a virtual company.

    • How do you keep all of your team on the same page - moving in the same direction?
    • How do you hold them accountable for the work?
    • How do you check in to see that the work is being done - and quality of work being done?
    • What tech or web items do you use in your virtual world to help with the issues listed above?
     
  2. aptohosting
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    aptohosting Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Good morning,

    When you take a company 100% virtual, there are different project management solutions that you can buy. This will allow you to assign tasks to different individuals and track their performance. Also, it is good to use a program like net meeting, or any other web conferencing software. This will allow you to communicate with your employees "face to face" and know what is going on. We use http://www.proworkflow.com it is a great piece of software and keeps everything running smoothly.

    Hope this helps,

    Tom
    AptoHosting.com
     
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  3. Diane Kennedy
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    Diane Kennedy Bronze Contributor

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    I don't think I have this one completely dialed in yet. There has been a lot of learning. Some of the lessons I've learned:

    * You must communicate fully what you expect up front.
    * Don't hire employees, hire Independent Contractors (IC)
    * Make people fully accountable for their work.
    * Pay based on result (value billing), not time and effort.
    * If your gut says something isn't working, it's most likely not working.
    * Don't ignore a problem (or problem IC), it'll only get worse.

    * As an IC, they have a responsibility to produce a certain quality. There's a big change that occurs when you hire ICs versus employees. One of the lessons I learned, though, was that you can't necessarily change an employee into an IC and I've given up trying. If the round peg doesn't fit the square hole, go find a square peg.

    * Trust and verify on quality. Find key stats to monitor and make sure they stay in line. Put QC into your program.

    * Tell me more about what you do and let's brainstorm how to do it. For our companies:

    TaxLoopholes - online tax education. I have ICs who do (1) tech work (pretty evident if that's not working - the website goes down!), (2) writing (works closely with me so I know what is going on regarding that), (3) accounting (F/S on time, bills getting paid, etc.) (4)admin support (works closely with me)

    DKA/DKAffiliated - CPA services. My husband runs this division - (1) sales stats, (2) random indepth customer polls (3) follow up emails after service is delivered (4) I'm one of the providers here too, and Richard does QC on my clients just like any of the other CPAs.

    Web stats program (can't remember the name)
    QuickBooks Pro (posted through a company server so select people can get in)
    Inter-office Forum (UBS - Universal Business Systems) - post systems, checklists
    Gold Mine - One of the most important programs in our business - we track customer sales, customer comm, history - pull a whole range of stats on a regular basis
    Conference calling - regularly scheduled phone meetings (we use Global Crossing) and often tape them if we're talking policy. They get posted on a FTP site for the company.
     
  4. AroundTheWorld
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    AroundTheWorld Be in the Moment Speedway Pass

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    Bump for more ideas....

    I love the idea of a virtual company. Some of the advantages I see:

    • Lower overhead
    • Larger talent pool to draw from - you don't have to be bound geographically
    • Freedom to travel - again, not bound geographically

    Reading the 4 Hour Work Week has continued my interest in a virtual set up.

    Any other recommendations for tricks and tools?

    Things I've stumbled upon since I first made this post:

    • Remote Control: example - logmein
    • EFax: Can be emailed to multiple people

    Let's here about the tools you use!
     
  5. Jill
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    Jill Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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    vonage
    maxemail (like efax)
    live meeting

    I'm going to be contracting a new VA for the first time this week, after re-reading 4HWW again this weekend, so will let you know how that goes.
     
  6. John
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    John Contributor

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    We specifically started with the intent to run as a virtual company from the beginning. I love the freedom of being able to work from anywhere with an internet connection.

    I've found that some people (like me, and the IC's that do work for my company) enjoy working alone from home, and some people miss the social interaction of an office setting and will get burned out and return to a "real" job after a while. The trick is to find and keep the really good IC's who enjoy working from home and will stay with you.

    Remember to keep time zones in mind. What if you're in the US and your IC is in the UK? This might work fine if you don't need to communicate directly in real time very often. If you do, you might run into problems. Even if you're all in the same country but different time zones, get everyone in the habit of always including the time zone any time they mention a time.

    The posts from Diane and AroundTheWorld are right on. I don't have much else to add except for a couple of useful services:

    --Skype - Free internet phone calls and conference calls - no long distance fees!

    --Google Docs - Free online word processing and spreadsheet programs. Your documents can be accessed and edited online from any computer. Docs can be shared to allow multiple users to access and edit them. Great for remote collaboration!
     
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  7. MJ DeMarco
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    MJ DeMarco Raving Lunatic Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    Admin Post
    One particular tool that I've always LOVED and found its benefits PRICELESS are scheduled autoresponders.

    I'd have different customer groups put into scheduled autoresponders that would email them at set periodic intervals. Initial email the moment of inquiry, an email 7 days later, then another 14, then another at 30 days.

    For example, my existing customers would receive one email per week called "Insider Tips"; each email would have a tip, as well as upsell additional services.

    Customers who were on the fence for my service also were put into an autoresponder loop -- once every 10 days we'd send out benefit emails telling potential clients the benefit of my web service and why they should join now.

    You set up each email, set the interval, and let the thing run. Its a virtual marketing and follow-up machine. To coin a phrase from infamous informercial marketer Ron Popeil, you set it and forget it!

    There are services that offer this (search Google for "Autoresponders") as well as some the come bundled w/existing mail programs.
     
  8. zaiteku
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    zaiteku New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Ive been using Zoho for managing a team remotely, and its been a big help so far. Very customizable, and all online.

    www.zoho.com
     
  9. australianinvestor
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    australianinvestor Bronze Contributor

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    Another advantage missed here is the ability to have a 24-hour work day. A bricks-n-mortar competitor in your town might work 8 hours, then everyone goes home. By the time they get back to work the next day, your company has worked 16 more hours (two business days) - eg: your Indian staff work 12 hours, then your South American staff take over for another 12, and so on.

    Over a year, you end up having 420% of the competitor's work capacity.

    Not only that, you can hire far better talent than might be available locally. Imagine being in Silicon Valley and having trouble finding someone skilled in XYZ programming (for example). You might find a computer science PhD in India for half the cost.

    :)
     

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