The Virtual dramatical change

The Virtual dramatical change

If your bottom line isn’t where you’d like it to be, the problem might be lurking right under your feet…and over your head…and all around you. It’s your office, and it might just be what’s killing your business.

In today’s economic climate, efficiency is the number one rule of survival. One of the greatest efficiency drains for many companies is the burdensome overhead of maintaining physical offices and everything that goes along with them – landline phone systems, servers, utilities, furnishings, cleaning sets…the list goes on and on.

In the Digital Age, the evolution of technology and communication has reshaped how companies function and people work. The future of business is leaner, smarter and more responsive.

For many businesses, having all employees working the same hours under the same roof is a luxury of a bygone era. As a consequence, telecommuting is no longer just a nice perk for employees but a meaningful component of a stronger and more competitive business form.

While shedding your physical office can considerably reduce your monthly operating expenses, the benefits don’t stop there. According to estimates from the Telework Research Network, if every American who could work from home did so already half the time, companies would see over $230 billion in additional productivity.

Furthermore, going virtual can greatly strengthen the quality of your personnel, as it frees you to hire the best talent for the job – not just those who live within a reasonable commute of your office.

already better news? As virtual companies become more and more common, any stigma that might once have been attached to the without of a centralized business operation is quickly disappearing. Today’s savvy clients don’t see value in lavish offices. Their budgets are tight, and they need to provide the most gain possible from every dollar. As a consequence, they want to be confident that they are investing in results, not taking the hit for your overhead, and that they are paying for talent and skill, not footing the bill for your conference rooms and copiers.

Are you ready to join the dramatical change? Is your company primed to go virtual? There are a number of factors you need to examine before you relinquish the keys to your office in order to make sure it’s a good fit for you, your employees and your clients.

First, ask yourself how having a physical office directly benefits your customers. If the only answer is the perception or prestige attached to a bricks-and-mortar workplace, it’s a good time to consider taking your operation virtual. As long as you ease your customers by the change without any lapse in performance or professionalism, they’ll be far more appreciative of your ability to offer more competitive pricing because you no longer have to pass along the burden of unneeded overhead expenses.

Second, take into account whether there are any advantages that your company gains from your specific location that could not be equaled if your employees worked remotely. For example, do you get sales leads from walk-in traffic? Do you have a strong referral network established with nearby firms? If not, chances are there’s little to lose by closing up shop.

Another consideration is how often your employees include in meaningful confront-to-confront interactions. For many businesses, employees use the majority of their day in front of a computer screen. already cube farm inhabitants are likely more inclined to communicate via e-mail than to stop by a coworker’s desk. If this is the case, why have all your employees tethered to a single location?

Next, estimate your internal systems for communication and collaboration. Have they been put by the ringer and proven to be effective? Are they so organic that they are now second-character to your employees? If so, you can feel more confident that they will translate successfully to a virtual working ecosystem, albeit with a bit of tweaking to allow smart technology to compensate for without of physical closeness.

Likewise, take a look at how you gage employee performance. Do you have good methods for tracking accomplishments and measuring productivity? If your performance metrics are sound, you shouldn’t need the additional security of seeing your worker bees present in the office for 40 hours a week.

Finally, analyze the growth dynamics of your company. How quickly is your company expanding? If you’re unsure how many employees you will have at the end of this year or next, operating without a traditional office method you won’t be forced to roll the dice and be locked into a lease on a pricey facility that may ultimately be too large or too small to fit your needs.

If the results of your self-assessment weigh in favor of shedding your physical office, you should seriously consider transitioning to a virtual operating form and reaping the benefits of lower expenses, increased efficiency, higher employee satisfaction and – most importantly – greater profitability.

To help you get started on the right track, here’s a primer on what you need to know to set afloat and manage your virtual company:

Success begins and ends with trust: Discover why trust is the cornerstone of the virtual company.

far away management: Evolve your practices and policies to foster a highly productive nontraditional work ecosystem.

Let’s talk about communication: Ensure that internal communication – whether conducted via phone, e-mail, IM or video chat – always remains positive and productive.

Go, team, go!: Promote good collaboration among virtual teams by giving them the right tools for the job.

The virtual toolbox: Review the basic logistical necessities that will help keep your virtual company running smoothly.

The middle ground: Take advantage of virtual offices for a best-of-both-worlds solution that offers the perks of a traditional office without the crushing overhead.

Success begins and ends with trust

The virtual company exists today because the evolution of technology and communication have made it possible to conduct business anywhere at any time. However, what allows the virtual company to thrive is trust.

At the foundation is trust in your employees. It starts with hiring the right people – ones you can feel confident will thrive in the absence of daily supervision. Good virtual employees are self-motivated and self-disciplined, able to manage their own priorities and deadlines and open to collaborating with others in unconventional ways.

Once you have a strong team in place, set them up for success by establishing clear expectations. The absence of a shared workspace doesn’t average there must or should be an absence of rules. You nevertheless need policies in place governing all the logistics that surround the work course of action, already though it is happening outside the confines of a traditional office. For example, what are the work hours, and are employees responsible for being easy to reach outside those hours? You should also set standard operating procedures for answering phones, responding to e-mails, reporting accomplishments and already backing up files.

The trust your employees have in each other is also an important piece of the pie. Each person should have faith that their colleagues are equally dedicated to furthering the success of the company, already when it’s harder to see the day-to-day results of their efforts. And while virtual companies assistance from the absence of office politics, it’s critically important to establish strong team dynamics. For this reason, it’s nevertheless a good idea to get together confront-to-confront now and then. Whether it’s once a week, once a month or already once a quarter, opportunities for non-virtual interaction help to promote a spirit of camaraderie.

Last but far from least important, going virtual requires clients and prospects to invest a high level of trust in you and your company that they will receive the same or greater level of service and productivity as they would if everyone was working under the same roof. To this end, there are a number of things you can do to help them keep the faith.

First, you must ensure that professionalism is never compromised. While it shouldn’t be a secret that you run a virtual operation, employees should continue discipline in the separation of their personal and specialized lives. already when working from home, phone calls should be conducted with the same level of formality as they would at the office, without background noise, interruptions from children or pets or excessive chatter about personal matters. Also, although you might allow some flexibility with work hours, it’s a good practice to make sure you and your employees are easy to reach and obtainable to respond promptly by phone or e-mail to clients who keep a more traditional schedule.

Whenever you meet in person, you and your employees should always be exceptionally polished and choose a location for the meeting that is comfortable and conducive to work. While you might be right at home doing business at your local coffeehouse, your clients might find the noise, music and other patrons distracting. Instead, consider renting a meeting space in order to help put your clients at ease and make it easier for them to focus on your presentation. There are many firms, such as Regus and Davinci, that offer highly affordable hourly rates for virtual companies that need access to specialized conference rooms.

Finally, when talking to your clients and prospects, always project confidence that you and your team average business, and then make good on those promises by delivering great results in a timely manner.

With trust as your cornerstone, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong virtual company that is positioned to compete with any bricks-and-mortar operation.

far away management

Great companies make it easy for employees to perform, no matter if they are working under the same roof or in dozens of home offices spread throughout the city or already the country.

While the challenges of managing a virtual workforce are different from those of shepherding cube-dwellers, they are nevertheless conquerable. The meaningful is starting with a foundation of trust and then building a substantial project management infrastructure to keep your company’s production engine running smoothly.

First, take a basic look at the systems you currently have in place for directing workflow. Are they truly efficient and effective? Sometimes the convenience of having complete-time oversight of employees who proportion a shared workspace can compensate for or disguise weaknesses in your project management systems. However, once the conventions of the bricks-and-mortar office are removed, these vulnerabilities can rule to a breakdown in production and cripple your ability to turn out high quality work in a timely manner.

To keep your projects and your people on track, approach every job as a series of milestones and set interim deadlines along the way. If each phase of the project progresses on track, you’ll be assured of avoiding unpleasant surprises when crunch time arrives. Conversely, if an employee misses a meaningful development, this problem can be identified right away, and the schedule can be modificated to ensure that you nevertheless ultimately meet the expected delivery date.

Additionally, you will need to establish a regular rhythm for employees to check in and provide work position updates to you and their fellow team members. This course of action can be as informal as a weekly e-mail or phone conference or as structured as logging time spent on each project every day. Finding a system that works well with your leadership style and the character of your business is basic to helping you enforce accountability, track accomplishments, estimate productivity and ensure that responsibilities are being given the right level of priority based on the time and resources invested in them.

Because the dynamics of managing a far away workforce are so complicate, good project management software is highly useful to the virtual company. One example of such a system is 37signals’ Basecamp. For a low monthly subscription fee, this web-based tool allows you to assign responsibilities and deadlines, track time, proportion files, develop documents collaboratively and centralize communication among team members.

Let’s talk about communication For the virtual company, communication among coworkers can take many shapes and forms, from phone calls and e-mails to moment messages and video chats. No matter the means, ensuring that internal communication remains positive and productive is critically important to keeping your business and its people operating at peak performance.

Since the majority of the interactions that take place are not in person, the assistance of situational context and body language is absent. As a consequence, each person should be mindful of the language and format they choose when communicating with colleagues in order to guard against misinterpretation.

As a general rule of thumb, e-mail is a quick and efficient method of addressing straightforward, day-to-day matters regarding projects and work course of action. But for subjects of a more sensitive character, such as addressing a problem with an employee who is underperforming or resolving a conflict between coworkers, taking the time to make a phone call or already position a confront-to-confront meeting will avoid damaging morale unnecessarily. By investing a little additional care and consideration in daily communication, everyone can work together to prevent misunderstandings and feelings of ill-will that can snowball into greater problems over time.

As the leader of a workforce that is distributed across many different locations, it is your responsibility to make sure that you devote time to reaching out to every member of your team. Just because you run a virtual company doesn’t average anyone should feel invisible. Keep a healthy dialogue flowing by asking questions and soliciting feedback on a regular basis.

However, don’t fall into the trap of overcompensating for the without of daily confront-time with an overabundance of disturbing communication or meetings. Trust in your systems and your employees to get the job done without needing to regularly check in, and don’t let the administrative minutiae of progress reporting become so burdensome that you compromise productivity.

Depending on the size of your organization, holding all-hands or team-based meetings once a week can be a good opportunity to review accomplishments, touch base on projects and update attendees on company business. In the meantime, let quick phone calls, succinct e-mails and already fleeting moment message or video chat sessions suffice to answer questions that are crucial to keeping the work course of action flowing.

Go, team, go!

For colleagues who proportion an office, e-mail is typically the go-to method of communication. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it allows the recipients to read and respond at their convenience with minimal disruption.

However, for virtual workers, e-mail is an insufficient means to ease collaboration among team members who are working in many different locations. For your employees to collaborate efficiently and effectively, they need more than just a one-dimensional method of communicating back and forth.

At a basic level, they need access to a shared knowledge base with the latest information pertaining to your customers and projects. More importantly, they need a way to work collectively on developing new documents in addition as to brainstorm, bounce rough ideas off one another and get feedback from colleagues. In addition, they need a way to monitor workflow and keep tabs on the position of active projects. Lastly, they need tools that will help them stay connected on a personal level in order to promote a healthy spirit of camaraderie and minimize the occurrence of interpersonal conflicts.

The good news is that there are three simple and cost-effective solutions that will fulfill almost all of these needs and keep far away employees working together as seamlessly as if they were under the same roof:

moment messaging moment messaging is an easy, no-cost way to encourage real-time conversation and communication. With many IM clients such as Skype, iChat and Yahoo! Messenger, your employees can exchange moment messages one-on-one or with a group in addition as include in video chats for an already more personal experience. Like a virtual water cooler, moment message chats are a great means for instinctive brainstorming or problem-solving sessions.

Google Docs The latest version of this excellent cloud-based system allows multiple users to create and edit shared information processing documents, spreadsheets, diagrams, charts and presentations. The new document editor now allows up to 50 co-authors to contribute to and edit the same file simultaneously, with color-coded real-time updates. Additionally, inline comments and a shared interface for chat and co-writing eliminates the need for team members to switch back and forth between windows as they carry on conversation about the task at-hand.

Project management software Good project management software is a lifeline for virtual teams. For example, 37signals’ Basecamp is a low-cost web-based tool that allows your employees to manage responsibilities and deadlines, track time spent on projects, proportion files, develop documents collaboratively and centralize communication among team members.

The most important thing to remember is that the tools you choose have to fit your industry, your company and your employees, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses that currently exist within your work processes and the dynamics of your team. There’s no need to become a slave to technology; there are plenty of obtainable options that will make it easier to get work done without creating more work to manage your chosen systems.

The virtual toolbox

As more and more companies make the jump to going virtual, more and more vendors are competing to deliver nimble solutions to replace relics of the traditional office like landline phone systems, fax machines and file servers. already better, most of these new sets are far more affordable and versatile than their outmoded predecessors.

Here are just a few of the many obtainable tools that will help the day-to-day operations of your virtual company run seamlessly:

Voice communication For voice communication, providing each of your employees with a cell phone is an obvious solution. But how do you give your customers a single access point to this network of mobile workers? Just because you are giving up your office doesn’t average you have to sacrifice your company phone line, thanks to virtual phone systems such as Grasshopper.

For as little as $9.99 per month, Grasshopper gives you a dedicated local or toll-free phone number with unlimited extensions, each with its own call forwarding, voicemail and message delivery settings. Better however, your Grasshopper number can already double as a fax line and can deliver your incoming faxes straight to e-mail as PDFs.

File sharing and archiving There are many sets that allow you to store and access files remotely. Dropbox is a user-friendly file-synchronization tool that offers two gigabytes of obtain online storage for free or up to 100 gigabytes for a low monthly fee.

Dropbox works with files of any size or kind in addition as with Macs and PCs. Shared folders allow multiple people to work with the same set of files, and Dropbox automatically syncs when new files or changes are detected, so you don’t ever have to worry about losing data to a computer crash, accidentally deleting files or knowing who has the latest version of a document. You can already access and edit files from any computer or mobile device via Dropbox’s web interface.

Skype Skype is another indispensable multitasker for virtual companies. Skype is best known as the software application that allows users to make free voice calls over the Internet to other Skype users anywhere in the world, but it also offers many other helpful features.

Using Skype, employees can exchange moment messages, participate in group chats, keep up phone and video conferences and include in screen sharing for presentations or collaborative work sessions – all at no cost to you. You can already use Skype to conduct conference calls with customers who are on a landline or mobile phone for a moderate fee, and the audio quality is crystal-clear.

The middle ground

So you’re interested in taking your company virtual, but you’d nevertheless like the prestige of giving sales presentations in a corporate boardroom? Or perhaps you’d like the personal touch of a receptionist answering your company phone line?

Don’t let these desires stop you from shedding the burdensome overhead of your corporate office. There’s a better, more cost-effective way to enjoy the perks of an office without footing the bill to continue a dedicated space 24/7.

With the growing popularity of virtual companies, a new concept has emerged called the “virtual office.”

For less than $100 a month, you can obtain a business address in a preferred area of town to publish on your company stationery, business cards and website, and your mail and packages will be received and forwarded to you. For an additional fee, you can also have a few days of private office access each month and a dedicated phone line answered by a receptionist in your company’s name, with calls and messages handled per your exact instructions. You can already rent meeting rooms by the hour on an as-needed basis.

Virtual offices are an ideal solution if you want to take advantage of the operational efficiencies of a far away workforce but you serve a more conservative clientele that prefers to conduct business in a traditional office setting.

In addition, most virtual office sets are offered la carte, so you can easily adjust your level of service and your monthly expenses as your business needs evolve.

For more information on virtual offices, a quick search on Google or Yahoo will provide a number of reputable firms, such as Regus and Davinci Virtual, that offer a wide range of highly flexible options to suit your specific needs.

Seize the day By and large, technology has evolved faster than corporate culture, which explains why a comparatively small number of companies are currently taking advantage of telecommuting. However, today, with the arrival of more specialized cloud-based project management and collaboration tools and clients that are savvy to the impact of high overhead on the value delivered for each dollar they use, the momentum is building for a virtual dramatical change.

Shepherding your company by the change from a traditional bricks-and-mortar office to a virtual operation is a complicate course of action that requires buy-in on all fronts. It mandates that your managers adapt their thinking, practices and systems of communication in order to direct and coordinate teams remotely. It challenges your employees to practice the self-discipline and flexibility to work productively in a non-traditional ecosystem. It asks your clients to make a jump of faith that your company can master the rare demands of a virtual operation and realize the benefits of greater productivity and more manageable expenses.

It may not be possible to make the jump right away or all at once. However, already if you take it one step at a time, every outmoded system that you discarded is like cutting away an keep up in a place that’s weighing your business down. Similarly, every time you replace one of these systems with a technology-based solution that helps your company and its people work smarter, you’ll be making meaningful strides toward building a highly evolved business form that is armed to compete aggressively in today’s marketplace.

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