The advent of the Internet has made it easier and more attractive than ever for budding entrepreneurs to start businesses in their homes. The Web has had a similarly revolutionary effect in allowing workers to telecommute. But what about harnessing the power of the Internet to do both?
A virtual office for your home business is a creative way to let employees focus on their work instead of wasting their time and energy commuting. Going virtual also can help your company save cash, increase profits, and expand its reach.
Here are 10 tips for building a productive off-site team.
- Find the right phone system. Your phone system must be able to link and support all your remote locations in order to project the image of a single company.
- Build an intranet. Because your employees don’t all go to work at a single location, you need to foster communication and instill in them the sense that they’re still part of a team. An intranet can help do both. It can connect your virtual team and make it easier to share information.
- Hold off-site meetings as needed. There are a number of companies and hotels that provide high-end business suites and services to mobile executives. There’s also the local chain coffee shop, which may offer Wi-Fi access and enough space for you to hold informal meetings.
- Plan team-building events. In-person events are essential to remind your employees that they’re not alone. These events can be as simple as a lunch at your house or as involved as a professionally administered training program.
- Hire a virtual secretary. A virtual secretary is someone or a team of someones who work off-site but who are hooked into your phone system, giving the impression that they are answering calls on-site. Virtual secretaries can answer phones, set up appointments, and take messages around the clock, if necessary.
- Communicate openly and frequently. You have to maintain a strong leadership role to lead your virtual team. Be very clear about what you expect from employees and consultants. Make sure they know your policies on pay, health insurance, and vacations.
- Handle payroll professionally. Treat payroll exactly as you would in a traditional office, with direct deposit or mailed paychecks.
- Meet and greet your new hires. Whenever possible, meet employees and consultants in person before you bring them on board. It takes a special kind of individual to work remotely, so make sure they have the right make-up. You’ll also need to determine whether or not they have dedicated office space at home and the necessary technology.
- Project a professional appearance. A Web site can create a powerful public image for your home-based business. Included biographies of all your virtual team members, a description of your team and its services, accomplishments as a team, and a central contact for prospective and existing clients to reach you and the other members of your team.
- Take your public relations and marketing seriously. A solid and appealing brand the image your business projects is critical to the success of your home-based business. You have to convey to customers that you offer the best solution to the challenges they face. And don’t make apologies for working at home.