Tips for Successfully Managing a Business Remotely
In light of the pandemic and the unique challenges that it presented, many business owners now realize that they can manage their business remotely and still create a company that thrives, even with employees located in the far reaches of the earth. And in the wake of this realization, Small Business Trends states that 67% of companies expect work from home to be permanent or long-lasting. More than half of employees surveyed in a Pew Research Center study favor remote work, stating that if given the option, they would want to keep working from home. However, remote work offers its own unique challenges, and not everyone understands what goes into successfully managing a business remotely.
How to Start a Remote Business
While starting a remote business or converting your physical location to a digital one is the ongoing trend in countless industries, there’s no guarantee that it will be a successful or easy venture. In fact, many business owners find remote work to be more challenging than taking the traditional, brick-and-mortar route.
This is because managing a business remotely takes much more than giving your employee a computer and sending them on their way. From legitimizing your business to developing a new standard of procedures and protocol, remote businesses encompass many moving parts. As you’re beginning down the path to establishing your remote business, here are a few of the steps you’re likely to require.
Develop a Remote Business Plan
Starting a remote business or taking your business remote isn’t something that can happen overnight. It’s a decision that requires a lot of thought and planning — specifically, a remote business plan. According to the Harvard Business Review, entrepreneurs who develop a remote business plan are 16% more likely to succeed than those who don’t.
A remote business plan is a detailed document that lays out all the goals you have for your business and the steps you will take to meet them. It should include all the exact details, just like a business plan for a brick-and-mortar location. You can also use your plan as a selling point when trying to entice investors.
Although you don’t have to worry about paying rent or utilities for office space, there are still expenses that come with managing a business remotely — some of which are unique to remote companies.
Start your budgeting process by conducting a break-even analysis to calculate all your anticipated expenses. Include costs such as employee salaries, equipment like laptops, necessary software, and work-from-home reimbursements.
When it comes to acquiring sufficient funding to get your business up and running, you have several options:
- Business loans
- Angel investors
- Venture capitalists
- Personal savings
If you’re unsure about taking these measures to fund your remote business, consider this: according to the NFIB, more than 70% of small businesses applied for the Paycheck Protection Program loan (PPP) at the height of the pandemic. Using assistance isn’t a sign of weakness or ineptitude. It can be an intelligent business decision and a significant factor in starting your business or keeping it afloat remotely.
Beef Up Your Online Presence
When your business has no brick-and-mortar location, you must find other ways to interact with your customers and increase brand awareness. Many remote businesses address this through an increased online presence and proactive marketing.
Your website is an extension of you, and first impressions are often long-lasting. Ensuring that you have a robust and professional website has countless benefits, like attracting potential hires and clients, updating existing customers on company changes, and engaging prospects with your portfolio and content.
Social media, too, plays into the necessity for a solid online presence, as it can inform followers of crucial information, reach new audiences, build relationships, and foster an engaged online community.
Take Your Finances to the Cloud
It is common for many companies to use the cloud for digital transferences of data, but they rarely consider it for their finances. If you’re interested in managing a business remotely, you can also apply the same principle to your finances.
Taking your finances digital is an excellent move because it ensures accessibility no matter where you are and grants you real-time access to crucial details about the financial health of your business. Additionally, you can easily monitor profit and loss and forecast your coming months to ensure you’re well-prepared for the nuances of business ownership.
Find Creative Ways to Connect
It is no secret that when managing a business remotely, you sacrifice the benefits of face-to-face interaction. This can negatively impact your team dynamic, communication, rate of burnout, and even trickle down to damage productivity.
Thankfully, with a bit of creativity and software, you can reduce the pain points created by this loss. For example, you can host digital happy hours, play trivia, have video luncheons, or introduce non-competitive fitness challenges to spur team members out of the sedentary remote lifestyle. This will boost team morale and individual employees’ mental state.
Finding creative ways to connect also extends to the software your team uses to communicate daily. When you choose the right software, you increase your efficiency and overall productivity and create a healthy company culture. A few remote business favorites we recommend include applications like Slack, Google Drive, Zoom, and Asana.
How to Manage Remote Employees
In 2020, the percentage of Americans fully working from home skyrocketed to 52%. And now, as the world starts to reopen and return to business as usual, more than 50% of surveyed employees expressed interest in solely working from home or taking a hybrid home and office approach. Further still, Upwork suggests this interest will continue, predicting that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working from home remotely — an 87% increase from pre-pandemic findings.
It’s not difficult to understand the appeal. Employees in the remote workforce enjoy the freedom working from home provides. There is flexibility to craft their own full-time schedule or freelance to accrue additional revenue. Plus, it is easier on their pockets, the environment, and even their pets and children. A quality of life survey by MIT found that 90% of people report that working from home improved their family and personal life, and 85% said it reduced their overall stress levels.
If you’re considering the idea of having your staff work remotely, chances are high that they’ll be amenable to the idea. To ensure that their productivity thrives in a remote environment, there are certain considerations for managing a business remotely and supporting your entire team.
Find the Right People
Suppose you are new to managing a business remotely. In that case, one of the first things you should do (after allocating funding and registering your business) starts looking for employees to round out your company.
Owning a company that doesn’t have a physical office space offers beneficial freedom that few businesses enjoy — you have an endless pool of talent to hire from. Instead of being limited to candidates within a certain radius or the few willing to relocate, you can hire quality team members from all over the country or even worldwide.
The challenge comes in finding the right people for the job. Not everyone thrives in a remote environment, and likewise, not every manager is suited for a team of telecommuters. You must hire wisely. You need employees whom you can trust to produce quality work no matter where they are, and generally with minimal supervision.
You also need a team who can communicate what they need to make their digital workflow more efficient and effective. Because your team puts your processes in motion every day, they may offer valuable perspectives on ways to improve their respective team or the whole company.
In the eyes of many business owners, there is a tried-and-true way to manage a team, whether you are a team lead, manager, or director. However, managing a remote team requires you to think outside the frame of a traditional manager. When your team works remotely, you cannot monitor productivity by taking a stroll through the office and examining “desk time” and other visible activities. You must reimagine what it means to manage employees.
Remote work introduces a new level of accountability for your employees and, in some ways, requires an honor system that they must abide by. Remote managers attempting to evaluate employee success are often helped by redefining their definition of that success. Consider focusing on the tasks that get done and the quality of said work, rather than strictly regimenting employees’ time the way you would in a shared space. There is also the opportunity to use hour-tracking technologies like the program Time Doctor, which helps you manage your team and spot potential productivity issues that need to be addressed.
Clearly Define Work Expectations
A successful remote business is one where everyone on the team is on the same page. It dramatically reduces “too many chefs in the kitchen” dilemmas and allows the company to operate efficiently and collectively. When managing a business remotely, the easiest way to get everyone on the same page is to define work expectations clearly.
This includes defining everyone’s role, deadlines, tasks, deliverables, and duties. Communicate what success looks like. Once defined, it is up to your team to honor those expectations, and up to you to ensure they meet company standards.
You should also endeavor to create realistic expectations. Because there are communication bottlenecks that occur when people are telecommuting (i.e., waiting on others to respond) complex tasks that involve multiple teams can take longer to complete.
Take Remote Work Challenges in Stride
As with any new venture, some challenges crop up when you begin or transition to a digital business model. Acknowledging and preparing for these challenges enables you to address pain points that can impede your company’s success and present opportunities for your business to better itself.
A few examples of challenges you may have to take in stride:
Internet Outages: Having a connection that will support media streaming isn’t the same as having the bandwidth to host a company meeting. Employees, and especially leadership, need to have a stable internet connection. You should also have policies in place for inevitable service interruptions, and how your employees should report and respond to such issues.
Distractions: Employees with pets and children at home can face significant distractions while trying to work or present a professional face in a meeting. A certain amount of flexibility will foster staff goodwill and make your company an attractive place to work, but you should also set reasonable boundaries and expectations to limit personal life interruptions during work hours.
Communication Breakdowns: When working remotely, you can’t visit your colleague’s desk when you have a question or need feedback. This can create occasional communication breakdowns, even with a complete suite of communication software. Wherever possible, provide extensive guidelines or documentation to provide context for a project, and encourage employees to ask clarifying questions instead of making potentially erroneous assumptions.
Lack of Face-to-face Interaction: Some employers worry that their team won’t work as hard or efficiently without in-person oversight (though research indicates otherwise). Conversely, some employees worry that managerial staff may judge their work ethic unfairly, or become out of touch with their needs. To keep lines of communication open and catch issues early, prioritize regular check-ins between management and staff. Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly one-on-one video conferences can help keep everyone on the same page.
Provide Employees with the Tools for Success
Another part of successfully managing a business remotely is ensuring that your staff has all the tools they need to be efficient, productive, and happy while telecommuting. Studies found a positive correlation between telecommuting and job satisfaction when given staff were given the option to work remotely and provided with the tools they need to succeed.
Because every department has different needs, you can enlist your department heads to list out their team’s needs. Some tools a remote team may need are:
- Cybersecurity tools
- A virtual private network (VPN)
- Access to the company Dropbox or Google Drive and its folders
- Company-issued laptops
- Video conferencing software
- Management software
- Mobile devices
Although some of your team will already have these necessities, you, as the business owner, must ensure that everyone is appropriately equipped. If you need help acquiring the funds to get your team the tools they need, you can apply for assistance through small business and equipment loans.
If your company is new — or newly remote — you may be feeling risk-averse as you navigate the already chaotic waters of business management. As such, the idea of gambling on innovation may not appeal to you. However, remote work offers a fantastic opportunity to encourage innovation from your team.
As nice as it is to work from home, it can also produce a certain monotony. There is no change of scenery between personal space and workspace, and the limited socializing can take a toll on your team members. Fostering innovation can rekindle that creative spark that many employees may have lost, plus help strengthen the bond between you and your staff. Innovative projects that also involve collaboration can be especially valuable, for both your staff and your business.
Managing a business remotely isn’t an easy road. But a growing number of companies are opting for hybrid or fully remote offices, showing that this trend is a viable business model when approached thoughtfully and strategically.
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