I recently read an article on Huffington Post titled 7 Deadly Sins of Entrepreneurs by Haley Lynn Gray. The piece explained seven areas where entrepreneurs make mistakes. I have made a few of them myself when starting new businesses. I tend to be overly generous in paying my employees and it has caused problems in the long run. Since I know myself to be too soft-hearted, I rely on others to handle that task for the better of the company as a whole.
Another subject Gray touched upon was office space. She has decided that not getting an office space for employees early in the company’s existence is a mistake, mistake number five of her article. I disagree. There are many tools available to make virtual collaboration a success. Beyond the apps and websites designed to aid in collaboration, there are three simple rules to manage a virtual office.
- Organization and Mandatory Check-ins: Organization is the key to any successful business. When working with employees virtually, use a project management system to keep messages, documents, and appointments organized. There are many available programs to aid in project management. My favorite is Basecamp 3. It allows for messaging, assigning of groups for specific projects, and assigning of tasks to specific people on the project. It will remind the project manager of tasks yet to be completed so that the person assigned to the task can be contacted. This is important so that no task is forgotten and can be reviewed during a mandatory weekly check-in.
- Cloud-Based Storage: One of the points that Gray made is the possibility of losing critical documents. I agree this is a concern. The way I solved this issue in my own company is by requiring every document be uploaded to the company cloud-based storage by a specific date. This allows key people in the company immediate access to documents.
- Physical Location for Critical Documents: For critical documents, those working virtually are required to send the originals to a physical location. My preference is to have those documents sent to me as the owner of the business. Depending on the company size and availability of the owner, they can be sent to the main office in care of the executive administrative assistant. As with the cloud-based storage, assign a date for the arrival of those documents.
I have been part of and managed many virtual collaborations. I can honestly say that by following these three simple rules any virtual office will succeed.