Every new business faces a variety of issues. When your company is remote, however, additional hurdles may be added to the mix. The best advice on handling these challenges oftentimes comes from people who have experienced such situations themselves.
Fortunately, many leaders who have experience with starting a remote company are gracious about sharing what they’ve learned.
Here, four business leaders discuss obstacles they encountered when launching starting a remote company and how they worked to overcome these problems:
Challenge: clients sometimes prefer a brick-and-mortar company.
When Ben Bisbee started Ohio-based Rhinocorn Consulting last July, he went after an array of national nonprofits for clients. He soon discovered, though, that many were vocally apprehensive about dealing with someone virtually rather than in a traditional office. He claims his biggest challenge was “helping these clients feel confident about implied trust and time issues in a world where they might never see or meet me.”
His solution: setting up standing weekly video-conference meetings during which they review work, address ongoing projects, and set goals. Confidence grew as clients could put a face with the name and interact regularly.
Challenge: establishing legitimacy.
A similar scenario exists for businesses trying to sell goods via the Internet.
“People are becoming more and more skeptical of buying online, and if you’re running a remote company, then it will be even harder to establish trust with your potential customers,” says Max Robinson, marketing manager of Scotland Shop.
To forge connections, the tartan specialists beefed up the “About Us” pages on their website to provide information about the company’s history and mission. They also added images of remote staff. As Robinson notes, “Ultimately, people trust other people. If your website is completely faceless, potential customers will be put off. You need to be willing to showcase your staff, even if you’re all working remotely, otherwise trust will be lost.”
Challenge: onboarding remote employees.
Entrepreneur Simon Slade manages a predominately remote staff for Doubledot Media Limited and its affiliate products. He claims that onboarding new team members has proven a consistent challenge because “there is no ‘hands-on’ training with a remote workforce, despite the fact that it’s often the best way to learn.”
One way Slade has dealt with the onboarding process is building a detailed wiki that documents how to perform each company task. “We include input from all staff members, and employees are encouraged to add to the document as they complete assignments. This way, we have a blueprint of all daily operations that serves as an excellent training tool and introductory resource for our new staff members.”
What did small business and personal finance coach Brad Kingsley learn during his 18 years of running an entirely remote company with clients in over 70 countries and staff spanning seven states? “If a company isn’t willing to make communication a top priority, it will have a hard time making a remote workforce successful.”
He remarks that since teammates can’t just walk into someone’s office to discuss an issue, management needs to put tools and processes in place to enhance communication.
“We had internal private chat rooms, specific guidelines for handling email communications, and everyone had a VOIP phone with a direct extension,” Kingsley says. “One of the chat rooms was even called ‘water cooler,’ which was a place for non-work social discussion. We received great feedback on this addition because it helped staff feel more connected to each other even though they didn’t see each other regularly.”
The bottom line: when communication takes place early and often, your staff transforms from simply a bunch of people working at different locations into a cohesive team.