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Remote based businesses – a startup checklist

remote based business checklist

 

Decades ago, most companies operated on a local level. The vast majority of businesses had a physical, “bricks and mortar” presence and were located within a walk or short drive of their customers.

All this changed drastically with the internet, more so with the implementation of high-speed connections and broadband. COVID-19 has since changed the landscape even more – with thousands of businesses forced to adopt a remote working model, effectively making us part of an enforced experiment to check the feasibility of all companies working remotely.

From organizations with a single employee, to others with 10,000, employees were asked to work remotely in a very short space of time. Surprising the majority of companies have reported little if any dip in productivity. Tech giants Twitter and Facebook have reportedly told staff that they can work from home “forever” if they wish. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also stated that as much as half of the company’s 45,000 employees could be working from home within ten years.

There were always many questions regarding remote working – will companies be vulnerable to cyber attacks? Will employees be productive? Will employees forget all their login details?

For the majority of businesses, it appears that a remote working model has been a success. In turn, this transitional accomplishment has paved the way for entrepreneurs to establish their own companies from home. Without the need for an office and employee hardware such as computers and desks, it is now possible to create a business with minimal overheads, thus significantly reducing the financial risk. In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the things to look into and consider before starting your own remote business.

Business plan          

Business plans help you identify goals and provide a direction and vision that should help you achieve them. If you take the time to research and set concrete goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and time-phased, it can significantly increase your likelihood of succeeding.

There are some great templates available on the US Small Business Administration website here.

By completing a business plan, you will map out what you want to achieve, what opportunities there are in the market, how the company will be managed and operated, and what unique proposition you can offer.

Operational setup & tools

If you are setting up or establishing a business that adopts a fully remote working model, the mindset and approach need to be completely different.

Sometimes referred to as “operational flow”, you will have to determine how you will hold meetings, communicate day by day, and the different processes that enable everything to get done.

In addition to business communication operations, the delivery of products and services that your business offers needs to be planned in detail. For example, if you are setting up an eCommerce business, will you store all of your products in your own warehouses, use a program such as Amazon FBA or look to drop-ship all products?

If you are employing people from across the world, will you have all employees working the same working hours, regardless of their local time zone? How will this impact team meetings and other communication processes?

It is also essential to have everything documented somewhere. There are tools such as Slab that allow you to record and track all processes. Everything should be written down in a centralized location. This process documentation will ensure no confusion, regardless of where or when your employees are working.

In an office environment, there can be confusion with processes, role definitions, and goals. These problems can be amplified in a remote work setup. Therefore, new employees must have their roles clearly defined, be made aware of the processes, and have clearly illustrated outcome and process goals to work towards. Ensure everyone knows who does what!

As a business grows, it’s also vital that senior leaders schedule one-on-one meetings with their team and department members.

Find the right technology

The way you communicate is especially important, and the technology that you use can make a difference. Many messaging and online video meeting providers offer free versions of their software, which may suffice for a small business. For example, Microsoft Teams provide a free version with many of the same features as the subscription-based versions.

Other hardware and software that is required for remote working may include:

  • Cell phone
  • Phone system or phone answering service
  • Computer & webcam
  • High-speed internet connection
  • Email provider/agent
  • Cloud storage, e.g., Google Drive
  • Printer/scanner/copier
  • Cyber security software
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Fast & reliable internet
  • Scheduling services – e.g., Google Calendar.
  • Project management tools, e.g., Trello
  • Time management tools, e.g., Kickidler
  • Accounting software & apps

Ensure innovation is encouraged 

Software and operations that promote innovation while working remotely are a must if your business relies on inventions and creativity.

Data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, conducted by Enrico Moretti, found that when specialized workers live near one another, they innovate more and gain a competitive advantage. A growing body of research demonstrates that firms and innovators are much more creative while located in ‘creative hubs’ like Silicon Valley. Moretti traced the migration and the patent filings of 930,000 scientists, inventors, and engineers. He found that when an innovator or inventor left an industry specialized city, they innovated at a significantly slower pace.

Sine the COVID-19 pandemic, many innovative technology companies have seen their workforce move from centralized hubs of creative ideas such as San Francisco to nearby cities and states like Oregon.

Ad hoc conversations in the office are often regarded as a waste of time, but they can also lead to creative ideas. For example, according to this interview with Humu founder Laszlo Bock, Google News was created by a random conversation between two Google engineers standing in line at a café – one was complaining about how hard it is to keep up with the news. The other engineer went away and coded a feed that pulled all the relevant news together.

Bock says that “low-affinity distance” or personal bonds are essential for trust and innovation. Tech companies are attempting to provide tools that create this personal bond and affinity distance. For example, Facebook now has Workplace to help build community, and it has added Workplace friendly features to its portal video conferencing product.

Humu has a “Nudge engine.” Humu uses artificial intelligence to identify any behavioral changes and sends messages to employees at certain times. In one example, the Humu software was able to determine that employees felt too intimidated to propose ideas to their managers. In this instance, Humu sent “nudges” to managers to prompt employees for ideas and sent nudges to employees to assume good intent from their managers – a reminder to be open and not afraid of a manager’s reaction.

Creativity, innovation, and invention are things that can’t be forced. You can’t tell employees to stay in a room for 48 hours and develop ideas for a new product. “Aha” moments usually arise during casual interactions with colleagues and friends and when in a relaxed mindset. Feeling comfortable and confident around colleagues is therefore essential. It may be necessary for companies moving to a remote working model to build community and friendships by using tools such as Workplace, Humu, and messaging apps.

Outsourcing

If you are a solopreneur – working for yourself, by yourself – then outsourcing might be a great way to grow your business while mitigating financial risk. In addition, if you are a business owner looking for temporary or seasonal help with specific projects, outsourcing can be a great way to go about this too. We all have a limited amount of time, and when you start a business, it can be necessary to wear many hats and train yourself to carry out every aspect of the company. However, you can get much more done with outsourcing and provide a better end product or service to your clients and customers. Tasks that might take you 3 or 4 hours might take a specialist half an hour, with a better end result.

Learning how to find, hire and delegate to the right people is a bit of an art in itself. A great way to determine what you should outsource is by keeping a work diary. Write down what you do each day and for how long. At the end of 2 weeks, add up how much time you spend on non-core tasks such as email filtering, answering the phone and administrative tasks like booking travel arrangements. You can then go through and categorize the tasks and jobs by an approximate cost outsource. For example, dealing with emails and admin tasks might cost around $10 per hour to outsource, whereas coding parts of your website might cost $80 an hour to outsource.

If you spend a large percentage of time doing administrative tasks, you may want to consider hiring a personal assistant. Outsourcing less expensive tasks such as this can be a great way to get started with outsourcing. To do this, you would need to go to a website such as Upwork, onlinejobs.ph, or PeoplePerHour and post a job description stating that you are looking for a virtual assistant to handle various utility and administrative tasks. You can also say in the job posting that this is a trial period or trial basis, looking to employ someone full time eventually.

You can even train your virtual assistant to research and hire freelancers to carry out more high priced projects such as those related to graphic design, web development, and online advertising.

Phone answering service

When you are running a business, productivity is key to success. Therefore, it is important to know that a single interruption can take on average 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds to be exact) to ‘recover’ from and to get back into the swing of things and focus on the task at hand.

Interruptions also impact our quality of work by increasing our error rate. In some studies, looking at interruptions and the impact on students, the error rate tripled:

“Interruptions averaging 4.4 s long tripled the rate of sequence errors on post-interruption trials relative to baseline trials.”

Quote source

If that wasn’t bad enough, interruptions increase anxiety and reduce the quality and quantity of work produced by writers (more information here). While it’s not possible to prevent all interruptions, one primary source of distraction is the cell phone. With telephone calls providing the highest quality of lead and the highest sale conversion rate, it’s essential that calls get answered. 

However, the number of spam, scam, and unwanted sales calls has increased in recent years. If your telephone number is displayed on your website, for example, you will likely be the recipient of unwanted calls on a daily, possibly hourly basis. With this in mind, using a phone answering service such as Moneypenny is a great way to stay productive, capture every call, and grow your business by freeing up more of your own time. With the option to upgrade to a 24/7 answering service, your dedicated receptionist can provide the same level of customer service you’d expect from a full-time in-house receptionist while you either focus on the work at hand or spend time relaxing during the evenings and weekends.

A phone answering service is perfect for those looking to start a remote business. With an app that provides a switchboard and effectively turns your cell phone into a business phone system, you can create a fantastic first impression while minimizing business overheads and start-up costs.

Conclusion

There has never been a better time to start a remote business. That being said, the landscape can be very competitive, so it is crucial to start with a solid business plan that outlines what your vision is, what your goals are, and what your unique proposition is.

As well as the items listed above, you should also decide on a business name and use a website such as Hostgator to check the availability of any website address that you may want. You will also want to decide if you will apply for funding and in what manner you will register your business. For larger companies who are looking to transfer to a remote working model, Marsh.com has a great article regarding cyber security here.

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