Whether you are a “team of one” who is just starting out, or a “team of many” with subcontractors and/or employees helping you to operate your business, chances are you will be working virtually with some of your team members.
Operating a virtual team isn’t the same as working in a brick and mortar building where you can shout over the cubicles. I’m very fortune to have an amazing team who supports me from different areas of the country. It can be tricky at times especially when everyone is in a different time zone.
We don’t just make it work; we’re a fine-oiled machine that hums. And I often get asked how we do it. I give much of the credit to my COO, Liz, who started out as my first VA (virtual assistant) a decade ago. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and these factors have played a major role in our success.
This one may be obvious, but it can’t be overstated. Staying in touch with your virtual team is vital, especially because you don’t see each other every day. Our team uses every means of communication to touch base including phone, fax, email, Google chat, conference calls, regular team meetings, and in-person meetings whenever possible. We use simple yet effective methods such as marking an email urgent (red exclamation point in Outlook) or adding “HOT” in the subject line as an attention-grabber for top priority tasks.
I’ve learned to delegate absolutely everything that I possibly can. If you are one of those who says, “I can do it faster myself,” and do, then you will be in trouble real fast. Delegating a lot of little things really adds up as a big time saver, and will help in the long run big time. Only do the tasks that no one else can do, and delegate the rest. As your business grows, those delegated tasks will be handed down to new team members, and ultimately you’ll have many with cross-trained capabilities who you can shift around as needed.
Examples of systemizing include: creating procedures (written, video, audio depending on the situation), approval processes, checklists, storing information in a central online place that is backed up, cross-training, moving tasks around, etc. Our team has used Webex, Box.net, and BaseCamp, to keep the work flowing and secure.
Create systems wherever you can for several reasons:
a. Increasing efficiency
b. Decreasing occurrence of errors
c. Ensuring quality control
d. Maintaining the integrity of the information
e. Backing up your intellectual property
f. Easing team training
When there is a bump in the road, analyze your system, and make changes as necessary to keep everything running smoothly.
4. Showing Gratitude.
We have a hard-working team of highly motivated individuals who are more interested in getting it right than just getting it done. They foresee obstacles and devise solutions before they occur. When they do have challenges, they present them with potential solutions and a recommendation. If you have team members like this, you need to treat them well. Find out what kind of appreciation they like most: cash bonuses? flowers? chocolate? You may find that it’s the least expensive forms of appreciation that will go the furthest…a phone call, a “thanks” on a fax, a thank-you email, or a hand-written card.
5. Only Team Players, Please.
I remember being in corporate America, where some women were their own worst enemies…meow! As the owner of my own business, I have the privilege of hand-selecting my clients, vendors, and team members. It is so peaceful and productive to work with women (and men) who work well together. Simply put, we only work with supportive team players who work hard and care tremendously about what we are accomplishing. Grouches, gossips, and divas need not apply, and should be ousted immediately.
© 2010 Ali International, LLC
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