How to run a business and meet with team members and clients when you can’t get face to face
During the Covid-19 Pandemic social distancing has become a new buzz word.
All businesses are being impacted and learning about working remotely or virtually is a new challenge for many. Staff are working from home and travel and large meetings are forbidden.
Not to mention border closures making interstate and international travel impossible.
While there is a lot of information and ideas being promoted online about how to work remotely, one of the best sources is from businesses that have been working remotely by choice. Onlinemporia.com was created as a virtual business, so I thought there might be value in sharing our experiences. This will be spread across a number of articles starting with this one. Hopefully you find it useful and make it a bit easier for you to avoid some of the mistakes and trial and error we went through.
This information could be seen as short lived, since the Covid-19 restrictions will not last forever. However, there are many advantages to working remotely that all businesses should consider as part of their normal business operations. There are efficiencies and savings to be achieved by adopting some practices as permanent parts of your business operations.
How does onlinemporia.com work remotely?
With our clients, Onlinemporia is an outsource provider of digital marketing services to businesses and we have always worked virtually. We work together by phone, text, online video conferencing, email, help desk and website.
We have social distancing down pat.
But many of our clients live in the bricks and mortar business world and are now being forced to think differently. This is a unique time in history for modern businesses and we all need to adapt, pivot or risk going out of business.
For us, Onlinemporia and our associated business Vee Digital, we have been exclusively virtual for over 10 years. Prior to that it was all bricks and mortar business, so we have experienced both business styles. We might not be experts, but we have learnt a lot by making mistakes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
What I mean by being “exclusively virtual” and working remotely is;
- we work remotely with our clients (having occasional face to face meetings where it is convenient to do so); and
- our team works remotely with us (mostly from home offices but also some co-working spaces) and in our case they are spread across the globe. This allows us to work through different time zones and access quality experienced specialists when we need them.
- we use cloud technology for secure centralised and accessible from anywhere file storage
- our operating software for email, project management, email marketing, CRM etc is SaaS based (software as a service) which allows us to access all business systems from any computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones that access the internet
- we carry mobile internet and wifi so we can operate anywhere that has a mobile service if nothing else is available and to avoid insecure public wifi
- and…it is all second nature.
However, most of our clients operate from brick and mortar locations…that is you and your team come together in an office or some physical building and then meet directly with clients or customers to do business. Going virtual or working remotely can be a foreign concept.
If you haven’t done business virtually before, it can be difficult and time consuming to figure out how best to do it.
Simple things to consider
- How do you chat with a team member who you could previously just walk up to and start talking?
- How do you share work with someone and get or give feedback?
- How do you meet with clients for a consultation, without getting face to face?
- How do you ensure your data is secure?
In this series of articles, I will be sharing some ideas with you about how we have learnt to do things remotely or virtually as we call it. Starting today with face to face communication remotely…how to remotely meet with clients for a consultation.
Online Meeting Software
You will no doubt be familiar with video conferencing. When it first started, we had to hire a special room with video facilities in a conference centre. It was an expensive exercise…it was even cheaper in some cases to just get on a plane and go visit them.
Today, any of us can do it quite cheaply (even for free) and we probably already do so with services like Skype. Personally you might use Facetime or Messenger or Whats App to chat with friends and family. But these are not ideal for business.
Most people don’t realise that Skype has a screen share facility which makes it useful to demonstrate or train or run a presentation from your desktop. But Skype was created as a personal service and while it does allow you to run group meetings, it is cumbersome to use and lacks features (although you can get add-on services).
So, if you want to speak to more people in a group, maybe send invitations to a preset time and record the meeting for review or re-purposing later, you need to find a more robust solution.
It might be for staff meetings or client consultations or sales meetings or seminars (often called webinars when done virtually over the web) or interviews etc.
What do we use?
In our business we use:
- Skype (for one on one calls, screen shares and training…mainly because many people have an account): and
- Zoom (for the same purposes and for larger group presentations and for recording calls…we prefer Zoom over Skype) for these type of meetings.
We use these tools with a mix of video on and video turned off. Obviously with it turned off, it is just talk, but with some connections, the video can cause delays.
Both Skype and Zoom have free plans available that will meet a good percentage, if not all, of your needs.
We don’t do online seminars, or webinars, but if we did, Zoom does small groups very well. Plus you can record the webinar for later replay. However, you will need to go to a paid plan as there are restrictions on the free plan for this purpose.
Webinars require more thought and as a marketing function can be a real sales boost for some businesses. For these purposes, you really should look beyond Zoom to make sure you can achieve your marketing objectives.
Ok, but you want some more options for webinars
Let me help you.
Here is a link to a good review of paid service online webinar software that will save you a lot of time and effort, if this is something you are considering. It is prepared by one of our suppliers, Shane Melaugh of Thrive Themes, who did the research by trialling a number of popular options and published the results on his personal blog: The Best Webinar Software. His objectives might not exactly match yours, but the info he provides will assist you in making a decision and give you a good understanding of what webinar software can and cannot do.