Ever been rafting on your own?
White water rafting is very much a team sport, and requires everyone to be on board and fully present in order to navigate your craft through the wild waters.
When it comes to the world of business, the same principles apply. You can run your company on your own, but as you grow and expand your offerings you’ll soon find that success is largely contingent on the team that you put together. Results come from good teamwork.
Yeah, every so often the boat might tip, sending you spilling into the water –but that’s the way it is in life and business.
For most business owners, bringing new team members on board is easy enough –but finding the right people, for the right roles –is a challenge. But modern times have found a solution with the advent of web-based contractors. Today it’s easier than ever to assemble –and grow a winning team.
The secret? Learning to navigate the world of remote workers and virtual assistants (VAs).
These days, an increasingly large number of companies are turning to remote workers, enlisting them to help round out their business operations, or even in building a business that’s completely remote. Yes, it is possible to find success, even with an entirely remote team.
Grab your raft and your gear! In this article, I’ll show you how you can assemble a winning remote team, in a way that’ll help you to scale your company and set yourself up for long-term success.
Assembling Your Team
Okay, so you need to scale your business, or maybe you’ve come to the realization that there just aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do everything yourself. In short, you’ve found yourself up a river without a paddle!
The solution, of course, is bringing new people on board.
But how can you get started?
Let’s look at a few simple steps to getting your company ready for remote workers.
1. Set Long-Term Goals
First up, you’ll want to identify –or clarify your long-term goals. This step is crucial as it’ll give you a good starting point that you can base your processes on. It’ll give you something to work toward and help you to find the right people.
2. Identify Tasks That Add Value
Chances are there are a great number of tasks that you have as part of your everyday business operations. But which of these are crucial to meeting your long-term goals? Make sure you take stock of these tasks and assess them to ensure that they’re adding value to your business in some tangible way.
3. Identify Tasks to Delegate or Outsource
Next, you’ll want to identify tasks that need to be outsourced. Take those high-value tasks and consider whether you need to personally be involved with each step of the process. If not, then it’s time to outsource them.
4. Create Processes
Think creating processes is long and daunting? It doesn’t have to be. By and large most of the time, you’ll already have processes in place, you’ll just need to refine and then document them. With a solid process, or operating procedure in place, you’ll be ready to create job descriptions for your team. You’ll also want to work to standardize your team’s output. So, for example, say you’re hiring designers –you’ll want to make sure you have a style guide that includes guidelines on company colors, logo usage, and fonts. If you’re hiring writers, make sure you have a style guide that they can follow to ensure consistency and make sure they’re effectively capturing your company’s voice.
5. Create Detailed Job Descriptions
Now comes the fun part, drafting up job descriptions. Ideally, these should be short and succinct summaries that outline the main role and purpose of each role. These should also show how each task aligns with the big-picture goals of the company. Need help getting started? Check out this article on writing job descriptions for remote roles.
6. Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
It’s also important to establish KPIs that you can use to track the success of your projects.
As business management guru Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
So start measuring. With KPIs, you’ll be able to quantify the results that your team is generating, showing you how cost effective your projects are.
Here’s a look of some sample KPIs for projects:
- Return on investment (ROI)
Your ROI is one of the most well-known KPIs that you can track. Without knowing this, you won’t have any idea about the profitability of your venture or project.
ROI = (Gain from investment minus the cost of investment) / the cost
- Cost performance index (CPI)
The CPI shows you how efficiently you’re using your project’s funds. This KPI will help you to gain a better understanding into the costs involved with a project, and help you to make accurate projections.
CPI = Earned value / actual costs
- Resource capacity
By measuring resource capacity, you can determine how many staff hours you have available for projects. This will help you to allocate resources to projects based on priority.
Resource Capacity = (Number of people) times (availability)
See more KPIs that are worth tracking.
Once you’ve chosen some KPIs, you’ll want to measure where they are currently, and establish goals to work toward.
7. Enlist the Help of an Agency
Going through a VA agency is by far the simplest option when it comes to sourcing staff. Alternatively, you could hand pick talent yourself but this is a much more time-consuming process. Additionally, by going through an agency, you’ll have the ability to easily scale by adding more staff at any time.
Onboarding Your Team
Next, get ready to onboard your team.
Before we dive in, let’s get something straight from the start: the value of communication.
Critical insights for building a remote team include:
- Good communication and collaborative engagement between coordinators and team members is the foundation on which everything else rests
- Communication is grounded in an everyday two-way process that continuously refines grounding goals, targets, and commitments
- Underlying this continuous commitment to communicate is a framework of values that every member of a team must share: values such as 100% honesty, openness to change, personal and group integrity.
These values underpin both personal and social goals, making sure that everyone is clear about what you stand for, and what you won’t! Each remote team should have a coordinator with an inspiring connection that makes individuals want to perform. Coordinators have to locate and nurture this connection over the life of their project.
A big hardship for remote team coordination is the use of time, especially as time spent talking one-on-one with team members or online meetings with the whole group. Nobody loves endless meetings or not being able to ask a timely question to someone else on the team.
I’ve included several chat software options below, but here is some food for thought:
Communication researchers now recognize that ‘talk and action’ are not different modes of behavior. You don’t talk then act; talk is action. Getting your team working optimally depends on ‘talking together about communication itself’ and time spent on refining interaction with others is never wasted, especially early in the project. By taking the time to talk, you diminish the risks of remote working while streamlining team performance across distance and difference.
Drafting Up Contracts
Before your team will be able to fully commit to their projects, they’ll need to feel a sense of security in their employment. So, just as you would with an in-house team make sure you identify contract workers as both a person and as a role.
Start with their contract: Is their name on it? What about their commitments? Make sure they’re legally enforceable. Include their role and job description here as well; is everything crystal-clear or is the language vague and ambiguous? The contract is basically their safety net, their life vests and helmets—you would not go rafting without gear you trust so don’t expect them to sign on without it.
Once the safety concerns are eased, don’t neglect clear expectations. If you want your team to be on the same page you’ll want them to know exactly what their roles are, along with performance requirements, quality standards, and the like. This will help them to buy in fully, which means they’ll be far more likely to give it their all.
Here are five tips for a good contract with remote teams:
- It’s easy to read, with every term is fully defined, detailed, and correct.
- Don’t be vague. Make sure there are no ambiguities remain in the terms of the contract. When dealing with key experts or workers, you can’t afford to confuse which party is responsible for each part of the agreement.
- Set clear expectations. Make sure there are clear performance and remuneration details laid out, including the unforeseen or unexpected. Where the unexpected does occur, contracts should protect both parties through a formal arbitration process, either in-house or independent as the case requires.
- Both parties are jointly responsible for the underlying values of the contract and each worker should be given full hearing in consideration of terms that may change with circumstances.
- Review the contract with the remote team or work-group prior to commencement.
Next up, successful delegation. Take a look at a few things you’ll want to incorporate into your delegation process:
- Clear briefs designed for each role. Coordination between workers requires a group or project brief. This assigns ‘must-reach’ group goals and performance incentives.
- Coordinators may also assign daily, weekly, and monthly targets to each individual team member.
- Incentives for everyone. Multilevel personal and group incentives that make people want to hit their goals.
- An open-door policy by all coordinators allowing workers to express their thoughts or share ideas.
Coordination between people requires human insight. People are often motivated in different directions by the same things so you have to be able to understand your team’s drivers. If you assist people in being inspired by the work you are doing together then your communication, coordination and collaborative process becomes awe-inspiring.
Tools for Your Remote Team
Make sure your rowers have oars. Here are a few basic tools for remote team performance:
- Slack is the go-to team chat app. For every remote team, Slack is great for sharing information using one-to-one channels and or group channels. Other good uses for Slack include, creative session interaction, sending-receiving files and documents, announcements, updates for each team, and more.
- Zoom is an excellent video conferencing service. As coordinator you can organize video conferencing, using live-stream and instant-messaging (IM) and you can build and coordinate events around the world. The calls are web-based, so there’s no need to have the other party sign in or download anything.
- Trello is a good collaboration platform that uses well-structured visual ‘boards, lists and cards’. Teams create projects and manage work-flows that make team organization simpler to visualize and design.
- Freshdesk is a great customer support platform. If your remote team is dealing with a large group of international and potentially non-English speaking customers or clients, Freshdesk offers a great online support service.
Sure, things might get a bit choppy, but with the right approach, you’ll be able to navigate any challenges.
Having appointed your team, with contracts signed, work specifications shared and incentives agreed upon, you are ready to perform. But are you prepared for this particular river with its unique challenges? What potential problems does your team face? What issues specific to remote work need to be confronted together?
Some top challenges for remote team coordinators include:
- The buck stops with you: so get organized. Remember, your goal is to outsource, not create more work for yourself, so look to continually refine your processes until you have a machine that’s operating like clockwork. Share clear expectations, make sure you revert any necessary changes back to the team member to address, and seek to provide on-the-job training to bring your workers up to standard.
- Clearly some individuals are challenging to manage, especially great talent and young freelancers. They just need extra time to focus on the common values of your team. That can be a good investment of your time, however be careful. You’ll need to ensure that you provide incentives to help keep them on-board once the training period’s ended.
- Every remote team will face emergencies just like any in-house team. That is where good management systems come into effect. What risk management systems are in place? Who do you call in an emergency? What resources can you call on 24/7?
- Over-reliance on one team member. One way to help spread the risk is by employing multiple VAs, and spreading the workload, rather than heaping mountains of work on one person. Also crucial, is to avoid falling into the trap of the “Super VA,” (Credit: Chris Ducker) of thinking there’s one person out there who can do it all.
- We all have blind spots. The point is to discover your own blind spots, and the blinds spots of your team. What don’t you know about the project?
Remote teams are a popular option today, and for good reason. The ability to stay agile to meet seasonal or other temporary surges is crucial for maximizing profits; not to mention maintaining efficiency and maintaining your company or brand’s reputation. A good VA or remote agency is an excellent way to meet these needs or deal with scenarios that may not be permanent enough to justify hiring someone new in-house.
However, remote teams require insightful and balanced management to perform at their best. A group of individuals has to find its common or shared imaginative focus via a framework of values, goals, and systems in order to deliver their project. Sound hard? Just remember you’ve done this process dozens of times in your life already. In my experience, people love to share and they love to perform. The key to building a remote team is balancing these two dynamics.
It’s a challenge, but not an impossible one. Just remember that we’re all in this raft together.
Finding there just isn’t enough time to get anything done? Enlisting the help of a remote team could be a fast and simple solution, allowing you to scale without having to worry about bottleneck. Our team can provide accounting, business support, customer support, and more. Reach out for a FREE 30-minute brainstorming session today!