SCORE Small Business Blog

Manage: Running a Virtual Company

Seven Essential Tips

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be running a virtual company with 10+ employees from my cell phone and laptop computer, I would’ve thought you were mad. When I started my career, corporate business was done in board rooms, executive assistants sat in the hallway just outside their bosses’ offices and the internet was foreign to us all. Today, an employee can work for me for six months before we meet face to face – illustrating the spirit of these changing times.

As my company grew, I knew it was essential to hire qualified associates to support me. Although I considered hiring experienced professionals who lived in my area, I realized that often times those best suited for the job don’t reside in your area code. So instead of budgeting for a larger office space and potentially settling for local professionals without the necessary credentials, I decided to pursue managing a virtual company.

The realities of running a virtual company are essentially the same as running any small business. However, there are a few tips that I would encourage any virtual company owner to keep in mind when setting up and managing their company. While they may seem like common sense, you must never overlook the small details.

  1. High Speed Internet
    As simplistic as it may sound, high speed internet is the key to all virtual capabilities. A well functioning internet connection is often overlooked and taken for granted. I am not supposing that business owners will manage their company through a dial up service but make sure you are able to maintain a strong internet connection.
  2. Good Phone Skills
    In a virtual business you rely heavily on your communications skills. Managing a business remotely is not for the faint of heart therefore you must be able to speak effectively and authoritatively on the phone. If you aren’t a good “phone talker” this is surely something you will have to work on.
  3. Teleconferencing/Three-way Calling/Call waiting
    Most new cell phones come with three way and call waiting features however this mustn’t be overlooked as you never want to drop a call. Teleconferencing however is of the utmost importance. Every virtual company should have the capability to conference on the phone regularly. This mode of communication is valuable and important. While the expenditure may seem hefty at the onset, the open lines of communication this provides is truly beneficial.
  4. Document Sharing Capabilities
    Unless you are setting up a master server, it will be important to gain access to a document sharing tool. Although you should expect your inbox to be full with many emails, document sharing is a useful way to house all shared documents. We use Google Docs as it allows all of the team members to download documents without the worry of logging through old emails.
  5. Web Conferencing Tool
    As a virtual company there is no conference room with projection capabilities handy. Accordingly it will be important to utilize online conferencing tools that allow you to make share presentations.
  6. Endless Coffee
    Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Coffee Bean, Peets…it is hard work managing a virtual company. In my experience, in order to be successful with this type of business, there is no such thing as 9 to 5. Accordingly, keep a stash of strong coffee (or tea) handy to get through the long hours.
  7. A Great Team
    This is without question the most essential component of a virtual company. Every virtual business owner should strive to have the best team possible.

Margaret Young, Mills Square Group, Inc. 
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Discussion (4) Comment

  1. Patricia MayoVisitor

    I thought the content would be a bit different given the headline. Call me a hair splitter, but in my opinion this is about running a virtual company, not managing one.

    …which reminds me, I have an article in the pipeline about that. I guess I should get on it.

    As for running a virtual organization, another basic and essential tool is a virtual office or intranet. Even when I had just one virtual team member, that central hub was a lifesaver when it came to tracking multiple projects and time spent.

    If you pay your people hourly, is a great place to build your hub. However, for more people and more complicated payroll, a private Ning network would likely be the better solution. Even better, once Ning releases its API you can hook it into ClockingIT, WordPress, or any other primary tool you use to make everything run even more efficiently.

    Last but not least, and I can’t stress this enough – focus on automation and hands-off processing. Give your people and machines the power to get things done from start to finish and you will see a tremendous productivity breakthrough.

  2. I love #6 — “Endless coffee” .

    When I’m out I’m a Dunkin fan. At home I make a brew from gourmet Hazelnut coffee beans from a local coffee roaster — can’t get enough of the stuff.

  3. Jan M.Visitor

    I agree completely but if you could replace yourself with someone who does your work connecting to all your co-workers your life would be a lot easier and you could duplicate your activities and so on …

  4. Good stuff, thanks for sharing this!


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