I am frequently asked how I do it, meaning, how do I run a remote business. Yep, our company is remote, as in, none of our team is in the same build at the same time. The secret isn’t earth shattering, it actually comes down to two things. First and foremost, communication. Secondly, our ability to utilize web-based tools to facilitate communication and collaboration.
I plan to talk a lot about communication over the next several blog posts, but I want to talk about the “things” that we use to help with communication first. A tool is only as good as the person and purpose behind it. Downloading software isn’t magically going to enable you to run a remote business. First, you need to be dedicated to good communication techniques. You need to have a plan in place for how you’re going to use a tool before you get it. Software or apps alone won’t help unless you have a plan to utilize them.
So without adieu, here are the things we use and how we use them.
G Suite (previously Google Business Apps)
This tool is central to the entirety of our processes and communication. If there was one tool that I would say we could not live without – it is definitely G Suite. We use G Suite for email, document creation & sharing, presentation development, file sharing (in combo with Dropbox), spreadsheets, contract writing, calendar management, and so much more. We even use Google Voice and Hangouts. Additionally, we use a lot of tools that easily integrate with G Suite. For example, we send new contracts from our documents folder into HelloSign and then send them out to be signed.
The barrier to entry is so low and the power of the platform is so robust that I cannot readily recommend another solution that is better than G Suite. I believe in it so much that I specifically asked about getting a discount code for anyone else that wants to try it. If you want a discount code just drop a comment below and I’ll share it. You can also just sign up for a free trial of G Suite and see what you think. I’m very confident that you’ll love it. Running our office as a remote business would not be possible without G Suite.
Finding a good VoIP service can be tricky, especially one that isn’t insanely expensive. As I mentioned we do use Google Voice, but our primary PBX system through which we route calls is MighyCall. The service is robust with options to forward calls to other numbers, or to accept calls via WiFi over the softphone mobile app. We have even set up rules for after-hours calls. Every employee gets their own extensions and we can route calling group however we like. This gives our clients one central point for all calls to take place. If you want to spring for an upgrade, you can even record all of your inbound and outbound calls. Jus be sure that you adhere to proper federal rules and regulations for call recording.
Time for some real talk. I HATE the process of accounting and bookkeeping. I don’t say that to downplay its importance. Bookkeeping is one of the most vitally important administrative pieces of your business, but it is the most necessary evil I can think of. Luckily there is a really wonderful company out there that is helping to end the headache of bookkeeping and it is called Xero. Xero can help you with invoices, bank reconciliation, expense records, cash flow reports, and will help you to be in the best possible place come tax time. You can give Xero a try for free, and they regularly have really great introductory pricing offers, so I highly recommend that you try it out and help make your life a little easier. Xero is web-based, so we give our accountant access and they can get all the information needed for tax season. Get a free trial here.
For real-time communication and collaboration, Slack is our go-to app. As I mentioned with G Suite, many of our tools integrate with each other. Slack is no exception. We can quickly and easily share files from Dropbox or Google Drive within Slack. We can also have one-on-one conversations or we can hold company-wide or department-wide group chats with everyone on that team or project.
Slack is like AOL messenger but on steroids and brought into the 21st century. It is a great platform to chat with your team, share daily updates, and get automated “bot” messages from third-party tools. For example, we use a notification to our #sales channel whenever a client signs and pays a contract or invoice. Slack has several available integrations available and we love using them. Get Slack for free here.
As the saying goes, everything in moderation. We work hard to only use the tools that are necessary and beneficial to our company. Having a tool or software just for the sake of having it is counterproductive. We want each tool that we use to add to our productivity not subtract from it. We also believe in staying at the forefront of technology and communication. From time to time, we will try out new apps and software to see if it fits into our overall flow. Sometimes we adopt something new that can replace two of the old tools that we were using. The general rule is that if you can replace and improve something else with a new tool, then it doesn’t make it into regular use in our operation.
If you’re thinking about running a remote business, I encourage you to look at opportunities to streamline your communication methods and update your tools. This is a small glimpse of the top three most important tools that we use. If you have any questions about how we work remotely, please feel free to drop a comment or send a tweet.
Looking for additional resources? I recommend checking out this article by CloudWars, its a great roundup of the Best Virtual Team Software Tools