More and more companies are working from home or client locations. Today, with world events forcing us to try new ways of doing business, there is no choice. Here are three tips to give your people, business and culture that virtual company environment.
1 — Ditch the Phone
People need people. Not having an office that centralizes your people doesn’t diminish the fact. So, at every opportunity— one-on-ones with employees, group meetings, customer interactions – use video conferencing. We have used Skype and GoToMeeting but have settled on Zoom. Reasons are simple: It works (have never had glitches in audio or video due to the platform), and it doesn’t require an account to participate (the Zoom account owner just sends a link to anyone, and they are part of the meeting without elaborate downloads or account set-up).
Also, with a modern OS on your Mac or PC, Zoom allows you to have a virtual (professional) background, without using a green screen. And finally, an added benefit that you Do not get in your office conference room is that meetings can easily be recorded and reviewed by missing attendees. We use the collaboration platform Bloomfire to post and share rich media such as ZOOM meeting recordings.
2 — Celebrate Everything
It’s super important to share and celebrate successes in a virtual company environment. Your people need to hear encouraging words and wins and be provided the opportunity to chime in with congratulations. New customer? Send a note to everyone (hint: may put whole company in the bcc: field so “Reply All’s” do not bury everyone in emails). Special recognition? Send an email. Company in the news? Send an email. It is not too much to send several a day.
For regularly scheduled meetings—company-wide or with a consistently meeting group—start the meeting with some form of good news. In our company, we start with photos including personal updates (new grandchild, graduation, anniversary, travel pics), as well as photos from client meetings or company meetups. We also ask our team (we call it a Tribe) for individuals they’d like to recognize. And we spend five to 10 minutes after photos in each staff meeting sharing stories of how one person or group helped another. It’s terrific.
3 — Over Communicate
Relying on digital communications—especially email—can be risky. After all, don’t we get enough email? Why should we entertain the notion of over communicating? While it’s true we are buried with gobs of content in emails, texts and more from all sorts of sources in our business environment, the thing we often don’t get is a consistently executed message. One that is reinforced time and again. It starts at the top. And can be imitated and replicated throughout an organization.
Communicating internally is one thing. Spending less face time with our clients or customers requires us to communicate consistently, with relevant and timely messages, externally. This is an opportunity to be helpful. No one needs more fodder in their inboxes. But everyone needs help, advice, and useful information. This is a time to be more valuable to your employees and customers, not an annoyance.
We are all having to make changes in our business operations models right now. Some of the learnings from this challenging period have the potential of changing how we do business – with each other, and with our clients – in very positive ways that will continue to drive the growth of our companies and our cultures. It’s up to us as business leaders to try, and learn, and adapt, and carry forward the very best.
Pete Hayes is co-author of the No. 1 Amazon Best Seller, "The Growth Gears," and co-principal of Chief Outsiders. Hayes has held executive marketing positions with Fortune 100 companies, managing $50 million budgets, and he has also played key executive management roles in helping startups grow from first steps to over $1 billion in revenue. For more information, visit www.chiefoutsiders.com.