Putting together a core team for your company can be challenging, but doing it virtually can present additional situations that need to be managed. Several business owners have related how they assembled their virtual company and how they make it work.

Kathy Day, public relations expert in Anchorage, Alaska, started her business – Kathy Day Public Relations (KDPR) – as a sole practitioner seven years ago, but things began to change last year. Today, her company is called KDPR Virtual.  “I found myself needing more specialties than just public relations, and it made sense to bring in the right people for each job,” explains Day. “I also saw that we could all get more work if we teamed up instead of trying to find work on our own.”

Her virtual team now consists of two PR specialists, two graphic designers, a videographer, a photographer, a media buyer and a Web specialist, all located in her town but not working in her office. She says she picked her team members because they were both talented in their field and people she had worked with before and could trust.  Day’s team members work together primarily through email, while coming together for project meetings. The team also has a monthly lunch for information sharing and team building.

Running a virtual company has meant more out-of-pocket expenses, so Day is working to manage the change in her cash flow. She’s also learning to balance the work she can give to her virtual team.  “Virtual team members are not like employees, so sometimes they just aren’t able to take on projects or jump in when I really need them to because of other commitments,” says Day.  With her virtual team in place, Day says she can concentrate more on new business development and networking.

When Kimberly Martinez started her business with a business partner, both were in different cities. The Sarasota, Florida-based CEO of Bonitas International LLC, creator of BooJeeBeads™, found her first hire in Cleveland.

The company creates beaded ID necklaces and retractable badge jewelry for people who wear employee id badges. Customer service and distribution takes place in the Cleveland area, the company’s national sales manager is in Milwaukee, the design studio is in Cincinnati, the account manager works from Atlanta, the import manager is in Los Angeles, and her Web sales fulfillment manager – her father – travels between Sarasota in the winter and Cleveland in the summer.

“We find people we love who bring unique talents and gifts and we snap them up, regardless of where they live,” says Martinez, who describes her virtual company’s workflow as “assembly line” where each step takes place in a different location, from receiving and entering orders to packing and shipping.

Says Martinez, “The greatest challenges are creating a sense of team, overcoming the communication challenges, and most importantly, changing our mindset from a ‘garage start up’ to that of an established multimillion dollar enterprise. The latter is surprisingly difficult to do when we don’t see a lot of signs of visible change or increased activity in your own work environment!”

To stay in touch, the team meets virtually through video conferencing once a week as well as an annual in-person meeting with outside facilitators to help with team building. They also use Yahoo! Groups™ to communicate information and foster a sense of community.

In terms of advice for starting a virtual business, Diana Ennen, co-author of the book “Working Virtually,” says before you start a virtual business, you should determine your needs and goals. She also suggests writing down specific skills you’ll need from someone on your virtual team.  “If you initially spend time considering this and plan it out, then you will be better equipped to find the perfect match for your needs and goals,” says Ennen.

Martinez says you need to be very strategic in recreating ways for your team to feel connected.  “You need to be constantly in touch with your people to make sure you understand how they are feeling and to build the kind of trust where your team can speak their truth. Otherwise, it just won’t work.”

Says Ennen, “Dependability is important. This has to be emphasized in the beginning and stressed throughout the working relationship. Definitely things can come up; however, you need to be able to count on your team the same as if they were in the same room with you.”

Adds Day, “Make sure everyone on the virtual team is committed and can handle the work professionally. A bad team member can damage your personal reputation.  Don’t set up a virtual company unless you want to work really hard, even when it’s inconvenient. If no one else on the team can do the work – it will be up to you to get it finished on time and on budget.”

 

The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates.  It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.