How to Work with Your Virtual Team
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you have read the previous blog post where I talked about and showed you how to find and hire reliable virtual team members.
Now, when sitting down to think about what to write about, it was really easy for me to settle on writing about “how to find reliable virtual team members”. I mean, it was only the most sensible thing to write about, being that it is what people are paying me to do for them.
It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday (at the time of my writing this, not when you’re reading it) that I realised that I have been doing you a disservice. And for that, forgive me.
So what is this disservice?
That disservice is not addressing what generally happens AFTER you hire a virtual team member(s).
If you’re reading this because you’ve read the previous blog post on how to find and hire reliable virtual team members, congratulations. I hope that the process has worked for you and that you found someone who is working up to your expectations.
From my experience, I know that solving that issue of “How do I get more done without working to burnout” creates an entirely different set of Gremlins for you to deal with.
Like my friend Mike says…
New Levels, New Devils
When I had a conversation with my friend, we talked about this whole idea of “new levels, new devils.” And the concept of this is really simple.
It is mostly referring to the problem-solution-problems cycle. Meaning every time you have a problem, and you figure out how to solve that problem, you ultimately end up exposing another problem.
For example, let’s talk about hiring a virtual team member.
Initially, you have the problem of having too much to do. So the solution is to hire a virtual team member to delegate some tasks to.
When you’ve hired the virtual team member, another problem shows up, usually that is figuring out how to work with that team member, especially if this is your first time hiring help.
In other words, one solution exposes the next problem down the line and the cycle continues until the day that we shuffle off this mortal coil. You’re on this path, and the path is laden with issues.
Issues ranging from things such as:
- How do you work with your new virtual team members?
- What tools do you use in the business to make sure your team members are working effectively?
- How do you pay them?
These are issues that I went through myself for a little while until I figured it out. These are mostly little things that you should maybe consider that most people don’t, simply because they don’t know what they don’t know.
To give you an example of that, when I started working with virtual team members from the Philippines, I had no idea what the concept of the 13th month was. So I had to figure that stuff out and figured it out by chatting with the guys I hired and to people who had been hiring from the Philippines for several years.
True to the Problem-solution-problem dynamic, it now created the problem: how do I make sure there is enough to pay them from the business and how do I make it make sense to my accountant?
The Keys to Your Freedom
It should, I hope, come as no surprise when I say that when working with your virtual team, systems and processes are the Key to your success and freedom. They are the key to freedom because they give you a chance to organise your “house”
This doesn’t literally mean actually tidying up your physical house in this instance, I am talking about tidying up your business house.
Things like what are your naming conventions? What happens when you get a client? What happens when you lose a client? What happens when there is a mistake? There are so many things that can happen, especially if instructions aren’t clear.
After reading The E Myth by Michael Gerber, the one of the many things I took away from reading this was the idea that everything in the business has to be systemised.
I personally agree with that up to a point. That point being if you operate from the place where everything in the business has to be systemised, then you’re always going to be stuck in the business because there’s always something to do, and you’ll be in admin hell trying to create or document all those things as and when they come up.
When we talk about systems and processes, in my opinion it’s very important to think long and hard about what gets systemised and what does not get systemised.
There are two things which most people don’t seem to talk about that you need to consider. These two things become the foundation on which your business is built.
And if you lay those foundations properly (with freedom being your ultimate goal), you can eventually free yourself from your business to the point where there’s other people taking care of everything for you. This means you don’t need to be hands-on 24/7 anymore.
These two key things, are:
- Task/project management – this gets everything that you do in the business in one place. It makes sure that everybody knows what they’re responsible for, what the deadlines are and what they should prioritise.
- Communication – I find that having a completely separate channel for communication goes a long way to build culture in some form, especially if you’re working with a virtual team. You don’t want to be getting messages on WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and Email all from one team. That’s the worst because things can get lost. Things can get lost in terms of what needs to be done, who said what, and when something was said, etc
When it comes to tasks/project management, the way that I find tends to work for me is I like to create and work with “platform agnostic systems”. And what I mean by that is I want a system that can be plugged into whichever tasks or project management tool there is out there and still be effective.
For example, if I’m coming up with a system for task or project management, I want it to be flexible. I want it to be stable and flexible enough to be able to work in either Trello, Asana, ClickUp, Basecamp, etc. That way, you don’t get tied down to one particular tool.
The reason you don’t want to get tied down to one particular tool is if your team grows or if your business grows, you tend to find that these platforms start to charge you on a per user basis. So, say you have a team of 10 and it costs you $25 per user to use this software, that operating expense is now going to shoot up because you’ve tied yourself to one particular platform.
Another thing that you want to work on when it comes to task or project management is making sure you’re always using S.M.A.R.T tasks.
If you have done any project management course, they tend to talk about S.M.A.R.T goals. I have just taken a step further or deeper if you will and applied the concept of S.M.A.R.T to our tasks.
S.M.A.R.T stand for:
So for example, you can’t ask someone to build you an e-commerce website in two days because that’s not Achievable and Realistic.
One final thing that I like to consider whenever it comes to your task/project management system is the ability to set up and manage templates easily. This is important because when it comes to carrying out tasks or completing them, there are going to be things that are repetitive. Things such as upgrading a WordPress website. For us, there are certain steps we have to take that never really change.
What we’ve done is we’ve set up a website update task template, whereby the web developer on the team can simply look at and already have a complete checklist on what needs to be completed and then mark the task as done.
Having easy template setup and management also means that if the worst were to happen, such as my web developer disappearing on me, I can simply find somebody else to plug into the system.
When it comes to communication, the other vital bit of the foundation needed that I mentioned earlier is having a dedicated communications channel. That makes sure that the communication is kept clear and cluster free. There’s no ambiguity in what’s being said and if there is something that’s unclear, you can communicate it right there and actually see how the conversation plays out.
How I Manage My Virtual Team
In terms of what I do in my business, for tasks/project management, we use Teamwork. We originally started with Trello. But as my team grew, and I got more proficient in setting up thinking about how I wanted to use systems in my business, we eventually outgrew Trello.
For communication, we use Slack. I used to communicate via email and Facebook Messenger, but things always got lost. Either lost in translation or tasks just kept disappearing because an email gets mistakenly.
One final thing that we also utilise is automations. This allows us to remove redundant communication and automatically create tasks, which frees you from the business. It can also let you automatically create notifications for people on the team or yourself to take action.
Growing the Right Foundation for Your Business
Now everything that I’ve just said is just a brief and general overview of how I run things in the business so that we are more anti-fragile to whatever changes may come. Changes such as new team members or new tools.
At the end of the day, it’s the businesses that are flexible yet structured at the same time that can last a long, long time.
I know I briefly mentioned “platform agnostic systems”, and how this is such an important step to take when setting up your systems and processes. So in my next blog post, I’m actually going to show you how all of these tie together to alleviate some of the day to day drudgery of running the business, and also explain the idea of “Platform Agnostic Systems.”
I’ll see you in the next one.