Building a business from scratch is a huge challenge and doing it with a virtual team is even tougher. The interaction and information exchange that happens when people work in the same room often get taken for granted. It’s something that’s tricky to replicate when the team is straddled across different locations and timezones.
So why bother with a remote team? For founder Laura Roeder, having a virtual team is a competitive advantage. It gives her greater flexibility in hiring to make that she’s focusing 100% on quality and fit. It also suits her hands-off management style. Everyone in the company has the autonomy to do their own thing, so long as they’re openly and actively communicating with the team.
That hits at the heart of the biggest day-to-day operational challenge of a virtual company: communication. At Roeder Studios, they use Yammer, Google Chat, FreeConferenceCall.com, Skype, a wiki, Google Docs, and iDoneThis. Each tool serves as a channel for a particular type of communication. Yammer is for heads up information and watercooler postings, Skype is for face time, and FreeConferenceCall.com is to interface with clients and partners.
Over the course of running a virtual company, she discovered that a specific type of communication was extremely important. She called it a daily “What I did today” communication. Otherwise, it’s not easy to see what’s getting done by the team in Seattle, New Jersey, San Diego, the Philippines, Los Angeles and New York City at a glance. She would have to comb through the other systems and ask each team member individually for the most basic recap of the team’s day.
Laura asked the team to send a daily “What I did today” email out to the team at the close of each day, but she found that it was very difficult to get people to do it. With a lot going on, it’s easy to forget to send an email update. Email updates weren’t aggregated in any one place so the process was still rather fragmented. Also, working remotely, it’s often hard to know when your day is over. People put off writing the email update until the end of the day, but without knowing exactly when that will be, it’s often forgotten.
Laura’s team went from sparse email updates to a daily celebration of the team’s dones using iDoneThis. The team no longer had to remember to send the email, all they had to reply to iDoneThis’s email when it showed up in the inbox, and then they could add to that list with anything else later. It worked as an outside force, and it also made it easy to write down the message. The next morning, everyone’s dones showed up in their inbox, aggregated in one place.
iDoneThis may have made its greatest positive impact for Myreen, the team’s head of customer service. Rather than bombarding Myreen with emails, the team need only use iDoneThis, and as a byproduct, Myreen knows exactly what changes and updates are happening around their products. She has one email and one place to look when she receives questions about updates to their services.
We’re thrilled to be helping Laura, Myreen and the whole Roeder Studios team track and celebrate their accomplishments every day. We are very excited to be helping them empower small businesses with the power of social media.