The Tools You Need to Work Online
I’m coming to you from Seattle today and I know that this is a time of heightened concern and heightened risk, as we all try to find our new normal.
I wanted to put something together to tell you exactly how to take your business online. I know a lot of people are working online or being told to work online, but if you have a service-based business where you’re used to going onsite to a client, or if you are an accountant who is used to going to the office – especially now that we’re in the middle of busy season – how do you take your business online?
Taking your business online
Allow me to outline a few things to get this going effectively. The first thing you need? An email account.
We all have email, and it’s pretty straight forward. But to do this right, your teams should all be on a single email so that you can share emails and calendars (for scheduling) across the entire team. All this makes the transition easier.
Then, you’ll also need a cloud-based storage system, whether that’s Dropbox, G Suite, Box.com, or virtual copies of your team’s PCs, you need a quick and easy way to access and collaborate on files as a team. As it stands, many collaboration tools are already built into your email service provider: I know a lot of people using these tools to run their business domains just fine.
Next, you’ll need to set yourself apart from competitors. How so? With an agile and responsive business, which you achieve with a project management tool. A program that allows you to keep track of tasks, together. Keep track of to-do’s while your team is working in different locations. Programs include Asana, Trello, Click-up, Base Camp.
All of these different tools will allow you and your team to keep tasks in one place while keeping everyone organized and moving forward. Emails will create clutter and aren’t as efficient as project management tools – so, I suggest you transition over to a project management tool.
Also, there’s no need for dense setups: you can use these programs as to-do lists initially, where you collaborate on these lists with your team. As you establish a norm and protocols with your team, you can start to experiment with the bells and whistles that come with a number of these free or low-cost project management tools.
The next tool is a messaging system. Programs include Slack, G Chat, and others. Let me preface this by saying that, for quick conversations, you should set some guidelines on how your team is going to use it. Namely, it shouldn’t be used for long conversations. Questions that require a lot of detail will ultimately cause something to get lost in the shuffle. Especially because when we write things out, it just isn’t as clear as when we discuss things face-to-face.
Finally, the last thing that you need – outside of email, cloud storage, and a messaging service – is some sort of telecommuting option. Google Hangouts is free and you can use that to meet with your team members, your contractors, clients – or you can move to Zoom, which is free for one-on-one calls, and free for group calls for the first 45 minutes.
All in all, these are the crucial tools needed to take your business online.
And what if you have a product-based business? As you can imagine, it’s a lot easier to install these tools or start using them if you’re a service-based business. But what if you’re a product-based business?
These days, the first thing to keep in mind is compliance with the CDC and preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Keeping hands and surfaces clean, encouraging your team members or shipping providers to stay home if they’re not feeling well, and so forth.
Plus, ensure that you communicate the difficulties these times will bring: delayed shipping, customer services, etc. While, of course, reminding the customer that it is for the safety of the team and the country overall. Then, stimulating your business during these times could involve giving them some sort of incentive to either book now, giving them access to an exclusive collection, early access to a new product line, or even a small coupon for the future.
Nevertheless, if you’re going to move your business online and you haven’t done it before, you’ll need email, cloud storage or a collaborative online drive, project management tool, and some sort of communication tool. If you have a team, programs like Slack will help you stay connected and answer quick questions, while a telecommuting tool like Google Hangouts or Zoom will allow you to connect with your clients and team on a face-to-face basis.
Finally, if you have a product-space business where it will become more challenging to get team members and customers to go out to certain places, make sure to incentivize in some way so that your current customers book or pay now and then also, of course, be communicative of what’s happening. People will be sympathetic and understand – they’re living it too.
Just make sure that you communicate what you’re doing to ensure your team safety, and give them a little sweetener at the end of the day. If you’ve never worked online, these are the ways that you can transition online relatively quickly and seamlessly. All of these tools are available now.
If you have any questions about this, certainly feel free to drop me a line, or a comment. I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have.
I’ve been working online for quite some time now and all of my clients work online, so I’m very familiar with the process and the systems required for it. I know we’re all practicing our social distancing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to disconnect. I’m always happy to help!
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