SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to Effectively Manage Your Remote Team

Today’s global economy and advanced technologies allow us to include remote employees into our teams. With the use of various collaboration tools, cloud sharing apps, and video conferences, managers can effectively set goals, assign tasks, and Team Colget the desired results in real time. Since the high number of competitive firms in technological and economic centers have drastically increased their employee turnover, many big and small businesses have decided to use the affordable, educated, and loyal labor from the developing countries.

Remote management still comes with a wide variety of challenges. It is much harder to motivate your employees when you do not see them in-person on a daily basis. Furthermore, all paperwork and communication need to be done in the digital form. Before creating an effective remote management strategy, a company should set a special budget for buying and maintaining the appropriate software and hardware solutions. In this guide, we have explained remote team management by describing every step of this process.

Hiring
Choosing the members of remote teams is a little bit different from the regular hiring process. The candidate’s location is never an issue, but they still need to satisfy certain criteria apart from the adequate expertise and work experience. All team members need to speak the same language because running a team in different languages and using online translation tools would be too difficult. They also need to have appropriate hardware.

The hiring process for international businesses usually starts with posting a job ad on an international job search platform or with contacting an HR agency. Managers often outsource some minor and repetitive tasks to freelancers, through various freelance marketplace platforms. Freelancers who prove their skills and show outstanding results have a chance to be admitted into the team. The companies that run remote teams have a much bigger talent pool at their disposal. That is why they should try to speed up and automate their hiring process. They can do it by using chatbots or by utilizing a big data software.

Collaboration
Establishing a real-time collaboration is the biggest challenge remote teams need to overcome. It can also be solved by introducing some of the available advanced technological solutions. There are many useful apps that managers can choose from for this purpose. Some of them even use advanced collaboration and scheduling systems like Kanban, invented for managing the Toyota supply chain.

Most collaboration apps offer a simple interface which allows users to schedule tasks to each other, chat, and exchange files. Today, many companies use team collaboration apps such as Wrike. My team started using this app two years ago and although it offers a solid set of features, we have decided to replace it. We have found a good Wrike alternative that offers advanced features like invoicing, budgeting, client permissions, self-hosting, and the all in one feature package. Thanks to this small change, our productivity skyrocketed.

Real-time Collaboration
The collaboration in remote teams needs to be done in real time. Since team members often work from different time zones, they need to make themselves readily available at critical times of the day. They can do this by installing the collaborative app on their smartphones and regularly checking push notifications. Although good collaborative apps can replace a whole list of business software, remote teams can also use emails, social networks, remote access software, cloud storage apps, the MS Office suite, and many other business apps.

Meetings
Meetings are of critical importance for remote team management. Companies would need thousands of dollars to bring all the team members from different parts of the world to their headquarters. Still, efficient project management requires regular team meetings. Most successful teams meet at least twice a week. They assign tasks for the upcoming week on Mondays, while they review the team’s work results on Fridays.

Managers can organize team meetings with the use of a meeting software and online video conferencing. Each team member should have a webcam, a microphone, and a special app installed on their desktop or smartphone. Many companies purchase special software for video conferencing. Entrepreneurs who want to save money can also use the group chat feature offered on various messenger apps.

Team Building
Companies usually neglect this very important side of teamwork. Team building is even more important for managing remote teams because their members cannot meet in real life, talk or settle their differences. Companies should arrange team gatherings at least once a year. For some team members, these gatherings would be much more fun because they will need to travel to a part of the world they would never visit prior to the meeting.

Unfortunately, organizing regular team building events for remote teams can be very expensive, even for the biggest corporate entities. That is why companies need to motivate their employees to communicate on social networks, exchange ideas, post interesting videos, motivational songs, and memes on the team’s news feed. This way, managers will be able to lift up the team’s spirit and improve the employees’ morale.

Unite Around a Common Goal
Uniting all team members around a common goal is the most important task for every remote team manager. Unlike regular teams, remote teams need to seize every opportunity for in-person bonding. This often results in long lasting friendships and creates a unique sense of camaraderie that can only be seen in these types of business environments.

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Improve Team Productivity with these 5 Tech Products


Highly efficient and productive teams have become more important than ever before at pushing best-in-class products and services to the market ahead of competitors. A range of tech tools have emerged to serve high-performance teams that help them get ahead of the game to achieve this goal. Below are five examples of tech products designed to boost team productivity.

Communication and Chat Apps
Instant communication is essential in highly productive teams, especially for those working remotely. Email used to be considered a quick and efficient communication tool, but has fallen behind new tools such as Slack, which allows teams to communicate and share files in real time. The ability to share resources, in real time, provides advantages.  Even to teams sitting in the same room – due to the ability to instantly share and collaborate.

Teleconferencing Products

Allowing people to meet face to face, when working in remote locations, can make meetings more productive than using text communication. CIO cites the Skypeability to promote collaboration, in this way, as a top tip for increasing team efficiency. Products such as Skype can bring numerous people together.  Not only to speak face to face but to share work and resources, in real time via a single application.

Version Control for Creative Teams
For software developers and other asset creators, version control products, such as GitHub and Bitbucket, allow teams to work on the same files at the same time without overwriting each other’s work. This greatly simplifies the headaches that digital content-creation teams faced in the past, by allowing everyone to have their hands in the same work at once.

Cloud-Based Document Management
Cloud-based document services, such as Google Docs, allow people to view and edit the same documents at the same time. When combined with real-timeGoogleDocs communication tools, collaborating on a single document with other team members becomes effortless, and eliminates the need to share and compile multiple versions of a single document. The Huffington Post cites an example of a team member who must unexpectedly work from home to showcase the power of using document management services that can be accessed from anywhere.

Project Management Tools
Project management tools, such as Pivotal Tracker, can help teams to stay on track with real-time goal tracking and time management. The tools mentioned in the sections above help teams to work more efficiently, but teams still need something to help everyone to stay on track and on time with personal and shared deliverables. Forbes notes that this type of product, also, helps people to understand when the work of others that they rely on is complete and ready for them to move forward with their tasks.
Using technology efficiently is critical to thriving in a team environment, and the products noted above can put your team on the path to success by eliminating roadblocks to efficient team workflows. Above all, it is important to keep abreast of new and developing technologies to ensure that your team stays one step ahead of your competitors.

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Show Us Your...

Show us your newsletter that you send to customers! Here is the official story:

Harry here. I need your help.

I'm researching how MSPs, consultants, IT Pros and good old fashioned 'puter guys communicate with customers (small business owners).

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There are a couple reasons for my research. Too often we spend far too much time researching recurring revenue and how to get you to sell more stuff for vendors. I am on a mission to see if we can strengthen the organic relationship between a service provider (MSP, etc) and the SMB customer.

My ask is this.

Please both SEND me and SUBSCRIBE me to the customer facing newsletter you send to your customers. Kindly use the following email address as I anticipate the response to be a large sample size: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I'll publish the results of my research and analysis. One offshoot I'd like to discover is, based on how you communicate with your real world end-user customers, can we craft a better level of community engagement for Small Business Saturday in late November 2017?

Thank you for helping me. Your participation makes us a better community - even 18-years later since our humble start in the early days of Small Business Server (SBS) in the late 1990s!

Enjoy the ride....harrybbb
Harry Brelsford
206-201-2944 (yep - that's my real phone number!)

UPDATED: I've receive a number of great responses, samples and sign-ups since I announced this matter last Friday, March 17, 2017 (THANK YOU). I'm amazed at the innovation by wiser MSP minds out there. For example - one franchise organization provides newsletters for its franchise holders. Another MSP only sends print newsletters. So far this has been really interesting research.

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The boom in boomer entrepreneurs: Why older workers are finding entrepreneurial success … Or not

February 23, 2017 Posted by US SMB Team

When you hear the word “entrepreneur,” what image springs to mind? Mark Zuckerberg in his hoodie? The young Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage? The familiar faces of entrepreneurship are those of brilliant young men who are tech-savvy newsmakers.

In reality, however, today’s entrepreneurs are a much more diverse group, including those who traditionally might have been considered “ready for retirement.” Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, are redefining the marketplace as they rely on decades of experience, talent and passion to launch and grow businesses.

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What’s behind the boom in Boomer entrepreneurs? Consider that some of them may:

Finally be giving life to long-held dreams by turning in corporate badges to hang out their own shingles.

Be energized by working and staying active. Many Boomers say they simply are not ready to put an end to their work lives.

Need or want work/life balance that the corporate world doesn’t offer. Caring for a loved one, or simply volunteering or enjoying leisure time, can become possible for people who lead their own businesses.

Need to replace or supplement income. Corporate downsizing closed some doors for older workers. Plus, many pensions and retirement accounts took a beating in recent years.

Long Live the Boomer Economy

The growing percentage of Americans working past age 65, the rise in life expectancy and the fact that about 18 percent of workers older than 65 are self-employed suggest that Boomers’ impact on the economy will be felt for years to come.

During the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation‘s sixth annual State of Entrepreneurship Address at the National Press Club, Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies outlined the economic impact of both Millennials and Boomers. Citing research from a Kauffman report, “The Future of Entrepreneurship: Millennials and Boomers Chart the Course for 2020,” Guillies stated that the United States doesn’t just need economic growth. It needs economic renewal, renewed mobility and a renewed notion of shared prosperity and sense of possibility. One of the best and most effective ways to achieve those goals is entrepreneurship — the creation and growth of new companies.

And there are encouraging signs. According to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, “Startup activity rose in 2015, reversing a five-year downward trend in the United States, giving rise to hope for a revival of entrepreneurship.”

Notably, the percentage of firms created by Americans ages 55 to 64 grew more than any other age demographic, up 11 percent to 25.8 percent in 2014 versus 14.8 percent in 1996 .

Why Boomer Entrepreneurs Succeed

Many Boomers are finding entrepreneurial success. At least in part, that’s because they:

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He’s Gone! Superstar MSP Jamison West Exits

In this era of click bait headlines, this one is true both geographically and business-wise. Long time SMB Nation member Jamison West is undergoing a life reset. He has recently completed the transition from his MSP practice (which was acquired by Aldridge just over a year ago that I wrote about HERE.)

West and family looked in the mirror and decided time in the sun would be the right next move. As I write this, Jamison is moving to Summerlin, NV from drippy Seattle so that they can be near his wife’s extended family and the children can settle into new schools. Jamison has new professional plans in the works that we’ll report on in coming weeks. All good.

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Now the good stuff
Steve Banks’ venerable Puget Sound Small Business Server (PSSBS) group that still meets on every third Thursday night hosted a going away party for West. In a wide ranging free flowing community conversation, West shared his view of the world with reality-based real facts. He should know. He’s been there and done that over 20+ years as an MSP in Seattle.

Future Speak
West made forward looking statements along the lines of “If I was starting out today…” that focused on the three things you can do in 2017 as an MSP. It dovetailed into our “start over” editorial theme we’ve been preaching from the pulpit to the pews for a few years. West specifically shared these three pillars to focus on.

  1. Year of the Cloud Directory Services. With Active Directory (AD) dying (if not dead), the opportunity is to master single sign on and encryption. This was presented in the context of Azure, which is another editorial “beat” at SMB Nation this year.
  2. Voice – Skype for Business. West presented and defended his thesis that this is the year of Skype. I confronted West on these assertions as I’ve had mixed Skype experiences over the years and continue my long journey towards acceptance. But West laid out some compelling customer evidence from the real world to support his beliefs.
  3. Dynamics 365. This conversation was one for “get ahead of the curve” as Microsoft is consolidating its CRM, ERP and accounting portfolio to be an online service that will be a game changer, even in SMB. The audience had a range of opinions on the future of Great Plains Dynamics perhaps being slated for an end-of-life motion in favor of NAV. In a future blog, I’ll show how innovative ISVs such as Versium are creating predictive analytics snap-ins for Dynamics 365 but that is for another day.

MSP M&A

West shared his wisdom on both organic and strategic growth – he’s done both. His M&A journey, both the good and the bad, was shared openly in the spirit of transparency. Takeaways? Focus on understanding the Guaranteed and Not Guaranteed elements of a merger and acquisition scenario.

My Advice?

Consider reaching out to Jamison West via LinkedIn here and arrange for him as a speaker at your next event. It’s a wise investment to tap into Jamison’s wisdom.

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