The stigma behind running a business entirely in a virtual environment has now mostly disappeared, with so many large tech startups over the last ten years showing just how easily it can be done. Running a virtual business is certainly different from a brick-and-mortar model. However, with all the resources now available, anyone can do it.
Running a virtual business can offer significant benefits over a traditional offline setup:
- Freedom: No worries about having to stay in the same place for too long. A virtual business can offer you the freedom to work from anywhere at anytime.
- Minimal investment: No offices to rent or furniture to buy (when going the virtual office route.)
- Labor costs are cheaper: If you use virtual assistants to run your business, there are no recruiting costs, health benefits, vacation time, or sick pay to shell out. Virtual employees can be hired and fired without worry of lawsuits.
- Your business never sleeps: A virtual business needn’t be encumbered by typical business hours. With the labor savings and flexibility, you can hire more people to keep the business running round-the-clock.
The following assumes you’ve either already started a business, or have an idea in mind that you plan to deploy in the near future:
Set up blog, vlog, and social media ASAP
There’s no reason for any business to not have a company blog to share content and insights with their customers on. A blog will help you in all aspects of your online efforts including link-building and other SEO, and creating exposure for your business and social media presence. The same holds true for a vlog, but one or the other should suffice to start. Social media accounts should be set up on platforms relevant to your business before launch, and you should start posting ASAP.
Virtual office necessary?
If your business doesn’t have an official base of operations, you should definitely consider a virtual office. Having an online-searchable, offline-based storefront to call your business home and receive mail at, will make you more appealing to customers and also provide you with offline amenities as needed such as use of office equipment, Internet access, and affordable meeting/conference room rentals. Toll free virtual phone numbers, along with the available Virtual Phone Answering services, are also a consideration, to centralize your business if you plan on getting lots of long distance calls.
Start hand-picking virtual staff
Your virtual staff may consist of your current offline employees who’ll be communicating with you in the cloud using sales, collaboration and project management tools available online.
If you don’t have existing staff to take into the virtual environment with you, virtual assistants are always a cost-effective option. Virtual assistants can be hand-picked based on the skill-sets they offer and their availability as a contract worker or full/part-time employee.
Plan a weekly meeting schedule
It’s important you touch base with all your virtual employees on at least a weekly, if not daily basis. In the case of staffers that are local, you can arrange an in-person meeting at your brick-and-mortar or virtual office, local conference center, or restaurant of choice on a regular basis.
Make sure all points of concern are dealt with at each meeting to avoid mistakes and employee burnout. When using virtual assistants, make sure to consult with them on a platform like Skype or Google Hangouts to promote a healthy corporate culture.
Set goals and follow up regularly
When running your business virtually, it’s important that everyone has attainable, measurable goals they’re working toward. It’s very hard to work remotely behind a computer screen and stay motivated otherwise.
Ensure that everyone has daily goals that have proved achievable in the past (obviously, there will be a learning curve for both you and your employees). Anyone who isn’t proving productive in the first 30 days or so after being hired, with adequate coaching, needs to be let go.
Everything in your business needs to be cloud capable
Most hiccups will occur in a virtual business when you run into compatibility issues with software glitches, or when employees are restricted access to cloud tools and cloud storage. Free tools are always available for the truly small scale operation, such as those found in the Google’s G-Suite Marketplace.
However, most of what you’ll find for free offers limited functionality, and you can also run into potential support issues when you run into stumbling blocks with the software. No matter what you choose, make sure the apps you and your employees use is all 100% compatible and that remote employees have the access they need.
Soon the majority of business will be digital!
With ecommerce offering virtually everything under the sun a consumer would want, at cheaper rates than brick-and-mortar, and apps being developed every day that help us lead higher-quality lives, it’s inevitable that the majority of businesses will be done virtually from the cloud. Even the offices and storefronts that remain will be largely virtual in how their operations are handled.
Making the move to a digitally run business now puts you front and center of your competition as the world continues to make the shift to all things digital.