Guest Blog by Helen Foord
Many thanks to Helen Foord for this article on growing a virtual business post-pandemic.
The recent pandemic has forced businesses across the globe to re-evaluate every aspect of their business models. Lockdown measures have cast questions around whether it’s essential and, more importantly, cost-effective for teams to be working physically from one central hub. Interestingly, a forced exit from the 9-5 office structure has led businesses to innovate, and many are now considering the benefits of sustained remote working practices.
Helen Foord is a global, strategic marketing and business development consultant passionate about empowering people to make a commercial and professional difference in a socially, environmentally, financially, and communicationally responsible way. Specializing in the legal sector, she has over 20 years of experience across several in-house and agency roles, supporting organizations towards achieving their business objectives.
She shares her unique insights into how teams can go about successfully creating virtual businesses post-pandemic.
Have things changed now we have all gone virtual?
“It’s been very strange over recent months because people have kept asking how we were all coping, working from home. But the reality is that we’ve all worked like this for years. The recent circumstances haven’t changed very much for us at ELE Global. What I’ve found is that growing the virtual business isn’t hard. Good people have always been easy to find. Keeping them interested and supplied with stimulating work, however, is the big challenge.
There’s a wealth of tools and support out there for digital and virtual businesses if you know where to look. As I’ve been running my business, the market for these has exploded. My personal favorites are Xero, Zoho CRM, MarketingHub, PandaDoc, and last but not least, Slack: what agency manager wouldn’t list Slack! We use it for virtual coffee, chat, client discussions, and to share boards with clients on their projects.
We’ve invested a lot in looking at our technology, and we are continually reviewing how well it’s working for us as a team. Having increased client engagement digitally has fuelled this, and we’re looking at much higher levels of automation and integration than before.
What is hard, particularly while we can’t meet, is to keep people motivated in virtual business. Historically we’ve had face-to-face coworking sessions and meet-ups, so we’ve had to be more imaginative and use tools like Zoom, Slack, and Facebook more than usual.
I have found that when motivating remote teams assuming things aren’t valuable or working just because only a few people use them can be de-motivating. You might organize a weekly coffee chat on Zoom only for two people to turn up, but those two people may value that session. It’s quality of engagement and interaction that’s important, not the number of takers.
I also think it’s essential to ask people what they think and want and allow them to direct the activities you implement. That could be face-to-face events or digital, new ways of working or software. Their feedback is critical to ensuring they feel valued and empowered.
Internal reporting is also essential. Most systems allow you to monitor how people are using them, when, and how often. This information can be valuable to help understand what needs to change or what can be done better.
I’m not sure that virtual replacements will ever serve as a complete substitute for large face-to-face meetings. Some physical time spent together is beneficial for teambuilding and supporting everyone’s mental health.
It’s been particularly interesting to see the changes in the legal sector over the Covid-19 period. Most firms now freely accept that they can run virtually and with people working at home, and I think this is going to transform an already booming freelance and virtual working sector.”
For more information about Helen Foord and ELE Global, visit www.eleglobal.world
You might also enjoy this article of Jan’s on stress of working at home