Anyone with an online business has relied on outsourcers or freelancers to assist on projects at some stage. That’s the beauty of the internet. It connects people with varied skill sets to each other, independent of their location.
There are however a number of common pitfalls that come with managing a virtual team. Businesses that are quite new to employing staff overseas or conduct all their work online can easily fall into these. Here are some of the top pitfalls to look out for and how to avoid them.
Lack of clear communication
Online teams thrive when communication is clear and abundant. However, this is a skill that most people tend to struggle with.
The frustration of not being able to reach a team member if they aren’t online or having no idea what they’re working on is too real for many internet entrepreneurs.
As a work at home mum, you don’t have time for that. You’ll quickly find that you’ll need to work with people who you can communicate well with so that things flow smoothly and without frustration.
Communication flows both ways though. You need to be clear and abundant in your communication just as much as what your team need to be with you and each other.
Part of your role in your online business will be to manage staff and their responsibilities. You need to make sure they each understand what they are accountable for and what responsibilities others are accountable for. It makes a big difference if you spend the time establishing these channels of communication.
Using a good communication tool, like Slack, can help streamline the process and keep everyone in the loop. But, using a tool like this isn’t enough to ensure clear communication among your team. So make sure you actively check instructions are correctly interpreted and that the team follows them accordingly.
Lack of clear systems and processes
Another super common pitfall is the lack of clear systems and processes. This relates to how you do things in your business and how you expect others to do those same tasks.
Unclear instructions tend to be the first culprit here. However, a deeper issue that leads to miscommunication or misunderstanding among the team is a lack of processes that everyone is familiar with.
It is as simple as creating a document outlining steps for completing the most common tasks. Such systems ensure that no matter who is completing a task, they follow the same process so there is consistency in what your business delivers.
This sounds much easier that it is as it involves documenting your thought process. When you make a judgement call on how to do something, you need to document that clearly so others who work for you can make similar decisions.
That’s why systems are so important. Without them, you’ll be stuck micromanaging everyone to ensure things are completed in the same way. You just can’t grow or scale a business without systems!
To get started, you can use a tool like Google Sites to create a searchable index of your processes. It’s as simple as creating one page for each major task or process. Add to it as you go and ask for your team’s collaboration so their knowledge and expertise is also captured and shared.
There are also other tools that can help take the process further though I have found Google Sites to be sufficient when getting started (plus, it is free and easy to use).
Time wasted in meetings
If only I had a dollar for every minute wasted in a meeting, gosh I’d be rich! When working with a virtual team, their time is precious. You’ll generally be paying them by the hour so you cannot afford to have them wasting time.
Inefficient meetings are the biggest time waster when it comes to virtual staff. People often get carried away having a meeting about a meeting. “In our meeting next week, let’s discuss X, Y & Z”. Why can’t those be discussed in today’s meeting?
Good meetings require structure and team collaboration. Make sure your team is aware of the sole purpose for the meeting. Don’t try to accomplish too much in one meeting. It is better to have a short meeting that solves a problem rather than a longer one that leaves everyone confused about the next steps.
There are many different ways this problem can be tackled and it depends on how you and your team work together. If ineffective meetings are something you are struggling with, start by focusing on solving one problem in each meeting and developing a habit of efficiency in doing so. You and your team will adapt and you’ll be able to reach actionable solutions faster as a result.
Choosing staff according to price rather that best fit
The decision of who to hire for a job is quite tricky. It is generally even trickier to do online.
Many people make the decision to hire cheaper freelancers. While you save money per hour doing this, there are a number of headaches to deal with that will ultimately cost you more in the long run. Cheaper services come at a lower quality and generally from people who don’t speak English as a first language.
Communication can be troublesome and expectation of work quality can often result in disappointment. It will cost you more having projects re-worked to achieve the quality level you’re seeking than if you hired someone who charged more per hour though got it right from the start.
For your business to run well, you need a team you can trust to deliver the work you expect. Who and how you hire is definitely going to be a part of that. So, make sure you consider the best fit for your business rather than just going on price.
These are the most common pitfalls online business face then it comes to managing a virtual team. I hope you’ve found these tips useful and that they help you overcome big challenges.
You can use these tips to leverage, scale and grow your business with a team that supports you all the way!