Maybe you have a remote business, and are looking for tips on how to run it more effectively.\u00a0 You might also be looking to move your business from brick-and-mortar to remote.\u00a0 Either way, there are some things you will want to keep in mind when running a remote business.\r\n\r\nThe four pillars of a remote business are preparation, personnel, technology, and customers.\u00a0 The success of your remote business will hinge on these four factors.\r\n\r\nWe\u2019ll start off by going into detail about how to prepare for a transition to a remote company.\u00a0 If your company is already remote, you can still use some of these tips, so read on!\r\nPreparation\r\nBefore you continue to later steps involving personnel, technology, or customers, you need to prepare for remote business.\u00a0 Perhaps most important is your reason for going remote.\u00a0 You need to have a strong motivation, and make sure employees are on board.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYou should set milestones for how and when you want to work remotely.\u00a0 You also want to establish systems that can be followed and perfected over time.\u00a0 Prepare for any emergencies, and then go through a test run to see what unexpected issues come up.\r\n\r\nFor certain businesses, you might need a physical location or shipping and fulfillment services, which are also discussed below.\r\nWhy Go Remote?\r\nYou shouldn\u2019t just go remote because it is trending, or because you want to work from home.\u00a0 Make sure that the benefits outweigh the costs, as you would for any business decision.\u00a0 If you want to consider this more carefully (and you should!), check out my article on the benefits of remote work for employers.\r\n\r\nThink about the implications of going remote in terms of personnel, technology, and customers.\u00a0 How will fully remote work help your employees to work better?\u00a0 How can technology improve the efficiency and profitability of your company?\u00a0 Will a remote company be able to provide the same level of service that your customers expect?\r\nGoals and Timelines\r\nThink about what you want to accomplish before you make the transition to remote.\u00a0 Also, decide when you want to achieve these goals.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSetting goals helps you to organize your big goals into smaller steps.\u00a0 Then, you can adapt the steps to your timeline to achieve your goal.\u00a0 For instance, let\u2019s say you want to hire two remote employees within three months.\r\n\r\nYou can break the goal into several steps.\u00a0 You will need to write a job description, post the job, look through applications, respond to candidates, interview finalists, and hire your top choice.\u00a0 You can assign these 6 tasks for periods of 2 weeks each, and you will be done within three months.\r\n\r\nSetting goals will also help you to use concrete steps to explain your ideas to employees.\u00a0 If an employee understands the role of a task in terms of the big picture, then he will be more motivated to complete his part of the project.\r\nProcesses and Systems\r\nAs you transition to a fully remote company, some of your business systems will need to make the transition as well.\r\nExample\r\nOne good example is accounting, bookkeeping, and taxes.\u00a0 Ordinarily, you would visit your accountant once in a while to drop off your huge, overflowing folder of receipts and bank statements.\u00a0 (This, by the way, is not totally annoying for your accountant to deal with, so don't worry about it at all).\r\n\r\nHowever, you cannot necessarily do that when you and your team are working remotely.\u00a0 You might need to scan and email those physical receipts.\u00a0 You could also keep them in a DropBox or Google Drive.\r\nIf you receive electronic or emailed receipts for purchases, you can keep them in a folder labelled "Accountant".\u00a0 Then, forward everything in the folder to your accountant every month (or quarter, or year).\r\nOnce you set up a system that works for you, it will be easy to continue the habit.\u00a0 Good habits lead to good performance, day in and day out.\u00a0 Besides, your accountant will love the new, organized you!\u00a0 You can even train a virtual assistant or another employee to do this work for you - remotely!\r\nOther systems and processes to think about include payroll, customer service, sales, and IT\/information security.\r\nEmergency Preparation\r\nAnother way to be completely prepared for a remote company is to anticipate any emergency.\r\nOutages\r\nOne thing that can cause problems for a remote business is an outage.\u00a0 This includes internet, electricity, website, SaaS (Software as a Service), and other outages.\r\n\r\nIf the internet goes out unexpectedly, it could keep you or an employee from communicating with the rest of the team.\u00a0 If you work at home, you might be able to rush to a bookstore or cafe with Wi-Fi.\r\n\r\nHowever, security is an issue in that case.\u00a0 If you work at a coworking space, make sure that they have backup internet in place.\u00a0 You don't want to lose sales or customers because of an outage!\u00a0 If your employees opt for a coworking space, make sure that they know what to ask about before deciding on one.\u00a0 For more information, check out my article about what to look for in a coworking space.\r\n\r\nTo guard against losing electricity, make sure that your phone and laptop batteries are always fully charged.\u00a0 You could even take the step of keeping extra charged batteries lying around, although make sure that you are being safe if you do this!\r\n\r\nWhen choosing a host for your website, make sure that their downtime is less than 1% (less than 15 minutes per day - ideally better than that!).\u00a0 If your website is down, you are going to have trouble making sales and converting leads into customers.\r\n\r\nYou might also permanently lose potential customers if they click a link that seems to be broken.\u00a0 If your site starts to get too many visitors, make sure to upgrade your hosting plan to account for this.\u00a0 Don't be cheap, because downtime and speed matter!\r\n\r\nSpeaking of which, make sure that your website is optimized for speed, so that people don't bounce after waiting 5 seconds for the page to load.\r\nLoss of Key Personnel\r\nYou should also have plans in case you lose any key personnel, temporarily or permanently.\u00a0 This could happen by unexpected early retirement, death or extended illness, poaching by other employers, maternity, or many other reasons.\r\n\r\nYou should have a plan in place to hire a replacement on a temporary or permanent basis.\u00a0 This is why it is a good idea to try to make one or two remote hires before you go fully remote.\u00a0 That way, you aren't doing it for the first time while you try to figure out all of the other aspects of your remote business.\r\n\r\nAlso, make sure that some of your other employees can pick up the slack while you try to hire.\u00a0 Cross training can be helpful for this.\r\nRemote Test Run\r\nAfter anticipating and preparing for all possible problems, it is time to find more.\u00a0 No matter how much you prepare, it is likely that you forgot something.\u00a0 This is where the remote test run comes in.\u00a0 Before you go fully remote for good, have everyone try remote for a week or two.\u00a0 This remote test run serves two purposes.\r\n\r\nFirst, the remote test run allows you to test the remote systems you need, and to test emergency preparedness.\u00a0 You can pretend that Jane doesn't have internet today, or that the site is down for two hours - what do you do?\r\n\r\nSecond, the remote test run reveals any gaps in your preparedness, either for emergencies or day-to-day operations.\u00a0 Once you identify these gaps, you can work with your team to make changes, update processes and systems, and try another remote test run.\r\n\r\nOnce you can operate for a month fully remote without problems (or, without problems that you cannot solve), then you can think about going remote for good.\r\nPhysical Location\r\nIn some cases, you might need a physical location.\u00a0 It could be something as simple as a PO Box for mail and other quaint paper correspondence.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIt could also be an office address where mail is delivered and forwarded, to keep up the appearance of a professional business.\r\nFulfillment\/Logistics\r\nIf you ship out physical products, then you will still need to handle shipping, whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to do so.\u00a0 If you are far away from the action, then you will need someone you can trust.\u00a0 Don't forget to plan for this aspect of your business if it applies to you!\u00a0 Fulfillment by Amazon is one option you have in this area.\r\nPersonnel\r\nMaking the shift from in-person to remote work will affect your employees.\u00a0 It is best to plan ahead for all of the changes that will need to be made in terms of hiring, training, and communicating.\r\nHire & Train Employees\r\nAs mentioned earlier, you will likely need to hire employees at some point.\u00a0 You will either need more employees to expand, or new employees to replace those who leave.\r\n\r\nAs mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to have a system in place for hiring remote employees.\u00a0 You should also make sure that workflows and processes are documented, so that new employees can learn quickly.\u00a0 This also makes it easier for you or other employees to pick up the slack while you find and train a new hire.\r\n\r\nFor training, you could use private videos on YouTube or other platforms.\u00a0 You could also share your screen on a Skype call as you go through training.\u00a0 That way, you can show the new hire how you do the work in real time.\u00a0 Then, he can try to follow what you did and you can give feedback right away.\r\n\r\nIf you run a larger company, it may be worth training some of your managers on how to train new employees.\u00a0 This will free up your time to make the important decisions for your business.\r\nManaging Remotely\r\nSpeaking of managers, if you have some on your team, then you will want to make sure they can manage remotely.\u00a0 This involves setting expectations for remote workers, checking in, and tracking progress on projects.\r\n\r\nThis could be daily or weekly or some other frequency, depending on your management style.\u00a0 However, offering remote work as an option and then micromanaging employees every hour seems contradictory.\r\n\r\nYour managers should ask for a daily or weekly summary from each employee.\u00a0 Then, they can condense this into a report for each team, and you can condense the reports into one company-wide snapshot of what is done, what is happening now, and where the roadblocks are.\r\nContinuing Education\r\nTo stay sharp, you should encourage each member of your team to continue his education.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis could involve local classes near an employee.\u00a0 It could also mean traveling to seminars and conferences, perhaps for a sales or marketing team.\r\n\r\nYou should also consider online courses, which makes the most sense for a totally remote company.\u00a0 You can find online courses on just about any topic, including sales, marketing, information technology, security, web design, human resources, and many others.\r\n\r\nIf you go this route, another idea is to ask every employee take the same "core" classes, and then offer to pay for a certain number of "electives".\u00a0 As long as these electives are reasonably close to what your business does, they will likely help to improve morale.\u00a0 They might even help your employees to come up with the next big idea in your industry!\r\nTax Implications\r\nI am not a CPA, tax attorney, or financial advisor.\u00a0 However, there will be some situations where your remote business might need one.\r\n\r\nDo you sell products or services across state lines?\u00a0 Are you technically engaged in manufacturing?\u00a0 Do you have employees in multiple states, or countries?\u00a0 The answers to these questions can have tax implications for you or your employees.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIt's probably best to ask an expert in this field.\u00a0 A few hundred dollars for an afternoon's consultation will more than pay for a headache with payroll or local, state, and even federal tax authorities.\r\nCompany Culture\r\nAny company should have a few things that bind employees together as a group.\u00a0 This is even more important for a fully remote company.\r\n\r\nOne idea, mentioned earlier, is to invest in continuing education for your workers.\u00a0 Asking them to take "core" online classes, and then discussing the material, can bring your team closer together.\u00a0 You can also see how others in your group think about learning and problem solving.\r\n\r\nAnother related idea is to ask employees to read a book each month.\u00a0 It could be related to the business in some way.\u00a0 However, don't make the reading so dry that it is unpleasant!\u00a0 It is your job as the boss to read the books first and choose which ones to assign.\r\n\r\nSome good topics would be sales, customer relationships, confidence in giving presentations, work-life balance, and relationships.\u00a0 You win bonus points if you can find books that give employees ideas about how to contribute to the company outside of their defined roles.\r\n\r\nThere are other ways to keep the team connected, aside from courses and books.\u00a0 The main goal is to get to know each other.\u00a0 As an added benefit, you can discuss important ideas that might end up helping your business someday.\r\nTechnology\r\nTechnology plays an important role for any business, but it is essential for a completely remote company.\r\n\r\nFor one thing, you need to ensure strong communication and organized project management.\u00a0 You should also keep your company website updated, and use this in conjunction with email software for customer contact.\r\n\r\nIn addition, think about your plan for data storage, sharing, backup, and security.\u00a0 Finally, remember to make it easy for customers to pay you by finding a payment processing system!\r\nCommunication\r\nThis includes communication within your team, but also with your customers, suppliers\/vendors, and anyone else you need to stay in touch with.\u00a0 For video conferences, you can use Skype or Slack.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis can be useful for one-on-one meetings to check in with employees.\u00a0 It can also be helpful for important meetings with other companies, to ensure a greater level of trust.\r\n\r\nYou might your employees to use a company phone line, not their personal cell phones.\u00a0 They might prefer it this way as well!\u00a0 In that case, you should pay some type of stipend or allowance for a phone and data plan.\r\n\r\nYou can also ask for email check-ins from employees every day or two.\u00a0 Make sure to adjust the frequency so that it makes sense.\u00a0 You don't want to waste time with progress reports every day that say the same thing\r\n\r\nAnother method of communication is keeping a Google Doc that anyone can edit.\u00a0 If you have a question, write it in the document, followed by name of the person it is addressed to.\u00a0 If it is a question for anyone who knows the answer, write "All".\r\n\r\nWhen people have a few minutes of downtime during the day, they can check the Q&A sheet and provide an answer, if possible.\u00a0 You can organize this sheet into answered and unanswered questions to stay organized.\u00a0 Then, you can copy and paste questions into the "answered" section each afternoon.\r\n\r\nThis keeps a log of Q&A's so that new employees can find answers as they ramp up.\u00a0 You can also go back and edit old answers if processes or systems change.\u00a0 You can learn more about Google Docs here.\r\nProject Management\r\nFor project management, you can use software tools like Asana or Monday.com.\u00a0 Even if you choose not to use tools like these, you should still have a plan in place.\r\n\r\nAnother idea is to use Google Sheets (similar to Microsoft Excel) to keep track of projects and tasks.\u00a0 Again, you can allow access to anyone on the team, just like a Google Doc.\u00a0 You could have one sheet per project, and then have all of these sheets flow into one "master" sheet for the business.\u00a0 You can learn more about Google Sheets here.\r\n\r\nThere are a few benefits to this approach.\u00a0 First, all of your team members know what to work on, and are aware of how it fits into the larger picture.\u00a0 Second, it allows you to see delays and step in to help clear things up, if necessary.\u00a0 Finally, you can plan for long-term projects more easily with this method.\r\nWebsite\r\nYour website is important for many reasons.\u00a0 First, this is the primary way that potential new customers will find you, either through a search engine or a paid ad from another site.\u00a0 Second, referrals from current customers will want to check out your company website before working with you.\u00a0 Finally, your website gives you the chance to market directly to your target audience.\r\n\r\nWhen a potential new customer lands on your website, you want the visitor to stay!\u00a0 If he bounces off the page because of slow loading time or unattractive design, then you might lose a sale.\u00a0 So, you should either improve these aspects of your site, or hire a professional to do it for you.\u00a0 Once you can bring website visitors and make them stay longer than a few seconds, you need to provide value.\r\n\r\nThis could include helpful information related to what the company is looking for.\u00a0 It could be a quick overview of what your company does, and how you can help the customer with his problem.\u00a0 You could even include videos or downloadable content (e-books, reports, etc.) on your site.\u00a0 As long as the content is good, all of this will build trust with website visitors.\r\n\r\nOnce you have built up trust, it is up to you to convert visitors to customers!\u00a0 Have a clear call to action: ask them to send an email or call your company for more information.\u00a0 You can also collect an email address in exchange for access to your downloadable content.\u00a0 Even if they never visit your site again, you can still contact these prospects to win their business!\r\nEmail Automation Software\r\nOnce you have a customer list, you can start marketing to these prospects via email.\u00a0 This list should include email addresses from visitors to your site, as well as current customers who might become repeat customers.\u00a0 If you collect more data from prospects, you can tailor your messages more closely.\u00a0 However, some people will find this intrusive, so don't ask for too much info!\r\n\r\nA few email marketing software solutions to consider include MailChimp, Infusionsoft, and AWeber.\r\n\r\n \tyou can check out MailChimp here\r\n \ttake a look at Infusionsoft here\r\n \tyou can\u00a0scout out AWeber here\r\n\r\nStorage, Backup, Sharing\r\nGoogle has good solutions for sharing files and information. As mentioned before, you can use Google Docs and Google Sheets.\u00a0 There is also a way to share presentations - you can check out Google Slides here.\r\n\r\nYou can also back up and share your data with Google Cloud Storage.\u00a0 Other options include DropBox and Carbonite.\r\n\r\n \tread about Google Cloud Storage here\r\n \tlearn about DropBox here\r\n \tfind out about Carbonite here\r\n\r\nIt is always a good idea to have your data in more than one place, just in case you ever have an emergency.\u00a0 Don't rely on any one person's computer, including your own, to store every important business file!\r\nSecurity\r\nAs far as information security goes, there are a few measures you can take to protect the information of your business and your customers.\r\n\r\nFirst, make sure that employees use VPN to connect securely to one another.\u00a0 This is especially important if they are working on public Wi-Fi, such as in a cafe, bookstore, library, or coworking space.\u00a0 It is also important if they are working with sensitive information, such as customer data or proprietary company secrets.\r\n\r\nYou should also make sure that your employees change passwords frequently.\u00a0 Also, ask that they not share passwords with family or friends.\u00a0 Any computer that they use for work should not be used by family or friends for personal reasons.\r\n\r\nFinally, protect your customers by using a secure ecommerce solution.\u00a0 This includes using a service like PayPal for processing payments.\u00a0 You should also ensure that your website is https (secure, or encrypted).\r\n\r\nYou will also want to make sure that any technology issues are either anticipated and prevented, or resolved quickly.\u00a0 For more information, check out my post on technical support for remote workers.\r\nCustomers\r\nLast but not least, you need to consider your customers when moving to a fully remote business.\u00a0 You need to make sure that you can still provide them with the service they expect.\u00a0 Once you provide that level of service, have a way to show off the results on your website.\u00a0 You should also have a way to encourage referrals from existing customers, creating a win-win situation!\r\nCustomer Service\r\nProviding good customer service doesn't just mean dealing with problems.\u00a0 Even when things go well, you want to show customers that you appreciate them.\u00a0 Send an email thanking a customer for a purchase, and include information on how to contact you with any issues or questions.\r\n\r\nIf there are problems, respond promptly to any concerns.\u00a0 Follow up later to make sure the issue was resolved.\u00a0 Some people will not call or email to complain if an issue goes unresolved.\u00a0 Instead, they will no longer be your customer, and they will tell others to avoid your company!\u00a0 So, make the extra effort to make things go smoothly.\r\n\r\nFinally, ask your new customer to leave a review, or write a testimonial if the experience was really top-notch.\u00a0 You can display these on your website as proof that your company is in business, and that your customers like what you are doing.\r\nReferrals & Rewards\r\nYou can also ask customers to make referrals to your company.\u00a0 If they have a good experience, they are more likely to do so.\u00a0 If they are on the fence, you can offer an extra incentive, like a referral bonus.\u00a0 This could mean a cash reward or a discount on future purchases.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe latter is probably the better long-term business strategy, because it makes the customer more likely to buy from you than from a competitor.\r\nConclusion\r\nMany companies are deciding to make the leap from in-person to fully remote.\u00a0 There are many aspects to consider, from preparation and personnel to technology and customers.\u00a0 However, if you plan ahead for any problems, you can make the transition smoother for you, your team, and your customers.\r\n\r\nIf you have any questions, or any ideas of your own for the transition to a remote company, please leave them in the comments below.