Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Remote Revolution

Despite reservations, working remotely has become commonplace, especially for employees in technology roles. But programmers, web developers and SEO specialists are not the only workers enjoying the flexibility a virtual office gives. Copywriters, translators, designers and PR specialists are offering their freelance services to a global clientele. You don't even have to be self-employed to work from home. Call centres are increasingly offering virtual positions, as are travel agencies and research companies. These individuals choose their own surroundings and avoid the pressures of a daily commute.

But do they work?

Some may argue that a less stressful work environment boosts productivity; others disagree and believe employees out of sight are out of mind. Companies like Yahoo have thus far declined to join the remote revolution. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer claims that the reasoning behind the refusal is that working together physically creates a sense of unity. Even Google's CFO Patrick Pichette said that as few as possible Google employees work from home for the same reason: unity. The company do, however, allow this and leave it up to personal choice. When pressed with the decision of whether or not to allow top staff to telecommute, what would you do? Should you opt for offering this option and enjoying the freedom of being able to recruit talented employees from all over the world, or is it vital to keep your team connected?

How to keep in touch

Whether a company chooses to offer virtual working to secure or retain top talent or because of motivational or overhead concerns, it is important to approach this practice strategically. Here are some guidelines:

* Communication first -- Some of the biggest issues in companies stem from poor communication. When workers are not onsite, this can become an even bigger problem. Work out a clear plan that includes communication options and channels like VOIP, email and telephone. Establish a schedule for regular updates.

* Excellent tools - Communication will be impossible without the required tech tools. Make sure that this is accessible to all remote workers. Quality computer hardware, adequate internet connections and cloud-based software are essential tools for remote workers.

* A contact point network - Processes have to resemble an in-house operation and interdepartmental interaction forms part of this. Communications should be streamlined by matching up employees in technical and operational roles as points of contact for feedback and sharing information.

* Structure and expectations - Processes should be clearly stipulated. Every remote employee should know exactly what is expected of them and which process to follow to achieve results. Team performance metrics help employees feel connected and motivated.
Offer options for travel - The occasional face-to-face meeting is invaluable in most businesses. Travel should be pre-agreed and stipulated in the remote employee's contract. Be clear about who will be covering the expenses and how often this is expected.

Now is the time

Tech capabilities are now at an unprecedented level of innovation and speed. By investing in the right tools, and the right people, there has never been a better time to explore the potential a flexible virtual workforce can hold. 

Crowdfunding for Dummies

One, Two, Three - Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a method of acquiring funds from investors from across the globe by using Internet technology. The basic idea is to offer one of two things to investors; either rewards for investing money into businesses or shares in the businesses. Some crowdfunding sites offer options for short-term projects and are aimed at generous people who are passionate about their type of business. Other sites look for investors for long-term business ventures.

Crowdfunding is popular

Although still a relatively new method, Crowdfunding is fast becoming more than just a rather recent entry into the business of obtaining funds for business ideas and projects. A specialist crowdfunding research company called Massolution reported steady growth in the industry. According to Massolution, crowdfunding generated over US$2.7 billion with more than a million campaigns across the globe in 2012 - and these numbers continue to increase every year. Sir Richard Branson once told a British newspaper that crowdfunding would have been his first choice if it existed in the sixties when he started the Virgin empire. 

Ready, steady, go!

You have an idea you have been working on. You have a prototype, you know your target market, and you have ideas for marketing - now all you need is funding. Although it takes a lot of knowledge gathering before you are crowdfunding fundi, everybody has to start somewhere, right? Here are some tips to get you going:

• If your project is on the creative side, try Indiegogo or Kickstarter. Other successful crowdfunding sites include MicroVentures, CircleUp and Crowdfunder - to name but a few. Just Google 'business crowdfunding'.
• Keep abreast of changing rules. Federal and SEC regulations change, as do crowdfunding site rules. For a smooth campaign, it is important to know what the authorities and the platforms expect from you.
• Be aware of the risks involved. Some sites will only facilitate the funding if your target is reached. So if you hope to raise US$10,000 and you have US$9,800 pledged - you can forget about it. Another obvious risk is that your idea may be stolen.
• Find your best fit. By reviewing the rules and campaigns on several sites you can determine which one will best suit your efforts.
• Don't make your business plan too heavy. Former head of Indiegogo, Adam Chapnik suggests that you should create a big plan, and then throw it away and make a simpler version. Business plans are optional on some of the sites, where questionnaires are preferred.

Research and network

While these tips can whet your appetite to get your goods out there, and help you to take the first step, there is a lot to learn about the industry. The best tip money can't buy is simply to research and network. The more you learn and the more time you spend with like minded individuals, the more likely your campaign is of success.