As a business owner, CEO, or COO, you might have felt under increased pressure over the last few years, to go virtual.
The market is telling you to hire off-shore, hire near-shore, and go online. Perhaps it has felt like a race to the lowest price for technology or product resources. Maybe you jumped into virtual working but then felt your processes and systems under pressure. Not to mention your product and technology feel behind or even broken.
You find yourself asking, how do I get what I asked for?
You might be wondering how to rely on virtual staff, while at the same time saying to yourself, it would all just be more comfortable if we were in one place.
Whether you are accustomed to virtual working or not, the current crisis will test your people, your tools, your processes, and the ability to keep your supplier’s meeting deadlines. Ultimately it will test your ability to stay in the game, stay productive, stay focused, and stay serving your customers.
Here are seven great ways that you can not just survive but thrive, accelerate your growth and scale while others aren’t.
1. Ramp up communications
When working more virtually, there is an interesting tension that presents itself.
Do I have more calls or fewer calls? What tools do I use for communications? How do we know what everyone is doing? How do we get stuff done?
Being online creates an opportunity for people to make their meeting time more productive. Think of meetings not as meetings, but as processes, with inputs and outputs. Publish an agenda and be focused onto calls, and into online tools, without the usual distractions of an office environment.
- Short 15 min daily check-ins via, for example, Zoom. This is a great way to hear how is everyone doing while also getting a work update? Ask participants, “What did you do yesterday?” “What are you doing today?” and “Is there anything getting in the way of your progress?”
- Get a chat channel up for more ad-hoc communications, and put everyone on there, or create groups for each area of business, and a company-wide one. The benefit of this is typically when we walk over to someone in the office, we are only talking to one or maybe two people. By using tools like Slack or Whatsapp, we can communicate instantly, to get help and advice. Whatapps for business is great for smaller businesses, and the desktop version allows you to use your computer keyboard with your phone. Slack is great for larger businesses unless you already have your own internal systems.
- If it feels odd to not see people’s faces clearly, then consider ordering a larger screen, to make people more life-size, and up your internet speed so you get the best quality image you can.
- Not sure how to express something, that you used to do in person, it feels like you need to externally processes? Well, don’t be afraid, to use voice texting. While it may feel strange and new to some of you, it is a great way to express yourself, at times when you want to emphasis points and your fingers are just getting tired. It gets easier over time.
- If you want a bit of fun and you are feeling the cabin fever, turn on your green screen setting for Zoom, you can do this without a green screen if you have a mostly plain background. Or order a green screen for better quality, this is a great one, but there are other cheaper ones.
2. Launch new products
You are in the process of planning that next product launch, and now it feels like everything is grinding to a halt. You are feeling the wind out of your sails, and wondering if anyone will be out there ready to buy?
While this is a valid question to ask, you also need to ask yourself, is your funding already allocated? With your year-end coming up, should you be reducing your tax liabilities by investing now?
What is the worst-case scenario if fewer customers buy, do you need the funds you have already allocated, or can you handle a measure of a downward cycle?
If not, where can you reduce costs in a responsible way? Importantly, spend time brainstorming how you think your market will want more of your product, rather than less of your product?
Worst case, how can you tell your market about your product, even if they are not ready to buy? Your customers may have more time on their hands; you may have a captive audience who will later buy when the market turns, as you have been the one building trust in times of uncertainty.
Prioritisation, in its purest form, is about learning to say “yes” while also learning when to say “no.” Nos make space for more yeses. That said, our nos need not be nos, at least not right now.
A helpful way to prioritize is to put everything into the following buckets (1) Do now (2) Do Next (3) Do Later. You may not have time to analyze things. Just put everything into one of these three buckets, knowing you can come back to something later. Create a simple Trello board, with these three columns, and away you go.
Secondly, we may need a framework to help us prioritise. How do we prioritise in times of crisis? Firstly, we need to have a clear product vision, more on this later. Secondly, we need to identify what are the things that are
- Lowest cost or I don’t need to spend more. So using what you already have.
- What has maximum value to a customer, the top item your customers have been demanding?
- What would generate the most revenue or reduce the most cost?
- Give a High (H), Medium(M), and Low(L) against each product launch, product change, etc. then do the HHH’s before you do anything else.
There are, of course, many factors, but I think you will find these are a great start. You could include these prioritisation techniques, in your Trello board so that your entire team can et into the habit of taking your thoughts captive.
4. Flip challenges into opportunities
At the point, fear or challenges enters your mind, immediately take the opportunity to say to yourself. “Where is the opportunity here?”
This will help you focus on the things that are going to truly scale your business? Particularly in times of crisis, there is a shift away from X needs to Y needs, but your customers still have needs. We all still need products and services, your customer’s focus might just have changed.
How can we take time to identify and capitalise on these critical opportunities?
Finally, how can we be smart about resources and resourcing? Our natural human response often is, how can I get that full-time person, how can I “own” that resource?
With today’s global access to resources, talent, and different price points, there are many options to spin up a new team to get your new opportunity, delivered.
Go for fixed monthly recurring fees or fixed price projects to control and manage costs. Identify where profits are hidden, costs can be taken out, and where customers will readily pay a little more, for that thing, you have been promising for the last year.
5. Create repeatable processes and quality check-points
Simple systems and processes that help you set up manage and govern people, teams, and departments, can be invaluable collateral to support virtual working.
Processes align decisions and actions with your goals; it gets everyone going in the same direction. It brings alignment and makes it easy to create repeatability processes that improve your ability to reduce risk and increase predictability.
Governance processes also help you to reduce concerns about quality, because you will be informed about when quality check-points have been completed and that they are staying on track.
Spend time documenting your processes and then deciding what they are not doing, what they should be doing, and how they can be optimized; what steps be taken out.
Make sure everyone has visibility of the current status. Operations can be defined in Trello to get up running fast or a more suffumigated tool use process.st.
This will help you to answer questions like how to make sure that the requests that customers are shouting for most are being prioritized? How do you ensure projects and product launches stay on track, how can new people coming walk into existing processes instead needing to start all over again? How do you keep your product and technology vision on track?
6. Get funding
It would be easy to assume that people are not ready to invest in this market. However, there are always people prepared to invest in a great new product if appropriately presented with the right management team in place and a clear return on investment.
Consider how you can bring a management team on board in a fractional way, rather than full-time, for a relatively low monthly fixed price. At scale-up guys, for example, we allow you to include our advisory team by partnering with us.
Show you can communicate effectively, that you are adaptable and are resilient in the current climate, they will know you are a team they can rely on. Besides, you might be one of only a few out there looking for investment.
Also, make sure your product vision is clear: what are customers getting that they didn’t have before? Can you show customers will buy from you, how will you make money and can you explain a detailed investment plan, that shows the cost of your technology project that will give you that new product.
Your virtual Product Manager and virtual Technology Manager are key, to help you scale in the good and the bad times
Your virtual product manager should be interested in your product vision and support you buy being continuously curious to realise your product vision and serve your customers. Customers online and virtually to develop a strong understanding of the customer’s changing needs.
Create great product roadmaps with Aha.
Your virtual technology manager (CTO) is there to make sure you manage your new virtual projects in line with your virtual product manager. Your virtual CTO creates processes for the team, keeps everyone on track, aligned, and productive.
Your virtual team should remain flexible and accountable to customer deadlines. You need a product strategy and technology strategy that keep things running while also helping you to think several moves ahead.
The union of a good product and technology manager is essential to help you scale-up, and to help you create systems and processes to support your new virtual teams.
Scaleupguys is a professional services firm that provides fractional product and technology managers that help you scale.