How To Successfully Build and Manage a Team of Remote Employees

© Annie Spratt – Unsplash

Running a business from home has its pros and cons, and it takes time and effort to really make it work well. It might not get any better than working in your pajamas, but trying to do everything on your own to get your business off the ground can be stressful. A little help can often go a long way towards alleviating stress and boosting efficiency.

If you’ve been trying to get by alone, it may be time to put together a team to push your company to the next level. Here’s how to choose the right workers and how to effectively manage them so that the situation is good for everyone involved.

Find the Right People

Depending on the type of business you’re running, you’ll need to pin down exactly what you need help with and who you’ll need to provide that help. For example, most small business owners must have a quality website, and unless you have the skills yourself, you’ll likely need to hire a web designer to create and run a site. If you’re using a website builder, someone to spiff up your images can be a boon, and if your site is already wrapped up, consider adding someone to tackle social media outreach.

Finding freelancers to do the work is easy these days, thanks to online job platforms. You can read through reviews and choose a team member who fits into your budget and has good feedback from previous employers.

Get To Know Your Team Members

In a traditional office setting, coworkers often talk about more than just the job. They typically know a little bit about each other’s lives, giving them the opportunity to bond and create appropriate friendships. This can be a challenge when working remotely, but it can be done. CERIC recommends that you set aside time during meetings or even one-on-one calls to ask your team members about their lives outside of work. They’ll appreciate that you care, and you’ll build a better connection with each individual.

Rely on Good Communication

Consistent, quality communication is the key to successfully managing a remote team. Without proper communication channels in place, it’s nearly impossible to keep everyone in the loop. You can decide how you’d like to engage regularly with your team, but make sure that everyone is on the same page. You don’t want anyone to be using different methods to get in touch.

Luckily, most of the world is digital these days, making it easier than ever to communicate. If possible, set up an internal messaging service that you and your team members use to reach one another. Email is best for employees connecting with clients, but a project-management system can help keep questions and concerns from clients in the right place.

Set Up a Reliable Time Tracking System

When it comes to tracking the time your employees work, the simpler the system, the better. Fortunately, there are many time tracking solutions available that pair an easy-to-use clock-in system for both freelancers and employees with the ability to pull up important reports whenever you need them. Additionally, time tracking software allows you to build out schedules and send alerts to workers whenever something changes. These time tracking systems are also available as mobile apps, allowing everyone to access things from wherever they are.

Create Your Own Oasis

While the perks of working from home are many, setting up at the kitchen table is less than ideal. In order to be the best manager possible, you need to have a workspace in an optimal working environment. PRNewswire notes ample natural light, for instance, can greatly enhance productivity. You also need enough elbow room for all your furniture and gadgetry, and a few houseplants can even be a boon.

A successful company is more than just the person who started it. The employees behind the scenes can make a huge impact in boosting productivity and efficiency. As a manager, choose a remote team of professionals to help you delegate those tasks you’re not as adept at so you can focus on your strengths, and work with experts to handle some of your other must-dos.

Article written by Julia Mitchell, Career and Finance Specialist at Outspiration.net

Why testing and learning quickly is vital for companies in times of crisis

I’ve been working as a Content Marketer at Growth Tribe for four months and I must say since the beginning my mindset in digital marketing has completely changed. I’m still in the process of integrating it entirely, but getting there and it is very stimulating!

In this piece I’d like to talk about something I recently learned thanks to a comprehensive 12-week course I received from our skilled trainers: the “Test & Learn” approach as part of a growth strategy. In other words, the approach to generating continuous business growth!

Of course, we know that the pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on businesses around the world. However, opportunities can always rise amid times of crisis and uncertainty. Several sources (McKinsey, HBR, etc.) even rightly cite the need to take risks, invest and experiment.

Indeed, companies must take advantage of these times to bounce back quickly, even more with a “Test & Learn” approach. Not only do they need it to survive, but also to come out stronger from the crisis.

But how can you get your teams to learn faster so they adapt and keep your organisation growing – even in the most challenging times?

First of all, your company needs to test and learn quickly more than to pivot – here’s why.

The importance of rapid experimentation for any business

According to McKinsey, the weakest point of companies is their slow and costly testing techniques.

Yet, it is essential to implement a method of experimentation and rapid learning in order to resist the frantic currents of change.

In times of crisis, not only does your company need to renew itself as quickly as possible and on a large scale, but it must also invest in a number of resources to create added value.

This is the case of Uber: the pandemic forced the company’s transition to add home grocery delivery via its “Uber Eats” platform which will have allowed small, essential merchants to maintain their activity.

That’s why, in times of significant change, you need to renew yourself regularly and effectively to make the right decisions.

Jeff Bezos said:

“Amazon’s success is very much dependent on how quickly and how many experiments per year, per month, per week and per day.”

He also said it’s okay to be wrong:

“In terms of growth marketing, it’s critical to have a quick decision process. Being wrong is entirely part of rapid experimentation, on the other hand, being too slow may kill your business.”

It doesn’t matter how many rapid experiments you conduct: the more you test, the better you learn and improve your product or your solution.

What matters is whether your concept or idea is viable, hence the importance to reinvent your processes – for instance, via rapid digitisation – to enable an optimal customer experience, maximise the capacity of your teams and available skills.

You could, for example, choose to expand your product or service offering, enhance your portfolio or strengthen your data security.

An approach to extend to all your departments

Often, when companies talk about experimentation, they think of products or technology.

The recent co-branding partnership between Shopify and TikTok illustrates this point well.

The two tech companies tested a number of initiatives before launching the “TikTok channel” integrated with Shopify to allow merchants to promote their products on the social network.

The key to optimal results is to extend the “Test & Learn” approach beyond the product and apply it to your other departments: marketing, growth or even HR.

It is therefore essential to train your executives, marketers, product managers or anyone in contact with your customers in the rapid experimentation process.

Remember that most of these tests will be inconclusive, especially in a startup.

So you’ll have to test, test, and test a LOT before you get satisfactory results.

Be patient.

Generally, during the first 10 tests, you will learn… to master experimentation.

But as time goes on, your efforts will pay off and you’ll start to add value to your business.

According to McKinsey, this year, the issues for most companies are dealing with challenges in terms of procurement, security of their data – especially for Zoom, which has been quick to manage its volume of usage but has encountered security breaches that require immediate attention – or automation of technology to facilitate remote work as the exponential use of Slack has shown.

Pivoting in times of crisis to renew your business

Naturally, the coronavirus crisis has forced hundreds of thousands of startups, companies and associations to review their strategy, whether in France or elsewhere. To renew themselves, they had to act much faster than they would ever imagine.

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies such as Netflix or BrewDog reinvented their business model in the short term to compensate for the shortcomings caused by COVID. The British beer champion has transformed its distillery to make antibacterial gel while the streaming pioneer has created its easy-to-use Netflix Party platform to allow confined people to watch programs remotely and in real time.

Of course, before entering the race to pivoting, certain criteria must be analysed and agreed. Experimenting at scale is a very good way to test the waters and consider an angle of attack to pivot your business.

Business model change, urgent digital adoption, rewriting your short and long term strategies… the list is long.

Whatever happens, your ability to adapt is crucial to your company’s survival, your agility and your propensity to create value – criteria as part of the “growth hacking” strategy.

Here’s a checklist for you to follow when implementing such a strategy:

Set clear objectives and invite your teams to brainstorm

This is a prerequisite. After asking yourself what you want to achieve by setting clear objectives, plan a brainstorming to encourage your teams to exchange as many ideas as possible.

Prioritise the ideas

Once the ideation is complete, select the ideas by importance accordingly to your objectives and communicate them during a so-called “growth sprint”. A meeting dedicated to the implementation of your growth hacking strategy, or before a potential pivot.

Test

Set your experiments into practice using the least amount of resources and time possible and collect enough data to be able to analyse it and come to a conclusion.

Ask yourself: “Is my idea viable?

Analyse

The results of your testing will help you determine whether or not to implement your idea.

Remember that an inconclusive experiment is always positive and that all the data collected is important and can always be activated later.

Once the idea has been vetted, you can decide whether or not to go ahead with it. Otherwise, go back to the beginning (step number 1) for new experiments. After all, that’s what a growth hacking strategy is all about.

Many successful companies have been created through notable crises, whether financial, social or health-related. Launched in 2001, iPod is the product that justified Apple’s comeback just after the Internet bubble burst. In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Dropbox, which had already launched its cloud storage platform, quickly bounced back with a viral referral program.

Ultimately, what these companies have in common with yours is solving a problem, whatever it may be – from simply wanting to help, to providing a big solution, to modernising – especially when times are tough.

That’s what innovation and pivot are all about.

* * *

Thank you for reading all the way here!

Have you had to pivot this last year?

Do you practice a “Test & Learn” approach in your business?

How many times have you tested new methods before succeeding?

Comment below.

This businesswoman encourages the use of XR in fashion

It’s no news that our current sanitary crisis seriously impacts the fashion sector which as a result is facing tough challenges in sharing groundbreaking ideas.

Following a piece that I had written for Maddyness to shed some light on some of the most disruptive fashion tech companies to watch in the UK, I thought I’d share this brilliant update, especially because we’re talking about cutting-edge immersive experiences adapted to the fashion world. And even more so since it’s a woman who encourages it.

Chinese women entrepreneur Lisa Pan and co-founder of VR experts PhotonLens, has recently partnered with fashion designer Ralph and Russo. The idea? To create a full VR experience for their Ready-To-Wear Spring-Summer 2021 collection.

“With the pandemic disrupting our personal and professional lives, we have to use the tools we have to create interesting ways for brands and people to connect with each other. PhotonLens is pleased to support Ralph & Russo in creating unforgettable virtual experiences so the world can see everything that Ralph & Russo has to offer. PhotonLens brings exceptional quality to the AR/VR space and connects the world with some of the world’s best artists, game designers, entertainers, or fashion designers.” – Lisa Pan, co-founder of PhotonLens

Ahead of the experience, 30 influencers were sent PhotonLens VR headsets, including Camila Coelho, Chiara Ferragni, Aimee Song and many more.

Witnessing a rewarding and successful launch, Lisa Pan emphasized her love and passion for fashion and tech: “I have started to invest in XR in 2014 when the sector had just taken off. Very luckily, I have two of the best XR companies in my personal portfolio, Shadow Creator and ANTVR.”

The technology used in the Photonlens headsets was created by Shadow Creator, that, after securing a milestone fundraising, became a unicorn in China and in which Lisa Pan invested: “The last fundraising valuation of $1.8B generated a tremendous return on my original investment.”

Considering this, Lisa was eager to export the local Chinese company internationally, she co-founded PhotonLens and got introduced to Be-hookd founder George James to take care of her social media partnership with Ralph and Russo: “With their expertise on social media management, I am very pleased the collaboration with such a leading fashion brand worked so impressively and it’s just the beginning of our venture with Be-hookd and fashion, music, lifestyle industry.”

Fundamentally, before cracking on, Lisa Pan wondered how she could make life easier for customers and businesses in high-end fashion:“In luxury fashion and lifestyle, retail stores are pivoting into immersive centres and e-commerce platforms into customer service front ends rather than standalone verticals.”

With the worldwide context and the soaring of immersive technologies, Lisa highlights how AR and VR are redefining the 360-degree fashionista’s experience: “New retail concepts now allow people to blend traditional retail shopping with mobile experiences. AR is allowing users to “try on” products, while VR allows users to experience fashion shows and unique brand activation events.”

With 5G around the corner, Lisa explains that much more can be done in the fashion world in terms of mobile-friendly experiences: “Not only will VR and XR impact the fashion business in the long term by offering consumers impressive immersive virtual fashion shows but also by enhancing their shopping experience.”

©PhotonLens

5 simple and cheap ways to promote your startup

You crave to shout about your new company without draining your budget on extensive marketing campaigns? Thankfully there are simple and cheap ways to advertise your startup! Here are five tips to help you promote your business wisely, step by step.

Analyze your website’s data

First, take a look at your website analytics: what does your traffic look like? What’s your bounce rate, your average time per session? Based on the metrics at your disposal, you can start identifying your audience, tracking your customers’ funnels and making strategic decisions.

However, before tracking any data or defining your digital goals and tactics, it’s crucial to install Google Analytics properly. To do so, you need to implement an HTML code on your website. If you use a CMS such as WordPress or Squarespace, some widgets can ease this process.

Evaluate your benchmarking

Every business needs to research the industry it specializes in. Take a look at your competitors’ brand mentions using Google Trends, as well as seasonal tendencies. For a more detailed and comprehensive analysis, SEMrush gives you access to a variety of data and insights for different markets.

For example, you can see the average cost per click or conduct a keywords research. Alternatively, Similar Web shows you stats on your competitors’ website’s visits and readership. Another way of watching your competitors’ digital strategy is the Facebook Ad Library on which you can check your competitors’ ads assets.

Optimize your content

To increase your SEO and ultimately your online visibility, opting for a content strategy is recommended for your business’ long term health. Defining a content plan of quality with a depth of relevant keywords will attract potential customers and create habits. Therefore, you’ll start building your authority and increasing your ranking.

At first, you might find this technique time-consuming but eventually, you’ll realize how fundamental it is in the long term running of your company. For example, writing knowledgeable articles and resources around your product or your industry will increase your credibility naturally and position you as an expert in your area.

Select your channels according to your strategy

Saving money on marketing also means focusing on relevant channels to promote your business. If you adopt a B to B strategy, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions could be a better fit for your digital plan. If your strategy is B to C, making a video of your product highlights can be greatly engaging across markets, supported by Facebook Ads.

The Facebook Ads Manager offers many possibilities in terms of scheduling, analytics, budget management, and A/B testing (when you compare two ads against specific criteria). Setting Google Ads campaigns is another manner for your ads to show to specific targets once people search online for queries. To run your ads, you’ll need a relevant keywords list representing your product or service. Google Keyword Planner and Ahrefs give you a wide variety of keywords suggestions.

Spread the word to the media

To boost your brand awareness, write a press release about any of your product or services’ features. Share it with relevant journalists so they can write an article, bloggers so they can review your product. Partner with influencers so they can show your product on social media. To spot email addresses, the Hunter Chrome extension will come very handy.

Article an era of desocialised screen junkies

An era of desocialised screen junkies

As you are stuck in your digital comfort zone (so am I), you probably won’t enjoy what follows. To be fair, I hesitated writing this article because it’d make me get on the screen again after a full week spent at working on… writing articles (this is part of what I do for a living). The reason why I write this is because I want to plug off some bad habits for good. I need screen rehab.

Yes, of course, digital devices are handy and transformed our lives in some positive ways (I’ll pass on the zillions of data privacy breaches). However, as I was delightfully remote-working on a sunny terrace this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the sadly laughable truth: we are so overwhelmed with screens that we can’t escape from them. They’re everywhere – even dogs have them!

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, headphones… we’re facing a relentless shitstorm of gadgets that clearly replaced our brains and decide for us. Yes, these were invented so we create dopamine enough to never conceive leaving them too far from us.

Humans, it’s time we acknowledge it. It’s too much. It’s time we admit that we are desocialised screen junkies. We’ve enough dopamine overdose. Even Steve Jobs didn’t want his kids to get on screens!

Stats show that it sucks owning a smartphone, too. On average, Brits spend 2 hours and 34 minutes on their smartphone every day. Damn, people, do you realise how serious this is? Every day, we dedicate almost three hours of our precious time to check our notifications when we should probably use this time to do something else. Life is so short!

Although I wonder, is there any way out? How many times did I commute last month without talking to anybody? People don’t talk anymore. Well it’s not as if they were engaging in London transport either, is it? They’re busy, okay? Head down, looking at their devices. Lucky black mirrors, getting all the looks, the smiles, the attention…

If I commute twice a day five days a week, it’s a good forty trips a month with my headphones on that cut me from the outside world. Weren’t we supposedly social animals or did I miss something? Oh my, we’re actually missing out more than we think!

The global digital addiction makes me increasingly nostalgic. I was born in 1990 and I remember being super creative with simple stuff at home and outside. Today I realise more than ever that being raised in the countryside presented some benefits. Even if I couldn’t stand it for too long, it’s quiet and seems like a much healthier option than London.

In my childhood, being from the last generation born before the digital revolution, I could let my mind go. I could set up a friend meeting using a simple landline and stick to the plan. I could use the family computer for one hour every day just to save our Internet connection data. I could call instead of texting, and exchange so much more than emotionless lines. I could write letters to my friends even if I was seeing them the next day in school.

Last fifteen years though, technology made me become someone else. Like everyone, I use my smartphone for everything but the primary function of a phone: voice calls. Silly! I hear everyone say « I hate phone calls ». Duh. And texts are outdated, who uses them today? All of our interactions go through social media. Basically, we wouldn’t know how to use a classic phone anymore. What an irony!

And you’re aware of the impact of blue light on our sleep, right? The blue light emitted from our multiple screens delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock to a later schedule. The consequence is being sleep-deprived or poorly rested with a feeling of jet lag. Zombies!

Obviously, I’m not going to replay the speech about the disastrous impact of the energy being used to run our digital lives on our planet, because you know about that, right? It’s all over the news.

Considering these aspects, I do want to be better at spending time on screens. I know we can’t give up on our screens for good, they’re part of our system. But we can do better for ourselves, our health, our life, our environment.

So here’s a tip I’m willing to test.

As I need my smartphone for work, I can’t plug off during the week and need real-time checks. So starting with weekends, I’d like to build a screen routine. One half-an-hour session in the morning, same in the evening, it’s enough for what we realistically have to do on our phones. Then I can plug off for the rest of the day, relax my brain and stop wondering where is my phone when it’s actually in my hand. Ridiculous! That dopamine vicious circle. Screw being a digital junkie. Hell yes to #screenrehab.

Thanks for reading all the way.

Now I’m interested to hear from your experience, do you feel like we’re overwhelmed with screens too? Have you tried to get off your smartphone for a limited period of time? Did you feel a difference on your mood or your sleep? Share your thoughts in comments below.