Operating a business on a virtual basis is quickly gaining in popularity. Although running a virtual company can be attractive to small business owners, they still need to understand that there will be benefits and challenges with this business operations concept. No matter what type of small business you have, when you take the leap to run it virtually, you’ll encounter obstacles. If your virtual business hopes to flourish, you must overcome them. With that said, below are some benefits and challenges you might face.
Low Overhead Costs
Traditional companies have no choice but to run brick-and-mortar offices. On the other hand, if your business offers the opportunity to operate virtually, you will not have the real estate and office costs that brick and mortar business incur. This can give your business a competitive advantage since the money saved can be used to offer lower prices to customers. This is a clear cost advantage to running a virtual company as opposed to a brick-and-mortar establishment.
Talented individuals are often attracted to remote work environments since many can save an average of 10 hours of commute time each week. Just the thought of avoiding busy city rush hour commutes can be enough, not to mention the gas savings.
Wider Talent Pool
A virtual company does not have significant geographic limitations. Being able to ignore local borders, and often national borders, can expand your talent pool by making it much easier to find the best candidates for the job. Many companies can often see a significant increase in job applicants when they post national, as opposed to regional, job openings.
Self-motivation is often thought to be the hardest part of working a virtual position. The reality, however, is that individuals struggle with the social change. They find they miss the office interaction and how it broke up their workday.
If your business has hired strong employees, it will not matter which environment they are in, they will get the job done. However, many employees still need some personal connection since they're humans and not machines. Even though social interaction does take the employee away from their work, for some workers, it is still needed to keep them motivated.
Although more companies are making the switch to virtual setups, investors, customers, and business partners may have a negative perception of this type of setup and question if you are a serious business or not. They might wonder if you will still be in business a month or two down the road or if they will be able to reach you in the event of a major issue. Questions like these are valid, but the good news is they are being asked less these days.
In the office, if you need to communicate with a team member, you can simply turn to the next desk or stop by their office. In a virtual environment, communicating can become more difficult. Though with email, smartphones, and tools like Skype, communicating remotely is becoming less of an issue.
To manage in a virtual environment, business owners have to rethink their traditional approach to management and devise tactics to use over video chats, calls, and email. It is now the leader's responsibility to fill the social gap and be intentional and strategic with their communication.
If your virtual team is going to work effectively, processes and tasks will need to be clarified; and not just your employees roles and goals. Companies have to align their team on roles, goals, and responsibilities. However, without co-located individuals, coordination can become the greatest challenge. Therefore, it is essential that companies put more emphasis on the details of tasks and processes required to complete them.
Meetings are still highly encouraged, but should be held using video or online conferencing technology. Also be sure to allow a few minutes before and after each meeting for open conversation.
Companies should still recognize and acknowledge accomplishments, share milestones and big successes in meetings and emails, and recognize the team members that got them there.
Running a virtual company can be extremely beneficial from a cost and talent acquisition perspective. If operated properly and efficiently, the virtual model can offer some very competitive advantages that become the difference between succeeding and failing.