Are you a business owner or manager who needs help to grow your business? Are you hesitating because you’re not ready for or can’t afford a full-time person sitting in your office? Hiring full-time employees to sit in an office you rent is not your only option for building a team. In fact, before even thinking about local full-time employees, you should consider whether or not a virtual team would work for you.
“Virtual team" can describe a broad range of structures, but in short it refers to a team of people who work together from different locations and possibly at different times. Communication is facilitated by technology rather than face-to-face contact.
Many prominent organizations have been successful with virtual teams.
37Signals, now Basecamp, is an extremely successful software company with a team mostly working remotely throughout the world.
Michael Hyatt left the CEO post at Thomas Nelson Publishers to pursue writing and speaking full-time. Over the last few years he has built a virtual team to support his expanding product line.
The benefits of a virtual team include:
Flexibility. You can start by hiring part-time contractors to help as needed, and you can quickly expand or contract as your needs change.
Cost. If you hire contractors, you don’t have the costs and obligations of employees. You don’t have the overhead of maintaining office space. You will also have access to areas of the world with lower cost of living, which translates to lower required pay. The Philippines and India are popular places to hire for virtual teams because of their skilled and low-cost labor.
Access to talent. Building a virtual team gives you access to a worldwide talent pool. This is especially beneficial for businesses based in rural areas, where the talent pool is small, and highly competitive markets, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, where talent is expensive and difficult to attract and retain.
Of course, building a virtual team is not for everyone and all situations.
Drawbacks of a virtual team include:
Compatibility with the business. Some businesses simply require employees on site. You can’t build a virtual food services or landscaping team.
Communication. Technology makes virtual communication more effective than ever, but technology isn’t as good as face-to-face conversations for reading body language, for example. Also, casual conversations in the office can lead to breakthroughs.
Relationships. Related to communication, it’s easier to build strong team bonds while working side by side, day after day.
Oversight. You are not able to see when people arrive at and leave the office, and you can’t see what they’re working on. You will have to be more concerned about the end result than how your team gets there. In my opinion, that’s a better way to lead anyway, but it’s a different mindset than the traditional model.
The teams I have worked with over the last few years have have been mostly virtual. Most team members are in the US and Canada, and we also use overseas bookkeepers. It is more difficult to communicate and build strong relationships with team members in other locations, but in our case the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Business owners and managers should at least consider whether or not a virtual team would work for them.
Question: How have you been successful building virtual team?