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Estipona Group is an advertising/communications agency with a 22-year history. Yet we don’t have a few things commonly associated with a “typical” ad agency: We don’t have a bricks-and-mortar building sporting our logo; we don’t have a shiny display case housing our numerous acrylic trophies; we don’t even have — gasp! —a Costco-size bucket of red vines in our supply closet.
Because we don’t have an office. Or to better clarify, we have don’t have just one office — but rather, dozens: those that are in the homes of our team members and those occupied by our clients.
Our virtual model began in 2009 as a cost-saving business measure; but now, many years down the virtual road, the reason for the “remote” (in name only) workforce is not driven by numbers. Instead, it is because the model works for our team — employees who don’t have to choose between personal and professional life daily, because the two coexist in a symbiotic state that benefits both us and our clients.
Forbes recently estimated that three million American professionals work remotely. And they’re happier for it: 47 percent of people with the option to telecommute are “very satisfied” with their jobs, compared to 27 percent of office-bound workers.
Technology is ushering in a new virtual business age. And considering our agency has been on the leading-edge of that trend — going virtual before it was considered “avant garde” — we’d like to provide a few tips for those considering the model.
1. Virtual hires are a different kind of hire: When I interview, I’m looking for an autonomous self-starter. I’m looking for a track record of accountability and maturity, but also someone who has the chemistry to fit in with a group of like-minded, Type A go-getters.
2. Process makes perfect: For a virtual environment to be successful, thorough processes must be in place. Because team members are not under one roof, standard operating procedures and project management software keeps everybody aligned and allows for a consistent level of service to the customer. It also allows team members to understand what’s on other team members’ plates.
3. Virtual connection requires tools: How can your employees get their work done remotely? What technology do they need? How will they be expected to communicate, and how can you facilitate that?
4. A virtual team is still a team: Whether we connect every day in person or a few times a week, you still have to create opportunities for the benefits of brainstorming and collective communication.
No, Estipona Group does not have a shiny granite conference table. But what we do have: a collection of professionally fulfilled employees who get the work done and don’t require hand-holding.
And if they want a Red Vine, they can run to Costco on their own.
Learn more about running a virtual business from Edward Estipona during NCET’s Tech Bite on November 18. Event details: www.NCET.org. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit producing business and technology events.