Now that remote work is officially a must for all businesses, what tools can help you manage your distributed team?
We haven’t needed physical offices with in-house salaried employees for at least 15 years. Plenty of highly successful and profitable businesses have been built to operate completely virtually. Even multi-billion dollar startups have proven you don’t need those old systems to scale really big and win your market. Today, they are a luxury and liability most just can’t afford.
Still, even many previously very accomplished CEOs and managers are struggling to find their way in hiring and managing remote teams. And, to do it profitably and efficiently. This is actually the typical advice that you would get from the best startup accelerator.
New apps and tools are trying to pop up to take advantage of this booming market all the time. Most don’t get a market share or last. Here are some of the best tools to help you manage your remote team to help you slice through all the hype and online ads.
Google Drive is still the boss of online document storage, file sharing, and team collaboration. It has all the office tools you need for spreadsheets, text documents, and slide presentations. New startups can get away with using the free version for quite a while before having to upgrade storage or pay for G Suite.
This also provides the advantage of combining all of your other tools from Gmail to custom domain names and email addresses, analytics, and PPC ads.
Instead of fragmenting your business with other apps, this makes operating and managing teams far more efficient.
Upwork is for streamlining recruiting, hiring, supervising remote team members and bookkeeping, and payroll.
Even though Upwork has garnered a reputation for one of the worst IPOs in history, and saw its stock almost hit zero within a year of going public, it still has some tools that make doing business virtually easier.
Upwork makes it easy to find and hire the best talent with domain experience for any role you need to fill. From CFOs and CMOs to copywriters, designers, data entry staff, and personal assistants, you’ll find them all here. Once hired, you can track their daily and weekly work effortlessly. Then Upwork helps you automate payroll and even handles 1099s for you.
Note, that some long-time power users of the platform say its value and functionality have declined dramatically in the last year. Accusing new management of continually penalizing their best customers and making the experience for employers much more difficult and expensive. While this is still the big gorilla in the market, we may eventually see the best talent going out on their own to provide better service to their clients. With Upwork taking 20% or more of their pay in commissions and transaction fees, you can’t blame them either.
These issues are most notably showing up for those seeking talent in finding candidates, and those first communications. Since Upwork’s change which charges freelancers to pay to bid on gigs, most won’t apply to your job postings. Beat this by inviting the best fitting pros to your offer.
Upwork has also recently installed new rules banning communication through any third-party channels or using appointment setting software until a hire is made. Yet, their own voice and video chat service rarely, if ever, works. If you really want to chat with a potential hire, and text won’t do, then consider hiring them for a trial or an hour consultation. Then, you can voice or video chat and set up calls using your Calendly.
Use Calendly for setting appointments and meeting times with your team if you really still must do meetings. Or, have them book appointments for you using it. Calendly is simple to use, offers website and Gmail integrations, and automatically navigates time zones for you. There is also a pretty substantial free version for most of your needs.
For those not using Upwork to track remote employee time and handle payroll, Harvest is a viable alternative. It provides a time tracker and invoice tool so that they can report their work and get paid, and you can monitor where labor costs are being spent.
There are many new payment apps and platforms popping up, but PayPal is still the godfather of this space. Not only can it be used to process payments on your website and affiliate websites, but individual reps can use it to take payments in the field at pop up POS terminals and in other remote settings. You can also use it to streamline paying invoices and payroll. PayPal also has several attractive financing features for both customers and small to medium-sized businesses. It is a trusted platform that isn’t going anywhere. In fact, many startups may find it replaces any need for old traditional business bank accounts.
Whatsapp is probably easily the best text, voice, and video communication tool for managing remote teams.
It works on all devices, without the hassles of dealing with bringing together Apple or Android users. That makes it more consistent and efficient than Google Hangouts or Facetime. It hasn’t suffered the same notoriety as Zoom for security issues.
It’s also great for file sharing, group chats and meetings, and integrating with your website to facilitate sales. There is also both a mobile and desktop version.
Close.io is a newer but very clean and powerful CRM for remote businesses. It has easy to use dashboards for following up with leads and tracking interactions. Plus integrations with email, websites, and WhatsApp, and its own phone and texting tools with recording capabilities. It may be one of the easiest and most modern to implement for new startups.
Wrike is a simple, clean, and easy to use project management tool. It’s cloud-based and allows your team to seamlessly collaborate on projects, while giving you real-time status on what’s done or lagging. While you can patch together something similar in Google Drive, this may make your project management more intuitive. Other options in this category may include Trello, Freedcamp, and Basecamp.
Alejandro Cremades is a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley & Sons, the book was named one of the best books for entrepreneurs. The book offers a step-by-step guide to today‘s way of raising money for entrepreneurs.
Most recently, Alejandro built and exited CoFoundersLab which is one of the largest communities of founders online.
Prior to CoFoundersLab, Alejandro worked as a lawyer at King & Spalding where he was involved in one of the biggest investment arbitration cases in history ($113 billion at stake).
Alejandro is an active speaker and has given guest lectures at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia Business School, and at NYU Stern School of Business.
Alejandro has been involved with the JOBS Act since inception and was invited to the White House and the US House of Representatives to provide his stands on the new regulatory changes concerning fundraising online.