As read in the Cambridgechamber Spectrum Magazine
If you’re like many small businesses, you work from home. There are many benefits of being a small business in a home office that allow you the flexible time and lower cost of operations, but in some cases you may need to have that meeting with your client or supplier. You can only schedule at a local coffee shop but when you want to get your business to a new level, there is a business credibility that comes with having an office.
I spoke about having a paperless office in my past article for Spectrum. In addition to this FPM3 is also working towards setting up a remote office. There is something to be said about having a place to come to work, settle down, get a cup of coffee and get yourself immersed in your tasks that needs to be done. However, I believe there is also an ability to have a balance of both. To create this environment, allowing you to work remotely and have a credible operation, it is important to implement pieces of software to allow you the mobile flexibility.
My first recommendation is a critical one; it is using a good communication system. A virtual phone line that allows for forwarding calls, recording messages and then emailing them to you. In addition, you find the Instant Messaging systems like Skype or Google Hangouts. These systems allow you to not only instant message but also make outgoing phone calls and connect directly with your employees, customers or suppliers. My office uses the combination of a Virtual Phone system by CityHosting and Skype. The benefit of having it with a phone number to dial out with Skype credit or if your customer or suppliers has Skype, you can call directly over the internet to them directly and easily. Furthermore, we can share the screen and have discussions easily. If you’re a small-business where you do not have a lot of networking connections it’s free for up to 10 users! I also use Google Hangouts, however they made so many changes it is actually more confusing even for me to work with. I believe they are working to improve this but currently, I think Skype is one of the strongest all in one communication systems for a small business to interactively use in combination of a Virtual Phone System. In summary, Virtual Phone Systems allow people to call in, go into a tree and leave a message that will forward to your cell, or email you the message. Skype is for dialing a cell or office line and further instant messaging through video chat or audio using your existing internet data plan. To give an idea of costs. $50 a month for the Virtual Phone System up to 15 extentions and 50 voicemails. $10 a month in Skype for dialing out at $0.02 a minute anywhere in North America. Bottom line: $60 a month vs. $500 a month.
One of the next stages is being able to share your screen or have a presentation with discussion that allows for easy communication between you and the other party. Preparation is key here, so it is vital that you go through the proper steps before entering the conversation. For instance, do not show your screen if you have personal information visible when looking for something for the client or supplier. You might be sharing confidential information directly with the other party. The way I do it is I set up a slide presentation with images, content and a goal of what the discussion should be and what we want to accomplish at the end. I try to walk through the meeting in my mind as to how it will flow. As an example, I may want to show a website and go through a few website samples. I would prepare my slideshow to have an agenda, images and expectations of what I want to accomplish. Followed by opening a browser specifically with just the tabs of websites I want to share with the party on the other side.
To do this, I need to have multiple monitors. I use a MacBook Air, an iPad and a Galaxy Note 5 phone. Because my MacBook and iPad connect with each other, I can easily work with one of my browsers while my slideshow presentation comes through my MacBook Air. Any personal matter I may need to address can be done on my Galaxy Note 5, which includes taking notes directly on my phone.
Occasionally, I will record the conversation using Apple QuickTime but there are many Microsoft options available as well. I always advise the party on the other side I am recording the conversation, in case there is anything they might want a reference of what was discussed, so they can have a copy of it. I use a paid software called screenflow which is a $99 one time payment and is very easy to use. After I’m done recording my meeting I save it to a private YouTube account, make it Unlisted as a URL link and send it to the parties in the meeting.
I may also have set up an audio recorder, which is free, on my Android phone so when calls are made you have the option to keep your audio copy in digital form. This allows the client to reference any information that might have been missed from the meeting.
At the end of every meeting where you have a remote situation, it is beneficial to ensure that you delivered what it was you wanted to accomplish. Was it explaining exactly what it is you wanted to do, wanted to sell or what it is you wanted completed? Whatever these items are, make sure you have yourself prepared for your remote communication presentation. It will make a huge difference when it comes to knowing your credibility and how you operate your business. I will talk more about remotely working with some cloud systems that you might find interesting and easy to collaborate with your work colleagues, clients and suppliers in the future.