This week I’ve run my business from (in no particular order) my sofa, my office, a park, a cafe, a train, a plane and three separate countries. My husband is a diplomat so we spend a lot of time travelling. And it’s not just me. Every member of the Babes With Babies (Bb) team is able to work everywhere. We have a set-up which provides full flexibility. Amazingly, it seems to work.
We’re passionate – nay, obsessed - about making the business accessible for the team so that everyone can work around their life. It’s not always easy but the benefits are enormous. Naturally, a more flexible working set-up works exceptionally well with our team members who have children but that’s not the only situation where it helps...
Our website guru moved to France to be with his girlfriend & that has made no difference to the brilliant relationship we have with him and the ongoing work he does. One of our customer service managers worked from a caravan in St Ives last week – she did some of her best work and her daughter was able to surf during the day & she was on standby for fish and chips in the evening.
Here’s our tips on the four most important guidelines we’ve found useful to make things work from a myriad of different locations - as a company, as a business, as a team:
1. Love the technology
2. Get support
Here’s a bit more detail on what we mean by that.
1. Love the technology. It’s amazing what it can do. You have to have an open mind and a positive approach to how technology can help you though; if you’re scared and suspicious, I do think you’ll find it bites you on the bum. We spend every day on Skype & use it to have fixed numbers that can be redirected wherever we are. Telephone calls can also be handled efficiently and cheaply using its competitor Voipfone. Company files are easily shared using either Microsoft Groove http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_SharePoint_Workspace or (our favourite) Dropbox. https://www.dropbox.com/home. We’ve just implemented a new accountancy programme using Dropbox to share our company accounts. These are free, under a certain size of shared files. Big files can also be emailed using the brilliant yousendit.com. Blackberries and dongles help us too and the team are all super-smart about managing costs as well as constantly searching for new ways to help.
2. Get support. Sometimes the technology is tricky. Most of the time you can find out everything you want to know from ‘geek forums’ on the net but don’t hesitate to call in an expert if you need it. We like Geeks on wheels http://www.geeks-on-wheels.com/ but we’d massively recommend Marcus Collard on 07775 602 545 www.simplehomeit.com. He’s saved our team many a time – honest, helpful advice if you’re in the Surrey area.
3. Trust. When members of the same team don’t work in the same office, there’s a lot of trust involved. It actually makes a more supportive environment as everyone is clear what everyone is doing. In fact, to be honest – it’s even more apparent when people don’t perform if they’re not in the same office. Everything is about results; focus on that and let people work out how (and when) to get there. For us, it’s not always relevant when people are working, as long as they get the work done.
4. Chat. This sounds flippant but it’s very important. The downside of not all being in the same location is that it can be a little isolating so it’s great to use Skype and the phone to interact properly. And if you spend a lot of time interacting with suppliers, customers, business partners via email it’s critical that you learn how to ‘chat’ on email. Email can be impersonal, cold and can give the wrong impression; it takes practice and focus to make sure that email has the right touch to build strong relationships. It does take a certain type of person to be able to work remotely; make sure you recruit well!
With a positive attitude and some great technology – anything... and anywhere is possible.
Sophie Devonshire is the founder of Babes with Babies London, an online boutique selling flattering clothes and gorgeous gifts for pregnant women and new mums. The company has a policy of allowing all employees to work from home or from locations that suit them. www.BabesWithBabies.com