Young Upstarts

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Communication In A Multi-Location, Multi-Team, Multi-Project Business

As the world of business evolves, the small business only remains small in name. Nowadays, small business that have 20 or 30 employees have to act and behave like medium-sized businesses. The workplace has also evolved whereby employers and employees need to communicate on just about everything.

Increasingly, we’re seeing better and better services coming out for small businesses at affordable prices. It’s an amazing time for communication solutions businesses as they are creating products and services that everyone wants. Employees can be managed virtually as online conferencing software has brought forth the boardroom to the overseas teams.

Speaking of teams, this is the new challenge facing small businesses. How does communication work in a multi-team, multi-location and multi-project business? The same amount of guidance, advice, fluid exchange of data and nuanced information as you’d have in an office, needs to be had with teams that are many thousands of miles away.


Juggling the time zones.

For a business that is situated all across the world, smooth communication between teams working on the same project is difficult but not impossible. Large businesses will have managers and heads of departments on call 24-hours a day and 7 days a week. That’s because they can afford to. Employees that are paid rather handsomely won’t take umbrage with being called 2 O’clock in the morning and asked to help fix an issue because they are earning six-figure salaries. However for small businesses you might not have this sort of luxury. Therefore you should always consider the time zone in which your other teams are based in and use Spacetime instead. Spacetime is also an app add-on which you can use in certain team communication services such as Monday and Slack.

Spacetime allows workers to set their time zones personally as well as team managers. This means that every employee that is on a task, knows what the working hours of another employee. So if you have a London-based team has noticed an issue or wants to bring up a question with the New York office they can set an automated message to appear when the team in American starts for the day. Juggling time zones can be very tricky but using services that are geared toward making overseas communication easier and even automated, you can solve problems much quicker.

Make your direction felt.

What rubs many small business owners the wrong way about multi-location expansion, is they feel as if they will lose some control. This could be a loss of control over employees, tasks, the pace of daily business, finances, relationships with partners and legal standards. Firstly, take a deep breath because this is quite normal. It’s only right that you feel like you could potentially lose your vice grip over your own business which you have cried, bled and sweated for. But this is a complete fallacy. You don’t stand to lose control over your projects and teams because you have brilliant conferencing software at your disposal.

The Zoom conferencing service is an excellent way to have virtual face-to-face meetings with all your teams from around the globe. But why would you use this over something like Google Hangouts? You can share and upload files as well as present documents to all the teams at the same time. Therefore you can open up a report and go through it page by page highlighting the key points so all can see. This literally puts everyone on the same page and your concerns are put into black and white. The basic plan is absolutely free but it’s limited to just one-to-one meetings. The upper echelons in terms of packages, you can have a lot of people on virtual lines whereby the can use mics or video cameras to contact you.  

Get business phones.

In high-level corporations, there are business phones for top level staff. In many financial firms, there is a need for managers and heads of departments as well as C-suite ranks to always be by the phone. There are a number of reasons why business phones are utilized. 

  • You have a direct line to the employee, the line will never be busy with other outside of work calls. 
  • The phone is always kept on due to company policy and requires employees to never let the battery level get underneath a certain level.
  • There are some things just better communicated with phone calls. Text messages and emails may not convey the exact kind of message of urgency that you want to portray.
  • There is no paper trail, so sensitive information which is confidential won’t be scattered across the servers and potentially into the wrong hands. This also means that no malware or spyware on your systems can be effective in your direct communications about high-level issues.

However, how do you go about getting business phones for your staff? The good news is, they’re actually pretty cheap to run. You don’t need to get a top of the line smartphone, an average or slightly lower end smartphone is fine. You can also use flexible and affordable networks such that use pay as you go sim deals. The SIMs are £6.25 with no surprises, the only time you’ll get charged for using data is when you actually use it. There is no limit and there is no data deal you have to sign up to. You’re simply paying for using the network with each call and text. This is the best plan for business phones because they’re not used that much so why pay for things you don’t need? It also discourages misuse of the smartphone as credit will run out rather than be topped up automatically every month.

Show your face.

Just like in many other ways of life, in business, just showing your face can boost morale. Teams that are abroad need to feel your presence and see you as a real figure in their lives rather than a voice on a phone or a person on video. But you must have some sort of plan when  visiting your business overseas. Just turning up for the sake of it will be a waste of time and money. So every quarter when the performance reports are made, you should fly over to your overseas offices to be presented the reports in-person. Face-to-face communication is by far the most powerful communication style still to this day. No matter how advanced our technology gets, looking people in the eye, shaking their hand and having a flowing conversation in real life is the most desired way of communicating with employees.

Set a schedule.

It should go without saying but having a schedule for meeting or speaking with your overseas teams is vital. When things are unseen and unheard, they spiral out of control. Therefore set a weekly time and day for when you will be communicating with foreign teams is essentially to keeping your narrative on track. However, again you must account for the time zone differences. It’s very possible that you may need to set different days and times for your teams if they cannot somehow be amalgamated to meet at the same time. 

A multi-location, multi-team and multi-project business is very difficult to control but it’s not impossible. Focus on using conferencing software specifically designed for businesses such as  Zoom. It’s a great idea to give business phones to your middle and upper-management so they’re never too far away from having a direct conversation with you. Set a day and time for each week or month when you’ll get updates about the various projects you’re managing. 

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Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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