How to Run a Virtual Business Successfully

Comerica Bank

People video converince calling on a laptop at a desk while another person reads a book in the background

Transforming your business into a virtual operation may be ideal for making operations easier, faster and more efficient.

How can you use technology to make your business life easier, faster and more efficient? Transforming it from a central place of work into a "virtual" business may just be the answer.

Building a virtual business

Several trends are rapidly driving the business world towards a more efficient and connected future. These days your smartphone can be set up to be your mobile office. You can use it to:

  • Keep organized. For storing the contents of your projects you can use applications like Box and Google Drive.
  • Manage projects. For managing projects there are online tools like Trello, Freedcamp and Wrike.
  • Communicate. For interacting with your staff members more directly, there are business models of popular apps like Skype or Viber.
  • Track expenses. For keeping your accounts in order there are cloud accounting solutions such as Xero and Wave.

Online banking tools can also help your business accelerate its receivables process.

Is your business able to transform into a virtual business? And how will you go about operating it successfully?

Embrace cloud-based services

Cost, reliability and security are just a handful of advantages the cloud can offer. It can also allow your business to become virtual by transforming some important aspects of your office into cloud tools.

Tap into the freelance market

It’s easy to find highly skillful and experienced workers, and to hire them on contract for a certain amount of time or for particular projects. These workers don’t even have to live in the same city or town as you – they could be anywhere around the world, as long as they have access to the internet and your business’s cloud systems.

The idea of social collaboration is at the heart of the growing freelance market, where businesses can harness the specific talent and skills they need to get a job or project done. In a virtual office, you can pay for what you need on an a la carte basis as your business requires it.

Embrace social collaboration and move your business forward to a more efficient place.

Build a responsive website

To avoid falling behind your competitors you need a truly responsive website – one that adapts as your customers embrace new technology, and smaller devices.

Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and phablets are now dominating the market. This has huge ramifications for any small or medium business that uses the Internet to sell their goods or services.

Building a business website with a responsive design is easier said than done, but to achieve a design that adapts well to device changes and switches seamlessly between landscape and portrait views, think about:

  • Setting content priorities. When the screen size changes, your business’s visible content will be either reduced or increased. Decide which content will be lost on smaller screens and consider collapsing some content into dropdown navigation.
  • Using a "mobile first" approach. This involves designing around smaller, mobile screens first. You’ll also want to consider where your potential customers are using their devices (like on the train or while walking), so you can help them navigate your site more quickly.
  • The speed of your site. Load speeds can be triggers for consumers to stay on your website or leave and try a competitor’s site. Compress images and use plug-ins to minimize loading delays.

Learn to delegate tasks to your virtual workforce

It’s important to be able to let go of the reins and allow your other staff members to take care of the areas of your business that they specialize in.

For your business to grow, particularly within a virtual workforce environment, try to focus on the aspects of your company that only you can deliver. That could involve you concentrating on generating new business, or simply being the face of your business – the person who instills potential customers with the confidence to buy your goods or services.

Delegating effectively to your virtual staff will help increase efficiency within your business.

Watch out for virtual business pitfalls

Be aware of some of the dangers of moving to a virtual business, such as:

  • The potential loss of efficiency. Measuring productivity can be an issue for some virtual businesses. Carefully choose online tools that will help you measure your team’s performance.
  • Your customers’ negative perceptions. Many potential customers will still assume that a successful business has to have a physical place of work. Be proactive about educating your customers about the merits of why you conduct business virtually.
  • Less camaraderie amongst your staff. Building a connected team environment when your employees work from different locations isn’t easy. However, there are social networking tools that can help make project collaboration (and social work chats) real-time events.
  • Your employees failing to comply with your business’s guidelines, and issues around trust. Establish procedures and best practices to encourage secure, remote work.

Rise above any virtual stigma

You could have potential customers that don’t believe you run a real business and that you won’t be around for very long – all because your business is virtual.

Overcome this by being honest with your customers, sharing your vision and goals and offering references and testimonials from your satisfied customers.

Next steps

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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