Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so set yourself a timeframe of say, 12-18 months, to make the transition from bricks-and-mortar business to a virtual one. This should give you ample time to help your clients and staff get used to the idea.
But while it’s important not to rush the transition, you shouldn’t dilly-dally, either. Use this time to implement new systems, structures, procedures and protocols — and test them.
Help your staff get into the habit of working from home but you’ll inevitably encounter a few glitches, so make sure you work on resolving them before you do away with your physical office space. This may involve upgrading existing infrastructure, software and computing equipment.
Keeping the Team Spirit Alive
You should also consider ways to ensure your employees continue to function as a team even when they’re removed from the team environment. People are known to be more productive when they feel valued, so you might consider reinvesting those rent-cheque savings in regular meet-ups or team building exercises, and more efficient computing equipment like tablet devices.
Prepare People for Change
Importantly, make sure you communicate with your staff and clients along the way so that they’re prepared for the new virtual realities of either working with a virtual business or being employed by one. This will also help you gauge any potential pitfalls so you can nip them in the bud before they become larger issues.
A recent article in the Journal of Accountancy discussed the many benefits of making a bricks-and-mortar business a virtual one. Of course saving money on the monthly rent cheque factored quite high on the ‘pros’ list — but when is the right time to go virtual?
Steps to Becoming Virtual
As human beings we’re creatures of habit, so the decision to turn your business into an entirely virtual one shouldn’t be taken lightly, particularly if you have clients who visit your premises regularly. But even once you get your clients onboard, you’ve still got a way to go before you can close your doors for good.
The first step is determining whether your team can work remotely. Self-starters and highly motivated individuals thrive in the virtual environment, whereas, those who need a lot of supervision, direction and even daily interaction with colleagues, generally aren’t suited to working remotely.
Virtual offices do not have the space to store paper and hardcopy files. While your own business may use online storage software like Dropbox, you also need to consider your clients. If they’re not using cloud accounting software and you’re still required to store their client files, a virtual office may not be the way to go yet.
In order to function effectively and efficiently as a virtual business, you must ensure you have the systems in place first. This means making sure your employees have the devices they need to do their job from home and, in turn, that your business has the necessary infrastructure and software to facilitate that as well.
So before you pack up your goods and chattels and close your office doors for good, make sure you’re business is truly ready to take the plunge. Be sure to read our next post; we discuss what steps you should take in readying your business to go virtual.