Online competition is forcing companies to adopt technology at an ever accelerating rate. Most companies already have a Web presence, but some are going completely virtual. It's not the best move for every company, and it takes a lot of careful planning for an existing business to make the transition. The only thing that's certain is that virtual companies will likely best competitors that don't adapt to the new paradigm. Regardless, every modern business needs to extend some of its operations into the cloud in order to remain competitive. The only question that business owners should ask themselves is whether they can move everything online or not, and that hinges on a lot of different variables.
1. Online File Storage
Cloud storage services eliminate much of the overhead that comes with running a company, but not all of them offer the same amount of space or features. Does a company require a service that makes it extremely easy to share files? Does it need a service that provides unlimited storage? Will someone make local backups? Would it be better to choose a cloud service that will send physical backups upon request? Cloud storage is such a critical component of virtual businesses that this decision can't be made lightly; absolutely everything has to be taken into consideration before business owners decide what they'll use.
2. Teamwork and Organization
Workers that are acclimated to office life may not adapt so well to the online world. Just because a task can be performed from any location doesn't mean it should be. If nothing else, face-to-face contact adds a human element to work that's missing from collaborations that occur at a distance.
A company that already has a corporate culture that translates well into a decentralized online model won't feel a thing if it abandons physical office space. A company that follows a more traditional model will have to make smaller changes over time if the end goal is to go completely virtual. Employees need to adjust, and companies need to manage risk. Issues may arise during the transition, and a slow and steady transition yields a smaller number of problems than an all-in approach does.
Companies that deal primarily in creative work can afford to go virtual. There's almost nothing about modern media production that requires two people to be in the same room to complete a project. Likewise, companies that outsource production or other key tasks don't need as much staff in one location, and that's if it's necessary to have any staff on location at all.
That doesn't work so well for print publications, and it's a bad choice for businesses that manufacture anything within the US. E-products are perfect for virtual businesses, but it's not so clear cut with other goods and services. Business owners need to determine whether their products can be efficiently delivered through online channels or automated processes before putting everything online.
Virtual Business: Supervision
Supervisors perform an important function within the workplace, but it's substantially more difficult for them to do their job at a distance. It requires a completely different approach from the traditional office model, and it also necessitates hiring workers who are good at working independently.
Some workers may feel isolated, and that can be remedied with systems that make it easy to communicate with other employees and the person in charge. Some workers need incentives to get their work done, and certain things can be built into the system that provide the dopamine boost these employees need. Managing workers online requires a careful balance of addressing what can be addressed and letting people go when they aren't cut out for online work.
5. The Long Haul
Business owners need to prepare themselves for the challenges that come with transitioning into the virtual world. While it's impossible to anticipate every potential problem beforehand, flexibility and persistence go a long way toward riding out the rough times. Nearly any online business can become a powerhouse, but it requires unwavering dedication to an inventive creative vision to make it happen.
Running a virtual enterprise essentially boils down to finding new ways to apply the classic principles of business management. Technology changes but people don't, and many of the same tactics will work when new methods are applied. Business owners who want to go virtual need to ask themselves how that will improve what they offer, and they should only move forward once they've come up with a solid answer.
Gregory Stands is an entrepreneur who utilizes cloud services to collaborate, send files electronically, and update his distant clients.
Andrew Murray is an online entrepreneur and business owner. I have helped thousands of students create their own websites and funnels and make a full-time income online. Reach out if you need help.
Text me at 617-340-2920
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