In today’s working environment that champions working from home, alongside the plethora of coffee shops opening on our high-streets and more reliable wifi technology, the roaming professional isn’t unusual.
Whether you are a two-man-band, or an orchestra of 50 colleagues, the Wifi worker scenario has inevitable brought its challenges. More importantly than forgetting what somebody looks like, how on earth is a business leader expected to keep a coherent, consistent and effective business ethos in one piece, let alone motivate and mentor valuable team members?
Isolation affects us all
My Sky TV channel business is a good example of this. As with most entrepreneurs these days, it all began at the kitchen table. Hundreds of phone calls, the occasional Skype meeting and a few trips in the car to various contacts across the South East was all that we required at the time, but that quickly changed as we grew rapidly. Fast forward a couple of years and there’s now a team large team scattered across the South East of England.
In the early days of the business, I recognised the impact of working in isolation and we had to adapt while remaining dedicated to flexible working.
Fundamentally, I believe in working from any location, or at least not having to be based in an office for eight hours every day, but I felt that the vision and brand goals had been compromised by a lack of interaction among the growing team.
For us, it’s a different story now thanks to being able to adapt and develop at every stage of our development. The company is now thriving due to our early flexibility.
Interaction has to be top of the list
Thinking back many months ago, I had numerous people reporting in to me while I was constantly on the go between meetings and making new connections so direct interaction became challenging, but I simply had to make time for it. And of course, I wanted colleagues to speak to each other more and not have to come through me. We took on a number of communications tools and set out a regular face-to-face meeting structure.
Once we are at a stage whereby having our own messenger system becomes necessary, we will make sure that the system is completely tailored to our look and feel, encompassing the brand values and what the channel is designed to do. There’s also plans afoot to introduce regular blogging and writing for the team which will force them to think about core messages and the way the brand wants to be perceived. At the moment, we use off-the-shelf tools such as Slack and Trello, and they’re fantastic for what we need them for right now. But they’re limited when it comes to personality and tailoring for brand benefits.
What we are and what we believe in is dictating how we work. We are always going to be on the move, like most businesses today, so it’s important to grasp the technology that allows that to happen.
Now that we’re a much larger team, having one system for everyone to feed updates into is vitally important for us. And while some of us have a good understanding of apps and tech, others don’t so the system we selected had to be clear and easy to use; Trello certainly is and everyone in the team uses it effectively.
We also use Dropbox for document hosting and sharing, and Skype predominantly for catch-ups and meetings. We are exploring services such as Adobe Connect for conferences as the business grows. I also use Evernote for note taking while on the go. It works fine, for the size we currently are.
The whites of their eyes
For me, it still remains important to show guidance, dedication, passion and energy in a room full of people. That’s what drives trust and belief that the business is building, and all colleagues make up a network of cogs in its growth.
I also believe that all businesses are about their people, and everyone has their own ideas and thoughts on things from administration tools, right through to TV programme ideas. These thoughts very rarely come out in big meetings, especially from younger staff members, so I put a large emphasis on making an effort to socialise after company meetings. If has to be encouraged, because I know that great ideas are very rarely born of a boardroom.
Revisiting the core brand identity and messages on a regular basis is very important for a few reasons. As the team expands, you must drill into your new team members the brand and what you are setting out to achieve. That shouldn’t just be in the first week of working together, but it has to be drilled in to every piece of activity, and document that is created.
Singing the same song
Reflecting on targets and brand messages are important alongside the monthly business updates we now give at our all-staff meetings. Why? Because businesses change and develop. The goals and messages will inevitably develop and be tweaked over time so everyone needs to be singing the same tune.
Michael Hammond is the founder of PropertyTV.