We’ve talked about Advisory Boards who help support you in business and Dream Teams who help you manage aspects of your business, but what about Virtual Teams who help you do the work?
When you find that you are landing the clients but are getting overloaded - or they are requesting services that you personally cannot provide - it is time to identify your Virtual Team. For my company, I offer the following services:
1. Internet strategy
2. Online marketing
3. Web site analysis
4. Content development
5. Online community building
6. Virtual worlds marketing & events
The areas where I have a virtual team to fill in the gaps include:
1. Web site development - My developer is a talented guy named Billy Finley of Couloir Graphics.
2. Public relations - Although I could do PR, it is time consuming and not my specialty, so I turn to Kathy Day of KDPR Virtual. I’m also on her virtual team providing Web strategy.
Both are located in the same town where I’m located, but we only meet face-to-face on occasion. Most of our work is done via e-mail, on private message boards and by phone.
Virtual teams do not have to be located nearby. Leverage technology to bring your team together no matter where they are located. Cheap and easy solutions to communicating with your virtual team includes blogs, wikis, online whiteboards, phone conferencing systems like FreeConference.com, free voice over Internet tools such as Skype.com, private message board systems, and a myriad of other online communications tools.
Some people are even using virtual worlds such as Second Life to meet with their team across borders and time zones.
Here are some tips to building a successful virtual team:
1. Identify team members who specialize in a particular area or skill that you and other team members lack. Find people who share your work ethics.
2. Be clear about each person’s role and make sure there isn’t overlap unless that is intentional for a safeguard.
3. Find the technology tools that facilitate communications between team members and make sure everyone is trained on how to use them.
4. Solidify your business arrangements with your team members and put them in writing. One way to handle the finances is to bill your client incorporating everyone’s fees and to pay each team member working on the project directly. Team members can be considered independent contractors to your company, and you can present them with a 1099 form at tax time. See your accountant or bookkeeper for the best way to arrange this.
Virtual teams can work like finely tuned machines, but it takes careful attention to detail and communication on everyone’s part.