On remote teams, managing them and in-person meetings

All the craze nowadays is about how you can manage your entire business online and build virtual teams. Last week I wrote about how important I think in-person meetings are, and that I don’t think they can be completely replaced. I do however completely believe in online and remote teams.

Putting it in another way, how could I not? I built most of my customer base in the United States while being based in Sweden, having never set foot in the US, that before I even had local clients. What a different world we live in today and am I not grateful for being able to have these opportunities!

The thing is, for a remote team to work, all parties need to believe in it. If it is us with a client, the client also needs to believe that geography isn’t an obstacle. Not all clients do. It is the same with a more typical team. Everyone needs to be on board with the idea.

I have worked in projects, both us with clients, and in other positions that failed miserably because not everyone believed it could be done and would take responsibility for making it work.

You see, the key, I believe, to remote teams is to use a lot of text based communications in an open chatroom kind of format as possible. This creates the office atmosphere and what I think is most important, creates a transparent environment that you have in an office.

Email is a very closed system that ideally is just between a couple of people. In an open chatroom, your team can read up on conversations between other team members, may jump in with an insight, and at the very least just be aware of what is going on in the organization.

All projects with remote teams that I have worked with that have failed, have lacked this transparency and openness. Consider this a key to a successful remote team. And remember the two golden rules of communication: Nobody has ever been blamed for communicating too much, and, communication is what the listener does.

Business

On Traveling and Meeting New People

I’ll be honest and say it right up front. I like traveling. As a matter of fact, I am writing this post in the air. I also travel more than most people do, but nowhere near as much as others I know. I hold my Star Alliance Gold Card proudly and I get to enjoy my lounges at the airport (a godsend when you travel for work). I also mostly fly in business class on long haul flights. And I am very thankful and humble for being able to do this.

Many ask me why I spend a good deal of money traveling to meet people and for meetings, when you can just as well hold them online. Simple answer: It really is not a replacement.

Here’s the deal. Meeting new people and having those first meetings is best done in person. The difference in the quality of the relationships that you develop are astounding and I owe a lot of my business success to traveling.

While regular project meetings can (and should!) definitely be done online, being able to meet customers face to face and talking to them once in a while makes all the difference in your relationships. It’s a human thing. Plus, when traveling you always meet new and interesting people.

Going to conferences is another topic which in general is very worthwhile, even though I try limiting my conferences to ones that I speak at nowadays.

Simply put: Connecting with people, meeting new people and building relationships is crucial to the success of my business. I gladly spend the money and time on travel because in the long run, it undoubtedly comes back.

Business

On focusing your time and efforts

I enjoy doing a lot of things. From simply being a businessman, teaching web and media, doing consulting work, developing websites for clients to being a great guy and helping people with their web and tech related problems.

What I’ve found, would you believe it, is that it really is time to focus. This is no business driven decision. This is a health decision. You see, there comes a time when you have to realize that despite all of these things without a problem being doable in the amount of time you are given each day, each comes with its own sets of accountability and pressure.

The problem is that as this pressure on you builds up, it quickly becomes too much, as each area explodes at, interestingly enough, the very same time.

There is a rule as much in business as in life known as the 80/20 rule. 80% of the results comes from 20% of the efforts. Realizing that this holds true in most situations, you also realize when it is time to focus.

Unfortunately, giving up things you love doing is not an easy task. The jury is still out on exactly how I am going to tackle this, but trust me, there is a limit to how much you want to do, long term.

Business / Productivity

On Doing “Firsts” with Confidence: Or a story about going to the Houses of Parliament

One of the things you will constantly run into as a small business owner is “firsts”—things you do for the first time. Even after you have been in business for a while, there are always—and good thing too—new things that you have to tackle that you haven’t come across before.

This is not just about having to send quotes on things you have never done before. It is about networking with confidence in new situations where you feel out of place, it is about tackling that big issue that you really have no idea what to do about and it is always about showing confidence when you haven’t got any.

The Houses of Parliament

Let me tell you a personal story about my most memorable and so far most-frightening “first”.

A couple of years ago I was invited by David Roth at The Store at WPP to attend a seminar on doing business in China in London. Nothing unusual about that. What was special was that the seminar was preceded by a lunch mingle session at the Houses of Parliament.

So there I was. Right in the Houses of Parliament amidst senior executives at some of the biggest advertising agencies in the world and members of the house of lords. Half the age of everyone else and running my own business. Needless to say, I was frightened before.

I buckled up the courage and went. Obviously you just cannot pass on an invitation to the Houses of Parliament. Sure, it was a little uncomfortable. But you bet I was happy afterwards. This year I was invited back again for the second time and it was much easier and I was able to be there with much greater courage. Next year? I’m already looking forward to it.

The moral of my story is that success in part can be determined at how well we handle the firsts. You don’t need to do things perfectly the first time, but you can’t shy away from them. I guarantee you, being able to do something and appearing confident even when you are not is a great skill, one that will not let you down.

Business

Serving on company boards

One of many things that I would like to start doing more is taking up board positions. I think it is inevitable in one’s business career that you start to feel that you have more valuable strategic insight to give, than simply being a producer.

Apart from doing more consulting work—which is one way of doing more strategy oriented work—serving as a board member of companies or organizations is something that I believe not only would be a fun experience, but something that both I and the organization could benefit greatly from.

It isn’t something that I take lightly. It is a serious obligation, but one that I have been actively looking to get doing more in the future. Should anyone find this post and think “Hey, he’d be awesome for us”, then you know I’m always looking. But for both your sake and mine, I’m very picky. It needs to be a right fit because I do want to focus my time on where I can actually make a difference. So, let’s see where I am in a year. If all goes to plan, on more boards.

Business