Six years ago we made the decision that each of our startup founders would work remotely to cut down on office expenses.
To be honest, we initially made this decision for economical reasons. However, even now that we have the financial possibility of renting an excellent workplace, we still choose to keep on working remotely to keep a work-life balance. Back in 2008 we were an exception; we were a unique start-up working with no office. Today, many start-ups adopt this new working mechanism.
We studied 26 start-ups that also work without an office to how others implement this methodology, and also to improve as an enterprise based on experiences of our partners. We'd like to share 5 tools you can use to launch your own startup from home:
Working and collaborating with no physical office makes constant communication essential. It's important to define "how" we communicate without seeing each other every day. Although email (Gmail) and teleconferences (Skype) are great tools, they just aren't enough.
During the third year of our startup we decided to change to Basecamp and we now use Trello. This is a tool that was created with aim of team working efficiently despite the fact that each one is in a different place in the world (Tweet This!). Trello allows users to to see what your colleagues are working on in real time (without having to bother them via email.) It's free to sign up, and once you do, you'll use "cards" to organize your tasks to create a flexible to-do list. You can assign tasks to team members who will be notified immediately.
In this way we reduced the email interaction to almost zero, and we directly eliminated teleconferences. Our start-up policy is not to have group meetings anymore, only communicating through text.
GitHub, FreshBook, and Help Scout
The second pillar to successfully start a business remotely was to define "what" each project member must do. Launching a business remotely can produce a lack of responsibility, redundancy in work, and high levels of confusion.
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With new projects and ideas, sometimes roles aren't initially set in stone. However, it's necessary to define responsibilities. For example assign one founder to be in charge of programming, another of designing, another one of legal and/or accounting tasks, and the other one of client support. GitHub is an excellent tool for building software. It allows for streamlined collaboration and also offers user access to the world's largest open source community (Tweet This Tool!). The program is affordable too, with upgraded plans starting at $7 a month.
One of our founders was tasked with overseeing legal and accounting matters. We provided him with FreshBooks- a cloud-based accounting software designed specifically for small business owners (Tweet This Tool). You'll be granted a 14-day free trial period, but if you want the additional features such as managing multiple clients and users, creating automatic fee notices and expense reporting, you'll have to pay. Pricing then starts at $19.95/month.
As for managing "client services", Help Scout was the best option for us. Start with the 15-day free trial and see why this support ticket system is marveled by companies like Buffer. Help Scout keeps your client interaction personal and allows for easy tag management and email integration. It's a little more straight forward to use than other customer service options, making it much easier to use and create customer loyalty (Tweet This Tool).
Once you assign the basic responsibilities, you'll be able to divide more specific tasks as they arise daily (data base backups, billing and control, etc.).
With our start-up, we metaphorically define our office (which we don't have) as our clients' office. What we mean is that our clients are our main focus: what they need, how they interact with our tool, their feedback, etc. Client communication is key.
The tool we use to keep track of meetings with our clients is ToutApp. It integrates with your Gmail account, helping you write effective sales emails, nurture leads with email campaigns, track open rates, and follow-up "intelligently". It synchronizes with your existing CRM system as well (Tweet This Tool).
Article written in collaboration with Emiliano Canova, teacher at the University of Córdoba and co-founder of SOAP, a new online mechanism for education, specialized in mobile technology.