Today we are giving you several tidbits to transition from the bricks and mortar office to a virtual team environment. At Grow we set out on this path over a year ago. Today we are a team of three working with all our clients 100% virtually. We have found the tools and solutions to make working digitally fun, efficient and effective. Here are some tips and advice that we have embraced during the last year.
Getting the Message Across
In a virtual work environment, a variety of communication tools are required. Email can work for communication with clients, but isn’t as effective for quick and less formal communication among team members.
At Grow, we have learned that different solutions are needed for communication internally. We actually use multiple apps, but when first starting out, we recommend starting with one option and slowly expanding your tool set when you feel comfortable. Currently, our top picks are:
Slack as a team communication app. This is our go-to for throughout the day chatter - we love it because it keeps communications organized (something we love as accountants) by thread and is easily searchable.
Google Meet is our choice for training purposes and team meetings internally, and it doubles as our video conferencing application with clients. The interface is slick, user friendly, and integrates seamlessly with our Google calendars. Screen sharing allows us to dive deeper into the information we’re discussing.
Finally, we’ve recently embraced Loom, which is a well-designed app that we use to take short videos that provides a better experience for detailed explanations and tutorials. This Chrome extension has quickly become a favourite in our team on days that our work hours don’t necessarily match up with each other for a call (thanks to our children).
Getting Work Done
If you are working as part of a team, no matter how small, coordination of workflow is key. There will be no physical files to handoff from person to person, so you need to find an organized digital tool to handle this. There are many solutions available and many are targeted towards specific types of businesses or industries. Some of the generic and user friendly options we’ve tried are Trello or Asana. We started off with Trello, but found quickly that our workflow tool is the command centre for our business and those simple tools were just too generic. We ended up using Karbon which allows us to streamline our email inbox, create and track work items, communicate on specific items internally, and send checklists to our clients. While Karbon is specifically designed for our industry, there are digital workflow management tools for just about every type of work and size of team.
Getting on the Cloud
Being a fully virtual firm means that an office server is not required. Instead we spent time sourcing cloud-based applications to meet the needs of our business and learning about data security. For our virtual accounting firm that means using cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting applications like Quickbooks Online, a virtual receipt filing cabinet like Hubdoc and Receipt Bank, and cloud-based tax preparation application Pro Tax and CaseWare Cloud.
Doing it all Securely
Of course for any business security of data is a top priority. Every business, including those operating online need extensive IT policies, controls, and frequent risk assessment. Businesses operating online should also assess their need for cyber insurance. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your insurance company, that’s what we did. It actually helped us select our insurance provider as some took our requirement more seriously than others.
At a time that we are experiencing a collective shift in the way to do business and the way we live, there are opportunities in the disruption of COVID-19. Businesses that can shift to successfully operate virtually are in a position to continue to thrive - now and in the future. We promise the tools are simple, affordable and user friendly. You can do this!
Being fully virtual has enabled our business to be resilient through the shutdowns impacting many others. It has given us balance and flexibility in our work and family lives. We hope you are able to notice the same as you make your shift.