How to Successfully Manage A Virtual Team
As a busy financial advisor, you’ll eventually hit a point where you need to outsource certain aspects of your business in order to scale up. If that’s a challenging thought, it’s probably due to the fact that your business has thrived as a result of pure determination and your ability to wear multiple hats.
The problem? Continuing down that path is not sustainable for long-term growth. And contrary to popular opinion, neither is hiring a group of full-time, on-site employees.
Instead, a far more efficient way to lighten your load while growing your business is by creating a virtual team.
Go Against the Grain
While there’s a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to employing a virtual team, done right it could exponentially grow your business.
That’s because, for all the perceived challenges that virtual teams present, they bring about a tremendous amount of opportunity. For starters, having a virtual team greatly decreases the overhead spent on office space, payroll, and employee benefits — which improves your bottom line — without reducing operational productivity.
A real-world example of this is found in financial planning firms that employ virtual paraplanners. In these instances, the firm owner can utilize the expertise of a seasoned paraplanner for as few as 5 hours per week — a significant savings over their full-time, in-office counterparts.
In addition, hiring a virtual team allows you to attract a higher level of talent because you’re not restricted to choosing only local candidates.
Find the Right People
In order to have a successful virtual team, you must find the right people. The best virtual employees will provide a unique skill set that allows you to delegate important tasks with confidence that they will not only be done, but they will be done according to your standard.
Put another way, every employee hired should be a glowing example of the company’s brand. In order to accomplish that with your virtual hires, start by creating an avatar of the perfect employee — with the exact qualities sought.
Think about why those qualities are important for the company and how the employee would fit into your culture. This list should be comprehensive, covering work ethic, interpersonal skills, and personality traits.
In doing this, keep in mind that the tasks you are looking to outsource could affect the type of person you want to hire. For example, if the person you hire is going to be purely back office and not interact with clients, they may not need the same skill set as someone that will be interacting with clients — and vice versa.
In addition, be sure to include undesirable qualities as well. If there’s no allowance for employees that lack a passion for the industry, this should be at the forefront of your mind when considering candidates.
Clearly Define Tasks (and Set Deadlines)
You’re the boss and you know what needs to be done. The problem is, simply telling someone to go out and complete ‘X’ task is seldom the most popular way to manage a team — especially in a virtual environment.
It is far better to provide detailed descriptions of the tasks with examples of what the final result should look like. If possible, use a screen capture tool to document exactly how you’re currently carrying out the tasks you’re looking to offload and the steps you take to analyze the results.
This way, they can hit the ground running with little, if any, misunderstanding.
In addition to defining exactly what needs to be done, you must set clear deadlines for when tasks need to be completed.
If not, Parkinson’s Law will take over.
Parkinson’s Law is a business observation that says “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
Simply put, if a task does not have a defined deadline associated with it the chances of it getting done are slim to none.
Even if the task you’re delegating doesn’t have a defined deadline, create one anyway and use intermediate soft deadlines as a checkpoint to make sure progress is being made along the way.
Unlike a business run with onsite employees, a virtual team without systems in place can quickly fall apart. The difference lies in the fact that an onsite team can compensate (to some degree) for a lack systems and processes due to the fact that individuals work in close proximity and can communicate in person — in real time.
On a virtual team, each person operates in their own silo. Unfortunately, this opens the door for team members to develop their own processes which may interfere with the way other team members are getting their jobs done. For that reason, it’s best to have a standardized, documented, way of working that is easily accessible to the entire team.
A great way to make this happen is by using a CRM with workflow capabilities. By establishing standard workflows and best practices, you can ensure that everyone on the team is providing your clients with the best/same experience.
Set Communication Expectations
Each person on a virtual team is going to have a different style of communicating and in order for everyone to be on the same page, it is incumbent upon you to establish communication expectations from the outset.
The great news is, there are no rules on how you must communicate within your business so whether you prefer instant message, phone calls, emails, or something else, you set the tone and your team will follow suit.
That said, keep in mind that there is a lot more to communication than what can be conveyed in a phone call or email — not to mention working on a virtual team can be an isolating experience.
Ensuring that the culture of the company is extended beyond the confines of each virtual employees’ work area will make them feel like they are truly a part of the organization.
For that reason, you should aim to arrange for a virtual meeting by utilizing Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, or a similar service at least once a month. This will allow for both formal and informal collaboration opportunities which is imperative for the success of virtual teams.
All considered, managing a virtual team can seem like a daunting task especially when you’ve become accustomed to operating as a lone ranger, but the benefits can be enormous for those companies that get it right.
As an additional resource, I recommend reading the book Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker to get an idea of what types of tasks you should outsource a virtual team and the best practices for managing them.
Are you interested in adding virtual staff but need some help getting started? We should talk! Sign up here to schedule an introductory call to learn more about our services and how we can help.