It was appropriate, in a way, that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Supporting Strategies | North Shore Long Island to reimagine our annual Business Fundamentals Bootcamp as a virtual event. With more and more businesses transitioning to a remote-work model as 2020 began, the pandemic merely accelerated what was already an obvious trend. So we made that transition the theme of this year's Bootcamp.
Remote Work Best Practices
Supporting Strategies can speak from experience on this timely topic, since we've used a remote-work model for our outsourced bookkeeping and controller services from the beginning. Any successful work model involves a balance of people and process. Successful businesses use available technology, such as the cloud, to evolve their processes to benefit their people as circumstances dictate (like a global pandemic, for instance).
But it's also important to document those processes as they evolve. Here at Supporting Strategies, we've developed a searchable collaborative online documentation library. Whenever one person discovers something is outdated, they immediately and proactively update it in the system and retrain their teammates accordingly. It's part of our corporate culture, and our employees accept this responsibility as a core part of what we do.
The challenge of documenting processes while integrating evolving technologies is more pronounced at larger organizations where silos develop within departments. Each department tends to gravitate toward a particular specialized software, but these various solutions don't necessarily connect with each other. The trick is in coordinating all those different technologies — a challenge compounded by the sudden transition to a remote-work model.
To facilitate a lively discussion about these issues, we invited a pair of guest speakers with deep wells of relevant experience: James Rocker, CEO of IT and cybersecurity specialists Nerds That Care, and Kerrian Bard Fournier, CEO of the coaching and consulting firm Vybrante Ventures. Here are some of their insights on the things that matter most when making a successful transition to the small-business workplace of the future.
Remote Work Processes: Keep Them Simple
Rocker noted that, big or small, high-tech or low-tech, nearly every business could benefit from simplifying and streamlining its processes. Every process requires a certain number of steps, and the goal is to reduce that number. "If it's 10 steps, can we get it down to eight steps?" Rocker said. "And then can we get it down to five steps? How can we make the business more efficient?"
This approach is particularly important as companies navigate the trial-and-error of transitioning to a remote environment. "The landscape has totally changed with people not being in the office anymore," Rocker said. "That's been a challenge for many of our clients."
But that challenge also represents an opportunity. As Fournier pointed out, "Everything now has to be recreated from a place of intention."
Technology: Find a Trusted Partner
The widespread migration to a work-from-home (WFH) environment would have been impossible without the recent revolution in online technology. Digital tools are available to help with every aspect of operating a business remotely using the cloud.
However, as Rocker pointed out, all those options can create "paralysis by analysis," starting with the cloud itself. "There's actually not just one cloud," he said. "There's a public cloud, there's a private cloud — there's all these different clouds."
That's why every business owner today must find trusted partners, including a managed service provider, to help them sift through all those options. The point isn't to use every available online tool — it's to find the tools that best support your business and your processes.
Again, you need to be highly intentional when choosing online collaboration tools, customer relationship management systems, online payment-processing solutions and so on. "You don't want to just throw all these tools at people," Rocker said. "You want to have a plan. Do your due diligence. Align with good vendor partners."
This is especially important when it comes to finding the right cybersecurity partner. "Cybersecurity is no longer a job for one person," Rocker added. "You need a company that specializes in it."
Remote Work Culture: Set Clear Expectations
Fournier cited the Peter Drucker quote, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast," pointing out that when COVID hit, "a lot of strategies ended up in the garbage pail."
That made culture a bigger differentiator than ever.
Fournier spent a lot of time talking about the many misconceptions about what culture actually is. It's not about vague slogans like "Teamwork."
"At the end of the day," she said, "it's the actions that make a company culture come alive. … To be strategically relevant, culture must prioritize behaviors that are essential to the success of the business. Employees have to trust that it's real. So it's not just words — it's the way the company operates."
In other words, what you do as a business leader matters much more than what you say. And that has never been more evident than it was this year, as employees, customers and vendors all wrestled with the anxiety of this strange new normal. "This has been a more heightened conversation than I've ever seen in my 20-some years of consulting on this type of work," Fournier said.
As employees adapt to a WFH environment, with its shifting responsibilities and protocols, it's vital that business leaders spell out the target cultural values that are expected of them. It's also important to create an environment that emphasizes coaching employees in how to correct mistakes rather than simply calling them out.
Tying It All Together
The small-business workplace of the future will be one in which processes, technology and culture are inseparable parts of a unified whole. Because, as Rocker said, "When you implement these processes and all this technology, it will change the culture of your business."
To get more insights from the panel, watch the complete webinar here.
Learn More About Remote-Work Strategies
At Supporting Strategies, our experienced, U.S.-based professionals use secure, best-of-breed technology and a proven process to provide a full suite of bookkeeping and controller services. Are you ready to learn how you can move your business forward? Contact Supporting Strategies today.
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Supporting Strategies is not a CPA firm.