Most startups start small: one person, one idea, one computer. As the business grows, though, you have to figure out how to keep everyone moving together: you want to be an octopus (many arms) rather than a hydra (many heads). Conveniently, new technology makes this fluidity and consistency easy to achieve. No matter where your employees are in the world, they can check in via Skype, teleconferencing, telecommuting, or project management software — in addition to the more conventional channels of phone and email.
In fact, new technologies mean that your employees don’t even need to live near a central office; you may have satellite offices, freelancers and independent contractors, or employees who need flexible hours and the ability to work at home. You can grow your workforce by finding the best people out there, wherever they are, and avoid paying their moving costs, since they can stay right where they are. Additionally, you may interact with clients who live in any city around the world, in any time zone. New tech tools make time and space malleable and more versatile.
At Songwhale, we have flat screens in every office which transform the fourth wall (that imaginary boundary between you and the TV screen) into the virtual meeting space. Our fourth wall opens into another office. That office could be anywhere in space, and the only time constraint is that you must both be present at the same time, whatever time that is wherever you both are.
Stand Up for 15 Minutes/Day
Through these flat screens and teleconferencing, we hold a standing meeting every day. For 15 minutes, every Songwhale employee in any of our three offices or on assignment around the world joins in for a communal meeting. At a startup, just like any business, there are a lot of different things going on, and it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page. We’ve found that a standing meeting makes it possible for everyone to track what’s going on and what projects are in the works. The goal is to prevent people from saying “Oh, I wish I had known you were working on that!” or even worse, “But I’ve already spent three days doing x, which is now completely unnecessary!”
Track To-Dos With Software
In addition to the standing meeting, we also use tools like Pivotal Tracker, which allows us to map out projects into step-by-step tasks, assign those tasks to people who can fulfill them, and then follow as the tasks are prioritized, completed, and enfolded into the next person’s work domain. Pivotal Tracker is like a group checklist that not only ensures all the steps in a project get done (and get done in an appropriate order) but also allows you to track progress, monitor employees’ productivity, and take pleasure in crossing items off the team’s to-do list. Basecamp is another robust option.
While using software can seem like an extra step, it streamlines projects by clarifying the required steps and responsibilities while also making employees accountable. Its added value is worth the redundancy.
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The basic tools of email and the phone began the flexibility revolution, but new tools have reached a level of efficiency where productivity is no longer negatively impacted but exponentially increased by a few small systems. Simple tools like Pivotal Tracker allow a project to be organized, instant messaging and chat help answer quick questions among a few people, and video conferencing like Skype creates an in-depth, face-to-face conversation with people around the world.
All of these tools are intuitive. People gravitate toward the ones that work best for them, integrating their behaviors with the expectations of the company. Through an engagement with multiple layers of tools, your company can stay on track, stay in touch, and stay connected.
Ty Morse is the CEO of Songwhale, an interactive technology company focusing on enterprise SMS solutions and Direct Response campaigns, both domestic and international. Since the company’s 2007 launch, Ty has grown Songwhale from 2 people to over 100. A two time Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Ty has been featured in the NY Times, Wired, NPR, PBS, and Discovery Channel and published in Forbes, the NY Report, and Geek.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.