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Last updated: 16th September, 2020


How to successfully create a remote business

Setting up a business used to involve finding suitable premises – whether that’s an office, shop or workshop. However, advances in technology are now bringing more and more opportunities to ‘work from anywhere’. If you’re thinking about setting up a remote business or if you’re thinking of moving your team to work online, our guide to successfully creating a remote business can help.

Freelancers and entrepreneurs have been doing it for years, and now millions across the globe have experienced working from home as businesses have adapted to being ‘remote’. Increasingly, the opportunity of home working is opening our eyes to a new world of possibilities. So how do you set up a business for remote success? In this guide we cover where to start, and key success factors – such as goal setting and communication, successful remote recruitment, technology and tools and creating a remote company culture – to help you run a successful and effective remote business.

What is remote working?

Remote working sees professionals working outside of the ‘traditional’ office environment and predominantly working from home or at a shared office space within easy reach. Remote working is based on the premise that your location is irrelevant; you could be at home, or anywhere else in the world.

We are now discovering that working remotely is not the sole preserve of web developers, designers, online tutors or writers. Any job that can be done with a computer, phone and reliable internet connection can be carried out remotely – therefore, any business that relies on the same technology can be set up remotely too.

Benefits of working remotely

Individuals and companies alike can benefit from remote work. For employees, removing a long commute is often incredibly attractive, as well as increased flexibility.

The benefits to businesses, however, go much further. Financially, companies are often able to reduce overheads by not paying for physical office space, business rates, utility bills and other expenses. Arguably the biggest benefit is the ability to recruit talent and expertise from anywhere in the world – there’s no need to be tied to recruiting locally or for potential employees to re-locate to join the team.

The challenges with remote working

There are of course challenges that come with working remotely, especially if you’re doing it at home. This can be further exacerbated if you are the boss!

Making sure you separate your home and work life by ‘switching off’ after your working day is more difficult if they’re both in the same location. At the end of the day, once you have put your laptop away, try as much as possible to avoid checking emails, and spend your free time doing something you enjoy, such as cooking or relaxing with family. Finding a work/life balance is also crucial for your professionalism – if you have a partner or children at home, setting boundaries around interruptions and calls (not to mention a lock on the office door) can help stop the unplanned ‘guest appearance’ on an important client call.

Working from home also requires you and your team to have a certain amount of organisation, discipline and routine to make sure that you get into – and stay in – a working mindset. Some people find it easier to work when they have the guidance or support of someone sitting close by and organising their schedule.

Taking a broader view, if you are setting up a remote business it can be difficult to establish company culture without the regular face-to-face contact. More time and effort will be required to make sure everyone understands your goals as well the best ways of achieving them. This is also the case if you are adapting your office-based business to a remote working model – while you may already have a strong culture and approach to teamwork, this will still need nurturing.

So, with the benefits and challenges in mind how do you create a successful remote business?

Where to start with creating a remote business

Starting any business begins with careful planning. The business must be formally registered, and you need to get to grips with relevant tax obligations and reporting before you turn to the more exciting elements, like a website and a go to market strategy. For businesses in the UK, HM Revenue and Customs has comprehensive information on how to set up your business and your obligations as a sole trader or as a limited company.

When launching a remote business, or transforming to a remote working model, you need to think more broadly about what you’re lacking by not having a team in one location, as well as how you can turn this into an advantage. For example, specific management and reporting measures can ensure that your team is still engaged and working to their best ability and capacity without in-person performance reviews. You also need to make sure you have the right platforms and services to support successful collaboration and communication – which we cover later in this article – when used correctly these platforms can not only replace but improve over-the-desk chat and sharing.

Ensure you make the most of the advantages on offer, such as potentially having teams or suppliers in different time zones. This removes the limitations of a 9-5 in a single time zone and enable your business to have 18 hours in the working day, as well as offering more flexibility in serving a global marketplace.

Setting goals and communicating direction

Just as with the launch of any company, to make a success of a remote business, setting company-wide goals is crucial. It ensures team members understand what they are working towards and gives business owners something to measure their successes against.

The same strategy should be used if you are adopting an office-based remote working model – while you may already have a strong culture and approach to teamwork, this will still need nurturing.

Researching performance and communication techniques which translate well to remote working, such as setting objectives and key results (OKRs), can help you understand how everyone’s contributions can drive towards a goal. To support this, OKR platforms such as 7Geese can track, monitor and share progress and take the place of a face-to-face performance check in.

Have the right tools in place

Project management skills and business apps that can help collaborative working will also be key to your success. You can read more about the best business apps on the market here, but some of the most popular include Trello, Slack and Asana. These offer different ways to set up and track the progress of different tasks within your projects and enable file sharing and collaborative working, as well as working as a platform for communication.

Ensuring you can run your financials remotely, without being reliant on call centres or a bank’s physical branch, can maximise your efficiency. While making same-currency payments is typically straightforward, a service such as PagoFX by Santander can help you make dependable, low-cost international payments to your team or to suppliers that are abroad securely, quickly and easily from your existing business or personal bank account. You can find out more about the benefits of using an international transfer app here.

Once you have your tools in place, make sure everyone is trained so that they’re confident using them to their best advantage. For example, make sure Zoom or Skype for Business backgrounds help with branding and block out pets or children, check that your team have the right security settings and are educated on cyber security when using public services (such as WiFi) and be sure your team have an easy way of contacting you, and vice versa.

Choose the right remote workers and suppliers

Due to the nature of remote working, the pool of candidates and collaborators you can choose from is larger than many physical businesses. You can hire or outsource tasks to anyone no matter the country they live in, but you’ve got to make sure they’re right for you.

It is important to have a motivated and trustworthy team, including external suppliers. Ensuring your recruitment and interview process is aligned to remote working is essential – as well as the application and interview or supplier proposal – and validating people’s skills by setting paid trial tasks can save disappointment and stress down the line. For example, you could test their communication by asking for their interpretation and approach to a task. Alternatively, consider hiring people or tapping suppliers with experience in working remotely, with a record of being self-motivated and working independently to a deadline.

Developing a remote business culture

As employees will not meet very often, more time and effort will be required to ensure everyone feels attached to the cultural values of the organisation, as well as with the teams and leadership.

Online video conferencing platforms give you a way to talk (almost) face-to-face with multiple people in the same meeting. Having regular virtual team meetings can allow employees to provide updates, giving visibility across the team of how everyone is progressing, and highlight issues that need to be shared. It can also provide a chance for people to show off their skills, the work they have done and the successes they’ve achieved.

This can help keep team members motivated and provide them with ways to further their careers within a remote environment. You can also consider ‘meeting up’ for monthly drinks or special activities, such as quizzes or games nights, to help everyone feel like they are a valued part of a team. External consultants, freelancers or service providers can also be an extension of your team, so it’s important that they reflect your values by including them in relevant activities and processes.

Running an effective remote business

All in all, whether you are starting from scratch or adapting to a new way of working, there are many considerations to take when creating your remote business. However, there is even more opportunity for success if you follow some simple rules. With the right processes in place, supported by the best technology and software, you will not only have the best chances of success, but you might have some fun along the way!