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Berkonomics

Leaping off the cliff: Making your business virtual

Dave’s note:  I am so pleased this week to introduce my co-author of “Get Scrappy,” Kim Shepherd, CEO of Decision Toolbox.  Her firm is a model of a virtual company, with over 100 employees and absolutely no office other than a post office box.  Wow!  You’ll enjoy her style and resonate with her message.  Here’s Kim…

By Kim Shepherd

At my CEO roundtables, all too often I listen to leaders who are perfectly positioned to transform their company into a virtual one to great financial gain, but who are afraid to take the first step. These same CEOs sit in their corner offices and email the COO in the next–door office and call their VP of Sales rather than walking down the hall. What they don’t realize is that this is virtual work, and the only hurdle that needs to be overcome is ego. Ego prevents leaders from accepting that the company can function without its leaders—especially it’s CEO—as a physical presence.

In 2000, I joined the company as president, and he and I led the company on a rapid Leaping_off_cliffgrowth clip. In just over eighteen months, we were on track to double in size. Then along came September 11th. Overnight, just about every company went into a hiring freeze and massive layoffs dominated the news. Not a good time to be in the recruitment business. About 65 percent of our competitors went out of business during this time; it was our industry’s version of the Great Depression.

[Email readers, continue here…]  We brainstormed with a consultant and each other.  One idea kept rising to the top of our list: abandoning our Class A office space which had been designed and decorated with great love. It was much more than an office.  At the time, it seemed like the very heart of our firm – and to close it down would mean the end of our company—and our dream. Fortunately, our financial consultant was on hand to coldly point out that, actually, staying in the office space would mean the end of the company.

So we moved out.

The flexible work environment at our virtual company goes beyond work–from–home options.  The entire company is virtual and all of its team members work from home offices. Sophisticated, proprietary technology coupled with technologies such as VoIP phones, IM, and social networking tools keep the team linked together, while a progressive, results–focused management style keeps performance and productivity at a Get Scrappy front coverhigh level. The company has team members throughout our home state and now even the world, with three of our members working from as far as 7,500 miles away.

The glue that holds the company together is technology and our unconventional culture. Our experience hitting rock bottom helped us to open our eyes (and keep them open) to new ideas, no matter how outrageous or impossible they might seem.

Getting into a suit, commuting hours to work, spending time at the water cooler, “earning” two weeks of vacation time each year, requesting time off to tend to a sick child—technology has antiquated all of these conventional ideas.

Your leap into the virtual world doesn’t have to be dramatic; simply start with using it just one day a week, and monitor not only the productivity but the health of your culture.

(You can find the book at booksellers or by clicking here.

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