Virtual Business Pros and Cons

Hi everyone! I decided to write a blog post talking about the pros and cons of starting and having a virtual business. Check it out here and let me know what you think some of the pros and cons are of working from a home office:

This is not exactly because you would be in a virtual business but it increases the risk for lack of idea diversity.

If you operate where you don’t have any opportunity for brainstorming you may find you miss some good ideas. Clearly you can accomplish this via other methods than face to face but sometimes just a casual chat about a business topic can create a “lightbulb moment”.

so I am currently working for an international multi-billion $ company. and we do have some offices but we operate much more like a virtual business (@Susan Fennema ’s words). And before I worked for a small international company called Nokia. again worked in a similar model.

I worked out of my “home office” at Nokia and get to work from home when I am not with a client with the current company. Most things that @Susan Fennema said were fairly on track. The Isolation is easily overcome by working a few hours from somewhere else like a coffee shop, park, etc. When I was at Nokia at least once a week I would drive over to the Cigar Bar and hang out for the afternoon working from there. Why? it gave me people to talk to and be around. Also it gave me a different locale to be at. I can’t tell you the number of different coffee shops I have worked from since the late 90s.

communicating with others is important. @Susan Fennema mentioned things like Slack. That works. Being on this forum works too.

As for no place to have clients meet you, I have used coffee shops, resturants, and other locales for years. And if you need a more formal type conference room, there are many places (like hotels or specialty locations) that rent a conference room for a nominal charge. I met several Partners and clients at the above mentioned Cigar Bar. Just depends on the client.

just my 2 cents worth before I run into my next meeting.

Obviously I’m biased, having been working full-time from a home office since 2008 and part-time since 2003.

I think it’s all Pro and I think most of your cons are easily mitigated. For client visits, I would usually rent an office (co-working spaces make this super-easy) or meet at a restaurant (which also often have meeting rooms you can rent). Using SaaS means you don’t need IT staff, a huge pro in my book. There’s plenty of noise at typical offices as well; fire trucks racing around downtown spring to mind. Video (Zoom, Slack or Skype) all work great and are often also used by people that are actually in the same office.

As Mark mentions, face-to-face can be helpful, but it is not truly needed all the time. When needed you can always get the team together at a central location.

My tips are here: 6 Ways to Work Efficiently from Home

And I totally recommend reading REMOTE: Office Not Required.

Used to work from home for years and do still have my home office available and well equipped for working outside office hours. During office hours I mostly work from my rented office which is about 2 miles from home. Like to be on my way from breakfast table to office, mostly by bicycle.
Remote office gives me the opportunity to work with others coming to me, create some distance between work and leisure, gives me a more professional look in the playing field and last but not least I have chats with locals here in the building.

[quote=360796:@Mark Strickland]This is not exactly because you would be in a virtual business but it increases the risk for lack of idea diversity.

If you operate where you don’t have any opportunity for brainstorming you may find you miss some good ideas. Clearly you can accomplish this via other methods than face to face but sometimes just a casual chat about a business topic can create a “lightbulb moment”.[/quote]

Mark- there are definitely pros and cons that I have not included. One way around the idea problem is using Slack. I find a lot brainstorming going on there with my clients and my team members. Might even give you more options for lightbulb moments because you don’t even have to bump into each other - you can just immediately post what’s on your mind.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I love the input and the different experiences. That’s part of the beauty of a virtual business is that you can make it whatever you want it to be. @Paul Lefebvre - I’m biased too. I love it and wouldn’t change it. I also love working from home because of the additional productivity it gives me. But, @Joost Rongen - your set up with a remote office is also very appealing to many. @scott boss - I have also hosted meetings at airport meeting rooms, which makes it really convenient if you have people flying in for a meeting. Sometimes, they can just fly back out the same day without even leaving the airport.

Part 2 is coming soon. I’ll post here when it’s ready.

I do work remote 3 days each week and I have one other project where I almost always work remote and most of the interaction is on the phone. For the most part it works OK but I think that can depend on the skills and motivation of all parties involved. A certain amount of my remote work leaves me feeling “neglected” because the “boss” does not do a very good job of communicating … remotely or in person.

As a slight aside … and the risk of “ridicule” here is another thought.

Electronic tools are great when used correctly but I personally believe there is a risk of wanting to “tell” rather than “listen” when the tool “time-delays” the response (email, text messages, forums, Facebook, etc.). Stephen Covey said “Seek to understand before being understood”. Realtime collaboration tools do help with this time delay.

I am NOT a fan of Facebook because of many issues but I think it fosters a sense of “telling” rather than “listening” with an open mind. (Not that Facebook was intended as a team collaboration tool.)

My mom, WAAAAAY back used the “first facebook”. She sat across the kitchen table with other women in the neighborhood and they had actual “facetime”. And yes, interacting face to face can also be oriented around “telling” and not “listening” but hearing the words and seeing the facial and body language adds many subtle nuances to the message. If you spend your time in face to face meetings formulating what you want to say while somebody else is talking that is probably not very productive either.

So … you should use all tools at your disposal whether they are electronic that let teams work remotely or face to face meetings. But I believe the real key is “Seek to understand before being understood” but that needs to be practiced by ALL parties without regard to how you are interacting.

there are also some people that can’t handle working remote. wrong personality or something. a few years back (or so) I worked with a guy that whenever he worked from home we could only get about .5-1 hours worth of work out of him that day. too many distractions. in the physical office he was fine. just not remote. then there was another guy that worked much better at home since he didn’t have the people distractions. when he came to the office we got about 2 hours of work out of him. rest of the time was socializing with people.

and as for meetings at airports, before 9/11 I used to have meetings in the airports all the time. I would have people meet me at the Delta Crown Room and we would meet in one of the conference rooms. Now you can only get to those places if you have a ticket. And you have to go through TSA Security Theatre. Much harder to do. Some/Most airports don’t have meeting rooms outside of security as they don’t want to have a security issue so close to the airport.

can’t wait until your follow up post.

[quote=360822:@Mark Strickland]“Seek to understand before being understood”

No risk of ridicule. That is absolutely dead on. And, can be a problem whether you go to work in an office with others every day or you don’t. We all need to focus on that.

@scott boss - there are absolutely those that shouldn’t work remote and those that you wished did all the time! It is definitely a personality trait, I think. Although some of it is just structure and responsibility.

Love Field and DFW here in Dallas both have meeting rooms outside of security, but that could absolutely be a non-starter if your airport didn’t allow it. Most airports also have hotels really nearby if you want a conference room as an alternative.

Seconding Paul’s recommendation of REMOTE: Office Not Required .

Basecamp (the company, not the product) really is a remote company, so they’re preaching what they practice.

Anthony - you are dead on right there. (and REMOTE is GREAT!) Basecamp develops INTERNALLY though (not with clients) and Basecamp 3 is a perfect tool for how they work. Basecamp 3 doesn’t work as well with external clients though - I prefer Basecamp 2 if you are going down that path. It’s very interesting to read the book and see how their product reflects their culture.