In light of recent events and the need for many office jobs to transition to a remote environment, we thought we would pull back the curtain on how we operate in an effort to ease the transition and help as many businesses as possible stay afloat in these uncertain times. Our company and team has operated remotely since the beginning, back in 2015, so we wanted to share some tips in hopes that it could ease some stress in your lives.
While we realize remote work won’t work for all jobs, it can work for most office positions and we want to help where we can. There are immediate needs you may be facing in finding software to support your team, and establishing processes that can help keep you moving forward. If you have questions regarding any of the resources we discuss, please feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 844-475-7272.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:33 – Intro
- 04:10 – Software options for running your business remotely
- 05:05 – Remote solution for meetings
- 08:54 – Remote solution for project management
- 13:50 – Remote solution for team communication
- 16:54 – Remote solution for time tracking
- 20:04 – Remote solution for phone call forwarding
- 24:09 – Remote solution for signature on agreements and contracts
- 26:30 – Remote solutions for bill pay and collecting money
- 33:53 – Remote solutions for sharing physical documents
- 36:25 – Recommended processes for running your business remotely
Software options for running your business remotely
When it comes to software our goal is to get you up and running as quickly as possible. We are letting you know which systems we use, as well as some other options available. You will want to consider your needs as a company and prioritize what needs to be implemented first. One of the nice parts about these programs is that they offer complete free versions or free trials so you can test them out before committing to a monthly fee.
WARNING: These systems are pretty darn user-friendly and once you start using them, you may never want to go back to your office!
Meetings are obviously a big part of your team dynamic and the ability to continue to have team meetings while working remotely is a huge part of transitioning from working 100% face-to-face to going virtual. Here are some options that can help ease that pain.
- GoToMeeting and Zoom – We actually use both of these systems here at PJS & Co. CPAs and love them both! There is a free version of Zoom that offers many features and GoToMeeting offers a 14-day free trial. There are options to share your screen, show your webcam, allow keyboard and mouse control, a white board feature, recording, etc. The system and plan you choose will depend on the size of your team and your company’s needs.
- Join.me is another option available to you and your team. We actually used to use this software as well when they offered a free version. Their paid versions offer many nice features as well, but the other two options above work out better for our firm.
Whether you work alone or with a team, a project management tool can be very helpful in prioritizing your work and tracking progress. The following solutions allow you to do that and collaborate with your team pretty seamlessly when it comes to remote work.
- Trello – We use Trello here at PJS & Co. CPAs. It is one of our favorite systems and is completely free if you would like 10 team boards or less. There are paid plans for $10 – $21 per month at the time of this recording that offer unlimited usage, priority support, and more depending on the number of users. To give you another head start, here is a great tutorial that can help you maximize your productivity in the system.
- Asana is another project management software available with various options and pricing. It is very similar to Trello in the way that you can visualize your work and collaborate with your team.
- Monday.com and Basecamp are other options available if you are looking for something more robust. There are no free options available but they have embedded forms and other features that may be helpful for your team.
If your team is used to working in an office, they may likely just pop their head in your office to ask a quick question, but what happens when they no longer have that access? Is your phone constantly blowing up or are you receiving texts right and left? Here is our recommendation for an alternative for remote team communication.
- Slack – We use this for fun within our team, but this messaging software is used for many different purposes within various companies. You have the ability to create channels by topic or send a direct message to one individual person. It’s like your own internal messaging system for your team.
- Time Tracker by eBillity – This is the time tracking software we use because it integrates directly with QuickBooks Online. They offer a free, 14-day trial and then you pay by user per month moving forward. There is an app that your team can download and use on their phones as well. There are other solutions available, but we have experience with this one and would recommend it for ease of use and especially if you are looking for a system that will integrate with QBO.
- Grasshopper – We have been long-time fans of Grasshopper as it offers the capability to forward calls from a business line to your cell phone. Within minutes, you can sign up for an account and forward calls from your brick and mortar location by whatever service you use to your Grasshopper number. You can also setup extensions for any employees or team members! Your team can download the Grasshopper App onto their phones and make and receive calls that look like they are coming from your business number. This does use data to do this but they have add-on features like receiving email drafts of the voice mails (which are auto-transcribed) and texting.
- Adobe Sign – Our preferred method of collecting signatures for contracts and agreements is Adobe Sign. We are able to send documents out for signature via email and our clients may electronically sign. We then receive a pdf of the signed contract and all steps are tracked and managed through the system as well. You can send reminders, look at the history of the document and more.
- Docusign – This is the system we use through our tax software and it is used more regularly with documents that contain sensitive information.
Bill Pay & Collecting Money
You may be trying to figure out the best way to pay bills when you receive a bill at one location but someone that needs to review it or pay it is somewhere else. We have a resource that we have used for years that can help and has features on the accounts payable and accounts receivable sides.
- Bill.com for Bill Pay – With Bill.com, you can send an invoice to a bill.com inbox and have several folks review/approve/pay it to get it out the door. You can set up email notifications, so when it’s your turn to review and approve a bill, you are notified. You are able to sync it with your accounting software such as Quickbooks desktop, Quickbooks Online, Xero and more. It can be set up so that vendors can get the money direct-deposited to their accounts. If you have regular payments or you can just have Bill.com issue a check and send it out on your behalf. It really simplifies and streamlines the bill pay process to ensure proper approvals are in place and all documents are stored and able to be easily retrieved in the future.
- Bill.com for Collecting Money – This system also allows you to invoice your clients. Depending on your business, you may need a way to collect funds if you are working remotely and not seeing people in person. Bill.com can send invoices via email and clients can enter their banking or credit card data to pay you safely and securely.
Secure Document Sharing
Now what if you have a physical document that you need to share with your team? What is the best way to get that out to them? There are many documents that should not be shared via email due to cybersecurity concerns and you should avoid sending anything containing sensitive information such as SSNs and other personal information by email.
- Google Drive – For a long time we used Google and G-Suite as our main way of sharing documents in a secure environment with our clients. We could create a folder and limit which users would have access, which allowed us to securely share private documents with our clients. They could upload information that was too sensitive to email. Now, we have a practice and workflow management system for accounting firms that we use instead but Google worked well for us for many years and is a solution that will work for many traditional offices trying to move over to a virtual work environment.
Recommended processes for running your business remotely
When talking about shifting from a brick and mortar office situation to 100% remote, there are a few major shifts and challenges you will come across. This, combined with the fact that some of you are likely also facing the challenge of working from home with children now, will likely provide a few hurdles. But, you can make this work and you can successfully manage your team remotely while being productive! Here are our suggestions to help you manage.
Create a routine
While it can be tempting to give yourself more leeway while you’re not in a traditional office setting, we recommend giving yourself a schedule and sticking to it as close as you can. This will give you the opportunity to compartmentalize your work and maintain a regular schedule your family can get used to as you make this transition. Scheduled nap times or quiet times can become your productivity power hours and allow you the focused time you need to push through and wrap up projects, work on spreadsheets that require your full focus, or make any necessary phone calls. Episode #17: Productivity and How it Relates to Growth and Profitability could be a helpful episode for you to listen as well. We share our tips for productivity and hope you can implement some of these things to help things run smoother.
Boundaries can help your family and friends understand that you cannot answer questions while you are on the phone or in a meeting. While this is difficult with younger children, it is still something you can work on even when they are small. You can establish certain times during the day or a certain area that is off limits. You can also set boundaries with your team and let them know that phone calls are only going to be conducted if previously scheduled.
Give yourself (and your team) a break
This will be a large adjustment. Not only is this a new way of working, but it’s also a hectic time in life. The world seems to be changing by the hour and we are trying to make the best of the situation we are dealt. We are handling new systems, new routines, new environments, juggling kids and home and external stressors, etc. Remember to give yourself a break. Go check out Ellen on Instagram or listen to your favorite song. We need to give ourselves and our team some grace during this time.
Ask for feedback from team members and clients
Touch base with your team and clients to ensure their needs are being met. In a virtual environment, there is no such thing as over-communication. We encourage regular meetings with your internal team and more touch points with your clients to ensure that nothing is falling through the cracks and communication remains open.
Please feel free to share this with everyone you know who could use these tips! We wanted to provide high level information in an effort to help you keep your team going if at all possible. Let us know if you’re able to take these software and procedural suggestions to overcome any challenges you’re facing! We would love to hear from you. Stay safe and healthy.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Trello Tutorial 2020: How to Use Trello to Crush Productivity
- Time Tracker by eBillity
- Adobe Sign
- Google Drive
- Episode #17: Productivity and How it Relates to Growth and Profitability