The past few years have seen a slew of startups that are completely remote. Zapier, an online service that allows businesses to quickly integrate their apps with multiple APIs is fully remote and so are other popular names like Close.io, Automattic (the makers of WordPress) and TopTal.
Launching a fully remote business is attractive for a number of reasons. Firstly, you get to hire the best talent regardless of where they are located in. Secondly, a fully remote business is also cheaper given that your business does not have to deal with all the bureaucracy that comes with running a physical office.
However, there are also a few issues that come with running a fully remote startup. Perhaps the biggest among them is to make investors believe that you run a legitimate company. Investors, regardless of whether they are debt or equity focused, place greater trust in your startup when it has a traditional setup. There are also concerns with respect to collaborating within your team and working with external stakeholders.
These challenges can however be overcome with proper execution. Here is a short guide on how to go about launching a successful fully-remote startup.
Establishing an office space
As a legitimate business, you need an office space to not just house your employees, but also for several other purposes. A registered company address is necessary to register your business, open a bank account, handle correspondence with clients, and also for tax purposes. It is fairly common for businesses, regardless of fully remote or otherwise, to register a business in a country or state that is different to where they are located.
Fully remote startups may consider investing in a virtual office space that provides them with a physical address in addition to other amenities that you may need depending on the kind of business you operate. This provides you the legitimacy that you need when seeking investments, opening a bank account or reaching out to clients.
While it is pretty common for startups to bootstrap their way into profitability, there are a few inherent risks with this approach. Mainly, you run the risk of running into a well-funded competitor who can scale up exponentially faster than a bootstrapped business can dream of. Also, talking to VCs or bankers every once in a while gives you a reality check on where your business is headed. This allows you to pivot your business model and thus turn profitable quicker.
The first step in the fundraising process is having a proper business plan. A well-drafted business plan should not only talk about the opportunities that exist with your offering, but also the inherent risks and challenges and your strategy to overcome them. This gives a potential investor a double-sided perspective of your business and enables them to take a decision that is favorable to you.
As a fully remote startup, you may however face questions that traditional business won’t. The most common question is related to the risks of employee turnover. Unlike brick and mortar office spaces where there employees face logistical issues switching companies, there is no such thing with remote jobs. It is a good idea to address these concerns in your business plan and showcase how having employees around the country or the world can be an asset instead of being a liability.
Optimizing workforce productivity
While fully remote startups come with advantages like lower overheads and the ability to hire better resources, they also present challenges with respect to coordination and collaboration. This is especially true if you have employees working from across different time-zones.
While there are definitely disadvantages here, they can be managed with the right strategy. One thing to consider is to invest in a digital workplace that enables seamless coordination between various teams in an organization over a virtual platform. This is important because communication between employees happens in both real-time and non-real-time scenarios in a remote team. A digital workplace that can consolidate these communications in one place ensures optimal engagement and productivity.
Digitize and automate
Digitizing your workspace and automating work processes has a number of advantages even for regular businesses. For fully-remote teams, this provides additional benefits. Firstly, digitizing information accelerates the transfer of information between various members of a remote team. In addition to this, automation also reduces the interventions required by human employees in a work process. This minimizes errors due to miscommunication among remote workers.
So how do you go about this? To begin with, you may integrate the various components of your interaction with a client like payment processing, document management, generation of online invoices, task management and ERP in one place. In addition to this, you may also identify specific bottlenecks in your line of business and incorporate custom tools to automate these work processes.
In conclusion, it is worth repeating that running a fully remote business has its advantages along with a big set of challenges. The guidelines outlined above should however help such businesses tide over the challenges and enable setting up a system that is primed for success.