In many of my presentations, I point out that an increasing number of people will no longer have traditional 9-5 jobs in office buildings. Of course, I’m not the only one to observe that the labor market is potentially global and that entrepreneurs who live anywhere can connect with others who have the skills they need to make their businesses successful.
When I say these things, people generally agree – in the abstract – but they seem not to know how they can actually do this. They just don’t know how to start and sustain a global virtual business.
This is a particularly important problem for entrepreneurs who do not live in one of the half dozen biggest metropolitan areas in this country or their equivalent metropolitan areas elsewhere.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that last year a book was published that can set virtual entrepreneurs on their way. It’s “Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business” by Chris Ducker, a serial entrepreneur based in the Philippines. (He’s also responsible for the slide above.)
Ducker starts by describing the feeling that entrepreneurs have that they must do everything themselves because they can’t find others to help them. And, of course, those who are outside of big cities feel even lonelier. But reminding readers of that feeling is really just the motivation for reading on.
“Virtual Freedom” is essentially a practical handbook for managing a virtual global workforce. It goes into some detail about hiring people, compensating them, managing them, etc. It provides case studies and references to tools that the entrepreneur can use.
It’s interesting that the advice in much of the book applies to management in general, not just management of virtual workforces.
Perhaps managing a virtual workforce forces you to think about management more clearly than when you manage in traditional offices. In those offices, people seem to think they know the rules and patterns of behavior – even when they don’t really know.
Some of the advice is common sense, except we all know that common sense is not so common.
For example, he gives examples of entrepreneurs who were frustrated by the poor quality of those they depended on, until the entrepreneurs realized the problem was, in large part, on their side – a failure to communicate clearly and specifically what they were asking for and a failure to verify this was understood by workers who often came from other cultures. But in the diverse workforce in many countries today, this is an issue even in traditional offices.
Along with communicating clearly, he emphasizes that the entrepreneur needs to think clearly about the tasks that need to be accomplished. After all, when you can’t really look over the shoulders of the people who work for you, the only measure of effectiveness you have is what results they deliver.
Of course, such an approach in a traditional office environment is also a good idea – rather than trying to see if “people are working hard”. It’s easy to look busy. Not so easy to get tasks done and deliver results.
Bottom line: if you want to get a quick course in management of virtual staff, read this book.
© 2015 Norman Jacknis