It goes without saying that the current world climate is in an extraordinary situation. In what is an anxious, ever-changing environment, non-essential businesses have had to close down around the world and a majority of people have been urged (or forced) to work from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all permanently, and suddenly.
There are immediate negative impacts… Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, jobs are lost, businesses are shut down (some forever), the economy is in a state of uncertainty, and many other aspects of society will be affected by this pandemic. One thing is for certain: things will change after this, making way for a new future. And it’s closer than we think.
The quote from Darwin is as applicable today as ever. No advice I have heard on how we as a people or as a business should handle these times is better than this quote. Identify and adapt to change while we live within our means and co-operatively work together to overcome both the health and economic threat!
It’s easy to worry about the current state of things and that worry is valid. But there is the potential to change things. Let’s quickly examine the state of business about 12 years ago: during the financial crisis of ‘08/’09, Bitcoin, Uber and AirBnB had all just begun and had yet to gain value. They were merely start-ups that hadn’t fully come to fruition. Now, AirBnb and Uber are both valued at over $33 billion and Bitcoin is worth around $106 billion.
Twelve years ago, most of the well-known online companies that are now household names, were just ideas or start-ups at the time. Even back in 2003, Alibaba and JD.com grew in value after the SARS crisis.
In times of crisis, we adapt to the state of things. Businesses are created, they change and grow, and can thrive if they change to the times. Newsletters like thehustle.co updated daily on the latest in tech business, highlighting those who are evolving to the times. It’s corners on the internet like this that are keen on showcasing the change-makers who are putting a positive impact on their industry.
So what has been the impact to online business and where should we be looking for how to adapt…
Since self-isolation and quarantines have begun around the world, peak traffic has increased on average. With more people at home using the internet, traffic is like never before.
However, some are noting that globally, internet traffic for certain industries have decreased, and competition for ad revenues decreased.
Instead, a lot of internet traffic is geared to the current pandemic. In the last month, web searching has skyrocketed for key terms like “corona,” “lockdown,” and “social distancing,” all things that have only recently entered our daily vocabulary. In the US, the key trending search terms involve protective equipment like face masks and hand sanitizer. Pandemic has become the zeitgeist, but what is the impact of this?
For the short term, major spikes in traffic will mainly revolve around COVID-19-related things, purchasing items, and media articles, as people mainly look for up-to-date info regarding the pandemic.
However, in the long-term, certain industries will see trends in their internet traffic. E-commerce stores selling to customers online have the potential to continue staying open, even while working from home. Many brick and mortar stores have actually made the switch online as well, even selling on WeChat to those who were quarantined in China. This signals a change towards consumers making online their go-to method.
Of course, the airline and travel industries will have one of the largest impacts, as airports and borders close down and general interest in travel comes to a halt.
This begs the question, how has ecommerce and marketing reacted to this sudden change?
In what’s an unsure time, advertising has taken a hit even before the pandemic hit the Western hemisphere.
On March 2, Publicis Groupe’s Zenith said it would lower its December prediction of a 4.3% rise in global ad spending this year due to COVID-19, according to the Wall Street Journal.
That same day, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said the Times “is seeing a slowdown in international and domestic advertising bookings, which we associate with uncertainty and anxiety about the virus,” and that the publisher now expects first-quarter digital advertising revenue to drop 10%.
Ad revenue is changing from its typical industries and in response to this, marketing can make a shift to where consumers are going to go, moving to digital platforms. But there are significant winners and losers by industry.
Think of where major internet traffic is going to go in the coming weeks, months other than general work: to online education, video streaming, various at-home hobbies like crafting, job search sites, discount retailers, at-home exercise. The activities people normally engage in offline will be making shifts to the web.
And the ones who will struggle covers those that require a location or crowds, like traveling, luxury goods, sports, music, and live entertainment, to name a few.
Marketing teams need to adapt to this and shift their content accordingly to regain revenue. Staying online is key. No one will be able to see the billboard outside, anyway.
The general demand seems to be staying strong at the lower price. At MotionInvest.com, a business I own with partners that buys/sells websites, websites are still sold in hours and demand is staying steady.
I had the opportunity speak with Emilia on this topic which she put on her YouTube channel…
This signifies that people are still looking to buy sites and grow in the online space. And we’re not the only ones. EmpireFlippers saw record number of new weekly site listings earlier this month.
Interest rates are going to be at or near zero. so-far a functioning financial system and significant stimulus packages issues by governments. Will all of that mean that money is easier to get than before, the search for yield and stock market volatility will mean there is a boom in debt financing at all price points in the website buying and selling industry?
My prediction is that the smaller and cheaper websites will increase in demand as more people rush to get into the online space. And the demand for larger sites that sell their products for higher prices might go down as less money becomes available to spend (but I could be 100% incorrect and it could be the complete opposite). More people will shift their focus on building sites to grow their value, rather than investing in larger sites. Whether this is a short-term or long-term change is unknown, but a strategy is key to surviving.
With these changes, multiples will be highly dependant on the availability of debt financing and if I had to bet with the data we have now I suspect will decrease in line with the rest of the stock market for the over $100k range and sub $100k will stay flat (but again I could be totally wrong!).
This is e-commerce’s chance to prove just how fundamental it is in our society when we need it most. And companies have stepped up. One of the biggest, Amazon, recently hired 100,000 new workers and are temporarily pausing unloading of all non-essential products to keep up with the demand for goods.
Online businesses will have a chance to thrive and are already seeing a huge spike in the countries most affected. 31% of Italian and 50% of Chinese consumers say they’re using e-commerce more frequently, in a poll by Ipsos MORI.
Lockdowns disrupt the supply chain but that only puts more pressure on manufacturers and e-commerce to get the essentials out there. More people are shopping online but only for the essentials. E-commerce is affected by the supply chain now because it is becoming the core provider.
The key is to always keep moving and not be that guy who’s bulk-buying and reselling sanitizing wipes providing no additional utility in the world. Anyone trying to exploit the current economic situation will suffer because they’re prioritizing the short-term of benefiting themselves and not considering others during an incredibly sensitive time. Google and Facebook are already cracking down on this by banning resales and providing credible info linked on their homepages.
So what will be some of the changes that we can look at…
High quality writers will become more available and interested in remote work.
Our knowledge on how to manage work remotely will become more of the norm and companies will be led to create working from home procedures and policies which will stay in place after the pandemic is over. I have always thought that the next recession would accelerate remote work, companies would ask why do we have an office. With a recession triggered by a pandemic that has forced remote work it will only accelerate that trend.
Specific industries could see a spike in demand after this, like the cleaning, food, and manufacturing of essential goods, as consumers go back to core values and realize these are what is needed and relied on when all else fails.
And in an effort to keep things low-cost, marketing teams will have to come up with solutions to deliver a low-cost-efficient product to clients. For instance, ContentRefined is focusing on this strategy with its new offering from ContentLever (4 posts and social media management for $199/month). Online marketing will increase, and if we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that the internet is the essential medium we need to run industries and stay connected.
At no point in most of our lives has the rate of problem creation been soo extreme. With so much mental capacity freed up due to layoffs, I am optimistic about the businesses that will be created to solve real problems and help the world.
The world needs entrepreneurs now more than any moment in recent history to identify and solve real problems!
Internally we have paused the development on one project to shift focus on a solution (that likely won’t make anything) but will help people – more on that soon.
This article is part of a series we are doing on remote work, a relevant topic in today’s times. With social distancing becoming the new normal, social isolation will also start to take place, especially when it comes to team building. When you are forced into remote work, you might find yourself with a lot of questions. You might have many things you feel like you need to do, and very little time to get it all organized. This article will focus on a simple part of this process – getting your employees familiar with each other through some simple team building introductions.
For more topics on how to best run a remote team checkout these articles…
This article will hopefully give you the tools so you can have your team working together like this…
When it comes to coordinating remote team members, often the most difficult part is getting them on the same page. This all starts with the introduction. This is a very simple part of any working relationship, but is more important than you may think. First impressions are everything, and if people feel connected to their virtual team from the start, they will be more willing and motivated to hold themselves accountable to the standards of their co-workers.
In this article, we will cover some fun ice breaker questions and games for setting up your remote workers. These team ice breakers for remote team will get your employees introduced the right way. These are fun activities, which are easy to introduce, and will hopefully help things progress into a great working relationship. Let’s get started.
I know, this one’s a little boring, but it’s also by far the most common team building exercise, so good to get it out of the way first. A basic introduction probably is composed of “tell us a little bit about yourself”. We know, it might not be what you came to this list for, but it’s still a basic, effective and important introduction. If you just want to keep things simple and straightforward, consider this one.
Maybe the second most common introduction game, this one has stood the test of time because it’s so fun and engaging. In this one, the participant tells two truths about themselves, and one lie, and the others guess which is the lie. This is great because it involves interaction with all the participants, which really makes them remember what the other person said. On top of that, these are fun icebreakers and often hilarious. If you really want to get these details drilled into people’s memories, consider this game.
Here’s a simple question that surprisingly opens a pretty real discussion. Simply asking people about their favourite food or restaurant, you create an instant common ground, as well as some friendly competition. You’d be surprised just how much food can connect people, and since it is something that everyone is passionate about, it is a great question to ask off the bat. Immediate team bonding over common interests.
Always have a fun list of “Would You Rather?” questions on hand for virtual ice breakers (safe for work of course!). These questions are funny and really get people thinking. Keep it simple, because you’d be surprised just how entertaining the responses can be! Additionally, it encourages others to chime in with their thoughts, and laugh along.
A unique factor with distributed teams is that everyone can be in a very different place in the world! That’s why simply asking where someone is from can be a fascinating exercise with remote teams. People will be very interested to see that they might be communicating with others all over the world. From there, you can get into deeper discussions about the favourite part of their hometown, and they can find some common ground with others from all around the world.
In this game, you ask some simple, interesting questions to the group, and anyone who has done it will stand up. It’s easy, and best of all it basically hands the interaction to the group. No one really has to think about anything besides whether they have done it, and the whole group will learn something new. This is a great way to learn about people in a quick, organized manner. For remote teams, you can use video conferencing and have your team raise their hands instead of standing.
Music is another one of those things that connect people, similar to food above. You can learn a lot about someone by their favorite band, song, or genre. These building activities will instantly connect people, and have them feeling some common ground with other people who may be miles away. To mix it up a bit, you can ask “Who was the last artist you searched for on your music streaming service of choice?”.
Keep it safe for work of course! A joke can be a great way to break the ice. Have someone share their favorite joke, and see if you can get the team laughing. You can even start out with a joke before everything gets started, to loosen tension and break the ice for everyone. When it comes down to it, nothing unites people like some laughter.
Another simple way to get people talking is to ask them about two similar objects (like ice cream vs. pizza) and ask them what their favorite is. This is a great game because it’s easy, but also generates a lot of healthy competition as people defend their favorite things. People find common ground amongst some healthy rivalry, while learning about each other as they go.
How about a quick rock, paper, scissors tournament to get things started? Have everyone play, with the winner advancing. It’s a fun game because everyone knows how to play, and you can get the remote team building started with some healthy competition as well.
If you tell people to have a note taking pad and paper handy, it can be a fun start to have people draw their favorite animal (or any other fun ideas you can think up). The results are relatable, and often quite hilarious. It’s a really fun way to get things started and to have a shared, interesting experience.
Another classic question, finding out something about a person outside of work is always a great place to break the ice. This gets people talking about something they are truly interested in, instead of just jumping right into work. It also helps unite people, and lets them know a fun detail about the people they are working with.
This one is simple, first one to laugh loses. It can be a great way to break the tension that is almost always present upon first meetings. It is also easy because it doesn’t require anyone to speak, simply give them a fun game before they get started.
This one is a bit more organizational focused, but with remote teams it often can get confusing who even does what. By starting off by allowing everyone to explain their role, everyone gets a chance to introduce themselves, but you also get a way for everyone to understand which role on the team each person plays.
Everyone has smart phones these days, so why not give them a chance to share a photo on their phone that they really like. It can be of anything, and they get a chance to explain to the group why it is so special to them. Of course, it’s important to make sure everyone is comfortable with the game beforehand, and can sit out if they like.
Another fun game to play with remote teams is simply to ask how the weather is there. Because everyone might be in such different locations, it can be fun to compare what it’s like outside and this really helps to show how varied remote teams can be. When it’s snowing somewhere and sunny and warm elsewhere, that can be a real conversation starter!
Sports is another way in which people find common bonds and playful rivalries. Asking about their favorite sports teams is a great icebreaker activity to open discussion. If they aren’t sports fans, they can always say something about the city they’re from. It’s a great way to let people get a gage of where everyone is from, and understand the truly “remote” nature of a team.
We don’t want to risk any ice breaker questions sounding too much like an interview, but asking people about their past experience can be a great opening question so people can learn about each other.
Sometimes you can even send the participants a quick list of questions beforehand. You could send them 5 of any of the questions above, and have them rifle off 5 quick facts about themselves at the start of the meeting. This is a great way to quickly learn a bunch about the others, and they can figure it out beforehand to avoid being on the spot.
We saved the most basic for last, the open ended “introduce yourself”. A classic question that is surprisingly broad. Give people the chance to say a few short things about themselves, and see what happens. Sometimes the most classic ice breakers are the ones worth pursuing, especially when you don’t know the dynamic of your team yet.
Often the icebreaker that you choose is really more dependent on the situation at hand. There are various types of virtual groups, and various levels of professionalism you might expect from your team. This makes it difficult to know what level of sharing people are comfortable with right off the bat. We think these three key considerations are very valuable in choosing whether you want to err on the side of humor or professionalism:
Not all ice breakers take place on everyone’s first time meeting. Maybe this is simply their first time working remotely, or maybe many of them have shared experiences before. Regardless, it is often the case that everyone loosens up a lot more when they have met each other before.
For this reason, you might want to avoid some of the more humorous ice breaker games and questions when it is everyone’s true first time meeting each other. This is for the simple reason that it might make some uncomfortable. When in doubt, pick a game you are sure everyone will enjoy.
The dynamics of a group will often change a lot depending on how old everyone is, or more specifically, how familiar is everyone with remote technology? Of course, we aren’t meaning to make broad generalizations on age, but it is often the case that people aren’t as comfortable joking around when there are large age differences. Your primary concern is finding an icebreaker that keeps everyone comfortable, so considering the different generational dynamics is often important.
Simply put, different industries often have different standards of professionalism. Often, people enter meetings (especially first meetings) with an idea of keeping things quite professional. This is especially true in more “serious” professions that involve higher stakes. Keep this in mind when deciding on an icebreaker. They can be a great way to loosen tension, but don’t pick something that is inappropriate for the situation.
A final issue is time constraints. Depending on the size of your team, it may affect how simple or how complex you may make your icebreakers. You have to consider how long it will take everyone to answer, and you don’t want to run the risk of anyone losing interest, or of running out of time to get to the heart of the meeting. We included several options on our list which run a range of time to complete, and you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Overall, you just need to pick the icebreaker that you think fits the situation. Evaluate the dynamics, and decide what you want out of your remote group’s initial meeting. So take some time to sit down and really figure out what you are wanting out of this meeting, and pick an icebreaker to match. We’re confident you can find one in our options above.
Thank you for reading our list of ice breaker games for remote teams. Remote teams present a special issue in getting everyone acquainted, as you often don’t get the opportunity to meet them in person. But with a good icebreaker, you’d be surprised how quickly everyone can come together!
Q: How do you make a team call fun?
A: Turning a virtual call into a fun activity for a team member can be easily done by incorporating the ice breakers included in this article. Pick one and start off your next meeting or call with it!
Q: What are your top tips for team building with remote teams?
A: Incorporate an all-hands meeting every morning with your team, especially if the majority of your employees are working remote. Within these you can include the ice breaker ideas above multiple times with everyone – having your colleagues learn more about themselves brings everyone closer together and keeps people on their feet for every meeting.
Q: I’m not great at coming up with ice breaker questions. Do you have any good examples I can use?
A: Of course! Here’s some great group icebreakers to improve communication and build an overall better company culture:
If you had to delete all but three apps from your smartphone, which ones would you keep?
You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it?
How would you change your life today if the average life expectancy was 400 years?
What would you be found doing if the police unexpectedly breaks into your home in the day?
If you could be in any movie, what would it be and what character would you play?
If your life were a hero’s journey, who would be your antagonist and what’s stopping you from winning?
If you had to eat only one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
If you could choose any historical figure to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
If you could choose to remain one age until you die, which age would you choose and why?
If you could choose any person from history to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
If you can go back to college again, would you take the same course that you finished or try out a different one?
If you could live anywhere on this planet without having the leave anyone or anything behind, where would you live?
If you could add a word to the dictionary what would you add and what would it mean?
If you had to identify one person who completely changed your life, who would it be?
If you could go back to your younger self, which age would it be, and what would you say?
If extraterrestrials landed on earth and offered to take you with them, would you go?
If you can go back to any of your younger selves, at what age would you choose to go back to?
If you could travel to and live in any time period in history, where and when would you live?
What is something that you believe in that most people probably don’t believe in?
If you could visit anywhere in the world, regardless of budget or time it took to get there, where would you go?
If you could commit any crime and get away with it what would you choose and why?
If you could have the power of teleportation right now, where would you go and why?
Use a word that begins with the same letter as your first name to describe yourself and why?
What’s something that someone has said about you that has really stuck with you?
If you could buy any .com domain, what would you buy and what would you use it for?
Tell us a book or movie or video you’ve read or seen lately and which you would recommend?
Coronavirus is rapidly accelerating the way we work. Many businesses, team members, and organizations will now have to rely on remote work for the majority of their employee communications. As a result, you can expect video tools to see a massive surge over this time.
One of the best (and definitely unique) options for managing remote staff is always-on video. In this article, we will explore this technology. We will examine what it is, the pros and cons, how to use it, and quickly review the best tools on the market. So let us get started.
Tip – When you have this solution setup be sure to start off on the right foot with some ice breakers for remote teams.
One of the major downsides of video for remote teams is the hassle involved in setting it up every time. Making sure everyone in your virtual team is at their computer, making sure everyone logs in, connecting, you get the idea. With always-on video, you have exactly that, a video portal that is always turned on and ready to use.
This may take a variety of forms, but often it is situated in an area of a room that someone can go up to and instantly connect with their team. Because it is already switched on, they simply need to press a button and they will be connected with the team. This allows a level of integration similar to that of an office.
Always-on video takes different forms as well. You can add extra levels of reachability and availability, depending on what works for you. You can choose to have the software “on” but to require people to notify others when they want to talk. Alternatively, you can have the cameras and communication devices on at all times, similar to a real office. Additionally, you can choose how many people are involved in the video conference at all times, from everyone at once, to one-on-one meetings.
The benefits to always-on video collaboration are quite robust. They encompass the benefits of normal video conferencing, but have the extra benefits of extra-connectivity.
Firstly, let’s talk about video conferencing benefits. When you’re working with remote teams, there is nothing like meeting face-to-face. Sometimes, you need that extra level of human interaction in order to really get things done. This accomplishes something that email or even the phone cannot. Video conferencing adds that extra level of social interaction and interconnectivity that people need to stay connected.
It is also great for productivity. There is nothing like sorting things out with a conversation. A back-and-forth with email can take forever. With a video conference, you can quickly sort out your issues and have people on similar pages.
Next is organization. Things can quickly become separated when people are working remotely. Keeping everyone in the loop is crucial, and you need to be able to stay in contact with people to make this possible. People can understand their tasks, deadlines, as well as how others are contributing.
Always-on video provides even more benefits that simple video conferencing does not. By having the software always on, the problems associated with sorting out connections, logging in, and time of meetings is not an issue. Since everyone is committed to being fully reachable through the always-on software, you can quickly drop in and out with any questions or concerns you may have.
Overall, always-on is simply a more interactive and connected version of video conferencing, and probably more so than any form of remote communication. If you are looking for the ultimate integration for monitoring or organizing your remote business, then always-on video tool may do the trick.
Of course, no evaluation would be complete without also examining the drawbacks of a certain technology. In this case, the drawbacks of always-on technology are mostly that which are akin to remote work in general. Sometimes, it is simply not a substitute for in-person communication.
However, when you don’t really have an option, you have to make do with what you can get. It is tough in times where meeting in person isn’t practical, but luckily people tend to get more and more accustomed to these technologies over time.
In terms of always-on video specifically, there is often the hurdle that people simply don’t like to be connected at all times. They may feel it represents a lack of privacy or a lack of trust from management that they will get their work done.
This is why it is so important to set up a system that you and your employees are both comfortable with. You need a process that works for everyone. Everyone should understand that the system is simply for sharing information, and not as a means of “spying” on employees. The whole process should be built on a foundation of trust, with the communicated goal of having everyone work together toward a common objective.
Always-on video conferencing might be a good option for you, but it also might not. Depending on your team and the type of work you do, you might be comfortable with an alternative arrangement. You should weigh your options, and also talk it out with your team if necessary. Remember, the goal of this is to have everyone communicating effectively, and to do this everyone needs to be comfortable.
One alternative is a scheduled daily video call. By having it scheduled, people don’t have to worry so much about dropping everything and doing it. It won’t be an interruption, but rather a planned part of their day. You can structure these meetings so everyone knows what to expect. It’s a great time to catch up on objectives, works in process, and talk about future goals.
Finding the method that works best for you is key.
You might be thinking that this sounds great, but what technologies can you use to put this in action? In this section, we’ll outline our top choices of always-on video software. Technically, most video-conferencing softwares have an always-on option. It is just a matter of how you set up your portal. For always-on, you will simply leave one of these programs running, and allow people to jump in when they want.
No list of video conferencing platforms would be complete without the most obvious – Skype. Skype gained its popularity by being innovative, but it kept its popularity by adjusting and keeping up with the market. With Skype, you have the major bonus that most of your employees have probably used this program before.
Skype supports group video calling for up to 50 people, and even more if you have a paid subscription for a business account. No matter how you want to structure your video conferencing, there is probably an option on Skype. There are even screen sharing options for when you have to show people what you have been working on.
GoToMeeting is a paid service, but often you have to make an investment if you want that extra functionality. GoToMeeting simply offers some usability that other programs do not.
With GoToMeeting, you get everything you’d expect with something like Skype, but most features are a bit more fleshed out. There are plugins to integrate various programs (Salesforce, Google Calendar, Office 365). There are many advanced features so that you can set up your meeting exactly how you want, and include whoever you want.
Probably the second most popular option on this list, most of your employees will probably have used Zoom before. Zoom is great because it is another free software, but has all the features you would expect from a more sophisticated program. It includes up to 100 participants at once, which is a big bonus if you have a large office.
There are a wealth of features to make your experience more seamless, such as screen-sharing, whiteboard sharing, instant messaging chat, and annotations. Zoom also offers heavy encryption options, so you don’t have to worry about your team collaboration meetings being secure.
Google Hangouts is a great video conferencing tool, but don’t expect the wealth of features to be had with some of the options above, especially if you opt for the paid version of any of these software’s. However, if you simply need to have a conference with a small team, Google Hangouts could get the job done. It is easy, intuitive, and free, and sometimes that is all you need.
It really depends on evaluating your needs when considering any of these options. You need to know what kind of software you actually need, because there is a chance you will be paying for features that you don’t actually use.
So before you begin this search, take some time to sit down and evaluate your needs. By this, we don’t mean what kind of video conference software you need, but how you actually intend on communicating with your remote employees to keep them organized and motivated. Once you know what you actually need, you can easily plan out a software that matches these needs. Your decision becomes simplified, and your system of managing your employees becomes much easier.
Q: How many people need to be involved in your remote meeting?
A: It really depends on who the necessary personnel is for the meeting in question. Unless you are setting up a company-wide meeting to address a large matter or go over specific policies with everyone, then always be sure to include only the necessary people in your video meetings in order to keep it efficient and communication clear.
Q: How not to fail with transitioning to remote in 2020?
A: Communication and clear procedures are two of the most important factors with remote work. Whether or not your team has experience with remote work, making sure you have consistent and clear communication (such as a scheduled daily standup meeting) with them will lead to a successful and effective team.
Q: What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
A: The main challenges have been communication and tracking work. Both of these are easily solved through tools like always on video and cloud storage for files such as Google Drive.
Q: Where do you store all of your files, and make sure the entire remote team have access to them?
A: Almost any cloud storage software will work, however Google Drive offers some great online storage, making it accessible to anyone who needs to view it, and is easy to use due to it’s integration with G-suite.
Q: How else do you ensure your remote team is engaged, challenged and successful?
A: Keeping everyone up-to-date with daily updates and weekly meetings are two of the best ways to ensure everyone is engaged. A weekly meeting with an always on video software allows your team to have something they own and can communicate to you on a weekly basis which helps you stay in the loop with what they’re doing and keeps them feeling responsible for their own tasks.
Q: What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
A: Ensure you have all the proper software’s and tools in place, such as always on video and a cloud-based file sharing system, like Google Drive. Then make sure to create and share the procedures to using these with your entire team. After that, implement strict policies for communication and schedule daily and weekly meetings with everyone.
For a complete list of our SOPs on how to work remote have a look at this guide to managing a remote team.
Whether you are looking for a solution on how to manage staff remotely for the first time or looking to improve your current systems, this procedure will help show you what has worked and what hasn’t worked.
Recently due to the Coronavirus, and for obvious reason, I have had some “real world” entrepreneurs ask me questions about how to best manage their staff as they begin working remotely to do their part with social distancing.
My hope is that I can help contribute to the current situation by essentially open-sourcing all of our procedures for effective remote work.
My team has been managing 50-100+ full-time employees, part-time employees, and contract team members working remotely for years. We have had some incredible system failures (theft) and also some huge wins (getting invited to a team members wedding in Bangladesh) with managing remote staff. Overall, we have managed almost 200k hours of remote workers on one platform alone: UpWork.
This has all been done through working remotely on one platform. Here are all of our systems to help you get set up to be effective with remote workers!
In this article, I’m going to lay out how we work by breaking it down into 3 parts.
ONE – Tools: What tools are needed or optional to manage remote workers efficiently and increase productivity.
TWO – Setup: How do you get remote workers setup and excited about the system
THREE – Ongoing Communication Cadence: A system is useless if it isn’t used
I picture this being the most useful for a manager/leader that is taking a semi-remote team of 3-15, that work off of a laptop, communicates via email, typically sitting beside one another, to… a fully remote team, no longer in the office. If a more helpful guide surfaces, I will be sure to try and reference it for additional reading.
LinkedIn Remote Work Training – Made Available for Free
Please feel free to share and comment so we can try to help as many virtual teams get over the hurdle of remote work.
For a couple other useful articles on the topic checkout…
These are the tools we use.
NOTE – Many of these tools have made special pricing accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic to help facilitate remote work.
Security & Password Sharing:
Other (used on specific projects)
This can be the most daunting part of getting remote staff working and managing them effectively, especially if your staff is located within different time zones.
I will do my best to recommend the sequence of getting things set up so it doesn’t disrupt your company culture.
Change Management Warning: Managing this much change for someone can be challenging, so below will outline the order of adoption that I would recommend.
Getting setup on Slack or a similar team chat solution is a great first step.
BUT, if you don’t plan or put some thought into the onboarding process, then it can turn into chaos.
Below is the email I sent to the team to communicate how we are going to transition to and start using Slack. In the end, the transition was successful and people really took to it vs a standard email.
Slack will become the new standard team internal communication tool – late to the party but now is the right time.
Objective – Streamline communication across all people and all projects in the organization resulting in improved productivity, communication and culture.
Case for Action – As we have more people overlapping between projects and working remote, it becomes more important for us to have standard methods of communication. On any day I might communicate with people using… email (one of 3 different logins), telegram, in person, google chat, skype and text msg. This is a problem with others as well working on multiple projects. Slack will not completely fix the problem but will help.
Actions Items for All:
What is Slack?
How Will We Use Slack?
I have created a table below with input from many of the managers on…
As with all things this will take some initial uncomfortable work as we break old habits.
|1Daily||Daily – 3 sentence update – done yesterday, plan for the day and any issues||Jon||Core Team – In House Employees & Critical Few Support|
|2Random Fun||Lots of GIFs||Narcis||In House Employees|
|Project 1 – admin team||Project 1 Manager|
|Project 1 – operations team||Project 1 Manager|
Slack vs Email vs Meeting:
When to Slack:
When to Email:
When to Meet:
When to do None: (most of these are for me)
Now that you have your backbone of asynchronous communication setup for your remote team it is time to move onto the next step.
Setting up your remote work security policy is important, however you may not have one and creating a robust policy from scratch will require too much time and effort before you need it. Below, I’ll go over all the essentials in order to implement solid password management for remote workers.
Here are the basics …
With a remote team, you will need to share login and access information. If you have ever emailed a password, entered into a spreadsheet or shared one through online chat, you are doing it wrong!
There are a couple of great options out there. We have found 2 that lead to the highest productivity and effectively priced:
Once you have signed up decide on the vault structure and who will have access to specific logins.
Here is an example table to create before you sign up.
|Vault Name||Purpose of Vault||Who To Provide Access To|
|Project 1 – Finance||Access to payment processing and bank accounts||Owner, Controller/Bookkeeper|
|Project 1 – Admin||Access to logins required to control administrative accounts||Owner, Manager|
|Project 1 – Team||Access to the logins required for each team||Owner, Manager, Team Members|
|Team Member Name||Access to any critical accounts||Owner, Manager, Team Member(s)|
If this structure is followed, then the login for any team member is fully controllable by the Manager and you will never find yourself in a situation where access to a login is unavailable causing the business to grind to a halt.
TIP – Even if you don’t think you need it make a vault for the person so they have someone to put a misc login that isn’t their personal vault (we don’t want anyone using their personal vault).
Like any tool, applying strict guidelines and discipline around it always makes it stronger.
Below is our 12 step password and security check.
We have an internal security auditor who does a monthly check with all team members and remote workers (who have access to passwords) to confirm we are following our internal remote work security policy.
Here is an example of our verification process for the security audit:
There are 2 main systems to use for time tracking. The first is:
UpWork – If we hire someone on Upwork (which as mentioned above we do A LOT), we leverage the platforms built-in tools.
Clockify – This is a FANTASTIC freemium tool whose functionality for this free model is sufficient. There are paid alternatives like Timedoctor, but after using both I see no reason to not use the free Clockify option (at least in our case). This may vary depending on your needs.
Get started with Clockify
How you manage access to the documents and files people need to work will be very much unique to each company.
Most companies will need to decide between:
Whatever is the lowest pain point of change is likely the best option for your situation.
For us, we are 99% Google Drive/Gsuite, with some documents (typically larger Excel files) shared via DropBox.
If you haven’t made the move to Google Drive and its free options, then now might be a great time to make the change.
Document Signing for Remote Workers
When dealing with remote employees, document signing is something that is obviously more challenging because people are not located in the same area.
We have used a few different solutions, but landed on PandaDoc as being by far our favourite.
The ability to have templates, users and rules makes this a very easy solution.
A LOT of buzz has occurred around video conferencing and certainly, this increase has been warranted and makes sense in today’s technology and remote workforce.
However, there are many solid and (mostly) free options out there.
Like anything, it is best if you can pick one and decide that is your go-to for the team. Jumping from one platform to another can get confusing and messy, not to mention it can make your team look unprofessional to clients.
Which Video Conferencing Solution is Right for your Team?
If it is just your team and you know who you will be speaking with, then Skype is one of the best options. On the other hand, if you need to do conferences with other tech-savvy people then Google Hangouts is a great option. Finally, if you require a little more robust solution with access to specific controls, etc then Zoom is better.
Here is a comparison of solutions for always on video for remote teams.
If you don’t yet have a meeting cadence, I highly recommend you decide on one now to provide structure to your remote workers.
All the tools above are useless unless there is a system around how to use them to manage staff.
This typically revolves around a series of meetings each with a specific objective. Our system is based off of several great books, including Traction, anything Scrum/Kanban/Agile and the OkR goal-setting framework.
Based on the books above, here is the basic structure of meetings for our teams (which are currently 100% virtual):
Also referred to as an all-hands meeting, this should be either on a video conference call or the Slack daily channel. The update should quickly cover 3 things for each person.
Make it snappy and take any issues offline to resolve them 1 on 1.
Of all the meetings this is by far the most important!
Any staff/company alignment failure can typically be traced back to a root cause of not having a good enough weekly one-on-one meetings that flagged the issue early enough to be addressed.
The weekly one-on-one meetings follows this agenda:
As with almost everything, this lives in a Google Sheet (you can also use Google Docs, but Sheets is much easier to organize) and a column is inserted each week so that the most recent week is right beside the first column. Tasks can be added to the projects Trello board during weekly meetings.
It’s important that the staff member completes the sheet before the meeting in order for all 1:1’s to be done effectively and quickly. Each meeting should take 15 – 30 minutes.
As my staff like to say only an engineer would create a spreadsheet and consider it an aid for human interaction. But everyone that has bought into the system has either immediately or come to really appreciate the structure and clarity this meeting provides.
Part of the magic of the daily and weekly meetings is they dramatically cut down on all the important, but time-consuming logistical questions that can pop up as a manager. By collecting and responding to issues and tasks during the weekly, you will avoid getting bogged down with menial questions multiple times a day.
This meeting is very metrics-driven, with a review of a kanban to-do list that lives in Trello.
Agenda (varies for each business):
Here is a great guide for a different take on this meeting – https://jake-jorgovan.com/blog/the-lead-cookie-playbook-how-we-run-our-weekly-meetings
This meeting is mostly focused on two things:
The books Traction and Measure What Matters both go over this meeting in great detail.
At the quarterly meeting we do a review of the successes of the previous quarters OkR’s and then set the next quarters.
As managers struggle with team members going remote we will all need to find ways to adapt.
My hope is that by essentially open sourcing how we manage staff remotely companies will be able to be just a little more efficient.
If there are additional guides you think I should be including here please let me know.
The purpose of this article is to provide a quick update on what has happened with the Income Store. Most importantly, I want to provide what I hope are some useful insights into the value of every site in the IncomeStore Portfolio. If you are needing to find out how much your website is worth I hope this article will provide enough information for you to be able to do that.
Hang on because we go deep… exploring the value of each site, looking at the ECommerce portfolio and if there is any value there.
The specific sites value and TONS of metrics for each domain is shown in the spreadsheet below…
With the latest news release from the receiver a lot of new information has come to light.
The Receivers Initial report has provided a lot of very digestible information. If you have not yet read it and are interested in the topic you should!
Claim Your Website or Roll the Dice on Liquidation?
One of the potentially most important items and part of the reason for this post is that the receiver is proposing a solution that will require each site partner to evaluate the value of their website and decide if they want it.
“The Receiver will propose a hybrid claims process that permits investors to make a claim for the domain(s)/website(s) “assigned” to them in the Consulting Performance Agreement in exchange for releasing any claim against the Receivership Estate under certain parameters 5 and those investors who do not want their site could participate in a later distribution process from a pool of liquidated assets and recovered funds. The Receiver will make such proposal by separate motion on or before February 28, 2020. This expedited process will permit the Receiver to transfer and/or liquidate the remaining domains/websites in the next 90 to 120 days, preserving the Receivership assets required to maintain the domains and websites.” Page 8
For site partners faced with this decision I hope this analysis will be of value in both determining the value of their site but from a portfolio / game theory standpoint what others will likely choose ultimately helping you make the most educated decision.
Claim or Don’t Claim Example:
The decision is easy if you have a site worth more than what you invested however thinking through what the final value of the portfolio/recovered assets will be once the winners (and others with decent sites) choose to claim their website gets very tricky. You can’t simply take the recoverable value divided by the total $’s owing investors since some of the recoverable value is going to disappear as people choose to take their websites. You don’t want to be the person that chose to not claim their website but your website ends being the most valuable one left in the pool to be liquidated. I hope the data shared in this post helps make a terrible situation slightly better by having the data to make the decision.
One takeaway from the Receivers Initial Report that is different from previous SEC communication is that it had terms of “Ponzi like” and now the receiver explicitly calls it a Ponzi scheme mentioning it 3 times in the report including the clear description of what happened below.
Quote from the Receiver:
“The Receiver’s review of the books and records of the company confirm the SEC’s allegations that new investor funds and loans were used to pay the investors/”website partners”, not website revenue. For example, in 2018 website revenue was under $2m and website payout to investors was approximately $12.7m and likewise in 2019 website revenue was under $4m and website investor payout was $16.5m. In short, this was a Ponzi scheme.” Page 6
“making the business a classic Ponzi scheme” Page 21
“TGC’s business depended on the use of new investors’ up-front payments (and perhaps loan Case: 1:19-cv-08454 Document #: 45 Filed: 01/30/20 Page 21 of 28 PageID #:678 22 proceeds) to cover its obligations to earlier investors much in the vain of a Ponzi scheme” Page 22
So where did some of the money go? According to the receivers report several luxury items have been seized including the following (stock images)…
For the next phase of the IncomeStore journey it is critical to get a sense of the value of each of the websites and the portfolio as a whole.
If you are a site partner what is the value of the site you have the option to take?
There are several ways to approach the portfolio value I will walk through the 2 I think provide the best number and then generate an overall range of value for the portfolio.
Others have generated a higher number for the portfolio value but I struggle to get to those favourable numbers (no offense Richard 🙂 ).
Now what would the market tolerate if all ~200 sites with an estimated value of over 1k got dumped on the market in 90 days from Feb 28th as the receiver is suggesting? My assumption would be that despite there being insatiable demand for less expensive content sites (the leader in smaller content sites MotionInvest sells out <$10k sites in minutes with thousands on the waitlist!) the receiver would want to be efficient and move them in bulk at a significant discount.
Typically a fast site sale in the lower end of the market will go for 1x-2x which could bring the valuation down as low as under $1M!
2.5M in E Commerce Revenue in 2019 But the Sites are Completely Worthless? How…
There had been a lot of publicity about IncomeStore shifting to ECommerce launching 400+ Shopify sites. I want to run the list of 3k+ domains through a tool to tell me the tech they are each on and then the organic traffic for the shopify portion of the portfolio (another day). So why do I think they are worthless…
My Theory – Based on the lengths they went to in order to focus on their priority (new investor money in the door) they used the paid traffic Shopify drop shipping model to generate big revenue numbers fast in order to help entice new money in. If you wanted to scale revenue numbers FAST and didn’t care about profitability then running facebook ads to a dropship shopify site would be the strategy I would recommend.
It would be great to have someone with a forensic accounting background who also has content site experience to comment on the PnL but here are the numbers that jump out to me:
These numbers are primarily pulled from Exhibit D which I have turned into a Google Sheet here if you want to get a copy.
Visualization of Value Destruction:
I don’t swear on this blog but I don’t know an appropriate alternative WTF!
66% of every dollar in or $88.6M of value has been destroyed in what must be one of the most inefficient Ponzi schemes ever.
Earlier – I said I doubted it started as a ponzi but Google updates in 2016 (or earlier) must have either forced them to close down or embrace a ponzi scheme and certainly it looks like they fully embraced it taking it a step further and operating not just in a situation to not be able to cover the 15% but running the existing portfolio in a money losing situation!
It also seems that meaningful recovery for site partners will unfortunately not come from the value of the portfolio.
As promised if you are a website partner with IncomeStore and know which website is yours this table is meant to start providing you some information on the value of your site.
This is of course not a perfect analysis but should give you an idea if there is any value associated with the site.
3012 Domains!!! That is a lot of sites. My team has been cranking away on this analysis.
In addition to the analysis I used the tool at SpamZilla to help pull in a LOT of data for each domain.
List of IncomeStore Domains and Their Value:
Access the Spreadsheet Here
My hope is that this sheet will be the most useful and updated list of sites with relevant information to help website partners.
It is a very unfortunate situation. The loss in value and inefficiency of operation is astounding.
It has felt like a slow painful reveal over the last 2 months from the IncomeStore announcing it was postponing website partner payments (temporarily) to then the SEC raid to now seeing the extent of the value destruction.
I hope for site partners sake that the picture is not as bleak as the current data shows and that good news will be the next data point.
If you would like to do any additional analysis on the sites that could be helpful to the website partners I would be happy to include that analysis in the spreadsheet for everyone to benefit from. Please reach out if you have anything to add to help website partners when evaluating their site.
If you are a website partner and have any questions I would be happy to try and help answer anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me and my team.