The Future of Work: The Inside Scoop On Running A Virtual Company

Questions from our Webinar: 8 Tips to Running A 100% Virtual Company

Our webinar series on running a 100% virtual company has already been attended by more than 500 business owners. Fourlane has been 100% virtual since 2008, and we’ve achieved incredible growth in that time. Being a completely distributed team does have its challenges, but we’re proud of the culture we’ve been able to build while offering our employees the flexibility and autonomy to work from home.

We’ve gathered up some of the best questions we received during our webinar to help you better plan for taking your team virtual. If you have additional questions about becoming a virtual company, please comment below. While we don’t provide step-by-step help, I am always happy to provide perspective and answer questions about how you can make your company more flexible and virtual.

For additional updates on virtual companies, follow us on LinkedIn.

Virtual Company

What does your virtual company do?

We are the #1 reseller of Intuit QuickBooks products. We also provide many ancillary services around QuickBooks, like conversion, custom programming, data repair, integrations with third-party applications, and custom report building.

Do you have part-timers and full-timers and do you treat them differently? – McBride Accounting, Covington, GA

We operate pretty much the same as a typical company in regards to part-time and full-time. There are some differences to the benefit package, and obviously there are differences in their schedules and workloads. We do ask everyone to make sure they join us for our Monday all-hands meeting, as well as our yearly company retreat.

Does your company pay for all travel for all of the face to face get togethers? – Diane, Carrollton, TX

Yes, we pay for travel to and from our quarterly leadership meetings, as well as our yearly retreat.

How far away do you hire your team members?

We typically try to hire in clusters to a) make time zones more manageable, and b) make it easier on our finance team for tax and payroll compliance.

What if the new hire already has better hardware than you provide? – Patrick, Sisters, OR

We want to mitigate any security concerns about a virtual company, so all hardware and software is owned by Fourlane. People might check email on their phones, but our core business software is always run on a Fourlane-owned computer. We always try to provide a top-of-the-line hardware/software package, because we like our employees to feel like we are invested in them, so this has never been an issue for us.

How do you deal with virtual employees taking breaks? – PURE Restaurant Solutions, Irvine, CA

Everyone needs breaks, even if they are working for a virtual company. Our employees take lunches, have coffee, go outside for fresh air, and we encourage that because it makes them more productive. Remote environments require a very invested workforce, so it becomes obvious very quickly if someone is not pulling their weight or taking too many breaks.

What is the startup cost for a virtual company? – Kimberley, Leesburg, GA

That is one of the best things: the initial capital investment is greatly reduced when you don’t need to rent office space, purchase furniture, set up workstations, etc.

I would say to budget for:

  • Top-of-the-line hardware for your entire team. Your computer is your office, so it is an important investment.
  • High speed internet access.
  • Subscriptions to the software you use to run your business. This includes line-of-business software for your industry, accounting software (like QuickBooks Enterprise or Acumatica), marketing software, etc.
  • A virtual mailbox at an executive suite or co-working space. This is important for professionalism and so you don’t have cold-calling sales people showing up on your doorstep. It is also nice to have a place where you can take a meeting if you need to, or for holding in-person interviews.

How long did it take you to come up with this? – Fisher CPA Firm, The Woodlands, TX

I came up with it after working in the private sector in the Bay Area. If you’ve ever lived or worked in the Bay you know that commuting is a nightmare. I realized that everything I was doing could be done remotely, and there was no reason I needed to drive an hour each way into the office. When I started my own company, I decided that I would never ask anyone to spend 2-hours a day in their car for a job that could be done just as well from the comfort of their home office.

We have been in business (and 100% virtual) since 2008, so it has taken us a decade to get to where we are today! When we first started there were almost zero 100% virtual companies. In fact, as late as 2014 there were only 24 virtual companies. So there was no playbook, no Forbes article to go to for guidance. We are still constantly improving processes, trying new tools, and having discussions as a team.

How do you find people to hire? Is there a service you use to find great candidates? – Rangel Tax Group & Services, Grandview, WA

We use LinkedIn Recruiting, Indeed, and work with a recruiting company. But our best candidates have almost always been referrals from our team. Our employees know what makes a great employee and are very good at understanding who will work well in the environment of a virtual company.

What is a “company Wiki”? – Campbell & Company, CPAs, Allen, TX

A Company Wiki is a knowledge base that holds all of your company’s policies, processes, and collective knowledge. Instead of hosting it in a bunch of different files, we structure it similarly to Wikipedia, with step-by-step articles, screenshots and diagrams, and links to other articles. This makes it much easier for employees to find something and puts all the processes in the right context. They can also be edited by anyone (just like Wikipedia) which makes it easy to keep them up to date. There are a lot of great tools out there for creating a Company Wiki – Microsoft OneNote, EverNote, and Confluence.

In a virtual environment, what time is the “end of the day” for everyone? Michele, Hamden, CT

We are open from 8-6 Monday through Friday. But we let our team make their own schedules. Many of our employees do work in the early morning or late evening, but we set the expectation that response to non-urgent calls and emails is not required after hours. Of course, like every company, we have busier times of the year, but working from home means greater flexibility so we’re better able to stagger schedules.

Do you have core hours where everyone must overlap? – The Mangold Group, Austin, TX

Yes. We have core hours, and we also have several mandatory meetings each week. But we try to be as flexible as possible. The benefit of 100% virtual is flexibility, so to remove that would be removing a lot of the benefit of the way we work.

Is there an equipment list and setup? – Nicole, Jericho, NY

We do have a detailed equipment list. It will be different for every business, but will likely include:

  • Laptop computer
  • Second monitor (and cord to connect laptop and monitor)
  • Bluetooth mouse
  • Headphones
  • Phone (if needed, some of our team prefers a virtual phone)
  • Laptop carrying bag
  • Company swag (tee shirt, notepad, pens, mousepad)

We work with an IT company who helps get everyone’s workstation set up.

How do employees shadow in a remote setting? – Nicole, Jericho NY

We use screen-sharing tools like GoToMeeting. They even allow you to take control of the mouse on someone else’s computer, so you can work collaboratively.

Are you recruiting?

Yes! Please check out our Careers section. We are always looking for motivated candidates to join our team!

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