Are you a business owner who relies on the traditional employment model, hiring employees to work in your office at a physical location?
Have you ever wondered if there’s a better way?
At The Centr, we have a 100% virtual team. Sometimes, when we talk to entrepreneurs about working with us, they are a little skeptical about the viability of growing their company virtually.
Of course, our company knows better, because The Centr has helped countless customers grow thanks to the talents of our virtual employees. However, we have a success story even closer to home: The Centr itself!
That’s right, we put our money where our mouth is. There is no central headquarters or office building for The Centr, just a 60+ strong virtual team of remote employees doing great work every day.
Read on to see how The Centr has grown into a thriving virtual company.
Introducing The Virtual Team Model
At The Centr, we’ve been refining the virtual model for years. Right now, we have team members literally across the United States: from Washington and Idaho to Oklahoma and North Carolina.
As part of our recent rebrand, we have reorganized our individual team members into various “pods” – each pod is a team-centered around a specific business function. For example, we have:
- An employee engagement pod
- A pod for service and support
- A marketing pod for digital marketing
- And more!
Different team members may participate in one or more pods, but every individual pod is specialized in a business task for busy entrepreneurs.
So, that’s the way our teams are structured, but how do we actually pull it off? How can we have employees working together all over the country?
It’s something we’ve been trying to do for years, but what really makes it possible is technology!
Virtual Communication Tools
Quick: how do you talk to your friend who lives across the country? Besides a good old-fashioned phone call, there are at least a dozen ways just off the top of your head, right? (Texting, email, Instagram direct messages, Skype…)
Compared with even ten years ago, it’s easier than EVER to stay in touch with people! We believe that modern communication tools have made the remote work experience virtually the same (no pun intended) as it is for a team that works in the same office with each other.
Currently, The Centr utilizes a few tools to get the job done:
- Google Suite for email and documents
- Zoom for video conferencing
- Slack for instant messaging
- Monday.com for project management
- Salesforce for case management and sales
It’s not really about the specific software, though. What matters is that the technology absolutely exists for our whole team to meet “face-to-face” via video conferencing and stay in close daily communication using emails, instant messages, and comments on projects.
These tools open up a world of amazing, talented people for our company, including candidates who are specifically hunting for a remote opportunity!
Why We Went Virtual
How our virtual team model works is one thing, but why we chose to go virtual is another thing altogether!
In the early days, our founder and CEO Mia Paulus envisioned having a 100% virtual company to help business owners with financial and support tasks. She fully embraced the virtual model when she first started The Centr (originally called The Admin Center) back in 2006, but was forced to switch to a more traditional accounting practice in 2008 after the housing bust. For a while, “virtual” was the farthest thing from her mind.
In fact, Mia even started to equate success with having a big office and lots of employees – but without enough talent available in her home city, and out of a desire to get out from under the overhead of rent, Mia started thinking about how to go virtual again anyway. She was inspired by the story of JetBlue to look more closely at how we could provide customer service and support as a virtual team.
Faced with investing $100K in a new telephone structure or finding a modern alternative instead, Mia chose to invest in cloud software as a phone solution. She also finally traded in the $4,000/month in business office rent for $600/month on a 600 square feet office.
As our company started accepting employment applications for candidates from across the United States, Mia gradually realized that she was barely even using her tiny office anymore – and just like that, the company was officially 100% virtual!
It might have taken us a while to get here, but now that we’ve arrived, we wouldn’t dream of going back.
Lessons from a Virtual Company
With all that said, there are still some challenges associated with the virtual world. Moving to a 100% virtual team model has been a nearly 15-year journey for our company, so we have plenty of experience to draw from.
Here are the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
1) You Have to Hire Right
Take Mia’s word for it: You don’t need a large office or a ton of employees to be successful. But when you decide to build a virtual team, you do need to hire right!
Our latest challenge at The Centr was making sure job applicants understood that we weren’t looking for “freelancers.” As much as we want to provide great remote opportunities with a flexible schedule, we are still hiring employees.
Fortunately, we’ve learned how to screen and train new employees to help ensure that our new hires come in with the right mindset about The Centr. This has led to a wonderful team with a strong culture founded on trust. We know that our people will do great work, wherever they are (even on an RV road trip!)
Company culture can be challenging even for companies with all of its employees in one place – but by emphasizing our service-minded mission and hiring right, The Centr has seen great results.
We recently took an employee survey and found that the majority of employees feel here the best thing about working with us is the people. It’s pretty incredible to have such a close bond among people who haven’t met in person before!
2) Communication is Key
Even the most talented people need to practice good communication to work well together! That’s why finding a reliable way for everyone to stay in communication is so important.
When Mia tells others her philosophy on virtual work, she often gets a simple rebuttal: “You can’t replace physical interaction!”
Her reply? “You really can!”
At The Centr, we use video conferencing and instant messaging tools daily to stay in touch, which sometimes works better than the haphazard face-to-face communication and random meetings you get in a brick-and-mortar office setting.
In fact, one great thing about the virtual model is that instant messages in a tool like Slack are automatically saved – and we also record many of our Zoom meetings, so we always have a record of our communications that we can fall back on. This is super handy if we have to refer back to something, or if a team member has been on vacation and needs to get up to speed!
So, does your business need to go 100% virtual? Not necessarily! Traditional companies can still provide flexibility for both virtual and in-house employees as long as the whole team is bought into the same communication scheme, both inside and outside of the office.
It all depends on what works best for your company, but again, communication is key!
3) There’s Simplicity in Virtual Work
So many business owners focus on getting a bunch of office space and building a huge team to work there, but they don’t realize how much attention is going toward things that are just distractions…
Do you really want to judge whether an employee’s desk is too messy, or deal with a bit of asbestos in the ceiling tiles? We don’t!
When your team is virtual, a lot of that noise falls by the wayside. You might be surprised to hear it, but all you’re left with are two main things: communication and productivity.
This is a good thing. The easier it is to focus on the things that provide the greatest value, the more successful you’ll be.
Hopefully, you see how a virtual model can not only work, but even surpass the traditional employment model in many ways!
Although this post was focused on The Centr’s journey and how we became a virtual company, these lessons apply to you as well! If you want the benefit of virtual teams without having to learn it all for yourself, a great way to do it is by working with us.
When you hire The Centr, you’re benefiting from our many years of experience in the virtual world. You won’t have to overcome the challenges of screening hires, figuring out software, or managing employees.
Instead, we provide you with just ONE person to talk to: your dedicated client success strategist. The Centr’s teams are here to work on any tasks or projects you need to get done, so once you tell your strategist what you want, we take it from there.
Just like that, you’re free to focus on what you do best.
It’s all part of The Centr’s mission to make business simple.
Want to learn more about how our virtual team can help your business?