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Managing distributed teams: 6 lessons from real companies

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We’ve all learned overnight that a flexible business is a resilient business. As COVID-19 swept the planet, the teams that were able to transition quickly into remote workspaces and a distributed environment have fared better than those who still relied on desk phones and hard copies to get the job done.

As a small business, you have the benefit of learning from this huge, teachable moment in history. Today, we’ll look at the biggest lessons some real companies have learned as they made the transition to a more flexible work environment:

1. Expect the unexpected

2. The right technology can save the day

3. Find software that pays for itself, and then some

4. Flexibility is good for business

5. Think about integrations before you buy

6. Avoid future headaches: find software that grows with you

1. Expect the unexpected

What happens when your entire team evacuates in a hurricane, but they’re essential to helping everyone else recover from that same storm?

AmCap Insurance provides commercial and personal insurance to people and businesses in some of the states that are hardest hit by hurricanes each year. When cleanup begins, the insurance company is one of the first calls their customers make. Their team is never in more demand than after a storm evacuation, which meant AmCap’s agents needed to field calls from their safe location instead of the office.

With RingCentral, AmCap Insurance’s staff could access all of their communication capabilities—their business phone service but also video conferencing, team messaging, and even online fax—on an app they could use anywhere, so their customers weren’t left to pick up the pieces on their own:

But if 2020 has proven anything for small and large businesses alike, it’s to expect the unexpected. AmCap’s first real test of RingCentral didn’t come in the form of a hurricane, but in a global pandemic. Having a team that’s ready to work from home at the drop of a hat can help you weather any number of literal and figurative storms.

2. The right technology can save the day

Doing your homework before choosing a cloud communications app is crucial, according to companies who have had to make a switch mid-stream. Outages during business hours can be costly, and buying reliable software today can save on downtime and lost customers tomorrow.

Take Dry Dock Marine Center, for example. They’re a Midwest company selling and servicing all kinds of watercraft who had their phone lines crash the week before Fourth of July, when everyone wants to buy and service boats. According to their phone service provider, someone hit a fiber line, they were going to be down for three weeks. This was a boat seller’s worst nightmare. They had to take action.

The good news: after some online research, Dry Dock chose RingCentral’s work-from-anywhere phone system: Managing distributed teams

Once they signed on, they were up and running within the hour helping their customers prep for holiday fun on the water. What’s more, their new phone system allowed a smooth transition when 2020’s shutdowns took effect. Investing in reliable tech today means being prepared for anything.

3. Find software that pays for itself…and then some

The right cloud communications technology won’t be a drain on your budget. In fact, it’s likely to help your bottom line.

Can you imagine a company’s revenue jumping by 230% after updating their phone system? It happened for Junk Chuckers, a small trash removal company in Toronto. They needed help nurturing potential customers and keeping them on the line when there were calls in the queue. RingCentral’s automated call distribution system helped to do all of that and more.

Junk Chuckers owner Al Noufaro is a self-proclaimed numbers guy, which is why he chose cloud communications software that would pay off for his small business. “RingCentral’s call-from-anywhere feature lets our employees be just as productive outside the office,” Noufaro says. “Second, Toronto real estate is ridiculously expensive, and knowing we can hire remote workers means we won’t have to expand our physical office space as we grow. I’ve run the numbers, and having RingCentral is going to cut down on our real estate expenses by at least half.”

💸 What WFH expenses should you look for when you’re managing your finances? We collaborated with Bench, an online bookkeeping service, to create this guide that’ll come in handy as you’re looking through your business expenses.

Keep your finances on lock when you're working from home. Download the free guide to learn how


4. Flexibility is good for business

Going WFH isn’t just good for your bottom line; your customers will love the added flexibility and communication channels you’re able to provide.

Based on our research, people across generations appreciate having options when it comes time to contact a business. Most notably, we’ve seen a spike in the number of younger consumers who prefer text communication with a company:   Managing distributed teams

An all-in-one communication app likeRingCentral lets customers contact you in the way that makes most sense for them. Maybe they’re at work and want to shoot a quick text or email while they’re thinking about their order, because they can’t hop on a call. The more communication channels you offer (and can properly handle), the better for delighting your customer base.

Differentiation of communication is something teachers understand better than most. Every student comes to learning with a different set of skills, even in a single-grade environment. RingCentral’s message, video, and phone capabilities help Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School’s community stay in better touch while keeping their personal information private.

“The students prefer texts to calls, but our teachers were reluctant to give out their personal cell numbers,” says Chris Moody, GCVS’s Director of Technology. “Now they don’t have to. They can text with students from their own phones using their RingCentral numbers.”

5. Think about integrations before you buy

While working from home might be a necessity at times, one perk of a cloud phone system should be ease of use. If new technology isn’t making your life a little simpler, what’s the point?

That’s why it’s important to make sure the software you buy plays well with other systems you use frequently, like your CRM (customer relationship management software). The right communications app will sync with this system to streamline your day even further.

AmCap Insurance has used app integration in a really interesting way. Most insurance teams spend a good amount of time typing up notes from their phone calls, so the next agent who sees the customer record understands where they left off. When AmCap adopted RingCentral, they found a real timesaver when they integrated Salesforce, their CRM, with the new phone system: Managing distributed teams

The company’s sales reps now use the RingCentral app to make and take business calls from their laptops or even their own smartphones. And using RingCentral’s integration with Salesforce, these reps can record and save these calls in their Salesforce account for record-keeping and review later. Check out the 200+ other integrations we offer.

🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:

6. Avoid future headaches: find software that grows with you

It takes time and energy to sort through the different choices you have for remote work software to find the best fit for your business. Be sure to think ahead to the future as you search, so you choose a solution that can scale up alongside you. Otherwise, you’ll have to do the same software hunt all over again in a matter of years (or even sooner).

Coursera, an online education platform offering free courses, has seen serious growth in recent years. After trying some other PBX systems early on, they found RingCentral and haven’t looked back. Why? Easy, affordable onboarding for new employees and simplified administration as the business grows.

“It takes almost no time to set up RingCentral. Rather than a 20-step procedure to get a task done, I can just log in online and make adjustments where necessary,” says Vu Truong, Coursera’s IT Manager.  “RingCentral is a great solution for us to utilize as we grow. With RingCentral, the administrative tasks are significantly easier to use than with other PBX systems I have used.”

One task that’s been simplified for Truong and other business leaders, thanks to RingCentral? The ability to add new users in an instant, 100% remotely. This means you can hire the right talent for the job, no matter where they live, as your business expands.

Managing a distributed team: our final piece of advice

As a small business on the rise, you have the best of both worlds: the benefit of being toward the beginning of your journey and access to the hard-learned lessons of the companies who came before you.

Take advantage of this secondhand hindsight. Do what other companies wish they had done when the latest global emergency struck. Bake remote capabilities into your business from day one, so your whole organization will be built on flexibility from the ground up.

Originally published Jul 01, 2020, updated Apr 19, 2021

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