By Sam Saab, President and Founder of DPS Consulting and Results Software
Gone are the days of being tethered to an office desk from 9 to 5. We live in a fast-paced world where work is performed not just during "working hours", but when and where opportunity presents itself.
At the same time, people's idea of work has evolved. No longer just a means of earning a paycheck, working is something that contributes to our identity. But we don't want to be consumed by it. We want to have meaningful, fulfilling lives, and that means being able to put down our pens, walk away from our computers and spend time with our family and friends. What's more, technology like the Internet and hosted business information gives us "omnipresence," allowing us to engage and deliver information and services anytime, anywhere. In many cases, our physical presence is optional, our physical business location irrelevant.
Given all of that, we’ve embraced a “virtual office” model here at Results Software. Simply put, we rely on a dispersed employee base. While we maintain a central office for management, administrative functions and local staff, many of our technical and project-based staff work from their own virtual offices. There’s no single office building where all of us gather each day. There are no time cards to be punched, no mandatory lunch hours.
Within that paradigm, a virtual office is an "operational business unit." That unit might consist of one individual, typing away on her laptop in an airport terminal. It could be a team of people in an out-of-state or overseas satellite office. It may be someone conducting business from his home office. At Results, we have employees all over the country, from Virginia to California.
To make the virtual office model work, a company needs to be aware of both its advantages and drawbacks. Yes, our quest for smart and talented employees isn’t limited to Herndon, Va., and its vicinity. Our office overhead is low; we can expand and shrink teams without "restructuring". At the same time, though, we realize that running a virtual office isn’t for everyone, or for any type of business. It takes a certain kind of personality and approach; it requires a willingness to invest in the necessary technology; and it puts a bigger burden on management personnel, who can no longer rely on traditional supervision and face-to-face interaction with the staff.
For the Virtual Office model to succeed, we have to be truly operational at all times and everyone on the team needs to be ´singing from the same sheet of music´ – and that means having full access to the information that drives our business from anywhere and at anytime. That is the "glue" that makes the Virtual Office model possible. We naturally rely on our award-winning Results CRM as the central hub of information including client, prospect and vendor data. With Results CRM, we can track and manage all of our business relationships from initial contact to final payment; integrate workgroup calendars and scheduling; centralize, track, and forecast sales opportunities; manage and track projects; use electronic timesheets for monitoring time and to produce accurate billing; create invoices and track payments; and automatically enforce current business processes.
While a solid Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is critical, it is also essential for the CRM system to integrate with the other key applications used to run the business. For example, we use the Results CRM integration with:
While some companies choose to manage their own servers, many other virtual office models take advantage of well-known and highly respected application hosting vendors, such as Right Networks, to secure their data and access their applications in-the-cloud. Specifically, Right Networks offers the hosting of Results CRM as a purchased (owned) application or as a month-to-month lease option. When you combine that with the fact that they can also host QuickBooks and Outlook for a month-to-month lease, that becomes a perfect way to move your operations into the cloud and have a similar setup to what has worked for us.
When all is said and done, the virtual office is a win-win-win situation that benefits Results Software, our customers, and our employees alike. Given our employee pool—an extensive group of people with a diverse array of skill sets—clients can feel confident that they’re always getting the best-qualified person to do the job at hand. Also, with employees in different time zones, customers have an extended time period to access our staff. Projects are managed with the highest degree of professionalism across departments, with electronic status reports provided when necessary.
Meanwhile, staff members enjoy a flexible work schedule while avoiding the stresses of commuting. Each employee is a trusted and respected member of our team, and we always appreciate feedback, whether someone is voicing a concern or merely sharing a comment. And even though they don’t see us every day, our employees are always in-the-know. They have full access to account histories and all of the information they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible.
At Results Software, we welcome the "new world order". By understanding the needs of both our customers and employees, harnessing the power of technology, and adopting a "cooperative team" mindset, we’ve built a formidable operation over the last 25 years—one that delivers top-notch software and services. The verdict is in: The virtual office model is a resounding success.
Sam Saab, President and Founder of DPS Consulting and Results Software, is passionate about helping businesses succeed! With 25 years of experience in the computer consulting and software development industries, Sam is a recognized pioneer in the CRM industry and office automation technologies. In 1986, Sam developed and launched Results CRM an award-winning integrated business solution that helps businesses centralize their data, streamline their operations and improve their business relationships.
Sam is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a degree in Electro-Mechanical Engineering. He is a national speaker and published author on CRM topics including business growth strategies, office automation, virtual offices, boosting sales and gaining a competitive advantage.