Diary of a Remote Firm – Staying Connected

  • By Liz Briggson
  • March 3rd, 2021

How are you doing as we approach the one-year anniversary of the quick transition to remote work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic? At the outset, I certainly did not expect the remote work environment to remain the norm for this long. Many firms have adapted and found their stride while others are experiencing the challenges that come with an abrupt change lasting for an unexpectedly lengthy duration.

Divvy recently sponsored a one-hour webinar with Mike Jesowshek discussing how to “Stay Connected as a Team Remotely.” Mike is the founder of Jetro Tax, a virtual firm that he intentionally built that way eight years ago. In his presentation, Mike shares his best advice for managing a remote team and helping them stay connected. The program highlights are recapped below.

Mike and his team are quite accustomed to remote work and what it takes to stay connected as a team. At the same time, Mike empathetically acknowledges that for traditional office-based teams, the switch to remote work can be as challenging as visiting a new city in a foreign country. Just like maps and signs, processes and systems can help overcome some of the challenges.

We learned about three areas where processes and systems have been most helpful to the Jetro team:

  1. Communication
  2. Optimal Tech Stack
  3. Culture and Fun

Communication

By now you probably have a digital messaging system and a virtual meeting platform of choice. Whether that’s Google, Slack, Skype, Zoom, or Teams, the goal is for team members to regularly utilize the chosen platform to collaborate. Mike recommends taking virtual meetings one step further by encouraging or requiring that participants turn their video on. 

One webinar guest asked about how to get reluctant team members to share their video. Mike recommended leading by example while openly communicating expectations that team video meetings require… video. Adding to that, he suggested taking the time to understand employee personalities to consider where their comfort level lies and coaching from there. 

Communication with clients is equally important and can benefit from similar considerations. Mike advises, “Don’t forget your clients are going through a change, too!” 

Optimal Tech Stack

In any environment, deploying the right tech stack makes a world of difference in the experiences of staff members and customers alike. In a virtual environment, your tech stack equates to your presence and capabilities. The Jetro tech stack is 100% cloud-based. The team supports clients on Xero and Quickbooks Online. They use ProConnect Online for filing taxes, Gusto for HR, and Divvy for managing expenses. Along with the communication tools mentioned above, the Jetro team uses Teamwork Projects for project management and Calendly for scheduling.    

During the webinar we had an interesting conversation about the many challenges that go along with expense management. It reminded me that I had faced similar challenges at a prior company. 

I was surprised when I did not receive a corporate card as part of the on-boarding process. Employees were expected to cover discretionary expenses (professional dues, travel, training, etc.) with their own personal credit card before submitting an expense report. This process was so inconvenient that some people would ask the office manager to borrow the company credit card to cover expenses. 

In a virtual environment, the “process” of borrowing the office credit card is no longer an option. You can’t just walk over to the front desk and ask to borrow the company card. And let’s be honest, having an office credit card floating around is just not a good business practice.

Divvy solves this problem handily. Divvy offers a business card with discretionary spending limits and expense management software. This provides both control and visibility to an organization, and the benefits of having a company card to employees. I could say more, but in short, Divvy would have been a welcome alternative to incurring expenses personally or borrowing the office credit card.

Culture and Fun

Over the years, the Jetro team has come up with some pretty neat ideas to have fun and stay connected. Every Monday during team meetings they nominate a client to receive a coffee gift card. On certain Tuesdays they designate funds to a charity. They also make a point to take a break from business talk and enjoy different experiences together. Mike shared the team’s success with virtual escape rooms, virtual games such as Jeopardy and Family Feud, and the weekly open-door office hours with the CEO (tip: this can be based around coffee or beer). 

From a culture perspective, Mike talked about clearly communicating culture and expectations with prospective employees using a “Culture Deck.” Mike referenced Netflix’ Culture Deck as a good example if you are interested. This helps to set the tone during the hiring process and avoid unwanted surprises. For their team, they are very open about the benefits and uniqueness of being a fully virtual firm.

A business colleague of mine wisely said, “Work has become an activity, rather than a place.” With all the changes we have encountered over the past year, it’s unlikely firms will ever return to the full-time desk dynamic that marked work life at most organizations. If you haven’t invested in processes and systems to keep your team connected, it’s not too late to make this important investment in the future.

If you are feeling compelled to proactively address these issues, we invite you to visit Divvy’s company page to view upcoming webinars. Divvy sponsors topics around goal development, risk management, using the Divvy platform, time management, team building, and more.

 

 

About Divvy

 

 

Help your clients spend smarter with Divvy. Divvy provides you and your clients with the #1 corporate card & expense management platform—all for free. Divvy has combined seamless expense management software with the world’s smartest business card, so you and your clients never have to process another expense report. No costs or contracts—just free.

Visit https://getdivvy.com/partners/overview/ to learn more. 

  • Remote work
  • team building
  • virtual meetings
About the author
Liz Briggson
Liz Briggson

Liz is a licensed CPA in the state of Michigan and a member of the Encoursa team. Liz also provides business valuation consulting services and is actively involved in the Grand Rapids, MI business community through the Association for Corporate Growth.

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