Phil Castle, The Business Times
Marc and Alowetta Terrien know well the advantages of using websites, social media and email to communicate with customers. Moreover, they’re used to working from home.
It’s something the couple has done for years in operating a website design and software development firm from first home offices in Western Colorado and then a 40-foot motorhome in which they travel across the country.
Now the Terriens share their experiences with other business owners and managers coping with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Challenges ultimately could become opportunities, they said.
“Remember to be grateful for this new opportunity to improve your services and products and perhaps discover new ways to conduct business. That sounds like a platitude, but we all do have the chance — right now — to analyze and change things,” the Terriens stated in an email exchange with the Business Times.
The couple operates Thin Air. They’ve been busy since the onset of the outbreak helping clients update websites and social media platforms and publish email letters. “Keeping customers informed is the most important daily-hourly activity for the foreseeable future. With more people staying home, working remotely and ordering online, businesses must keep their websites current. Some businesses that traditionally have not sold products or services online are now considering it. This is more of a long-term strategy, but more businesses must consider this in the environment we are now in.”
Keeping existing customers and potential customers informed is easy, they said, but important in assuring them a business is available to help them.
Businesses also should check and update Google My Business, Yelp and Trip Advisor listings to get information out to people conducting internet searches.
In terms of operating businesses from home or another remote location, the Terriens said success depends on several factors.
Internet access is essential to communicating with customers and suppliers. Video conferencing helps. Such free services as Skype and Zoom are available. Paid services offer businesses the ability to record and present classes and other information.
While texts and emails impart information, voice and video calls work better in conveying intention and providing instant feedback.
A dedicated workspace helps as well, whether that’s a home office, vacant bedroom or dining room table.
Following a regular routine and developing a work mindset is crucial, too. “Developing the discipline to separate yourself and get into your work mode is key to success.”
Distractions and other obstacles can present challenges, the Terriens said. “Looking out the window while trying to work only to see that you need to mow the lawn or do the laundry can ruin your activity of the day.”
Headphones help to maintain focus.
Businesses forced to send staff home to work should trust their employees, but also verify they’re completing tasks without supervision. “Set clear expectations and check in often. Try a communication tool, like Slack, to have ready access to employees to chat online about projects or tasks. Video conference and phone calls help also.”
Some employees could discover working from home is not only possible but also more productive than working in their offices, the Terriens said.