It’s no secret that the cloud has significantly disrupted the way businesses are run today. Think about Über, Amazon and Facebook. Yet, most businesses have not moved into the cloud in their everyday way of working. Start-up companies using traditional models to build their businesses often struggle with high overhead costs, such as expensive office space and employee salaries and benefits.
But what if you could remove these obstacles and build a high value 21st century-style organization that delivers better service to your clients, without the expensive overhead?
What does it take to build a successful cloud-based business? Are there tools that can help?
At UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, we did just that. We built a branding and communications agency that was global from day one, connecting nearly 30 people around the world under one umbrella (and now more than 200).
We adopted cloud-based technology and a global style of working, which enabled us to collaborate, virtually, from nearly any place in the world. No longer were we stuck in traffic jams trying to get to the office in the morning, or limiting our selection of team members to those within commuting distance of a single office. We were UP THERE in the cloud, and EVERYWHERE on the ground, close to our clients wherever they wanted to meet us.
A new way to structure companies
It’s clear that the future of professional service companies is in the cloud. But what are the secrets to moving your business into the cloud, or creating a start-up entirely using cloud-based collaboration? What tools and systems are the most effective?
To start, it’s about how you organize your company.
Secret #1: Structure your company around the client
In the old world (and often still today), agencies (and service organizations) built their business by putting the agency at the center and surrounding themselves with clients – often with a bit of ego to match. But that doesn’t mean that they employed the right experts to work on the client’s business. Nor did cooperation between various international network offices happen easily, since each of those offices were run with a separate P&L (profit & loss) mandate.
In the new world, we can build the agency around the client, with the client at the center and agency team members surrounding them. We can run our business internationally, with one global P&L, and eliminate the inter-office politics and internal struggles over who “owns” a client. We can pull in the exact expertise needed – from a brand strategist in Stockholm to an art director in New York and a copywriter in London to a social media expert in Boston.
Using the cloud, virtual teams can expand and contract, depending on the amount of work the client needs, with exactly the right type of resources to get the job done. No longer is the agency limited to the small group of people that they employ in the local office. The cloud brings global expertise directly to the client, regardless of geography.
Secret #2: Foster a close-knit community of like-minded individuals
How? By developing a community of members who support one another. Not employees, but individuals who come together under the framework of e-ployment. It’s is not self-employment, or employment, but a hybrid. It is not a typical outsourcing network, nor is it crowd sourced, or worse a "freelance" network. It means creating a secure community, with a rigorous selection process to assure a strong fit, and a common identity and passion for working together.
Using this model, you allow membership only by referral from existing members. This will serve as a strong quality control for running a cloud-based organization, not to mention the integrity with which confidential client information will be handled. It means only working with people your existing members know and trust. And having a thorough vetting process for new members that includes candidate interviews much like traditional hiring processes does. That gives your clients a bit of reassurance too.
Secret #3: Use the right tools
UP uses a number of cloud-based tools in our everyday work, including DropBox, Basecamp, Skype, GotoMeeting and HubSpot’s CRM (and COS). These cloud-based networking solutions are built to give members who need access to information what they need right away. They are secure and keep information available up there everywhere.
However, a successful cloud-based company also needs systems and processes to work together effectively. Over time, UP has developed some of these, including a proprietary account management system to handle invoicing, billing and member status/enrollment. It’s a customized cloud-based IT solution that streamlines accounting processes and minimizes the need for a large accounting team, even when the company size approaches over 200 members globally.
Interested in building your business in the cloud?
Working in the cloud is probably not for everyone. But for those looking to build a sustainable 21st century organization leveraging the power of the cloud and all the surrounding enabling technology, it’s a much better place to start.
Now, some of the tools, methods and processes that UP developed for running an international cloud-based business are available to you. UP has a new service offering that will support you in understanding:
• How to leverage the cloud to grow your teams
• What characteristics make a good cloud-based team member
• How to identify potential problems in team organization
• How to run an account globally and locally at the same time
• What tools are needed for virtual collaboration
• How to manage the financial aspects of an international cloud-based company
• How to set up a billing and accounting system with both internal and external invoicing on the same projects
• What you need to know about international employment taxes and laws
Plus, you can license a custom-built account management system that UP created to meet the unique needs of global cloud-based companies that don’t have traditional employees and work together across borders for clients. It’s called SUPER System, and it’s available to a select number of companies for a reasonable licensing fee.
How to get started
UP can help you work out the details and create a plan that works for running a cloud-based business, including licensing SUPER System, a customized IT solution just for cloud-based organizations.