The Small Business Owner is indeed living in challenging times. In these days of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the state-sanctioned stay at home order, office work has become impossible. Work is at a virtual standstill, except for those who are able to work from home. If you and your team must work at this time, you will be forced to experiment with remote working. If this is your situation, what are your options?

In striving to manage communications with your in-house team, while interfacing with clients in the outside world, here are six tips for creating work-from-home systems and processes that will maintain team spirit and keep the business humming during and after the new normal:

  • Deploy A Messaging Tool: In the absence of physical presence in the office, it is important to find ways and means for staff to relate with one another. The inclination of the Small Business Owner would be for team members to default to telephone calls and email messages. This is not the best way to go when remote work is the only work that is possible. Reason: The number of staff who would have to send emails and make phone calls, at about the same times, as they try to relate to one another, is likely to clog the wheel of work.

The challenge is to minimise the use of phones and emails, which can be limited to communications with clients and extended internal messaging. What to do? There are messaging tools that can facilitate messaging between staff members in remote locations, and reach clients worldwide. You should check out Slack (www.slack.com).

Once set up, the Small Business Owner must establish the parameters for managing the channels, direct messages and notifications necessary for keeping the group focused on the work(s) at hand.

  • Structure Virtual Meetings: In the same way that the business holds regular office meetings in the real world, it will need to set times for the remote team to conduct meetings in cyberspace. There should be agreed periods for these virtual meetings, like the regular Monday Meetings that review the preceding week and preview the week in view. This is the time to plan the work for the week, assign the tasks to be done and pre-determine the deliverables. These must sync with the daily chores which come for review in the next week.
  • Monitor Daily Check-Ins: The daily check-ins are short gathering that come up at set times every working day. These company-wide meetings provide platforms for team members to track and discuss the works being done by members. Members give updates of progress or otherwise on the works at hand. These could run for between 15 to 30 minutes, or longer. The key objective is to keep team members on the same page, ensure that agreed tasks are being implemented. The net result is to instil transparency and build momentum among team members.
  • Have Dedicated ‘Home Office’: It is important that key members of the team are truly working from home and not lounging in their sleep wears. Each team member should be encouraged to have a dedicated work space as a ‘home office.’ As team leader, you should make it a point to request each member to share a photo of his or her ‘home office’ with other members of the team. Whether it is a bedside desk or breakfast table, each team member must create the routine of going to work even at home.
  • Share Members’ Calendars: One way to encourage team members to stay organised is for them to share their calendars. This helps them to structure their days, and enables them to check on one another towards meeting important work schedules. In this regard, unless conditions dictate otherwise, the team should align expected work hours with the normal business-day hours.
  • Break Isolation Of Remote Work: It is easy to be faceless in the course of remote work. However, face-to-face conversation, albeit virtual, can humanise the communication between and among team mates. This can be critical when the team needs to meet in real time, and keep everyone focused on one subject at the same time. This is the time to switch to a video conferencing tool that breaks the isolation of remote workers, by displaying members’ faces and enabling screen sharing during a call. One tool that is fit for this purpose is Zoom (https://zoom.us).

With the above-mentioned tools, which are basically free to use, the Small Business Owner can leapfrog the obstacle of getting work done outside the office environment. These are changing times, no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Small businesses must adapt accordingly, if they are to survive and thrive.

Does Your Tech Start-Up Need $50,000?

If your tech start-up is looking for funding, the 2020 MEST Africa tech start-up competition offers $50,000 to talented entrepreneurs to build and scale businesses that add value to African economies.

This pitch competition, to be held online, will provide Africa’s emerging tech entrepreneurs with investment capital, coaching and access to a continent-wide network of start-up hubs. Interested tech start-ups must:

  • Have cumulatively raised pre-seed or seed-stage capital of $100,000 since inception.
  • Be currently generating revenue.
  • Demonstrate traction in one or more of these markets: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda.

To apply, submit application on the VC4A platform at www.vc4a.com.

Does your business need assistance in meeting the challenges of the times? Feel free to contact us at https://smefinance.org/thesmelab