By Richard Henderson, Publisher of Home Business Magazine
Younger Entrepreneurs are Overcoming Barriers that have Held Back Virtual Business Structures
Home-based business owners are typically viewed as independent operators who work their business endeavors alone. Although this description fits a large segment of home-based entrepreneurs, a growing number of them are operating as parts of larger business organizations. One term to describe these organizations is “Virtual Companies.”
Home Business Magazine was an early champion of home-based business owners working together in virtual company structures. Frankly, however, this virtual structure never really gained traction with home-based entrepreneurs. Although technology has long been sufficient to enable disparately located business owners to collaborate and work together towards a larger business endeavor, cultural roadblocks were often too much to overcome.
But over the last few years, however, younger entrepreneurs are moving into the home-based ranks of business owners. Not only is this generation the most entrepreneurial in history, it has grown up with social media and hand-held computer access. These young entrepreneurs do not have to be co-located to feel humanly connected. This social and human dynamic has broad implications for home business. Younger entrepreneurs do not have cultural impediments to working with someone who is not located in close physical proximity.
Whether a young new entrepreneur or retiree, anyone can tap into these virtual profits. The competitive advantages of virtual operations are many. First, virtual companies open up vast new opportunities. When entrepreneurs work together in a business, they can offer a product or service far beyond what one person can do on his or her own. Virtual companies are also more flexible and able to form and adapt more quickly to target an emerging opportunity.
Larger office-based “corporate businesses” need time to review similar opportunities, get them in front of decision makers, and hire and train new staff. A team of home-based entrepreneurs, who may have never even met one another before, can quickly link together, divide up business responsibilities, and develop a plan to target the emerging opportunity. That office-based company might need several weeks to respond, whereas the home-based virtual team needs only a matter of days.
The best advice I can give for virtual teams of entrepreneurs is to gain the competitive advantage of truly working as a single business endeavor. In the past, virtual companies tended to be a network of independent businesses that linked together to try and accomplish larger business activities. Work was stove-piped and relationships often broke down. As cultural impediments to long distance business relationships decline, virtual companies need to achieve more realistic assignments of work responsibilities. Divide up tasks similar to how these would be divided if everyone sat in cubicles next to one another.
To make this work, virtual teams must have regular video teleconferencing, possibly even each work day. Have regular virtual meetings to review tasks and monitor feedback. But also get people together online, looking and speaking with one another, without a meeting agenda. The biggest challenge in a virtual corporate structure is people not being able to interact physically in an office environment. This roadblock can only be overcome through social media interactions and incessant video conferencing. Don’t fall into the “email communications only” trap!
Those who master the virtual company challenge will find new and larger business opportunities to target. They will reap the rewards and earn virtual profits. HBM