The quintessential startup of the ‘80s and ‘90s was an image of a person or two sitting in a garage, developing software or inventing a gadget. Apple, Google, and HP were all created this way. The image persists, with just a minimum of a place to sit and a laptop as all you need to start a business.
Thanks to technology, this image is antiquated. Many houses have a home office, and a startup’s employees could be lounging in said home offices around the world, meeting in person only sporadically. This is possible because advancing technology is improving communication, and collaboration over distance is becoming incredibly simple with the cloud. Even the legal quagmire of international payroll laws has an answer to help budding entrepreneurs pay their employees without a headache.
How, then, can you utilize technology to build your own startup across the globe?
Saving to the cloud
Using the cloud to share files makes collaboration with employees based anywhere in the world a simple task. While you can have your own server, many businesses opt to rent a server from a dedicated service, which then takes care of maintenance and any problems that might pop up. You can access the network drive associated with the server anywhere you have an internet connection, allowing you to drag and drop files on the go – from Japan to Germany, San Francisco to Toronto.
For example, a worldwide team is collaborating on a promotional video for their company. The visual effects lead is working late and finishes just before 11 p.m. From his office in Los Angeles, he saves the file to the network directory and leaves for home. In Sussex, the sound designer is taking her first sip of morning tea at 7 a.m., checking the drive, and sees that she can immediately start work on the music for the video. The entire process takes only as long as uploading and downloading the file.
There’s an app for that
Now that your employees can share files, your next step is managing the workflow for a dozen employees in 8 different countries. Asana and Trello, for example, track what work is completed, allowing easy collaboration. IDoneThis sends a daily email, with employees responding with what they accomplished that day.
This list includes translation services and international trading references, useful for any company that has gone global. Google Translate will work for a quick translation, and the phone app can translate text on-screen in real time. Gengo or Verbalizeit both offer full-time translators for professional needs beyond wondering what a short email says.
Internet phone lines
One of the biggest limitations in communicating over the Internet is bandwidth – not distance. Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) can bring employees halfway around the world into a conference room, provided both have adequate Internet connections. With file sharing and work management taken care of, you need actual interaction.
The Internet as a whole has enabled great strides in teleconferencing and telecommuting, making video conferencing and digital phone conversations – using the Internet, not traditional phone lines – available at a moment’s notice. A tactic that’s gaining traction in international companies is leaving an open connection on in a conference room, with remote employees hooked in and able to interact with passersby. A small company just needs an open monitor to do the same.
Paying your employees
Payroll basics aren’t hard for a small business, until it has employees in different countries. It’s a fairly significant task to deal with payroll laws from multiple countries and ensure that all your workers are paid. We again turn to technology, with services available to help you navigate the murky waters of international payroll law. You (or your HR department) might be able to handle a few employees from different states, but when multiple countries come into play, technology can do the heavy lifting. This will help with what Quickbooks has identified as the worst cost for a fast-growing company: regulatory and tax costs, especially global tax costs
An employee thousands of miles away can virtually be in the same room with you. A small company may only have a few employees per country, let alone sharing time zones. Thanks to modern technology, location, languages, and different payroll laws are no longer obstacles for a startup going global.
For more on technology as a communications tool, see Can Technology Replace Human Interpreters?Comments