While we have locations in South Florida and the Midwest, our team works remotely 99% of the time. As our team began to grow quickly a couple years ago, we needed to make the decision of whether we would intentionally be a remote agency or plan on being location-based. We chose remote.
We could talk for hours about the benefits of being a remote agency, but in this post I wanted to share the key tools that Success Agency uses to collaborate as a remote agency.
Slack is a group messenger tool that we really call “The Office”. Slack allows our whole team to have live discussion together.
What’s the difference between Slack and other more traditional Instant Messenger tools like Skype and AIM?
Slack is group-focused by default. Instead of all IM chat being one-on-one, Slack is centered around rooms (called “channels”). We have rooms set up for:
- Water Cooler: this is where we chat about anything from Bryan Cranston & Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Emmy antics, to someone’s favorite IPA, to weekend plans.
- Inbound: discussion for our Inbound Marketing department.
- Website Design: discussion for our Web Design department.
- Client Services: discussion for our Client Services department.
- Group Conference Calls: an open room for internal discussion and notes for during a conference call.
Slack also has the ability to send a direct (private) message to a team member for communication that is not helpful for everyone (or is private in nature).
With Slack, our whole remote team feels connected and collaborates effectively in real-time.
- Cost: Free option then starting at $6.67/user/month
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2. Google Apps
We use Google Apps for Business for our email and it provides a number of additional services that are a small step up from the free versions.
All our meetings are scheduled using Google Calendar. Each person has their own calendar (which can be shared) and then we have a team calendar (WSA Team Schedule).
Google Drive allows us to create and collaborate (in real time) on Documents, Spreadsheets, etc.
We keep ongoing spreadsheets (such as Key Performance Indicator sheets) as well as docs created for one-time use.
In any given day we have around 10 or so Google Hangout meetings happening. We schedule our standing daily and weekly meetings into Google Calendar, and team members can join with a click of the button (almost like an actual physical meeting room).
Google Hangouts also makes it really easy to setup meetings on-the-fly. Often two people will be talking in Slack and realize that a quick meeting is warranted. By using Slack and Google Hangouts together, all you have to do is add “/hangout” into Slack and a Google Hangout is automatically started.
- Cost: We pay $5/user/month for the full Google Apps Suite and it’s completely worth it
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Basecacamp has been a staple since our agency started 6 years ago. If communication is not happening in Slack (live chat) or a Hangout (live meeting), it’s housed inside Basecamp.
We set up individual projects and primarily rely on Basecamp Discussions (threads) and Tasks.
- Cost: We pay $150/month for unlimited projects, though they have prices starting out at $20/month
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4. Dropbox for Business
Dropbox for Business is the last piece of the puzzle in making sure that our whole remote team is always connected. We rely on Dropbox for the following:
- Backup: files that just can’t be lost are stored by each individual in Dropbox-connected folders. Contracts, design source files, and all can’t-lose files are automatically backed up.
- Accessible: as a remote team, we often take advantage individually of taking working vacations. With Dropbox, you know that you can access your important files, even if they are on a different computer.
- Shared folders: we use shared folders almost like companies use an internal network. Our different departments have shared folders dedicated to those departments (with related sub-folders). When a file gets added for one person, it’s added for everyone.
- Sharing Files Publicly: a side feature is that any Dropbox file can, with two clicks, have a publicly-accessible link created. This makes sharing files with outside clients and vendors a breeze.
Dropbox for Business is not cheap, but when compared to the costs of a traditional network, time required to maintain that network, and the higher efficiency of Dropbox, it’s an expense we gladly pay.
- Cost: $15/user/month (minimum of 5 users)
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Your Must-Have Tools
So here you have the top tools our remote agency couldn’t live without. What tools do you think are essential to a remote team?