You’re hiring employees for your Minimally Viable Startup. What tools will you need to stay in touch? But being an MVS, you are trying to minimize expenses, so you want to leverage free, and low-cost solutions. You are all also working remotely since paying rent for an office is out of the question. What do you need and what can you use? I won’t cover collaboration tools, although some of the solutions offer both. Here are some alternatives to common means of staying in touch.
- Cell phones: Everyone has a cell phone now. The question is, should you reimburse phone calls used for business or have corporate phones? This has implications that go from control and accountability to IRS taxes. If you’re an MVS, you should probably not reimburse business use of phones or provide phones. Ensure employees are aware they are responsible for phone charges. Have a written policy in place. This will mean you will need other ways of communicating with each other if your employees are not local.
- Email: Everyone has an email address (or several). You’re a company, you need your own domain and every web host provides email accounts. Set up corporate emails with your domain. This lets you centralize control over email and is a subtle reminder to your employees they are part of something bigger than their personal email accounts. Do you need your own Exchange server? Not as an MVS. However, make sure your accounts support IMAP (not SMTP) and are secure. Have a written policy that the mail accounts are for business use only.
- Teleconferencing: Video chat quality has improved greatly over the years as well as network bandwidth and speed. Skype, GoogleHangouts and FaceTime are three of the most common teleconferencing solutions.
Apple’s FaceTime, however, is currently restricted to one-on-one. Apple’s iChat still exists but its functionality isn’t cross compatible with FaceTime. This means you have to use some other solution if you have more than a single employee.
- Skype: http://skype.com
- Google Hangouts: https://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/
- Apple’s FaceTime: http://www.apple.com/ios/facetime/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-features-com
- Presentations: If you need to present to your employees (PowerPoint, Pages, etc.) there are many choices available. Google Docs is great if you want a simple interface and want to import and export PowerPoint.If you want something more elaborate with innovative features such as panning and zooming within the presentation, you may want to check out Prezi. Prezi is free, but, in order to get all of its capabilities, you do have to pay, and it has limited export capabilities.SlideRocket is a full-featured online presentation solution, it does, however, require a subscription. It has sharing and collaboration capabilities.
Also don’t discount more standard presentation solutions such as GoToMeeting and join.me that are more conferencing solutions, but have the ability to present and share as well.
- Social accounts: Twitter, Facebook, etc., yes your company needs these. You will need these to market and some forms of support. However, you should not use these for employee communications. Use a secure enterprise instant messaging solution instead.
- Instant Messaging (IM): This needs to be private, audit-able, and secure. It also needs to be cheap (or free).OneTeam is relatively new cross-platform solution that includes versions for iPhones and iPads. It also works cross-network.AimPro is derived from AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). This is a good full-featured solution which includes desktop sharing, PowerPoint presentations, etc. However, it is a Windows-only solution.
Glassboard is an Android and iOS-only solution that allows you to create “boards” which are private groups. Boards can share information, photos, videos and PowerPoint presentations
Google Hangouts also acts as an IM environment.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of communication tools available to a company. New ones seem to be popping up regularly as technology and devices evolve.
What do you recommend? I’d be interested to hear.