This July, PROFIT asked readers how they manage clients, suppliers and staff located halfway around the world. Answers came in via Twitter, LinkedIn, email and comments on PROFITguide.com. These are some of the most helpful solutions from business owners dealing with timezone differences that keep mean they’re asleep when their staff or clients are awake.
1. Get tech smart
Chad Davis (LiveCA, Toronto) says “Our online chartered accounting firm has clients in Singapore, Australia and Israel, among other locales. We use an online scheduling system called ScheduleOnce that links to our real-time availability (via Google Calendar). A link is sent to our clients and they select a few times that work for them in their local time zone.
“Skype and Google Hangouts also make it possible to connect, no matter where you are; this minimizes unnecessary travel.
“We also keep all our systems online (accounting, quoting, etc.), so access is never an issue, regardless of where the staff are.”
2. Choose your location wisely
Rajesh Jain (Globeways Canada Inc., Mississauga, Ont.) says, “We’ve thought about moving to Western Canada, but find an Ontario location carries an advantage. We get a few extra hours every day with overseas clients that we would miss if we were outside of Ontario.”
3. Develop message protocols
Adil Siddiqui (CPA-CMA, Montreal) says, “In my experience, it’s worth evaluating existing business processes and communication practices before investing in software to address time-zone differences, since the true solution may lie in those processes.
“My team provides functional and some technical support to finance users around the world from our head office in Montreal. I’ve found that it helps to have clients communicate all issues by email first. This allows us to gauge the urgency of a problem relative to others. It also reserves phone calls for more pressing issues.”
4. Get organized—and personal
Greg Surbey (ICOM Productions, Calgary) says, “Picture a process that has four steps, each requiring a day. Whenever possible, I try to coordinate it so that steps two and three get done by workers in another time zone. We’ll start it here, pass it on to someone around the world and, when we get back in the morning, we’re ready for the next steps. We also use a project-management tracking tool called AtTask, which gives clients a clear window of where we stand; and another called Camtasia that allows us to record little messages, audio or video. Our clients around the world can log in to Google Hangouts, see a document and get a quick message from one of us explaining what they need to know. It’s quick, it’s inexpensive and it lets them see our faces.”
5. Get on the ground
Chris Murumets (LOG1Q3 Corp., Toronto) says, “It’s difficult to sell in other time zones if you don’t have anyone accessible locally, so our co-owner is now based in the U.K. He’s the point person on things we do there and farther east, and is available to folks there as much as possible.”