Virtual Teams and Remote Work Still the Standard at Blue Zoo Creative in the Time of the Coronavirus
Virtual Teams and Remote Work Still the Standard at Blue Zoo Creative in the Time of the Coronavirus
It’s a strange time with much uncertainty and fear.
I went to the local Walmart the day after the president spoke to the nation just to pick up some normal goods and regular groceries. I stood dumbstruck at my first stop and just started with the thought, “Hunh. There’s absolutely no soap here.” I spent another 30 minutes just cruising around the store snapping photos of empty shelves.
Even at that moment, no fear washed over me, but I did realize it was time to think longer term. Not just for my family, but Blue Zoo, our clients, and creatives we work with.
In 2016, although we had been using creative contractors almost exclusively, we decided to make it part of our culture. Playing off an original idea I had mapped out all the way back in 2012, we gave birth to The Pride Contractor Community. It wasn’t just for local contractors, it enabled us to embrace many of our commercial creative friends we had made over the years across the nation.
In addition to our Arkansas clients, we have clients from all over the world from such places as San Francisco, New York City, Scotsdale, Canada, and Peru. We had to use online meetings right out of the gate, (though looking back on recordings, the video and audio were rough!).
Back to the Present
Because we’ve been managing teams and projects virtually and in person, we only have to adjust the way we do business slightly. Mostly we’ve cut down in-person meetings and have less in person networking. But what does the future hold and how can we help others? By sharing what we’ve learned, of course!
Two great articles to come out online recently are by Matt Mullenweg of Automattic (the creators of WordPress) and Alex Kantrowitz of BuzzFeedNews.com. They talk about how the Coronavirus outbreak will change how we go to work.
Lessons Learned and Shared
If you’re scrambling for guidance, there is plenty out there about remote working, management teams, and client connections. You still need rock solid processes and accountability, but you’ll find the following work really well.
FOR THE BUSINESS OWNER/MANAGER:
- Project Management Software
There are several platforms that work well depending on your particular processes, know-how, and time you have to learn. We went through many project management solutions with varying degrees of success. We finally landed on TeamWork and have never looked back. It allows for internal/contractor conversations and review before sharing with clients. While we could share a referral link with you, I’ll just let you know it’s been fantastic and has many features we haven’t even touched yet. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask us why we chose it.
- Speaking of Contractors
Our contractor community changes from time to time as people grow out of our community or the contractor ends up working for a larger company. The key is to make sure when you have a project that you have daily (or bi-weekly depending on speed). Contractors are legally different than employees in how you schedule deadlines. They are more like peers than people you expect are always looking out for your company. They want you to succeed, of course, but they also need your support. And not just financially. In this age of instant access by text, social DMs, email, and phone, contractors are NOT ‘on call’ at 2:00am.
- Client Relations.
Zoom.us is the video conferencing platform we have been using for years. While most people prefer to meet in person (until recently), video calls have always worked well. We’ve found what used to be drive time plus an hour or more, has changed to as little as 15-30 minutes saving everyone time.
- New Business.
What do you do when you can’t send your people out to knock on doors or go to networking events? Most businesses are already using LinkedIn as a referral/networking area. The difference during these times should be to focus your attention and energy on the specific type of client you want and introduce yourself. Changes are still the same if they need your product or service. Additionally, it’s called “Social Media,” so find ways to engage with people. We all love to see what you’re doing, where, and with who, but help us with the unique solution you have for our businesses and lives. Don’t forget to send them to your website or phone.
FOR CREATIVE CONTRACTORS
and SMALL COMPANIES
(who may or may not be working from home)
These are lessons from years of being a company working from home or remotely:
- Have a consistent work schedule.
Look, we get it. It’s awesome to take care of family during the day and work into the wee hours when no one is around. Sometimes it’s the ONLY way you can build your business. This may be your consistent work schedule. If it works, do it! However, if you set times during the day, make sure you’re not distracted by laundry, social media (unless that’s your focus), or the awesome weather (when available), you will find your evenings are clear and free. Here’s a hint, if your friends and family are saying “I know you’re busy, so…” stop and take a look to see if you are making yourself busy or you are really raking it in!
- Keep a ‘business’ area of your home and remember to ‘leave’ work.
You may have a complete home office, or just a desk. Starting out, you may only have the kitchen table. The trick is to create a space where you can create and be productive. You might set up a routine of ‘going to work’ by moving your computer and work related products to a new space at home. And at the end of the day, pack it all up and move it to do ‘home’ related work. Even stepping into the great outdoors, backyard, or new room can signify a mental shift from work to home.
- Communicate and Schedule.
Communication is key. Never ever assume that if a client (or company that contracted you) hasn’t reached out about your assignment/project that their deadline isn’t important. People get busy. Reach out. Clarify. Let them know, “You needed this by tomorrow and I still haven’t gotten the files I need. If I don’t get them by 3:00pm, I cannot meet your deadline.” This is reasonable, though you may get push back (see above about assumptions of ‘on-call’ contractors). Stand your ground, but be flexible when you can. The more you reach out, the more the client will appreciate you and your professionalism.
- Take Care of Yourself.
I can’t stress this enough. You MUST move, stretch, drink water, eat properly, have quiet time, and recharge. It has been proven that we are influenced by everything around us at a subconscious level. So the more awesome things you see, read, experience, and do will create more amazing work. A rule of thumb is set a timer for every hour and take a 5-10 minute break. Seems like a lot of time, but you absolutely need this.
It may be truly weird times at the moment, but we all have greatness in us and the ability to overcome difficult times. Take a breath. Focus on your goals. Create a simple goal for yourself, family, community, work, business, and your clients. Then go through your list of goals just like the same way you eat an elephant (metaphorically speaking, of course), take one bite at a time.
Remember, together, we create (and accomplish) something bigger than any one of us could have imagined alone.
Blue Zoo is a Creative Agency in Northwest Arkansas providing branding for web, print, and digital mediums and uses a virtual contractor community called The Pride. It was established in 2008 and has served clients regionally, nationally, and internationally. For more information and portfolio, visit https://www.bluezoocreative.com
Do you know the three R’s of successful project management?
They are real time, relationship and responsibility. These three R’s of project management can transform an idea into a successfully completed project. When planning a project it is important to give real time schedules in which a project can be finished. To do this, it’s important to make a plan of action. You want to include when will the project start, how long it will take, review points, due date and finalizing with the client.
Maintaining a positive, cooperative relationship with co-workers and clients is also essential to quality project management. Good communication is the key to these relationships. Take a few minutes to email, call and keep the other team members and the client informed about the current project stage.
Assigning individual responsibilities for the tasks and taking responsibilty for the overall project can be the difference between success and failure! Your name is on you work. Do a job that you want to stand behind. Not all projects succeed, but they do teach us about our weaknesses, strengths and where to improve. Practicing the three R’s of project management is your stepping stone to success.
Project management is a dynamic and multifaceted discipline that requires skillful navigation in a variety of domains. From time management to relationship building and taking on leadership roles, the foundational pillars of project management are rooted in the ability to balance and coordinate tasks to ensure a project’s success. Whether you’re a seasoned project manager or new to the field, understanding the complexities of time, relationships, and responsibilities is essential in any project’s execution. In this article, we will explore some key insights and strategies to help you excel in these three critical areas of project management.
As a project manager, one of the most important responsibilities you have is managing time expectations. With time being one of the most limited resources we have, it's essential that projects are completed on time and within budget. This can be a challenge, but with proper planning, it's possible to give realistic schedules in which a project can be finished. Planning a project is a key part of managing time expectations. You want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what the project entails, who will be involved, and what resources will be needed. Once you have a good understanding of the project, you can begin to develop a plan of action. Your plan should include when the project will start, how long it will take, review points, due dates, and finalizing with the client. It's important to break the project down into manageable tasks and assign responsibilities to team members. This ensures that everyone knows what they are responsible for and can work towards a common goal. When developing your plan, it's important to take into account potential roadblocks that could arise during the project. It's unrealistic to expect everything to go smoothly, so be sure to build in some flexibility into your schedule. This will allow you to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and still keep the project on track. Regular review points throughout the project are crucial to managing time expectations. This allows you to keep track of progress, identify any areas where things are falling behind, and make adjustments as needed. By staying on top of the project throughout its lifecycle, you can avoid any surprises that could impact the timeline. Another important step to managing time expectations is to set due dates and communicate them clearly. Make sure all team members know when their tasks are due, and build in ample time for review and feedback. By setting due dates, you can ensure that the project stays on track and that everyone is working towards the same deadlines. Finally, it's important to finalize the project with the client. This is when you will deliver the finished product or service and get feedback. Make sure that the client understands the timeline and is on board with the schedule. If there are any changes or delays, be sure to communicate them clearly. In conclusion, managing time expectations in project management is a critical task. By planning the project properly, breaking it down into manageable tasks, building in flexibility, setting due dates, and communicating clearly with the client, you can ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget. Remember to stay on top of progress and make adjustments as needed. By doing so, you'll be able to deliver successful projects that meet or exceed customer expectations.
Maintaining a positive, cooperative relationship with co-workers and clients is essential to quality project management. Successful project management cannot be achieved without effective communication, and strong communication skills are the key to building solid professional relationships. To be successful in any project management endeavor, project managers must put in the effort to maintain strong relationships with all stakeholders involved, including fellow team members and clients. First and foremost, good communication is fundamental to building cooperative relationships. Communication is more than just exchanging information; it is about connecting with others. Effective communication is about understanding the emotions and intentions behind the information being shared. When communication is practiced adequately, it is possible to build strong relationships with team members and clients. There are many ways to build good communication with co-workers and clients. One way is to take a few minutes to send an email, give a call or send a text with updates about the project. Keeping the other team members and clients in the loop about the current project stage not only helps maintain a positive relationship but is essential to effective project management. In addition to keeping team members informed, it is equally important to listen actively when communicating with them. Active listening means making a conscious effort to hear and interpret what the speaker is saying. It is an essential tool for fostering open communication and building robust professional relationships. Another way to establish a cooperative relationship with co-workers and clients is to practice empathy. By putting yourself in the other peoples' shoes and understanding their point of view, it is possible to build trust and establish a rapport that leads to effective communication. Empathy is also an important trait to have when working on projects, and it can be essential for identifying and addressing any concerns the team may have. Setting realistic expectations and following through on commitments is another key to maintaining strong professional relationships. Establishing clear timelines and keeping the team and clients informed of the progress of the project can help to prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications. Furthermore, it shows that the project management team is committed to delivering quality work on time. In conclusion, maintaining positive and cooperative relationships with co-workers and clients is essential to quality project management. Good communication is the key to building these relationships, and communicating through various channels, such as emails, texts, and phone calls, is necessary to keep all stakeholders informed. Active listening, empathy, setting expectations and following through on commitments are all essential skills that can help to establish and maintain strong professional relationships. Remember, effective project management is about more than just getting the job done; it is also about building and maintaining relationships that enable everyone to work efficiently and effectively.
As a project manager, your reputation is on the line with every project you oversee. To ensure that you are consistently delivering quality work, it is essential to create an atmosphere of responsibility in your team. Whether you're just beginning your career as a project manager or are a seasoned professional, the following tips will help you achieve this goal. Firstly, it is important to establish clear roles and expectations for each member of your team. This will help everyone understand their individual responsibilities and what is expected of them in terms of contributing to the project's success. Being transparent with your team members will give them a sense of ownership to execute their tasks with care and consideration. Secondly, it's important to conduct periodic check-ins with individual team members to evaluate their progress and provide them with feedback. Frequent communication will allow for any issues to be addressed promptly, and it will also ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the project's progress. Another key aspect of creating responsibility in project management is to lead by example. As the project manager, your actions will significantly impact your team's behavior. When your team sees that you are taking responsibility for your work, they will be more likely to do the same. It's also essential to demonstrate integrity and honesty in all of your dealings. Additionally, making sure that everyone has access to project-related data is important. This equates to having a clear understanding of what is happening on the project in real-time. Evidently, regular updates, progress reports and status updates will work best for all stakeholders. Finally, the most crucial element of ensuring responsibility in project management is developing a team culture based on accountability. To achieve this, you should strive to create an environment that encourages your team members to take ownership of their work, hold themselves accountable for their actions, and commit to doing their best to achieve excellent results. In conclusion, project management is not easy, and it requires an excellent level of commitment and responsibility. It is vital to establish clear goals and expectations, monitor progress consistently, take responsibility for your own work, and lead by example. By doing this, you will cultivate a team culture of responsibility that will lead to successful projects and a successful career as a project manager. Remember, ultimately your name is on your work, and your reputation hangs on your ability to be a responsible and capable project manager.
In conclusion, mastering the three R's of Project Management (time, relationships, and responsibility) is essential to ensure project success. Time management skills ensure timely delivery of the project, developing positive relationships with team members and stakeholders improve collaboration and communication, and taking responsibility can foster a sense of ownership and accountability. These skills also translate well into other areas of life. Remember, managing projects can be challenging, but developing these skills can go a long way in making the process smoother for everyone involved. So, start mastering these R's today and take your projects to the next level!
Sign Up for News and More
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.